Widescreen: The biggest difference between 'The Mandalorian' and the rest of the 'Star Wars' universe
"The Mandalorian," the live-action "Star Wars" series at the center of the Disney+ sales pitch, leans into your nostalgia for George Lucas' universe.
The unnamed bounty-hunter protagonist (Pedro Pascal) wears the Mandalorian-style armor made famous by Boba Fett in "The Empire Strikes Back." He meets with a client (Werner Herzog) protected by Stormtroopers, even though the eight-episode story takes place five years after the Empire fell in "Return of the Jedi." There are blasters, landspeeders, droids, and even a Kowakian monkey-lizard or two. (You know, that cackling little Muppet that Jabba kept as a pet.)
But "The Mandalorian's" promise and potential lie in what sets it apart from the franchise as we know it, and I'm not just talking about the first time I've ever heard a "Star Wars" character talk about using the toilet -- er, excuse me, vac-tube.
The premiere has no Skywalkers, no Wookiees, no R2-D2, no C-3PO, no Death Star. "The Mandalorian" is a space Western about the criminal underworld, not a rousing adventure about heroes on idealistic crusades. It feels different.
Most importantly, it sounds different.
It's the music.
Oscar-winning "Black Panther" composer and Childish Gambino producer Ludwig Goransson joins a musical legacy that began with John Williams, and chooses to ignore it completely -- nowhere in the first episode of "The Mandalorian" will you hear Williams' rousing themes. Many, including myself, will argue that "Star Wars" would be nothing without Williams, whose music is as essential to "Star Wars" as lightsabers and Luke Skywalker. John Powell knew it when he scored "Solo: A Star Wars Story." Kevin Kiner knew it when he did "The Clone Wars" animated series.
Not leaning on those themes in even the tiniest way is possibly the most radical thing Goransson and showrunner Jon Favreau could do with Lucas' galaxy, and the most obvious signal that "The Mandalorian" is something special and different. I never expected "Star Wars" to sound like a futuristic version of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" -- or to be excited by the absence of the greatest film music ever written.
If the music doesn't convince you, the last scene of the premiere will probably seal the deal.
The second episode of "The Mandalorian" premieres Friday on Disney+, followed by six more in subsequent weeks.
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