TV Review: The Mandalorian, Season 1

I was told (begged, pleaded) to watch the Mandalorian before watching Witcher, so being the rebellions little snark angel I am, I watched them both and alternated the episodes.

Yeah … on second thought that wasn’t the greatest idea. Give me some credit though, I was working with a complicated situation. I could only watch Mandalorian when the kiddos were around because, silly me, they wanted to watch it as well (two words: Baby Yoda). And because some of us struggle with sharing spoilers, we had to watch it all as a family. Fair enough.

The Witcher had to wait for when the kiddos were in bed and well and truly asleep, for … reasons.

Fans of Witcher know the reasons.

This review is totally about The Mandolorian, and not the Witcher, which I’ll tackle next week. Priorities, they get me every time.

The story

Let’s start with explaining the basic idea of the Mandalorian. Oh, and let’s avoid sharing any major spoilers as well (conscience, calm down, it wasn’t your fault). And let’s do all of this while remembering that there are uber fans of Star Wars out there that are so ready to debate over all the micro details of the history and culture. No pressure at all.

<cracks knuckles>

Mandalorians are people associated with the planet Mandalore and are typified by their armor and “supercommando” reputation. One of the big “no-no’s”, at least in this series, is for a Mandolorian to allow anyone to see them without their helmet. Remember Boba Fett? Yep, he was one of them.

In The Mandolorian, our noble main character, who they largely refer to as “Mando” is a bounty hunter and part of the bounty hunter’s guild, which (surprise, surprise) has it’s own set of codes and creeds that it’s members must follow.

Mando gets a job where he’s supposed to recover “the child” which all viewers refer to as baby Yoda. (Note, it’s not actually baby Yoda. But it is the same species.) Mando is to then turn “the child” over to Imperials. Because the Imperials are E.V.I.L., Mando can’t allow the adorable baby Yoda to fall victim to what might be something nefarious and terrible. He rescues “the child” and proceeds to protect him through all manner of trials for the remainder of the series.

OhMyGosh OhMyGosh OhMyGosh ….Squuuuueeeeeeee! I want one.

My review

I’ll give Disney+ credit, the production details and artistry in all the different settings, costuming, and musical scores were absolutely amazing. They stayed faithful to the locations we’d come to know and love over the course of the films and gave viewers an expanded look at the Star Wars universe. Win.

Possibly the best part of the entire watching experience was baby Yoda himself. While it is totally a marketing grab and the licensed products of just him are going to be LITERALLY EVERYWHERE, (you’ve been warned) he creates a perfect balance against Mando himself. His cuteness offsets Mando’s cold beskar exterior, his darling baby noises make up for Mando’s limited and to-the-point dialogue.

[I want one. Send me a Funko pop or make me an amigurumi one and I’ll be very pleased (thanks in advance).]

Compared to baby Yoda, Mando, with all his broodiness and macho armor and diligence to his creed, is kinda forgettable. He also bugged me, like a lot. Here’s this guy who’s supposed to be a super soldier and amazing at being a bounty hunter and the best of the best. What does he do? He gets thrashed in nearly every scenario. Thank heavens he’s got Beskar armor or he’d be toast.

Is it a solid story? Yes. It’s textbook hero’s journey for those following along. There are trials and failures and successes and cute baby yoda. All the elements are there and done well. But … it didn’t touch me. I couldn’t relate to Mando or the conflict he was working to solve. It might have had something to do with the helmet. Seeing a face is really important to be able to connect.

Recommendations

Star Wars fans – yes, you – if you generally like most of the Star Wars movies, then you will probably like this one. The acting is good, the dialogue isn’t cringey, and the story is solid. There’s more than plenty of action and fighting for those who like that, and enough human connection and emotional content for those looking for something more than just an action flick. Is it better than the prequel movies, absolutely. I’d place it as equal to The Last Jedi, with more hand-to-hand fighty shooty bits.

If you struggled with any of the latest generation of Star Wars movies, then you might struggle with this one. There are none of the characters that you’ve grown to love to anchor the story. For the characters in the Mandalorian, the viewer never is given the clues to how and where they connect to the rest of the universe. If you were looking for something super emotionally fulfilling, you might find this falling short.

