Pedro Pascal

The Mandalorian (2019) s01e05 – The Gunslinger

So series executive producer Dave Filoni, who apparently unmemorably directed the first episode, is back here. He’s writing too, making it the first “Mandalorian” not written by series creator Jon Favreau. So The Gunslinger doesn’t feel like Favreau playing with his Return of the Jedi Kenner toys, instead it now does feel like someone playing their Star Wars Roleplaying Game campaign only not really because a roleplaying campaign is probably better written. Filoni’s script is truly godawful. His direction is terrible too. It starts with a really stupid space battle for people who hated them making sense in Episode VIII, then moves on to Tatooine, where Pedro Pascal leaves Baby Yoda in the ship to go and try to find work. Except mechanic Amy Sedaris (who’s likable but bad) finds Baby Yoda while she’s working on the ship with her CGI prequel droids; Filoni’s a prequel guy. He really doesn’t get how to do the original movie Tatooine homages, but then he also doesn’t get how to do any action scenes either… okay, hang on. I’m ahead of myself.

So Pascal goes to the cantina where it’d probably be no worse if two aliens were arguing over who shot first and teams up with truly bad actor Jake Cannavale. Yes, Cannavale (as what Filoni seems to think we’re going to buy as a Han Solo-type) has terrible dialogue, a dumb story arc, lousy direction, all of it, but he’s really, really, really, really bad. He’s bad enough you stop taking the show about the adorable little hairless Mogwai and Jon Favreau’s custom repainted Boba Fett figure seriously.

If Cannavale had been on the first episode… I don’t know I would’ve made it to episode four. He’s even worse than Filoni’s script, which is saying a lot.

This episode also has Ming-Na Wen. She’s Cannavale and Pascal’s bounty, a superior assassin or something. You wouldn’t know it from her fight scene with literal first-time bounty hunter Cannavale, who holds his own in a terribly choreographed and directed fist fight until Pascal can get there to put the show out of its fight scene misery.

Is Wen any good? No. She’s not worse than the script though. Or Filoni’s direction.

There are some other Tatooine references in the episode, they’re all terrible. Some are worse than others. Filoni can’t even manage an obvious gag. He’s so bad. He also doesn’t realize the whole point of the show is Baby Yoda, which is exceptionally concerning.

And the speed-bike compositors do a truly awful job. Bring out the Vaseline.

The Mandalorian (2019) s01e04 – Sanctuary

It’s a really good thing the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) has seen Seven Samurai, otherwise he’d have no idea he and new pal Gina Carano (as a former Rebel shock trooper) would be able to train the villagers to take on the raiders out for their crops. The villagers hire Pascal, who’s on this backwater planet looking for someplace to lie low with Baby Yoda—but, seriously, how can you lie low with Baby Yoda because everyone’s got to notice the inordinate cuteness—and Pascal brings Carano onboard. They’ve already had a fist fight to bond so it’s a natural development in their relationship.

In the village, Pascal meets fetching widow Julia Jones, who also knows her way around a blaster somehow, and considers taking off his helmet and settling down. But it’s only the fourth episode; no spoilers… but it’s only the fourth episode.

The episode’s absolutely gorgeous, with Bryce Dallas Howard doing an excellent job with the direction. It’s also this tranquil village with rice paddies—or whatever kind of paddies—and the kids are all happy and cute and so on. They all love Baby Yoda and he’s thrilled to have all the attention. The show gets around to some exposition as far as Pascal and the Mandalorian way but at some point they’ve got to address Baby Yoda’s development. If Yoda Yoda was 900 and Baby Yoda is fifty, should Baby Yoda be talking by now? No, because he’s lived his life in hiding without a steady caretaker apparently. Baby Yoda doesn’t play into the episode much, not once Seven Samurai versus an AT-ST starts.

The big surprise of the episode is Carano, who’s good. Not sure if it’s the script, the direction, or just Carano learning to act but hopefully she’s not just in it for a single episode. It’s probably also Pascal’s best episode too, if only because he’s got a lot to say and interesting things to talk about. Jones is good too. It’s slight and obvious, but really well-made and performed.

If Disney+’s “Star Wars” shows are going to draw so heavily on Kurosawa movies, they ought to at least offer the corresponding one streaming.

