While the progression of what “The Mandalorian” is, in terms of bigger themes is obviously important, the underlying myth of what allowed it is be realized is part of what makes it work. While never actually spelled out for the most part, in Episode 4 of “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian”, the use of what becomes known as The Volume is quite intricate and mind blowing but shows how forward thinking the show was in terms of capture. Interestingly enough, the tech advance as far as the main push here came from Jon Favreau, which is ironic having come from his independent background (although that was what George Lucas initially was). It was Favreau’s initial work on “The Jungle Book” and “The Lion King” with photo-realism that set him on this path. The exploration of virtual sets that are mostly done in VR helmets made sense. But having the camera be able to change the background in real time on an actual set as it is being shot is something else entirely…because that means instant rendering in an unbelievable dexterity of HD.
In The Volume with the lighting and the LED projectors there is a sense of what this can actually mean for film making but also one in thinking of how much did the technology actually cost. Favreau speaks to its inception as not proprietary but using game engine technology, specifically Unreal. While this is true, creating this sound stage itself (who knows where it actually is) is interesting for what can come next. It brings to the forefront that all the episodes were shot inside this actual space. No exteriors at at all. That aspect with showing almost natural lighting opens the world up in terms of film making and creating creating new visions. The only thing not clear is how much of the backdrop needs to be shot as a set plate or does the computer build them. Obviously a lot of pre-production needs to be worked on in terms of set extension in practical view and to match the floor. In a sense it becomes a large form of theater.
But that said, it makes these types of science fiction shows much more doable in an increasingly controlled environment but with no post budget almost per se since everything is done in camera. This texture is undeniable in many ways of course. But does it make the films better. Ultimately that is people. Even Carl Weaters talks about the fact that if you can respond to something directly in front of you and not green screen, it makes the scenes and acting more organic. While the episode reflects back that Lucas wanted to do something similar and tried as much as he could in the prequels, it has come to fruition. You see a little bit of Lucas’ reaction but not as much as you would have hoped.. But again, with such advances, it will be interesting to see how it changes the industry, especially with what is happening now in the world. Strife despite its hardship sometimes brings along great innovation
By Tim Wassberg
Moving forward in the Disney Gallery with “The Mandalorian” comes down to casting in Episode 3. The key with telling the story is not trying to cover up what might be perceived. With Episode 3, the round table structure again helps with the process because, one is aware fo hat is being seen, especially with actors. The aspect of Pedro Pascal is of course him actually being in the costume. It of course is broken down in terms of stunt fighting whether it be action or gun play which is actually two different stuntmen. That is very much seen and laid very honestly forward. But Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau tell an interesting story later in the episode about an effects camera test before they even started shooting with just extras in costumes on set before Pascal slipped on The Mandalorian’s uniform. Pascal relates though that he was there Favreau and Filoni admit that even behind the mask and costumes need to be a sense of acting which can be even harder.
The directors Deborah Chow & Rick Fujikawa relates this as well. It is key. Filoni actually relates that the test was the first time they were using the new cameras and he actually calls Favreau “coach” saying “it would be so much easier if I could draw it”. It is a very telling moment. Pascal understands the intent of the character but he never gets really deep into what Mando is really since it might give away too much of what the man is, which is smart. Gina Carano gives a little but of a glimpse into her character interrelating about her origins being from Alderaan which is an interesting detail and makes one think of that character as a little different with something to prove, especially in looks and how she goes forward. Carano pays specific penitence to Carl Weather talking about how he taught her. Weathers seems like a tough love but it has because he has worked with the pantheons of action in the 80s.
When he is talking about acting to a mask, it is specifically interesting that nobody brings up Predator because his death scene in that is so particular and that was against a man in a mask as well. Also the essence of Man With No Name that Jon Favreau talks of Lucas originally envisioning of the Mandalorian plays in part to reflection of the team Schwarzenegger as Dutch integrated in “Predator”. Weathers is old school and he originally was supposed to be prosthetics and was only going to be in Episodes 1 and 3 as a favor. Obviously he saw enough in this angle to work because apparently he doesn’t act as much (or need to anymore). He was in an NBC show that lasted briefly called “Chicago Justice” which I did an interview for so it is interesting to see how he connects. But ultimately it is about building the world which of course some of the casting being spoken about recently for Season 2 points to very specifically.
By Tim Wassberg
Showing the behind-the-scenes in a “Star Wars” universe has always been an important part of the process. With “The Mandalorian” using ancillary aspects and the fact that this was the jumping off point for Disney+ makes sense. While more ancillary material in a way than an actual new series, it is great to tide audiences over in anticipating of the next iteration (especially with the advent of COVID-19) which might slow down production. Creator Jon Favreau again uses his indie instincts in this perception because he does what he used to do with “Dinner For Five” back in the day. He sits people around a table to talk with people (just no wine like before). While this first episode entitled “Directing” focuses on the directors, one gets a sense of input from different arenas. All the directors are inherently different. But that is what makes them unique. It is hard to say how much they actually were on everyone else’s sets. Favreau seems inherently around a lot even though he was finalizing “The Lion King” at the time. He did not direct an episode in the first season. Dave Filoni was likely consecutively working on “The Clone Wars” at the same time so it is interesting to see that balance that he could find time to direct but again it is perception of how they could balance. Seeing George Lucas sitting on set with Filoni and Favreau watching some of the scenes being directed really added credibility to the proceedings.
The one aspect of the virtual background sets (which again will make shooting post COVID inherently different) seemed to be incorporated almost fully the whole time even though it will be explained later. Even on Bryce Dallas Howard’s episode (which bears certain parallels to “Willow” in many ways) it seems that the wrap around back screen mattes/projection were going constantly. Deborah Chow, who is set to direct the Obi Wan series seems to have her focus extremely visceral which again should be interesting in approaching Kenobi especially with an actor who knows him inherently, Taika Waititi tries appear aloof since he is also a comedy actor after all so there is an interesting play where his tone is. He gels with the people even though he is primarily at a different place than many of the others. It works but it almost seems if he is trying too hard to play up to the paradox. All the episodes are good but his season finale was exceptional. Hearing Bryce’s recollection of being in Japan with her dad (Ron Howard) when he met Kurosawa and she fell asleep when she was 5 was great lore and cemented her perception and love of film making. Continuing episodes especially how they explore the story and creatures should be a treasure trove for Star Wars fans until they can hunker down for the next installment.
By Tim Wassberg