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'Star Wars' and 'The Mandalorian' make Disney+ worth it

They're the highlights of the service, by far.
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Disney+ has a ton of things to watch based on its vast library alone, but if you're interested in something that's actually original, your options are pretty slim. Just like Apple TV+, most of the new content on Disney+, like The World According to Jeff Goldblum, is watchable but not exactly exceptional. That's not the case for The Mandalorian though. It's the first live-action Star Wars show, and it brings with it all of the action, wonder and visual splendor you've come to expect from the films.

That's not the only new bit of Star Wars goodness either: there's also a surprise 4K remaster of the entire Skywalker saga with Dolby Vision and Atmos. And yes, that includes the original trilogy (albeit with the Special Edition CG tweaks and yet another Han/Greedo scene change). If you were on the fence about subscribing to Disney+, these new Star Wars releases are more than enough reason to check it out.

The Mandalorian reminds me of why I love Star Wars in the first place. It feels like a Sergio Leone spaghetti western, with an emphasis on silence and tension that explodes into satisfying action sequences. Every set feels dirty and lived in, and there aren't any distracting CG characters, aside from a giant monster or two. Instead, it's mostly people in makeup and suits, just like the original trilogy. There's also a wonderful air of mystery to it -- we don't see Pedro Pascal's face underneath his armor, and the show isn't afraid to introduce new concepts and ideas without resorting to overlong exposition to explain them.

The Mandalorian is produced and mostly written by Jon Favreau, who kickstarted the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man. He's known for crafting interesting characters and punchy dialog -- but in this case, he also shows off his knack for world building. Favreau's script is brought to life by Dave Filoni, who's spearheaded the Clone Wars and Rebels animated shows. There are plenty of other interesting directors to look forward to as well, like Taiki Waititi and Deborah Chow. It's tough to judge the entire series at this point, but based on the talent involved and the first episode, The Mandalorian doesn't look like it'll be a creative disaster like Solo.

The icing on the cake for Star Wars fans is the new 4K remaster on Disney+. The original and prequel trilogies haven't been touched since their Blu-ray release in 2011, so this is a major new release for those films. There have been rumors that Disney was working on a 4K Blu-ray boxset for next year, and that seems even more likely now, since the core Star Wars films have all been upgraded for modern home theater formats.

Star Wars 4K

So what does all this new tech actually accomplish? A New Hope looks sharper than ever in 4K, and the increased dynamic range of Dolby Vision really makes the image pop. Darth Vader's inky black outfit and cape stood out even more from the all-white interior of the Rebel Alliance ship. And the desert sun of Tatooine looked even more searing than before. The new Dolby Atmos sound mix also made the Death Star raid sound richer and more expansive on my home theater. You certainly won't mistake the remastered original trilogy for one of the newer Star Wars films, but the upgrades are welcome without ruining their integrity.

Let's face it: Disney+ is going to be a must-have service for anyone with kids, given its breadth of classic movies and TV shows. Everyone else will need more compelling reasons to shell out $7 a month or $70 a year. So far, The Mandalorian and the remastered Star Wars films are the biggest draw yet.


Video
Presenter: Devindra Hardawar
Script: Devindra Hardawar
Script Editor: Terrence O'Brien
Editor: Kyle Maack
Producer/Camera: Michael Morris

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