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‘The Mandalorian’ First Reaction: Disney+ Captures a Cinematic Experience on the Small Screen

If more Disney+ shows boast similar production values, the upcoming streaming service could be a significant contender in the prestige TV game.

"The Mandalorian"

“The Mandalorian”

Disney

The Mandalorian” might be a grounded, morally grey “Star Wars” story, but its dazzling production values could place the series a galaxy above other prestige television shows.

Disney screened around 27 minutes of new footage from its upcoming Disney+ “Star Wars” series at a recent press event, and if those scenes are representative of the entire series, “The Mandalorian,” out November 12 on the new Disney+ streaming service, will be a genuinely cinematic experience for the small screen.

Without getting too much into the scant plot details the footage offered — the series’ actual storylines are still its biggest question mark — the audience got to see The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) do some intense bounty hunting, participate in some aggressive negotiations, and fight more than a few monstrous alien beasts. The most impressive thing is just how good every scene looked. It’s clear, from the violent fights to the show’s own stand-in for the Mos Eisley Cantina, that few, if any, budgetary expenses were spared.

What’s especially encouraging is that “The Mandalorian” seems enhanced, rather than overburdened, by its license. Keen “Star Wars” fans will appreciate the series’ numerous in-universe references, and the latest portrayals of the franchise’s colorful assortment of aliens and tech is a joy to behold. Crucially, there’s a much-appreciated emphasis on showing, rather than directly telling, the happenings of this gritty post-Galactic Empire “Star Wars” galaxy — at least in the admittedly selective press footage.

The budget, which was reportedly $10 million per episode, undeniably helps with this: Towns are teeming with eclectic alien life, while shootouts and scuffles with grisly, colossal monsters boast all manner of explosive flair. With regards to presentation, “The Mandalorian” is practically without peer.

This shouldn’t be surprising, but it kind of is. Although the “Star Wars” franchise doesn’t have any recent predecessors in the live-action television realm, Disney’s other key franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has multitudes. Despite their film counterparts making all the money in the world, many of the MCU television projects, such as “Jessica Jones,” felt noticeably constrained by their budgets. Previous interviews with Disney+ decisionmakers suggested that the streaming service’s flagship shows wouldn’t skimp on the budget, and it’s impressive to see this in action.

Although Disney+ will launch with a library of legacy Disney-owned content and will release new episodes of “The Mandalorian” weekly, the service still won’t have the endless breadth of content that competitors such as Netflix offer. As important as that legacy content is, Disney+ will also need to offer genuinely unique original series to thrive.

There aren’t many current shows that boast the dazzling budget and presentation of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” but “The Mandalorian” looks like it could fill that gap. If other flagship Disney+ exclusives, such as the Marvel-branded “Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” “Loki,” and future “Star Wars” series, boast similarly impressive production values, Disney+ could become the go-to platform for big-budget television spectacle.

Falcon

Anthony Mackie as Falcon

Marvel

As for “The Mandalorian” itself, though the footage shown during the press screening was excellent, a few critical questions remain. Most of the scenes were action-oriented, and although there were indeed a few conversations about the complicated nature of bounty hunting, we still don’t know much about the show’s characters or their motivations.

The titular protagonist is also still a big unknown: The Mandalorian doesn’t seem like one for quips or monologues — he uttered only a few words throughout the footage shown. Again, it’s quite refreshing to see the writers of a mainstream big-budget project show, rather than tell, the viewer what’s happening, but it remains to be seen if Pascal’s character will be satisfyingly fleshed out or just a plot device for the action.

However, none of this shouldn’t be construed as negatives. Teasing the press with all sorts of cinematic action sequences was obviously a better move than dumping a handful of spoiler-ridden exposition on the audience, and everything that we saw was undoubtedly top-notch. Plot and cast quality remain to be seen, but whether you were a “Star Wars” diehard or were just looking for an intense sci-fi adventure, it was hard to walk away from the press screening not dying to see more. If this is a sign of things to come for Disney+’s most important original projects, there’s reason to expect the platform to have a bright future.

“The Mandalorian” premieres Tuesday, November 12 on Disney+. Watch the new trailer below.

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