The Mandalorian (2019) s02e03 – The Sin

All of Star Wars, all the movies, all the cartoons, books, comics, games, toys, socks, The Holiday Special, underwear, blankets—all of it—has been building to this episode of “The Mandalorian,” where they’re finally able to make Boba Fett adorable. Yes, Baby Yoda is adorable but of course he’s very adorable—and I was wrong, the scientist guy identifies Baby Yoda’s gender as male, which is a bummer, but also it’s probably not worth the headache. But Boba Fett and Baby Yoda being adorable together… who knew it was possible. Jon Favreau, Kathleen Kennedy, other folks but definitely Favreau and Kennedy. They knew they could make Star Wars heartwarming.

And damn if they don’t get away with it too. Because Baby Yoda is preternaturally adorable.

It’d be nice if there was something more to the show, of course. If Werner Herzog weren’t just useless stunt-casting and what if Carl Weathers were actually any good instead of being shockingly bad, actually. This episode also has a bunch of other Mandalorians coming into play and there’s a big serious action set piece with it, with some cool jetpack stuff. The episode’s got a lot more visual payoff than the last one. But not as much as the first episode. All of these visual realizings of the Star Wars Universe—like Jawas do have space ships to get from planet to planet and wouldn’t they be amazing—so it’s cool to watch. The production design is impressive.

Some of Deborah Chow’s direction is annoying, some of it isn’t. She gets away with the heartwarming but she also has this thing where they do focus blurs. I’m assuming they’re digital effects because it’s 2019 and why wouldn’t they be; given we’re already having to put up with the patented Star Wars transition wipes, the focus stuff just feels like a little much. They’re also weird because they’re the only things off in Chow’s direction. Otherwise it’s got the best direction in the show so far. And not just for the Rocketeer homage, which is way too much but still awesome.

And Pedro Pascal. Sure, he’s fine. But he’s better talking about Baby Yoda than talking about anything else. He’s always got this pause where it seems like he’s thinking of what to say and then it’s never anything impressive. He seems dumb, actually. Like too dumb to be out on his own. Favreau’s not the best writer. You don’t have to be when you’ve got Baby Yoda.

Oh, and the midichlorians might be back. Wokka wokka.

The Mandalorian (2019) s02e02 – The Child

Maybe even more than the first episode, this one’s a commercial for Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. The adorable sight of Boba Fett playing Lone Wolf and Cub with a baby Yoda, what could be more PG+ Disney. Sure, the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) isn’t actually Boba Fett—though it’s unclear if he’s another Fett clone—but he’s better than Boba Fett because he hasn’t gone after our favorite good guys. In fact, he’s protecting an astoundingly adorable baby Yoda. It’s obvious the bounty on the baby Yoda is going to present an ethical dilemma for Pascal, who’s shockingly not bright and kind of whiney, actually. Like his bounty hunter spaceship from the Prequel Trilogy gets stripped by Jawas and he’s surprised. It seems like something he should be prepared to deal with.

Then there’s the Boba Fett versus Jawa Sandcrawler playset slash LEGO Star Wars: Boba Fett level when Pascal, his stunt man, and his CGI stunt animation try to take out the Sandcrawler in order to get back the ship’s missing pieces. During this entire sequence, baby Yoda is left alone in they’re floating pod (going gender neutral for now because, yeah, it seems like “Mandalorian” is going to introduce a female baby Yoda—a Disney Princess Girl Yoda—which is awesome and bring it on but also a tad obvious, which is a much more appropriate middle-name for show creator and writer Jon Favreau than Kolia)—anyway, Pascal isn’t paying any attention even though the episode opens with him fending off other bounty hunters after the baby. He’s not worried about such things when he’s fighting the Sandcrawler.

And the Sandcrawler sequence is impressive. It looks great; 21st century Disney visuals are phenomenal visuals.

Eventually Pascal has to go back to the verbose ugnaught (I finally heard the Nick Nolte in his voice this episode), who informs Pascal he needs to barter with the Jawas. Maybe the most interesting thing about the episode as far as Star Wars universe stuff is the idea Jawas go from planet to planet. Far more interesting than if the desert planet is actually Tatooine and there’s some tie-in to the next Star Wars movie, which is possible but seems kind of bold. Though, I suppose if anyone’s going to get away with it, it’ll be Star Wars. Star Wars got away with Jar Jar Binks and midichlorians.

