It’s just as we expected: The Mandalorian is going to be a cinematic adventure optimized for your television.
Was there ever another option for the first live-action television series set in the Star Wars universe? Hailing from Jon Favreau — the very mind behind Iron Man, Elf, and this summer's The Lion King — and with guidance from Dave Filoni — who cut his teeth crafting animated series The Clone Wars and Rebels right alongside George Lucas himself — an early glimpse at scattered scenes from the series confirmed that come November 12, we’ll have something worthy of filling that Game of Thrones-shaped hole in our hearts.
Attendees of a recent Los Angeles press conference, MTV News included, were able to watch the 27-minute preview under the condition that all potential spoilers remain unspoken. (Truth be told, even if I wanted to share any spoilers, I couldn’t. The scenes were strategically strung together to avoid any major reveals.) Following the most thrilling half-hour I’ve personally experienced since D23, Favreau, Filoni, and stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, and Carl Weathers came out to talk about this massive undertaking.
Here’s what we can share about The Mandalorian ahead of its highly anticipated debut: The styling harkens back to a pre-DVR time that nowadays we only experience second-hand through period pieces and major TV events, like Game of Thrones; when families would gather ‘round their television set for their weekly can’t-miss serials, “with cliffhangers, adventure,” Favreau said.
“It has a lot of the qualities and the aesthetics of a film, but the novelization of serialized storytelling,” he added. “To me, that's where it really opened up a lot of freedom and opportunity, where we don't feel that we're repeating or copying anything else that people have experienced with Star Wars.”
Based on the footage screened, The Mandalorian does feel like a completely new experience for fans, and also, super familiar. As a TV series debuting new episodes every week, there will definitely be more opportunities for extended storytelling and side-plots, more deeply introducing us to the incoming characters whom we haven’t spent our entire lives with. (As opposed to, say, Rogue One, which operated within a recognizable framework, but with characters we could only get to know over the course of the film’s 2 hours and 13 minutes.) At the same time, this show looks just like the movies we love, with all the hi-tech vehicles, varied lifeforms, and stunning otherworldly landscapes we look to Star Wars to provide.
What they’re doing, in fact, is all according to the Master Plan. Per Filoni, it’s been a longtime dream for Lucas to steer the franchise toward this format — as soon as technology would allow for television to look precisely as good as movies. “Even when I worked with him on Clone Wars, he would talk about the future being streaming, the future being episodic, serialized Star Wars,” Filoni said.
Unlike the original films, The Mandalorian benefits from a crew with over four decades of love for the space opera, where everyone brings something important to the table, and everyone has something to learn. Favreau compared the “collaborative environment” to the neighborhood boys coming together to paint Tom Sawyer’s fence (minus the trickery, of course). Filoni, for example, brings to set all he learned throughout his years-long apprenticeship with Lucas, while he also steps into live-action for the very first time. For Favreau, the opposite was true: This show he created is the first Star Wars story he’s really sunk his teeth into, while he brings plenty of experience turning beloved properties into live-action events that can be appreciated by all levels of fans.
“It reminds me of when we were starting with Iron Man,” Favreau said, recalling the fledgling Marvel Cinematic Universe he helped to launch, when the early team was still figuring out how to coherently bring to life a world revered by many, and completely foreign to others; when they first decided to appease the diehards over the masses. Needless to say, the approach worked. His main takeaway: “Never lose touch with the people who've put in the time and who cared.”
Keeping with that ethos, Favreau and Filoni developed a new story with new characters, that everyone will get to know at the same time regardless of their previous involvement with Star Wars, and that rewards lifelong fans with nods to the larger universe, “whether it’s humorously, like making a reference to Life Day, or a reference to a prop that has been appreciated by a core group over time, just putting those little Easter eggs in; or big movements in the story that reflect storylines in either the Legends or in canon that people have known and had,” Favreau said.
That inclusive approach makes The Mandalorian chock full of childlike wonder. Pascal called it a “super pinch-me moment” (“Quote me exactly,” he said. “Super pinch-me moment.”) when he first saw himself as the titular Mandalorian. Carano echoed the awe, joking (or not joking?) that she did her own stunts because didn’t want to see anyone else in her Cara Dune costume. “Actually, my first day on set, I was on a blurrg. So, I was up on this big thing and I was just like, ‘OK, this is it. This is my life now,’” she said. Weathers, whose role as Greef Carga grew significantly after he signed onto the project, earnestly called it “one of the greatest things that's happened in all the years I've been involved in entertainment and it's cool. It's very cool.” Weathers, a showbiz veteran since 1975, will also be sitting in the director’s chair for Season 2 — adding to the impressive Season 1 directors roster, which includes Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa, Deborah Chow, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Taika Waititi.
But even though we’re guaranteed to get everything we love, The Mandalorian isn’t taking us into a new era of Star Wars without taking some risks; sometimes, risk can be important to growth. We’re not privy to what those risks might be — “We’re wrapping Christmas presents!” Favreau said in response to a spoiler request — all the creators are asking is for an open mind.
“No matter where you're coming from or what your background in Star Wars, you know that what we're doing ... we've really deliberated over it and discussed it and thought it through,” Favreau said. “And so, if we depart in any way, we know we are — but it's with a plan.”