The Book of Boba Fett: Review

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Like most kids who were into Star Wars, I loved Boba Fett in the 1980s. Unlike most kids, it was the sparseness of his big screen appearances that attracted me to him. He’s such a cool character, with an incredibly cool spaceship, but he barely appears in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi; this left endless scope for my fertile young imagination and fed directly into my play with my Star Wars action figures. He could be anyone; he could have any back story that I could conjure up for him! But kids grow up and become boring (well, most of them) and their requirements for their childhood heroes become less of a storybook and more of a textbook. Where’s he from? Why did he become a bounty hunter? What’s his inside leg measurement? Not just for Boba Fett, but for every single character in the Star Wars universe from the head of the Rebel Alliance to that little mousey dude you see for half a second in the Mos Eisley cantina.

Of course, Star Wars creator George Lucas encouraged this kind of micro-managed empire building (ironic?) by introducing Boba Fett’s father Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones and making him the template for the Clone Troopers, thus bringing Boba Fett out of the mysterious shadows and into the glaring spotlight of Star Wars continuity. Everyone is special, see? Oh, and I really liked him. Still, it’s not like they gave him his own TV series or anything… oh, they’ve give him his own TV series. When he cropped up in The Mandalorian, it was a very pleasant surprise, because we kinda all thought that the Sarlaac had slowly digested him over a thousand years and that the title character in The Mandalorian was a kind of Fett substitute; younger, fitter and with much shinier armour. But even this just seemed like a cameo and when ‘Coming Soon: The Book of Boba Fett’ happened, it took me completely by surprise.

So, here’s the thing – I was mostly against the idea of a Boba Fett movie or TV series because I had assumed that it would follow the character as he was in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and, although he’s super cool, he’s a pretty one-note character and I didn’t see how they could make that interesting. But they do… and the way in which they do is to pretty much reinvent the character. Now, I should apologise at this point to anyone who’s currently reading this and screaming about things that occurred in this book or this animated series or that video game; I’m not big on the extended universe, as you will have gathered, but you have to accept that, as such, I represent about 70% of the Star Wars audience. The same is true of every sci-fi franchise; I’m mainly a Doctor Who fan, but I’m well aware that if I mentioned Bernice Summerfield or Beep the Meep to most of the show’s TV audience, I’d be met with nothing but a blank stare.

The Book of Boba Fett follows on directly from the events of Return of the Jedi – or at least partly, because the first couple of episodes skip backwards and forwards in time – and when the title character carves his way out of the stomach of the Sarlaac, he’s dressed in his familiar battered (stolen) Mandalorian armour. He’s soon stripped of that, however, and for the next couple of weeks we have Boba Fett as a bald, paunchy, middle-aged man. He’s played by New Zealander Temuera Morrison, who was Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones and re-voiced Boba from Jason Wingreen in the 1997 special edition of Return of the Jedi. Since less than 30 years have passed between first seeing 10-year old Boba Fett in Attack of the Clones and the character’s ‘demise’ in Return of the Jedi, having him played by 61-year old Temuera Morrison is further evidence that people age really badly in the Star Wars universe (see also Obi Wan Kenobi). As my mother would have said: “He must have had a hard paper round.”

Events in the first couple of episodes skip between Boba Fett escaping the Sarlaac and, whilst half-dead, being robbed by Jawas then taken prisoner by a tribe of Tusken Raiders and later sequences where he and Fennec Shand (the supernaturally young-looking Ming-Na Wen) wrest control of Mos Espa, the former province of the late Jabba the Hutt from the hands from the hands of his incompetent major domo Bib Fortuna. You might think that Boba Fett isn’t the type of guy who’d be interested in running a town, but he’s a changed guy, see? His time with the Tusken tribe has taught him that there’s more to life than bounty hunting. Also, he sees taking control of Jabba’s former manor as one in the eye for the slimy blob, whom he considers responsible for his time in the Sarlaac’s tummy. Not strictly true, mate; it was more the fault of your dodgy jet-pack.

