REVIEW: "The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian (Season One)"
Updated: Jun 27, 2021
In 2019, The Mandalorian stole the hearts and minds of Star Wars fans, new and old, by bringing us a story that explored a new pocket of the galaxy while staying grounded in the concepts that influenced George Lucas. During the show's absence this year, we were gifted with the eight-episode docuseries Disney Gallery: Star Wars: The Mandalorian, which took us behind-the-scenes and heightened our appreciation for world-building and myth-making more than we could've imagined.
Now, with the show breaking boundaries in its second season, author Phil Szostak is giving us a new perspective inside the inaugural season's creative process with The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian (Season One).
Szostak, who previously penned the three sequel trilogy Art of installments, doesn't leave anything off the table. The book takes plenty of time exploring the cultural references that created the blueprint for the series, such as Goseki Kojima's Lone Wolf and Cub manga, as well as the initial stages of creator Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni's working relationship stretching back to 2007.
In the opening pages of The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian, it's quickly apparent that this is a must-have for any fan. Executive creative director Doug Chiang's foreword spells out Lucasfilm's mission with its first entry in live-action television: design a world that didn't feel fabricated but still feels very rooted in reality. Whether it's the World War II A-10 Thunderbolt 'Warthog' that gave way to the Razor Crest or Jim Henson's Dark Crystal puppetry laying the foundation for the Child's innocent on-screen spirit, Favreau "insisted on retaining the charm of the original designs that inspired us as kids."
It leaves no doubt as to why The Mandalorian has struck an emotional chord with so many viewers and why it continues to be one of the top performing streaming shows in the world.
In the book's introduction, Szostak puts into perspective just how far we've come with the Mandalorians and how they've emerged as the "third superpower" alongside the Jedi and the Sith. It's phrases like this that underscore just how connected The Mandalorian is to the larger Star Wars mythology as it tells the story of a "lone wolf" seeking to outrun his own psychological demons through bounty hunting. For Din Djarin, however, he quickly realizes his lonely soul is in need of rescuing when he meets the Child and sees a part of himself within the helpless creature.
"It sounds strange to say this, but being in that trope world of Westerns and samurai films allowed us to be less concerned with the Star Wars of it all and more concerned with the character journey." — Dave Filoni
The book takes us through the design phase—according to Chiang, this was shortened from the typical four-to-six window down to a month-and-a-half—and is split up by the episodic Chapters, each featuring an introduction that details the production timeline. There's something for everyone within these pages, whether it's early concepts or exclusive interviews with the directors and the art department. Among the many notable highlights, I particularly enjoyed seeing never-before-seen concept art of The Armorer, Fennec Shand, and Moff Gideon.
The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian is an excellent addition to Szostak's body of work. It not only takes readers inside the minds of the artists who build the visual Star Wars universe, a memorable one at that, but it openly discusses the challenges that came with pushing the envelope in a new storytelling medium. With another one of these (likely) releasing after season two finishes, you're going to want to get your hands on this first edition to have the complete collection. If for any reason at all, this book is the perfect opportunity to let your imagination wander, get inspired, and see how the newest Star Wars Western came to life.