Disney+ Mini-Review: The Mandalorian – It’s Fun and That’s Fine

Disney finally gave us the Star Wars side story that we secretly always wanted and I’m pretty happy about it.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free if you have the internet)

It’s 5 years after Return of the Jedi and most of the Galaxy’s collective sh*t is pretty broken. A lot of soldiers are now working as private armies, a lot of formerly powerful Imperials are trying to resist the new Republic, and bounty hunting is a viable business model.

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His people fought Jedi. Just remember that.

The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) is a bounty hunter who operates alone and tends to be fairly brutal in combat. His bounty hunting guild leader Greef Karga (Carl “Apollo” Weathers) informs him that there is a client (Werner “Holy sh*t, Werner Herzog” Herzog) with a special bounty request. When the bounty price is revealed to be a cache of Beskar steel, sacred to Mandalorians, the Mandalorian agrees. After gaining the assistance of a vapor farmer named Kuill (Nick Nolte) and a robot bounty hunter IG-11 (Taika “What Waititi Do in the Shadows” Waititi), he succeeds in finding the target, but discovers that it is a child from the same species as Yoda. Having a change of heart, the Mandalorian goes on the run with The Child, earning enemies everywhere.

END SUMMARY

Let’s get it out of the way: Baby Yoda is about the cutest damned thing out there. It’s what happens when someone looks at baby Groot and goes “I’ll top this.” Is it bad writing to have a character whose main trait is just that he’s adorable? Maybe, but also HE’S SO ADORABLE YOU GUYS. Also, I think they’re going to name the child Yoda just so that, in retrospect, everyone isn’t wrong about what they call him. 

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This is him in a bad mood and I want to hug him so badly.

Star Wars has had a lot of great stuff and a lot of crap over the years, but mostly it’s created an amazing world that manages to combine the possibilities of almost every frontier. Any scene can take place, justifiably, in almost any environment. You can have a representation of a futuristic armada intercut with a sequence of desert survival and nothing about that is inconsistent with the Star Wars universe. That means that, in Star Wars, you can imagine almost any background for a character or culture and it will still fit. Star Wars doesn’t stifle the imagination, it feeds it. That’s why it’s so great to get a show like this, where we just see a completely different story playing out parallel to the rest of the series. 

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This is a robot with a bandolier. That’s just awesome.

While Star Wars was based on the old Buck Rogers serials and their sci-fi action/adventure roots mixed with Japanese jidaigeki films (mostly The Hidden Fortress), The Mandalorian is its own melting pot of genres. The main character is based on the Man with No Name figure typically associated with Clint Eastwood, a taciturn gunslinger who travels alone and has his own code of ethics. However, once he becomes attached to The Child, the series shifts slightly to be more like Lone Wolf and Cub, the famous Samurai manga and film series about a father doing horrible killings to protect his son. By blending the Western and Eastern influences with the sci-fi and fantasy setting, the show can justify making episode-specific genre shifts. This means that rather than having to focus on maintaining a consistent tone, the series allowed the writers and directors to explore more when they had control while still being true to the characters. For example, we have a heist episode that ends up also playing out a number of horror tropes and it still works.

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Surprise, the Devil guy is not nice (yes, hes a Devaronian, Star Wars names are easy).

The action sequences in the show are among the best in the Star Wars universe, partially because there are more people with guns and fewer space wizards. Not that I don’t love a good lightsaber battle as much as the next guy, but that’s been the majority of sustained action sequences in the franchise. Instead, we get to watch a bounty hunter use a combination of fantastic weaponry, tactical planning, and training to take out small armies of enemies. Hell, we get to see a single person fight a TIE fighter and, well, it’s everything that Star Wars videogames told me it would be. 

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Same with an AT-AT.

Overall, this is just a great show. Does it have a huge character arc for the main character? Not really. Does it have a ton of lines that are profoundly quotable and meaningful? Nope. Does it teach me things about myself that I would never have found otherwise? Not at all. BUT IT’S JUST SO FUN. It’s got a space cowboy kicking ass to protect the cutest creature in TV history, a phrase that also describes Firefly, and that’s all I wanted out of it.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Creed II: Rocky VIII = Rocky II + Rocky III + Rocky IV – Camp (Spoiler-Free)

Well, Creed II came out and I saw it after Thanksgiving with a group of degenerate reprobates. We also call them lawyers.

SUMMARY (Spoilers if you haven’t seen any trailers)

Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has been winning multiple fights following his loss by decision to “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Anthony Bellew) in the last film. He’s also moved from Light Heavyweight up to Heavyweight, it seems, but that doesn’t really get mentioned. Finally, he’s fighting for the WBC Heavyweight Title once held by his father Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) and his trainer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). He wins the fight against the past-his-prime champion Danny Wheeler (Andre Ward) then proposes to his girlfriend, Bianca (Tessa Thompson). However, he is soon challenged to a fight by Viktor Drago (Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu) the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the man who killed his father in the ring. Since this is a boxing movie, there will be boxing.