As with The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett is essentially a Western in space and the whole sequence with the Tusken Raiders is a not-terribly-subtle homage to the 1970 Richard Harris movie A Man Called Horse, in which a white aristocrat is captured by the Sioux and treated as a slave, but eventually learns to respect their culture and become accepted by the tribe. Snap! It works rather well though and the series might have benefitted from concentrating on this storyline, instead of moving on to a kind of amalgam of High Noon and The Magnificent Seven, with Boba Fett and Fennec Shand having to recruit various unsavoury characters – including… wait for it… Din Djarin, The Mandalorian himself (played as ever by Pedro Pascal) – in order to save their township from a criminal gang of Pykes, who are planning on importing the dreaded drug Spice into Mos Espa.

Han Solo looks away from his TV. “Wait a minute,” he says to Princess Leia; “I used to smuggle Spice! Am I the baddie?”

Speaking of The Mandalorian, he makes a return in the fourth episode, imaginatively titled Return of the Mandalorian, and somewhat outstays his welcome. Die-hard Star Wars fans will probably disagree vociferously, and I know he’s a popular character and all, but having his storyline take up the best part of two out of seven episodes of The Book of Boba Fett is a bit of an intrusion. To make matters worse, his storyline is incredibly slow in parts, especially when he travels to an unnamed world (Star Wars fans won’t like that) to visit Grogu (aka Baby Yoda) but ends up sitting on a bench for hours and not getting to see him. We do get to experience Luke CGIwalker training Grogu, but this is all rather ponderous and seems to be mirroring the pace of the contemplative Western TV series Kung-Fu from the 1970s.

Spending so long on the Mandalorian storyline really detracts from the ongoing narrative and brings The Book of Boba Fett almost grinding to a stop before the exciting climactic episode. It’s almost as if they didn’t have enough storyline for Boba Fett and had to pad it out with something else. I’m quite happy to see the Mandalorian and Grogu appearing towards the end and joining in the battle for Mos Espa, but I really think they made a mistake in spending so much time on his introduction. I’d have preferred a bit more time to be lavished on some of the new characters, such as the Mods – a gang of modified cyborg teenagers who zap around Tatooine on speeder bikes. Amusingly, because they’re called ‘Mods’, their rides are made to reflect the elaborate scooters favoured by the Mod culture of the 1960s, complete with multiple mirrors and colourful paint jobs.

Another ‘returning’ character is the bounty hunter Cad Bane, who apparently first appeared in The Clone Wars cartoon and is quite popular with fans. Not being au fait with the extended universe, I’d never heard of him, but he gets killed anyway so, y’know, I’m not going to spend too much time worrying about that. Also ending up in Space Boot Hill is Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant), the Marshal of Freetown, who comes off worst in a gunfight with Cad Bane, which ironically spurs the townsfolk to join Boba Fett in his battle against the Pykes. The final episode is extra long to incorporate the battle, but it needn’t have been if they hadn’t spent so much time fannying about with The Mandalorian. The whole Magnificent Seven vibe is quite nice, but it’s kinda been done before in the early Marvel Comics continuations of Star Wars (now those I am familiar with) and I’ve got to confess that there’s a part of me which would have been delighted to see a certain giant green rabbit turn up to join the fight.

By and large, I enjoyed The Book of Boba Fett, but it had some dreadful structural issues. I like The Mandalorian, but having his storyline take over another series to such a substantial degree was a major mistake; they’d have been much better keeping all that stuff for the inevitable third series of his own show. I really liked the way the character of Boba Fett was expanded and his relationship with Fennec Shand worked really well; for two actors circling around their 60th birthdays, Temuera Morrison and Ming-Na Wen handle the action stuff incredibly well and it’s nice to see more mature characters in an action series without them having to fall into the ‘wise old sage’ category. Moving forward, I’d love to see more of Boba Fett, but for the Star Wars TV franchise as a whole, I think they need to rein in the extended universe stuff and concentrate on developing their own mythology and characters.

The Book of Boba Fett is currently streaming on Disney+


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