Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Star Wars Day 2022 – reviewing The Book of Boba Fett

I’ve held off writing a review of The Book of Boba Fett because when the series ended I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. I wanted to have a think about it. And then other stuff happened. But as its Star Wars Day, this feels like a suitable point for a late review.

We don't talk about Fett Club

As a long-time fan of the Star Wars universe, and a collector of Boba Fett action figures (my ‘Fett Club’) I was looking forward to seeing what they did in the series. Particularly as we were going to find out what happened between Boba’s fall into the Sarlacc Pit and his encounters with the Mandalorian who had come into possession of Fett’s armour.

In The Mandalorian TV show Boba didn’t seem so villainous. He was no longer working for the Empire, but was on his own mission, giving service based on honour rather than for money. He had become more than a bounty hunter, in the same way that the Mandalorian was rising above his profession to become the protector of Grogu.

The Book of Boba Fett promised to tell us how that redemptive path had opened up for Boba. And it started really well, Boba dramatically thrusting his way upwards through the sands after he had burned and torn his way through the flesh of the Sarlacc. That made the first episode, with his subsequent capture by Tusken Raiders set up the notion of a man finding his true identity when he had been stripped of everything else.

However, the problem wasn’t in the flashbacks that showed Boba grow into an understanding of loyalty and belonging. The problem the show had was the contemporary setting – Boba’s conflicts ‘now’. Having taken control of Jabba the Hutt’s crime syndicate, he just seemed unable to actually do anything with it.

I have seen that described as the ultimate case of a low-ranking employee thinking they can run the company, only to discover that, in fact, they do not have the skills to do so when they finally get their break. Boba is not a leader, and his desire to rule fuels his failure to gain the respect and status that he covets.

The series itself didn’t help deliver the story. I agree with the comments that the story could have been told in chronological order and it wouldn’t have affected the telling that much. The whole “Dances with Tuskens” storyline of Boba’s spiritual awakening never really chimed with the contemporary action as he established himself as Jabba’s replacement. The murder of his adopted tribe could have been a pivotal turning point in the story, pushing him towards a vengeful streak that culminated in his violent takeover of Jabba’s palace and schemes.

The series set up numerous feints as who Boba’s main opponents were going to be, starting with Jabba’s cousins, who then exited rapidly from the series. They were replaced by the Pyke Syndicate, which was introduced in the film Solo as the operation in charge of the spice mines on Kessel. But they weren’t a particularly exciting opponent even if they did have military grade death robots at their disposal. 

And then there was the peculiar suspension of the storyline to have two episodes almost entirely centred on the Mandalorian and Grogu. This included a sequence of Jedi training for Grogu with Luke Skywalker no less, delving more into the lore of Mandalore and the Darksaber, the Mandalorian getting cast out of his hardcore religious cult as an apostate, and a cameo for Ahsoka Tano where she referenced knowing Luke’s dad. The two episodes were almost standalone and completely derailed what little momentum The Book of Boba Fett had built up.

We also had to sit through egregious levels of fan service. At one point the action was literally The Mandalorian driving a Naboo Starfighter around Beggar’s Canyon on Tatooine, which really felt like the kind of fever dream fan-fic that would be written by an excitable teenager. I didn’t mind Max Rebo turning up having somehow survived Jabba’s sail barge exploding next to the Sarlacc pit. I enjoyed Boba Fett learning to ride a rancor. But some of the nods and references within the show were parachuted in just because the writers could. It gave off a vibe of desperation – as if the show’s writers were running out of ideas and content.

Two big characters making their live action debuts were the Wookiee bounty hunter Krrsantin, who had appeared in various comic books, and Cad Bane, who featured in several storylines in The Clone Wars cartoon series. Neither character was developed much beyond what we already knew. Cad Bane’s late appearance in the series meant the duel with Boba Fett lacked any weight at all. In The Clone Wars, Cad Bane was the protector of the orphaned Boba, and his mentor as Boba grew up. The shoot-out between them should have been a proper cinematic moment instead of something thrown in to pad out the final episode.

And that need for padding, ultimately, is where I feel The Book of Boba Fett really faltered. There was no core drive at the heart of the story. Boba had seized control and the story was what he did next…. except he didn’t really do anything next. There were moments along the way when it looked like things were about to start happening, but then the action stalled.

So, ultimately, this was a really frustrating series. It got hijacked as the staging point for the third series of The Mandalorian, which will now feature the Mandalorian and Grogu together again after they parted at the end of the second season. Personally, I think Boba Fett deserved more of the spotlight from the series that was ostensibly telling his story.

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