Let’s Talk Star Wars. Have we had enough of Star Wars? Of course we haven’t. Mandalorian is amazing and we’re never going to get enough of it. Including the cute little Baby Yoda who we find out is actually named Grogu. There will obviously be spoilers here for the newest episode, but also spoilers for several movies that are many decades old. They’re all worth watching so if you can, you absolutely should. The Mandolorian is a show about the clash of West and East. Then talk about it on our Facebook page.
Star Wars and Samurai
George Lucas was inspired by Japanese Samurai films, which may sound redundant, but is actually not. Turns out that a lot of international directors ripped off Kurosawa wholesale, as that article notes. George Lucas was definitely one of those people, mostly because he was inspired by the people who did the ripping off in the first place. Now this isn’t to say that the idea that George Lucas’ vision for Star Wars is entirely unoriginal. He’s been very upfront about that, and this isn’t exactly news. People have been ripping off Kurosawa for a very long time, and that’s not a bad thing, and in fact has been pretty great for a few
Samurai and Westerns
It’s a well known fact that Kurosawa made mad films. But have you actually seen them? Probably. You just may have never known it.
Django? That was originally Yojimbo. It was also Omega Doom and Last Man Standing. Magnificent Seven is just a remake of Seven Samurai, and that plot has been recycled over and over so much that it’s become memetic. Speaking of recycled over and over ad infinitum. Ever seen the story where that is told from multiple perspectives leaving the true nature of the events unclear or possibly having an impartial narrator give the correct version? That’s Rashomon. Which is itself based on a short story called In The Grove. Clint Eastwood and the Man With No Name? That’s an Italian director remaking Kurosawa as an American Western. Notice how many of these movies are Westerns? That’s what I’m getting out there. The good westerns are remakes of Samurai classics. The Mandalorian is East and West. West meets East.
Mandalorian as a Space Western
Why is all this important? Because The Mandalorian is more Star Wars than most of the recent Star Wars movies have been. It echos the fusion of east and west. Like them or not, the new trilogy relies heavily on the echoes of the past in order to draw viewers in. Like the original trilogy, it is a retelling of older stories again and again. Nothing wrong with this. However what the new trilogy failed to do was take a deeper look at what made the original Star Wars what it was.
Mandalorian, both east and west, being a space western set in the Star Wars universe more closely resembles the inspirations of the original Star Wars movies than almost anything else that has been produced since. See, because while most of modern Star Wars tries to recreate Star Wars itself, The Mandalorian tries to capture the same influences that Star Wars itself did. There is a reason that The Mandalorian has no name. He’s the Man With No Name. Although now Baby Yoda is Grogu. As if anyone is going to call him that. One Episode was literally a Seven Samurai remake.
West and East
This episode is where this really becomes apparent. In every part of it. From Ashoka attacking the fortification, to Mando asking for permission to enter, the same way a gunslinger would ask to be let into a fortified town. Ashoka is a Samurai, whose mastery of the blade is unrivalled. She is legendary defender of the downtrodden. Her masters are gone and now she carries out her own agenda. She is a Ronin. The Magistrate is a damiyo whose oppressive reign and torture of the people, a common enemy of samurai films. Their dual at the end is a very straightforward duel between two strong and skilled warriors.
West and East
Meanwhile on the outside, we have another classic trope, the standoff. The guard is even called a gunslinger by Mando. In case you haven’t seen enough westerns, and you should see more westerns. The good ones anyway. If you shoot someone, that’s murder. However if they draw their weapon and you shoot them first, that’s self-defence. This is in important distinction in Westerns and largely the reason the fastest gunslinger in the west is a trope. As per the trope, the gunslinger (not the one from the episode The Gunslinger, but the gunslinger from the episode The Jedi) draws on Mando in hopes of killing him, but with his expert reflexes and literal plot armor, Mando draws first and kills him.
This is the central theme of the Mandalorian and the clash of east and west. and it’s apparent everywhere. From the framing of Ashoka and Din to the literal duels between the characters nemesis’ reflecting their heritage. The Mandalorian is great not simply because it calls back to great moments in Star Wars, but because it calls back to the things that made Star Wars itself great. The retelling of epic archetypes and mythic stories to a new audience in a new way, but never forgetting where it came from.