November 13th update: I rewatched premiere for The Mandalorian again and everything below pretty much still stands. I’ve altered the article accordingly.
The Mandalorian is Disney’s first Star Wars based TV series for their new Disney+ platform. Approaching streaming a bit differently vs. Netflix, the show will release weekly (like Hulu) rather than all at once. I much prefer that format over binge watching, as I typically blow through a season in a matter of days, no matter the episode count.
I won’t really get into the actual episode content in these reviews, unless something truly warrants touching on, so each review will cover 4 topics, as seen below. With all that in mind, here is my quick take on episode 1 of Disney’s The Mandalorian.
I should title this part What Writing? This is the first fumble with this premiere. The dialog is pretty bad and forgettable. We have this masked, mysterious, character and his lines start off appropriate – stern, menacing and guarded. Later on when he meets Nick Nolte’s character, his lines immediately fall into cheesy. Things get worse when that same alien tells him that because hes a Mandalorian, he should be able to ride that weird, two-legged, space donkey – and then the Mandalorian just hops on and does it, its a horrible mini montage, and completely unnecessary.
Things get even worse when we’re introduced to IG-11. His lines remind me of every wise cracking droid used in Star Wars. I mean, that’s fine I suppose but why just recycle the same character? After the two meet, the writers FURTHER insist on giving The Mandalorian lame lines – it just doesn’t make sense why the script was so basic and uninteresting. Its bland, even for Star Wars.
Much like the writing, the acting fell flat. This caught me off guard as the cast introduced so far are strong actors. Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian) is an extremely capable actor but in this, all of his lines are delivered like hes practicing in front of a mirror. The blue, wanted, alien we’re first introduced (Horatio Sanz apparently) to tries to inject a bit of humor for the opening but all he got out of me was an eye roll.
Carl Weathers is fine, thankfully. The only other in-the-flesh actor we’re introduced to (aside from Brian Posehn’s forgettable cameo) is the dude who assigns the Mandalorian his bounty – he was adequate. That leaves us with the alien that teaches space donkey riding lessons, played by Nick Nolte – his mouth didn’t even match up with his lines! This is something Star Wars has managed to do since the 70s, so why can’t they do it in 2019?
This is a pretty strong cast by Star Wars standards, so hopefully we get some actual acting out of the rest of the season.
Sound & Picture
I want to give an asterisk to this section. The below gripes are made on launch day. I suspect some of these issues stem from the platform simply being overloaded. There were definitely video inconsistencies throughout the entire episode. 11/13 update: My gripes with the video still stand, but its possible the muted visuals are by design.
The audio is supposed to be in Dolby Atmos but the app on my One X showed just lowly 5.1. Luckily my One X will upmix tracks to Atmos, so I still got a version of it regardless (some folks on Reddit claim the premiere is actually broadcasting in Atmos, who knows). I guess it doesn’t much matter for now, as this episode didn’t make much use of spacial audio. Aside from that, the soundtrack and audio track was fine but nothing special. I was really hoping for more.
The video was shockingly bad – OK, not bad but something wasn’t right. I don’t know if this is first day jitters, or if the app for the One X is trash but this show claims Dolby Vision but there was no way it was. Shadows were blown out, scenes that should have been nice and bright were dull and dark shots were also unacceptable. It wouldn’t even surprise me if this wasn’t holding 4k the entire time. I’m going to test again on my OLED’s built in Disney app to see if that makes a difference (update: maybe a slight difference but still not on par with Netflix or Amazon).
Worth the watch?
I’m apparently in the extreme minority, but for me, this was a disappointing premiere. But I wouldn’t go so far as to call it bad. The trailers had me extremely hyped for a more gritty and different take on Star Wars (kind of like Rogue One) but instead, I got a SyFy produced episode.
There is something big to take in mind here, however. Often times, the pilots for shows are nowhere near representative of the overall quality of the main series or were shot separate from the rest of the episodes. I have a hunch this is whats at play here. The true test will be episode 2 that airs on the 15th. I’m fully expecting an upgrade in writing, visuals and audio.
*waves hand* For now, this is not the premiere you’re looking for.