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Guess which one’s parents were both above 6 Feet tall.

END SUMMARY

Okay, so, the Rocky series has been, well, uneven in the past. The first film is one of the most inspiring stories of perseverance and human will on-screen. The second film was… that movie over again but this time Rocky wins. The third film was the campy story of Rocky having everything, losing it all, then getting it all back. The fourth film is him winning the Cold War in the most campy way possible that’s still awesome. There is no fifth Rocky, but the sixth Rocky is almost as good as the first and has almost none of the campiness of its predecessors. Creed was close to the first film in terms of sincerity and inspiration.

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Ryan Coogler was pretty amazing at directing Michael B. Jordan… in two consecutive films.

So, if Creed was closer, spiritually, to the first movie, then it makes sense that this one would be closer to Rocky II, but the filmmakers decided to instead combine the next three films by having Adonis become champion, deal with the thought of losing it all (sadly, not to Mr. T), then confronting a person who killed someone close to him (albeit, by surrogate). However, while the film series became slowly campier, less realistic, and more prone to corny subplots or pointless characters, this film… mostly avoids that. I say mostly because one subplot in the movie is that Rocky keeps trying to get the city to replace a streetlight and it’s honestly weird that it comes up in 3 scenes without ever being resolved. Aside from that, the film is mostly serious, dealing with the emotional states of all of the characters.

Here are the real pros of the film:

Michael B. Jordan is a hell of an actor. Possibly the best that’s been in the series and given that Burgess Meredith was in the original, that’s a hell of an accomplishment. He can be funny, serious, threatening, sad, scared, or desperate and none of it ever feels contrived or out of character. Similarly, Sylvester Stallone actually gets to remind us that he is an actor of some pedigree when he plays the older Rocky, who is starting to view Creed as a surrogate son just as he faces potentially dying in the ring. Their interactions stay just as fresh as the last film.

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Reintroducing Drago should have been a terrible idea, but instead of being the cartoonish villain he was in Rocky IV, we’re instead shown a man who lost everything because of one fight. Drago’s wife left him, he’s broke, he lives a terrible life in Ukraine, and his only comfort comes from dreaming of the day when his son will become a success. While they don’t actually make Ivan Drago particularly sympathetic throughout the film, they do a solid job of making his son Viktor, the focus of much of Adonis’ anger and insecurity, actually seem like he’s a victim of his circumstances rather than an outright villain. Unlike Rocky IV, we do actually see both sides going through an actual character arc, rather than just side-by-side training montages.

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Also, holy hell, these two are huge.

However, there are training montages and, while I’m sad that they don’t take place in the Ukraine mountains, they are excellent. Under Rocky, Adonis’ regiment is basically a form of torture masquerading as a workout. Through the magic of movies, though, this makes him stronger rather than causing massive internal organ failure. It’s awesome.

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I don’t understand how this training Ring got built, though.

The final fight of the movie is extremely exciting. After all the build-up, the film milks every blow, often in slow-mo, for everything that it’s worth. People were literally applauding at the end of the rounds in the theater, and I could not blame them. I like watching boxing, but this was much cleaner and more fun for casual viewers.

Also, everyone on Earth should want Apollo Creed’s gravestone.

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Best picture I could find, but trust me, it’s awesome.

Now for the cons:

The music in this is, for the most part, not as good as its predecessor. Or the original Rocky or Rocky III. For the record, only 3 people have ever done the music for the Rocky series, with Bill Conti doing every Rocky movie except for Vince DiCola’s Rocky IV compositions. Ryan Coogler’s collaborator Ludwig Göransson did both Creed and this film, however, the music in this just isn’t as pleasant or original. Partially because they did more music in Tessa’s style which involves being deaf. I was also deeply upset that there wasn’t a cover of “Livin’ in America” played during Creed’s entrance to fight Drago. His dad got James Brown to do it live, he could at least have gotten an impersonator.

While the last fight is pretty spectacular, the other boxing matches in the film don’t have the smooth steady-cam from the last film and, frankly, they look a little half-assed compared to the end. I understand that they wanted the last fight to stand out, but I also don’t think they needed to lower them as much as they did in order to do it.

Rocky’s streetlight will remain a mystery unless it gets brought up in the next movie.

Overall, it’s a fun movie. It’s definitely one of the lower Rocky films, but, since there’s really only one bad Rocky film, that’s still saying something pretty good. If you liked the series thus far, you’ll like this.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.