Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
The eponymous antihero at the center of Disney Plus’ THE MANDALORIAN doesn’t take crap from anybody – apparently not even those hiring him to capture their bounties. He can’t be held to any kind of rules, ethics or moral either. It’s his loose cannon ways that have made this bounty hunter, and one other bounty hunter before him (cough, cough. Boba Fett, cough, cough), someone STAR WARS franchise fans are gonna love.
We were treated to an advance look at 27 minutes from the series airing on Disney Plus on November 12. This episodic series created by Jon Favreau bottles what we love about the western-style space opera and spins another story about a rogue bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal), who captures prisoners with specialized smarts and skills, as he lands his most challenging, high stakes mission yet. He’s been hired by a slippery client (played by Werner Herzog) to capture a mysterious asset on another planet and, in turn, will be able to return Beskar iron back to his people. Only this isn’t going to be easy.
At the film’s recent press conference (of which we were in attendance), the stars and creatives spoke briefly (and a little vaguely) about what we can expect from the highly anticipated series on Disney’s newest streaming platform.
THE MANDALORIAN pulls from Joseph Campbell and classic serials. Creator and Executive Producer Jon Favreau wanted to pay homage to the STAR WARS foundations which meant throwing it back old school. “I learned about cinema through the lens of cinema with those films. My father would explain this is a lot like Samurai movies, or Westerns, or WWII films. That became my in-road. Then there’s the whole “Power of Myth” with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers. That opened me up to the mythic structure. So to return to this and the freedom this platform affords, there’s nothing to compare it to – other than the Holiday Special. The idea of telling a story over more than just a couple of hours, opens us up to this novelization of story, and a return back to the roots of the Saturday afternoon serial films that my parents’ generation grew up with, with cliffhangers, adventure and stylized storytelling.”
Executive Producer Dave Filoni wasn’t used to the restrictions of live-action. Coming from the animation world provided a bit of getting used to when broadening his filmmaking range as his first time directing live-action. “My storytelling is the better for Jon, taking me in and showing me the ropes of doing live action and my writing.” He later added, “I treated it as boot camp for me to learn a different type of filmmaking. I tried to off to knowledge that had been passed on to me by George [Lucas] on STAR WARS things and the way he liked to shoot things. It’s affected what I try to accomplish in a day. That’s a big difference for me. We’d arrive on set and the DP would say, ‘The sun’s up we gotta get going.’ Because, ‘Oh right. The sun’s gonna go down.’ Animation, you don’t really have that problem. There’s something about the concrete nature of live-action that’s incredibly spontaneous. You’re looking at everything all at once.”
Carl Weathers will direct an episode. Series co-star Carl Weathers will also flex his artistic muscles directing an episode. He joins Taika Waititi, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rick Famuyiwa and Deborah Chow in the line-up. Weathers stated that Favreau slowly broadened his pitch to him. “He did a slow roll on me. We had a lot of interaction before. When we finally had the meeting about it and he started telling me about this character. It’s like, ‘Are you kidding me?!’” Favreau elucidated, “We really did rope him in. It started off with, ‘Hey maybe you’ll do two episodes?’ And then it turned into, ‘Now we really like your character.’ We worked him in a lot into the show more than he agreed to. And now, in season two, he’s a part of our directors brigade.” Weathers quickly added, “ Jon promised last year that if I agreed to do this – he knew I wanted to direct more – and if we got a new season, he’d give me a shot. I’ve been around enough where people don’t always keep their words. It’s one of the greatest things that happened.”
Yes, that is Pedro Pascal under that helmet. Though it would be easy to swap jobs with a stand-in, Pascal said, for the most part, that really is him under the helmet. “Stunt doubles are essential to every large production – even for the strongest people. None of it can get done without that incredible stunt work.” While he mentioned he couldn’t see very well out of the helmet, he refused to say if that helmet ever comes off during the first season. Like the professional he is, he said, “The real question is, ‘Do we ever really take off our masks?’”
There will be callbacks to franchise favorites – and its foibles. In the footage we saw, life day from the holiday special (where we saw our first Mandalorian, Boba Fett) gets a humorous shout out in the first episode. Favreau didn’t think he had as many references to the widely maligned holiday special in his show. “I didn’t realize there was that many…I guess there is.” The laconic antihero also freezes his bounties in carbonite, carries a pulse rifle and comes into contact with an IT-O interrogator droid. “We’re starting with new characters and there’s all sorts of conjecture if this is really Boba Fett all along. We wanted to start fresh with a whole new set of characters you hadn’t met before. Even though there are new ways in and there are new characters, we wanted to make sure if you were watching and knew about it, and this is where Dave has been a treasure trove, we tried to work in whether it’s humorous reference to life day or a prop that has been appreciated by a core group over time. Just putting those Easter Eggs in, or big movements in the story that reflect legends or canon people had known, we weaved all that together and reward the people who have put in the time over the years.” Filoni explained, “We know you had the gun in there because you liked it and wanted to have it. It’s in your office.”
Gina Carano wanted to do all her stunts. The badass MMA superstar-turned-actress told reporters she preferred doing her own rigorous stunt work. “I didn’t want to see anyone else in this Cara Dune costume. I was like, ‘Oh? Is she running? That’s me!’ I really hated anyone that was in this costume. I didn’t want to share.”
THE MANDALORIAN will air weekly – so no binge watching. Favreau said that Disney Plus choosing to stagger each episode’s release will help them to see what’s working and what’s not. “It’s nice to have people experience something at the same time, which is what I really loved about watching GAME OF THRONES. There’s a really fun dialogue that we’re looking forward to getting where we get to show it, people get to react and it gets us excited as filmmakers and that dialogue unfolds over the course of [weeks].
The production is already filming the second season. The strategy to air new episodes weekly instead of doing a large episode dump will help them further develop Season Two – and also keep viewers engaged with the platform versus cancelling their service when their quick binge was over. Favreau casually mentioned, “It won’t inform what we’ve already done, but it certainly will inform what we do in the second season, which we finished the first week of season two.”
THE MANDALORIAN premieres on Disney Plus on November 12.