I give The Mandalorian 3.5 out of 5 stars.


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Movie Review: Frozen II

Would you look at that! I actually made it to a movie while it was still in the theaters. As a Christmas treat, my family went to see Frozen 2. I think I was probably more excited about it than my kids. I LOVED everything about Frozen and had high hopes for the sequel.

The story

At the end of Frozen, Anna and Elsa have finally rebuilt their relationship as loving sisters and have overcome Elsa’s fear of her unique magic. In the process, they also showed Hans that true love is far more powerful than greed. It was a wonderfully well-balanced story that rocked between humor and powerful moments of self-realization.

Frozen 2 picks up a few years later. We kick off the story with a prologue showing Anna and Elsa as adorable little girls. The King tells them a bedtime story about how the elemental spirits were angered and formed a magical barrier locking everyone out of the Enchanted Forest. Yes, it’s literally called that. Using a prologue like this is important, because it makes it feel like this new story line always existed, even before the success of Frozen 1.

What would have been more effective is if they managed to make some cryptic mention of the mist-shrouded Enchanted Forest in the first movie, but I digress.

Fast forward to several years after the events of Frozen 1 and we see Anna, Elsa, Cristoff, and Olaf generally enjoying life as grownups. Elsa starts hearing a magical call that no one else can hear. After repeated attempts to ignore it, she bursts out into the song intended to be this film’s version of “Let it Go.” It even happens at the same point in the film. For my writer friends, this is the inciting incident. The whole movie is very literally textbook Hero’s Journey, if you keep track of things like that.

I don’t do spoilers, so let the vagueness begin.

Elsa is determined to find out where the call is coming from so she sets out on a quest. Anna insists on coming. Ever since the whole frozen heart incident, she’s pretty dead set on staying by Elsa’s side – forever. (see what I did there?) They set off with Cristoff and Olaf and by the virtue of Elsa’s powers are able to get through the mist.

One revelation follows another until we reach an epic showdown where both Anna and Elsa are in very real mortal danger. To survive, they must resolve a conflict that started years before either of them were born, the heart of the problem behind the formation of the mist.

My Review

There was so much potential for this movie to be amazing . When it came to beautiful animation, stunning settings, and engaging characters, this film truly did have all the elements of what could have been an amazing experience. However, there was so much crammed in there, that the movie ended up falling flat for me. It was simply trying too hard.

For me, the complexity killed it. Not only do we have a much larger cast, but also two distinct cultures in addition to the people of Arendelle. We meet the people to the north which are the equivalent to an indigenous tribe and the elemental powers belonging to a mysterious magical island isolated in the North Sea. Even as a seasoned storyist, I struggled to remember who was doing what and why.

There’s also a whole lot of more mature angst. Olaf has this running gag about what it must be like to be old and mature because he’s figuratively still only a few years old. He sings a song about it, surprise. Cristoff is trying to propose to Anna and failing over and over, and he sings a song about it as well. Yep, that’s the one you’ve probably heard about, the 80s rock ballad. Anna and Elsa struggle with the death of their parents and trying to protect each other and Arendelle, and both sing a lot about it. And then there’s the angst of all the secondary characters as well. Like I said. Complex.

Does all this angst get resolved? Come on, this is Disney. Of course it does. Are the solutions ingenious and surprising, but still make sense? I’ll give that a solid 60%. They hint at the solution hoards of times so when it happens it’s like, duh.

In Frozen 1, the themes were “love conquers fear” with a splash of “follow your heart.” In Frozen 2, they beat you over the head with the theme as “take the next right step.” It’s not as compelling to say the least.

My Recommendations

I would recommend this movie to those who fell in love with the characters of the original movie and are happy to just see them again. They’ve grown up, developed their personalities and interests, and have become more complex and interesting people. Those who love folklore and magical origins and lots of familial angst, this movie will definitely scratch that itch is well.

Honestly, it’s not a bad movie. It just doesn’t have the same kind of punch as the first. But I would warn those who were hoping for a similar mind-blowing powerful experience as the first movie, that you might be disappointed. They tried to shoehorn in so much that it felt forced and even, dare I say, gimmicky.

