The Mandalorian and Grogu: can Baby Yoda help the Star Wars saga find new hope?

<span>Photograph: Disney</span>
Photograph: Disney

Everybody needs an easy win from time to time. A choice decision that simply can’t go wrong, seems obviously right to everyone on the planet and requires little effort to put in place. Bringing The Mandalorian and Grogu, AKA The Child, AKA Baby Yoda, to the big screen might be the easiest win for Disney since Darth Vader dispensed with Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original 1977 Star Wars.

If the news, announced this week, comes as a shock, it’s only because we were already expecting to see the armoured space warrior and his oh-so-cute force-wielding adoptive son in multiplexes in Dave Filoni’s earlier announced film, which it’s thought will unite the various heroes of Disney+’s Star Wars TV offshoots The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett and Ahsoka in an Avengers-style ensemble flick in which they battle against the nefarious Grand Admiral Thrawn. Doesn’t the fact that we will also now see Din Djarin and Grogu embark on their own adventure (directed by series creator Jon Favreau) rather undermine Filoni’s effort?

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Mind you, given we have no idea when either of these episodes will actually make it to cinemas, and given the number of mooted Star Wars projects that died a death in the Sarlacc’s belly before ever making it to production in recent years, we should probably lay such concerns to one side for the present.

And again, if Disney hadn’t announced a Mandalorian and Grogu film, there would likely have been a million voices crying out in horror and perhaps never being silenced, so popular are the telekinesis-wielding tyke and his gruff but kindly cosmic papa. (I even predicted it in March.) Moreover, with Favreau, a more than decent movie director – Iron Man, The Jungle Book and, ahem, Elf – at the helm, there is reason to think this is the best available path to re-establishing Star Wars on the big screen, after the galactic-scale blunder that was Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. So why do I have, not so much a bad feeling but a slight sense of unease about the prospect?

The first reason is the title, because titles are all-important in Star Wars. Their announcement causes the same frisson of excitement that greets any new James Bond movie’s carefully concocted handle. If The Empire Strikes Back had been released as “Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader”, it would probably not have been the cultural death star blast that drove all before it in 1980. Even “The Force Awakens” has a vibe to it, though not so much “The Rise of Skywalker”, which sounds like it was mulched together by an AI in search of the perfect crowd-thunk Star Wars movie moniker. And “The Mandalorian and Grogu”? It just doesn’t seem to quite cut it. It feels like the Ronseal (apologies to our American audience here) approach to naming a movie.

Titles are all-important in Star Wars. And ‘The Mandalorian and Grogu’ doesn’t quite cut it

Perhaps Lucasfilm and Disney have simply accepted that the magic of cinema no longer applies, and the most important thing when titling a new film is to get straight to the point. After all, everyone loves The Mandalorian, so why not give them more of the same yet bigger? And yet that is the kind of marketing-led thinking that gave us Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Or Baywatch: The Movie.

TV-to-movie transfers do not have a great history. But most of the time when a great television show shifts to the big screen, it is with an entirely new cast and creative team, and often decades after the original proposition debuted. It is rare for a small-screen saga to jump to multiplexes while the original is still at the peak of its popularity. Perhaps the most famous successful example is Star Trek, which despite a few bumps along the way is now at least as well known for its theatrical adventures as for those on TV.

Favreau will be working within a sandbox with almost limitless creative potential. Moreover, he built the sandbox himself, not with Jedi powers but with sheer passion for the saga George Lucas cooked up well over four decades ago from a far out blend of pulp space serials and Akira Kurosawa.

We still know so little about Grogu, his apparently force-powerful race and his place in the future of the galaxy. Favreau and Filoni have been careful to unfurl details of Mandalorian culture at such a deliciously glacial pace in the first three seasons of the TV show that there seems much more to discover. In the best part of half a century of Star Wars, we have not even got close to visiting Grogu and Yoda’s home planet. According to the internet, the concept of Yoda even having a home planet was not broached canonically until 2018 – so that might be an intriguing place for the film-makers to start.

The fear is that they will mess it up. That in the attempt to concoct a suitably epic storyline that justifies the move to the big screen, Favreau will somehow lose the essence of what made The Mandalorian so great. Where the TV show revelled in its extended running time to give us detailed glimpses of strange races such as the egg-laying Frog Lady of season two, or a much closer look at the perfidious antics of the Jawa in season one, a movie is more likely to spend most of its time on giant space battles. Is film even the right format for a hero as quirky and cute as Grogu?

Even worse, the movie could end up feeling like little more than an extended episode of the Disney+ show – something we would happily have watched at home as part of our subscription. In some sense, Favreau cannot win.

And yet, right now, I’m willing to put all fears aside and simply bask in the news that The Mandaloran is primed and ready to save Star Wars on the big screen. What was it that weird CGI Leia said at the tail-end of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, when asked exactly what Jyn Erso’s plucky band of resistance fighters had sent the rebellion? I’m pretty sure it was hope.