The Mandalorian Episode 4 Is A Total Homage To Akira Kurosawa And Sergio Leone

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BY December 1, 2019

Episode 4 of The Mandalorian, the first ever Star Wars live action show, makes it clear just how much of a Western the show is. While also paying homage and tribute to a classic Japanese filmmaker’s works.

The Western Style Goes Beyond The Mandalorian

Many elements of the Star Wars franchise have influences from the Western genre. And I see the points, such as Han Solo’s rogue mercenary who shoots from the hip, literally at times. But the concept of spaceships, laser blasters and lightsabers never felt like the grittiness of true Westerns. 

That is until The Mandalorian came around. 

Baby Yoda and The Mandalorian from Episode 4. Image via Disney+

Warning: massive spoilers for The Mandalorian from this point onwards.

The Mandalorian Brings To Life All Elements Of A True Western

With only 4 episodes released on Disney+ thus far, there is no better example of a Space Western in recent times than The Mandalorian. It’s setting of backwater planets very much feels like the run-down towns and frontier ports for the unwelcome and outliers of society that most Westerns are set in. 

The cinematography, the look, and feel of the world that The Mandalorian inhabits, feels very much out of a Sergio Leone movie. Leone is famous for his films in the Western genre, notably even inventing the Spaghetti Western sub-genre. And after the most recent episode, it feels that the similarities are very much the intention of creator Jon Favreau. 

Also of note: Favreau himself attempted a Space Western with the film adaptation of the graphic novel Cowboys & Aliens. The movie failed to live up to expectations and was generally considered a flop with only 43% on Rotten Tomatoes.

A fight scene with Gina Carano from Episode 4 of The Mandalorian Image via Disney+

Even the story elements of The Mandalorian— a bounty hunter running from his past, while making under the table deals to roam the galaxy surviving any way he knows how— is pure Western staples! Introduce the innocence of a child-like Baby Yoda, unwittingly relying on the rogue’s long-dormant heart of gold, reintroducing him with his own humanity—it’s all kinds of Western!

But the most recent episode completely chrysalises just how much of a western The Mandalorian truly is. 

The Mandalorian Episode 4 Cements Its Cult Status With An Homage To Classics

Within minutes of the first scene, keen enthusiasts of the Western genre, not to mention fans of acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, could see exactly how the entire episode was going to play out. Simply because we’ve seen it before. 

Last Warning: Seriously, it’s going to be all The Mandalorian episode 4 spoilers, all the time from this point onwards. Major Spoilers!

Titled Sanctuary, Episode 4, or rather, Chapter 4, begins with a small farming community. After establishing their quiet and defenseless ways, some mysterious raiders attack the community destroying their property and stealing their harvest. A village in trouble. In a show about a Bounty Hunter with a heart of gold. You can see it coming a mile away. 

The adorable Baby Yoda Image via Disney+

When our titular Mandalorian arrives on the same planet with Baby Yoda, the farmers approach him, willing to pay him for his gun slingi—space fighting skills and his protection against the raiders. Mando accepts, asking for only room and board for him and Baby Yoda in exchange, to stay hidden from the Guild that he tangled with in Chapter 3. Oh, but not before recruiting a like-minded badass called Cara Dune (Gina Carano), to join him, in protecting the villagers. 

What follows in the rest of the episode is exactly the story beats of Kurosawa’s renowned film Seven Samurai. Kurosawa, in turn, inspired Sergio Leone, who was the man responsible for most of the Western references that I personally see in The Mandalorian. However, the true origins of those references, outside of a Western setting, come from Kurosawa himself.

Episode 4 Of The Mandalorian Played Out Exactly Like Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai

This is a trope very common in the Western genre, as well as in the Samurai-themed films of Kurosawa.

A cold-hearted and flawed protagonist with shades of grey reluctantly agrees to help an individual or group from harm. They do so by not only fighting for them but also by teaching them to fight for themselves, for a price. Ultimately, the hero becomes personally invested in their cause, finding the kind of purpose and belonging that escaped them all their lives. Variations of this theme might see the hero fall in love, or sacrifice himself for others. 

Image from Episode 4 of The Mandalorian Image via Disney+

Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai, directed by Edward Zwick, was also a variation of this trope. 

Star Wars Had Kurosawa Influences From Its First Film

The Mandalorian featuring an episode inspired by a Kurosawa movie is also a throwback to the original Star Wars. Creator George Lucas himself was heavily inspired by Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, influences of which are apparent in the first-ever Star Wars film, A New Hope. 

Not The First Time Star Wars Homaged Kurosawa

Before The Mandalorian, writer, director, and producer Dave Filoni established the Star Wars animated universe, with The Clone Wars & Rebels series. The Mandalorian is his first step into the live-action Star Wars franchise. However, in a Season 2 episode of Clone Wars, Filoni again recreated the main story of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. 

Titled Bounty Hunters (of course!), the episode saw Obi-Wan, Anakin Skywalker and his Jedi apprentice Ahsoka trapped on a planet. Reluctantly, they then have to help natives defend themselves from pirates. It’s also another homage to Kurosawa, with even an official ‘in memory of’ credit to the filmmaker. 

An image from an episode of Clone Wars Image via Disney+

With this kind of strong storytelling, and influences of classics it’s no wonder that The Mandalorian is quickly becoming one of the best TV Series of 2019. 

Season 1 of The Mandalorian is now streaming on Disney+

Did you catch the homage to Akira Kurosawa in the latest episode of The Mandalorian? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.

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