Will Pascal learn to control his temper enough to work with Nolte to keep his bounty baby safe and so on?

It’s a Disney movie, what do you think. “The Mandalorian” is what the Ewoks TV movies should’ve been.

And now I do want to know if Favreau had a painted Boba Fett figure so it could be a new character.

Or I don’t. I changed my mind. I don’t. Custom action figuring when you’re in your late teens is something one should keep to himself. Bricks, glass houses, etc.

The Mandalorian (2019) s01e01

“The Mandalorian” is either like reading seventeen year-old Jon Favreau fall 1983 post-Return of the Jedi fan fic or it’s like playing his intricate, verbose Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game campaign–oh, wait, SWTRPG didn’t come out until 1987. So, no, it’s more like watching Jon Favreau play with his Jedi toys. A lot. But the toys play into how the story unfolds—Favreau, who wrote the episode in addition to creating the show, reaches into the toy bin, pulls out a figure, somehow makes it fit into the story. There’s a way too articulate ugnaught, a figure from Empire, pointlessly voiced by Nick Nolte. Most of the figures and vehicles are from Jedi. I think one of the guns is from Empire. You could sit with an old Hasbro catalog and check off items in the episode.

Visually, it looks like a bunch of Ralph McQuarrie paintings. Dave Filoni does an okay job with the direction. He tries hard to make it look like Star Wars: The Original Trilogy as far as his composition—outside when you’re pretty sure it’s a direct lift off a McQuarrie concept painting—but there are shot homages to Jedi the most, maybe Star Wars. Watching “The Mandalorian,” Disney has fully put on its big boy pants and figured out how to market to males age four through forty-four. I’m not sure Werner Herzog is going to attract the fifty-four year-olds. But if you grew up with Star Wars, “The Mandalorian” is for you. It’s how you could keep playing with your Boba Fett toys even after he died in Empire.

Oh, all the mythology on the Mandalorian culture? Metallurgy, female Mandalorians—“Mandalorian” is aimed at the OG Empire Boba Fett fanboys. I wonder if they’re going to release special toys.

Is it a good show? It’s not a bad show. It’s technically flawless except the Ludwig Göransson music, which isn’t bad just a bad idea for the show. Quirky Western. Eh. But it looks great. The acting’s… eh. Herzog’s in a scene, he’s quirky. Carl Weathers is in a scene. He’s not quirky. Lead Pedro Pascal is fine but the more he talks the more you realize you’re watching a cartoon turned live action through CGI.

Will I watch more of it? Sure. It’s never going to be challenging, but will always be mildly engaging and look great; besides, I like pointing out the toys I had as a kid too.

Wonder Woman (2011, Jeffrey Reiner)

When it gets to the conclusion, Wonder Woman finally distinguishes itself. Until this point, it has major problems—mostly acting, which I’ll get to in a second—and some great ideas. But there’s no balance between writer David E. Kelley’s thoughtful “reality” with a superhero and the day to day of Adrianne Palicki’s Wonder Woman. Until the finish, when director Reiner delivers a truly fantastic, exciting action sequence.

It’s completely unexpected and it works beautifully.

Except it’s starring Palicki and she’s bad. Sadly, she doesn’t even give the worst performance. Elizabeth Hurley gets that honor.

Rather good performancess from Tracie Thoms and Cary Elwes can’t save it. Kelley’s pointedly writing the role for a female actor with Christopher Reeve’s ability. Palicki can’t convincingly talk to a cat.

There’s no way for it to succeed with Palicki. And it’s too bad. Kelley’s got insight, just not the actor to deliver it.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Jeffrey Reiner; teleplay by David E. Kelley, based on characters created by William M. Marston; director of photography, Colin Watkinson; music by Chris Bacon; produced by Tommy Burns; released by the National Broadcasting Company.

Starring Adrianne Palicki (Diana Prince / Wonder Woman), Cary Elwes (Henry Johns), Tracie Thoms (Etta Candy), Pedro Pascal (Ed Indelicato), Justin Bruening (Steve Trevor), Elizabeth Hurley (Veronica Cale) and Edward Herrmann (Senator Warren).


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