Mandalorian (A Review and Appreciation) and the end of cord cutting?

Mandalorian (A Review and Appreciation) and the end of cord cutting? November 17, 2019

A Mild Fan: Life With Star Wars as Excellent Entertainment 

Star Wars changed movies for me: good story telling could be combined with a theme park ride. I recall sitting in the theater and as Luke Skywalker started the run that destroyed the Death Star, I realized I was gripping the seat so tightly I had hurt my hands. I tried to relax, but then the Falcon appeared. The days of slow moving 2001 or cheesy Buck Rogers style movies were over.

Star Wars was never as cult like for my brother and me as for some, but we had the toys and the dolls, I mean action figures. Our Darth Vader with retractable saber would be worth something now if we had not used a gravel driveway as our main play area. Gravel is hard on an action figure.

Star Wars films over the years were events and we have gone to them all on opening night. Lately I have taken to inviting a huge college crew as often as there is an offering. I am not like some cool kids I know who know lore deeply and have read all the novels (I read a few) and know the animation (I do not).

I merely enjoy Star Wars. Fans (at least the ones I know) divide sharply over which of the films they like best and one way of tipping them off to what kind of fan you are is to let them know your own rankings. I am (from worst to best) a “I, VIII, II, III, VII, Solo, Rogue One, IV, VI, V” kind of fan. The original three remain best for me not merely due to nostalgia, but because the cosmos was created there.

Mandalorian: A Review with Possible Spoilers? 

As a mild fan, I go into the new Disney streaming service exclusive show Mandalorian fairly ignorant compared to the super fan. Unlike some members of my family (ahem adult children), I do not already know what a “Mandalorian” is (they seem like Bobba Fet?), do not know the nature of the “Great Purge” mentioned, or the significance of the particular metals.

This seems to enhance enjoyment as well as producing a temptation for  those Who Know to pause the show so often to explain that a quick 38 minutes can run into an hour. There have been several arguments in the College about things I do not understand (yet!), so apparently there is an excellent back story.

The good news is that both Hope and I enjoyed the show very much and we are not amongst those Who Know. In fact, after two episodes you might enjoy them more the less you already know. The pacing is deliberate, some might think slow, but this means that there is time to allow the casual fan to catch up and the super fan to cogitate.

This is, as the Fairest Flower in all Christendom put it, “A space Western . . . “ and given our ages we do know the genre rules of the Western and so could get involved immediately. The Mandalorian follows those with some nifty space cowboy twists. Think up graded Gatling guns and hard bitten droids and no Steve McQueen, but a very cool bounty hunter off doing his job finding those Wanted Dead or Alive.

The dialog is spare, but this helps avoid the tendency of some Star Wars to intone meaningless sort-of-philosophy. The show gets close to stereotypes (think “Indians” as noble “savages” in some Westerns) as the prequels did with other ethnic groups. The opening music is weak, the show could use a theme, but during an episode is very strong, tying together the action without signaling what is about to happen.

The effects are very good for episodic television, the best I have ever seen, and if you have been to Disneyland you will recognize “stuff” from Galaxy’s Edge. There is a temptation to look for something big in each episode and out of the first two only one delivered a surprise, but then one recalls they have a long time to tell stories. We will get to know this bounty hunter and his world over many years.

At least we hope so, because even the mildest Star Wars type in the house found the writing grown up and fun while the more fanatical Star Wars types found plenty to spark long discussions.

On the Disney Streaming Service 

This might be a moment to comment on the new Disney streaming service. Our house streamed video internally to every room as soon as possible with a jury rigged system I put together (such larks!) and we cut the cord with cable as soon as we could.

The new Disney service has introduced a “war” for the cord cutters with Netflix, Amazon Prime, networks, and other players looking to charge for their libraries. Walt Disney was right: content is king. This is the problem with the new Disney service. As such things go, it is cheap, and if you wish to rewatch Marvel or Disney films, and you don’t own them in other forms, then you will need the service.

Yet there is just not enough content for a stand-alone, so Disney is assuming you will plus your other subscriptions with this service. We are back to the cable add-on package model and this brings me to a small insight: cable television may be poised for a comeback.

Every day the basic package streams endless shows and movies to the “box.” A new system like Xfinity can “record” any show you wish and record shows and movies by actors (Tom Hanks!). Given that live television works best on cable television, the lag is noticeable on most streaming services (a football play or two behind), there are some advantages to “old” cable.

Most of what is available on an on-demand service, I can get with a little foresight with basic cable and the “recorder” and Xfinity has an on-demand service as well. This means that anyone with a decent Disney DVD/Blu-Ray library and cable may be getting this service just for Mandalorian and the (fairly modest) other shows on the service.

Bluntly, cable is no longer cool, but unless 5G cuts out the cord altogether, it may make a comeback in our house. Is Mandalorian worth seventy dollars a year? I suspect not for most houses. Since many of us live in areas where “cable” is the best home internet service, adding the cable box back is easy and our box at least supports applications like Netflix and Amazon Prime!

Is “cord cutting” really passé?

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