‘The Book of Boba Fett’ Teases An Exploration Of Change On A Planet That Has Been Ruled By Fear – Review
After the massive success of The Mandalorian the possibilities for future live-action Star Wars projects were limitless. Where could the Lucasfilm team go in the expanding galaxy of bounty hunters, corrupt politicians and gun-slinging outlaws? The answer was simple, at least for producer Jon Favreau, back to where he always wanted to go – the story of his favorite silent assassin, Boba Fett.
The Lucasfilm team has been trying to create a Boba Fett spin-off for years, with rumors of a solo film spanning all the way back to 2015. The project never fully came together, but the passion for the character always remained. Eventually, this planted the seeds for a new idea for a Star Wars show that featured the Boba Fett aesthetic, but not the character himself.
Jon Favreau was brought on board to develop The Mandalorian, the story of a legendary bounty hunter that hailed from a culture of fearless warriors. The iconic look was there, but in the form of a brand new protagonist with original tales from a time period that has never been explored. The show proved to be a mega hit with a second season that teased a potential fan favorite making a return. The arrival of Boba Fett in a live-action show, was met some trepidation from a portion of the fanbase, but once his episode, “The Tragedy,” concluded, the audience was left buzzing. Boba Fett was back in the way original trilogy fans always imagined him to be – a total badass. The renowned character has been seen kicking ass in the comics and The Clone Wars animated series, but not in live-action form since his untimely demise in 1983’s Return of the Jedi. The decision to choose the stylistic vision of filmmaker, Robert Rodriguez, proved immaculate, as it fit perfectly with the western, gunslinger vibe of the character. Once his own show was announced, from the post-credit scene in The Mandalorian finale, the anticipation began to build.
Now that the first episode, “Stranger in a Strange Land” has premiered, the show teases a potentially interesting take on leadership and rehabilitation. Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) is a haunted by his traumatic past in the opening scene of the episode, as he recalls the horrors of the Sarlacc and the loss of his father (bonus points for including the scene from Attack of the Clones as a callback). He twitches and grimaces inside the personalized bacta tank, as he is clearly still mentally and physically scarred from his almost ironic amount of misfortunes in life. As he is awoken by his lieutenant, Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), he is back on Jabba’s throne to receive tribute, in honor of taking over the role of the legendary gangster. This proves to be a mixed bag as he doesn’t get the respect from the mayor of Mos Espa, but did walk away with two big boy Gamorrean guards, the pig-like species that once protected Jabba. As he attempts his diplomatic way of ruling by greeting business owners and walking through the streets, he is attacked by group of masked, free-running assassins. This establishes the first threat against his rule, as it seems there is more to come.
While all this is taking place, Boba also flashes back to the time he spent captive by the Tuskens, a group of people native to the Tatooine desert, and ruthless against outsiders. We see as he attempts escape, learns about the culture, and eventually, earns the trust of the Sand People. Although this was intended to be the heart of the episode and a way to show his rehabilitation from a cold bounty hunter to an honorable leader, a lot of it felt a little too simplistic and formulaic. Boba never really seemed like an antagonist from the start of the flashbacks, so his arc to becoming a “better man” felt a little thin. Hopefully, there is more there in future episodes to truly show how a man who voluntarily worked for the sadistic Jabba, quickly grew a heart of gold.
Overall, the first episode felt a little incomplete for a pilot. All the pieces are there but the placement seemed overly conventional. This works for the majority of Star Wars storytelling but with two protagonists like Boba and Fennec, who are the definition of straight forward and stoic, it is more difficult to establish investment from audience members who aren’t die hard Star Wars fans. Although one could counter and say that Din Djarin from The Mandalorian isn’t exactly Han Solo. So what the show does do is an amazing job of laying down a mystery from the very first episode – “Who is the child?” “Where does he come from?” “Why does he look like a baby Yoda?” These questions hook audiences, as well as make the storyline about how so many people want to get to him. The Book of Boba Fett doesn’t offer a conflict as compelling, but it can be a great exploration of leadership and dealing with change. Tatooine is a world that is accustomed to succumbing to brutal rulers and imperial control. How does one change years of established Hutt rule? Someone so engrained with the culture that the predominant language is Huttese. This is a fascinating question that I hope the show continues to explore. Already, the seeds are there with pushback from Fennec who feels like Boba should portray a more Jabba-like brutality in order to command respect.
The Book of Boba Fett has the potential to be a distinct, thought-provoking Star Wars show. Although fans love the character, up until his appearance in The Mandalorian, he was always an antagonist. Someone who captured Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back and stood by Jabba’s side as he fed Luke to his Rancor in Return of the Jedi. Boba’s bounty hunter status allowed him to break the law and push the boundaries of violence. Although we see him blasting Stormtroopers away in “The Tragedy” he was standing by them in the original trilogy. I would love to see more of an examination of the character, and learn about what made his heart change so dramatically to now push back on demonstrating too much violence on his subjects? There is a lot there to explore, let’s hope we see more of that throughout the season.