As someone who has seen every Star Wars movie at least once, sometimes I wish the original had bombed. Star Wars (1977) is a terrific space adventure movie for kids, and you can enjoy it without needing to read any ancillary novels, or Google anything, or remember stuff that happened decades ago. The original movie has a simple story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. A farm boy rescues a princess, and it’s not weird when she kisses him because the writers haven’t yet retroactively made her his long-lost sister. You don’t need to know anything about galactic politics or trade routes or midichlorians or any other boring crap. If Star Wars hadn’t become a cultural phenomenon 40 years ago, if it hadn’t changed the movie industry forever, today we’d look back on it as a cult classic. A hidden gem. “Remember that old space movie with the gold robot and the dog-bear guy who growled at everybody? That was so great. Too bad it never caught on…” And it would also mean we’d be spared 40 years of crappy rip-offs.
That’s also why I think The Mandalorian, the brand-new series on the brand-new Disney Plus streaming service, is the best Star Wars project since Star Wars. Spoilers ahead…
The Mandalorian is the story of a nameless bounty hunter from the planet Mandalore, a world where people wear full-face armored helmets all the time and practice a religion based on armed combat. The title character is from the same race as Boba Fett — a mysterious bounty hunter who was introduced in The Empire Strikes Back, killed off in Return of the Jedi, and then ruined in the prequels — but you don’t need to know that to enjoy the show. In the three episodes broadcast so far, Mando (as he’s nicknamed) rescues a little alien baby who’s from the same planet as the ancient warrior-monk Yoda, also introduced in Empire. Even though the little fella can’t talk and looks like a six-month-old baby, we’re told that he’s actually 50 years old.* Some bad people want to do bad things to the child, so Mando rescues him, and now they’re on the run from every bad guy in the galaxy.
That’s it. That’s the story. It’s a simple Western set in outer space, with exciting shootouts and chase scenes and tough guys talking tough. You don’t need to know anything about Star Wars to enjoy it. You don’t need to know or care about what happened to the Empire or Luke Skywalker or any of that stuff. It helps if you’ve seen the original movie, and there are a lot of little references to the movies and novels and cartoons and whatnot, but you can go in cold and it’ll all make sense.
Some SJWs are already complaining that there aren’t enough girls on the show. I guess there aren’t? I wouldn’t have noticed if you didn’t point it out, but then, I’m not so obsessed with identity politics that I can’t even enjoy a show about space guys blasting each other with ray-guns. If that’s not your thing, then don’t watch it. There are literally hundreds of other TV series being produced right now, so I’m sure you can find something that’s more suited to your tastes. I mean, you don’t hear a lot of dudes complaining about the lack of firefights on the Hallmark Channel.
Speaking as a Star Wars semi-fan, The Mandalorian alone makes Disney Plus worth the price of a matinee movie ticket once a month. Also, if you wake up in the middle of the night and have the sudden urge to watch The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes on your phone, they’ve got you covered. And they’ve got a whole show where Jeff Goldblum just goes around the country talking to people and being a big weirdo. It’s like they read my mind.
I’m looking forward to the next Star Wars movie about as fondly as my next dentist appointment. At this point it seems like a grim obligation. The whole franchise has just collapsed under the weight of all that continuity. But I can recommend The Mandalorian without reservation. It’s fun, it’s expertly crafted, and you don’t need to do any homework.
Like Starbuck always says: Live long and prosper. Nanoo-nanoo!
*Incidentally, “50-year-old infant” also describes the average Star Wars fan.**
**Just kidding, calm down.