Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Mandalorian Season Two: This IS Your Father's Star Wars!

Well, that was insane in the best possible way.  Sorry for the delayed review, it took a while to stop cheering and gather my thoughts.

The show has continued:

To concentrate on the main characters' adventures.

To have The Mandalorian himself focused, loyal, and with a wicked cool array of offense and defense based skills and gadgets.

To tell a complete story in each episode, while still advancing the season arc.

To finally show us armor in the Star Wars universe that does something!

To feature a score that is intrinsically Star Wars, yet not derivative of John Williams. (I didn't think that was possible.)

To revel in the fantasticness of Carl Weathers as an actor as well as a director this time.

To include shout outs and call backs from subtle droid appearances and locations to full on character returns from all aspects of the franchise, live action and animated. (Watching the cast and crew geek out about this in the "Making Of" for both  seasons made it even more fun.)

To have Gina Carano bring the smackdown every time she shows up.

To be even more unashamedly a western.  Heck, the on planet chases with speeders and other space transports felt like horses, trains and covered wagons.

To have Amy Sedaris be a hoot and a half. 

To have the Razor Crest a classic era "flying hunk of junk" filled with amazingness.

To be unpredictable, causing my daughter and I to scream several times an episode and scare my wife.

To keep the feeling of hope and child like fun even in moments of darkness and conflict -like classic Star Wars.

To have "Baby Yoda" be adorable.

To be awesome.

( I can use a "YAY!" it's a Disney owned property.)

The "making of" on Disney Plus drove home the key reason for this success:
The creative team, instead of only riffing directly off Star Wars, went back to all of the influences (westerns, samurai films, WWII films, Joseph Campbell, etc.) that led George Lucas to create Star Wars.  These people inherit the title "Myth Builders."

I mean, I'm just about done watching both seasons for the second time, and I could easily start from the beginning again.  Then again, I could start watching the movies again right now and I just watched them.  There's something about Star Wars, over and above the other franchises that are a part of me, that triggers the little kid, "Watch it again!" reflex.

As of now, since otherwise all I can say is , YAAAAY! a lot, spoilers are on.
They'll  start at a minor level and amp up throughout.

I love how the show feels like when Star Wars was first released and there wasn't the need to have a complete and intricate back story for every single creature, piece of technology or event.  The hilarious "Passenger" is only referred to in the subtitles and credits as "Frog Lady." There's no name, no species, no story other that what is given, and well handled in the show. Even her language is referred to as "Speaking Frog" in the subtitles. (The "Speaking Frog" provided by the always awesome, and tied to Animated Star Wars, Dee Bradley Baker.)

Aside- I'm not a big frog fan but I love these characters. I think its because they're funny and they look more like the ones from the "Frog and Toad" books, which I inexplicably always loved, than real ones.  Go figure.

Tusken Raiders had a short, but highly cool scene in the original Star Wars. Since 1977, they've been used as either goofy rednecks or heartless terrorist marauders in the other films.  
Not only did we get a more complex look at them, their sign based language and their society, but also a full sized Krayt Dragon That was something only hinted at and shown in skeletal form in that original film.  
And they did ride their Banthas single file to hide their numbers! YAY!

It had the first live action appearances of  Clone Wars and Rebels animated characters, showing plot threads from those series are continuing, without getting in the way of this show's story.  Katee Sackhoff looks like Mandalorian Bo-Katan (Obi's squeeze's sister) allowing her to return in the role.  Sadly for the show, but probably great for her, Ashley Eckstein still looks younger (and perkier) than Ahsoka should look at this point in the storyline. 
Rosario Dawson nailed, the role however, and looks and more importantly moves like the animated character. I am greatly looking forward to her headlining that character's mini-series.  My daughter was happy to see two of the powerful women from Rebels (her childhood Star Wars) show up in live action. Either of their threads could lead to Sabine, which makes her extra happy.  

The way these characters were handled was extraordinary. They worked as integral parts of the story being told, and no knowledge of the former serieses was needed. However, to those possessing that knowledge (Hello!) there were some extra cheer inducing moments.  (As in YAAAAY! not a general warm feeling, but those happened too.)  My wife had to run upstairs to see if we were all right when Thrawn was name dropped!

Speaking of animated things coming to live action cannon. The Dark Saber must have been pretty cool for those who never heard of it, as the nifty practical effect used made an awesome looking weapon. For those who know it's history, and the fact that a character voiced by show runner John Favreau wielded it in animation...YAAAAY! (again)

Then there was the big two, classic era returns.

But first another huge spoiler.
Sorry, that freaked us out...and scared my wife again.

I was promised Boba Fett awesomeness over forty years ago, based only on a mail in action figure offer and a horrendous cartoon embedded in a bizarre Holiday Special.

It was worth the wait.  Who knew a Gaderffii stick Could be that wicked?

But seeing him fully suited up in Slave One, combining the awesomeness promised with a bit of additionally awesome call backs to Jango, and played by the same actor that was one of the few high points in Episode II...YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!
Aside- I've always loved the ship design of Slave One. Anabelle didn't understand this because it's hideously ugly.  That's why I love it.  It's like a heavily armed, spaceborne elephant head.  It was the only full sized ship for my Star Wars figures I had as a kid...and I still have it!

And Fett is getting his own show! Temura Morrison was a bright spot in the Prequels, now he's tied to a more iconic character and has the ever awesome Ming Na Wen along as a co star!
YAY!  Letting us know about this in the stinger at the end of the season with the appearance and demise of "Chunky Bib" was outstanding.

Though Agent May missed out on the "A-Force" all female battle charge in
Endgame, the one with her as Fennec, plus Bo-Katan, Cara, and Koska in The Mandalorian was more epic.  There were less of them, but they all did more, and it had a clearer in story function.  This took a bit of the sting off of WW84 and the Doctor Who New Year's Episode having strong women needing to constantly be rescued and helped by men.

Of course, there was the big reveal at the season end.
We learn which Jedi Baby Yoda called out to when meditating.
(Yes, I know his name is Grogu. Saying Baby Yoda continues to be more fun.)   

The X-wing,
The cloaked figure in black,
The protective glove,
The green lightsaber...
They telegraphed Luke's arrival all through the episode and it was still totally awesome when he revealed himself, leading my daughter and I to go bananas and startle my wife once more!!!

The de-aging CGI was better than Leia, but still not as good as Tarkin in Rogue OneI think Peter Cushing's angular features lend themselves better to being digitized.

And to all the people who believe that Baby Yoda is now out of the series and will end up being killed by Kylo Ren when he flips out...


Disney can basically print money with Baby Yoda merchandise.  The Mandalorian has been successful enough focusing on Mando and Baby Yoda that it has spawned definitely two and up to four of five spin offs.

They'll be together again.
And we will cheer and startle my wife again!


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