I rate Frozen II 3 out of 5 stars


Psst! It’s cover reveal week for the rerelease of Stonebearer’s Betrayal – here’s a sneak peek! Launch day is January 2nd, and preorders will open soon!

Quite possibly the best Christmas present ever. Too bad it hits the digital shelves Jan 2…

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The Dragon Prince, Season 3

I solemnly swear to not post spoilers, which makes writing about a third season of any show complicated. I hope you appreciate the verbal gymnastics required to do this dear reader, because when I woke up this morning, I swear my head wasn’t screwed on correctly. I’ve had perma-fog of the brain all morning.

Being super heroic is just the beginning

The story so far…

As we left season two, Ezran, upon learning of his father’s death, makes the difficult decision to return to Katolis and assume the duties as king. Callum and Rayla continue in their quest to take adorable baby dragon Zym back to his mother in the magical land of Xadia only to encounter the ancient dragon Sol Regem blocking their path. Viren, who has been consorting with the mysterious elf Aaravos, uses his dark magic to scare the other kingdoms into forming an alliance with him to go to war against Xadia and finally rid the world of the hatred and evils he believes are found there.

Up to this point, both sides of the world feel wronged by the other. The world of the elves is furious with that of the humans because they killed the ruling dragon king and supposedly destroyed the egg that was to be his heir. The human world is furious with the elves world because they are a threat that isn’t fully understand.

Entering season three there were lots of expectations, some of which were met, and several that will be left for a future season. Perhaps the biggest question was if Zym would be reunited with his mother, and what that would change in the world.

If Zym, the dragon prince, is reunited with his mother, the queen dragon of Xadia, it should resolve in part the largest complaint that the elves have against the humans. Part of my expectation going into season three was to see some of this happen. However, this is the primary conflict on which the entire show rests, solve it and the show would have to end or risk dwindling on into irrelevance.

These two are so cute together. Best brothers ever.

Season Three thoughts

In season three, there were several good steps toward a greater understanding between elves and humans. It had to happen, as both people and elves are starting to rally to a cause greater than just basic anger and hatred. The conflict is now elevating to a greater fight between good and evil and the stakes are getting higher.

How’s that for being vague? Yeah, I promised no serious spoilers. I meant it.

There is also several new and fascinating settings introduced in season three that I thought were awesome. We get to see Rayla’s village and the magic there, a black desert, and the home of the dragon queen, all of which have their own special traits and points of interest that made the world builder in me squee a little.

As the story continues, the relationships between characters continues to change and grow. Some of this earned an eye roll from me, any problem that is solved by the power of love tends to do that. But, I can’t watch Hallmark movies either, so that’s a personal failing on my part. The rest of you might find it charming. There are several surprises here as well between characters where I never thought the dynamic would change.

Did Zym get reunited with his mom? You better go watch it.

All in all, season three is filled with great storytelling with just enough tidbits of well-timed backstory to make the new conflicts not only hugely entertaining, but powerful as well.

Really Claudia? Put the adoraburr down!

Recommendations

For those of you who love a story with a deep history, complex characters, and beautiful art, Dragon Prince is a perfect choice. It continues to amaze and delight my whole family. I’m personally impressed at the effort taken to ensure that every detail of the story is well thought out and calculated for maximum emotional payout. It’s totally my kind of story.

I would warn viewers that while on the outside this show just looks like any other cartoon, it’s actually pretty complicated. Some people might be turned off at the learning curve required to understand what is going on and what the stakes are. The first few episodes of season one are slower because of the time spent catching the viewer up on the history of the world and its characters and why that matters.

After Rayla, General Amaya is the coolest character ever.

A request

If you have a show or movie that you’d think I’d love to watch and review, let me know in the comments! I love finding new wonderful universes to explore.

Are you watching Dragon Prince? What are your thoughts so far?


Psst, Jodi here – Big news!

The re-release of Stonebearer’s Betrayal is well under way and scheduled for the first week in January, with the exciting sequel set to release in March. Stay tuned for a fresh new cover reveal and more!


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