Why Does Everyone in The Mandalorian Talk Like That?
Harrison Ford once famously told George Lucas of his Star Wars script, “You can type this shit, but you sure can’t say it!” Suffice to say, the franchise has wrangled with lovably, and not so lovably, weird dialogue since its earliest days. But The Mandalorian’s spartan approach to conversation makes its peculiarity all the more jarring.
The series has from the very beginning been light on talking—its protagonist is a taciturn loner, and its deuteragonist is a non-verbalizing green baby. But as the series has progressed, and more characters have worked their ways into the lives of Din Djarin and Grogu, a clipped stiffness to the way the characters of The Mandalorian’s world talk to each other has become steadily more and more of a problem.
It came to the forefront again in this week’s season three premiere, as Mando does what Mando seemingly does best: wander from planet to planet hoping to have people spout exposition to him like he’s a video game protagonist picking up sidequests. But even beyond this familiar critique of the show’s narrative structure, something kept cropping up in each encounter… characters addressing each other by their full names, regardless of who they are. Din Djarin, Greef Karga, Pirate King Gorian Shard, Bo-Katan (although not Bo-Katan Kryze, admittedly), multiple times in the same conversation people will just spout a full name to each other—people who are at the very least acquainted with each other, or people who are supposedly meant to be old friends. The closest you get to a shade of familiarity is Karga’s welcoming cry of “Mando!” It doesn’t just feel unnatural, but like these names are being stated almost as branding—yearning to be entered on wiki entries, or adorned on merchandise, like they’re less actual people and more action figures.
The addressing wouldn’t be so jarring if not for its repetition, or if it was the only jarring thing about The Mandalorian’s dialogue. Rarely does it feel as if people in a scene are talking to each other, but more like at each other, relaying expository information as brusquely and barely as possible. These are good actors—look at what Pedro Pascal has been doing in the run up to this season on The Last of Us—but it’s inherent to the nature of the dialogue itself. It’s clipped and spartan, and any moments of warmth or familiarity come from little flourishes and offhand remarks—like the way Din exasperatedly tries to get Grogu to stop hugging the Anzellan droid engineer.
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It’s especially peculiar, even with Star Wars’ history of duff dialogue, to have this kind of writing style immediately in the wake of Andor. That series had a different writing and creative team, sure, but its naturalistic dialogue was what made the series come alive from the get-go, making its characters feel like fully-formed beings in the setting. There’s perhaps a reason that with Andor you could point to potent soliloquies like Kino Loy’s prison rally, Luthen’s diatribe to his ISB informant, or Maarva’s funeral speech as highlights of the show, for the feeling and lyricism of the dialogue, while “This is the Way” has become The Mandalorian’s most notable quotable. It feels like an intriguing contrast there, because it has become a set of watchwords that people say at each other to convey a sense of understanding that can’t be conveyed by the dialogue elsewhere, reliant as it is on its expository nature. It’s a catchphrase that feels brazenly like a catchphrase instead of the pseudo-religious mantra it is meant to actually feel like within the universe.
It makes The Mandalorian’s world feel clinical when it shouldn’t—and it clashes with that Star Wars “lived-in” approach that the series otherwise absolutely nails with its aesthetic. It does feel like a series of video game levels, like characters cease to exist in any form of agency or desire once they have doled out their mission dialogue and Din is on his merry way. In a world that already struggles to feel as expansive and vast as the galaxy far, far away is as it leans on familiar faces and connections to Star Wars’ past, the stilted dialogue just isolates each pocket of characters in The Mandalorian even further away from each other.
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