NOTE: Spoilers Ahead on everything Star Wars, including all seven episodes of Book of Boba Fett
Only in a franchise as beloved and obsessed over as Star Wars could a side character with four lines of dialogue and one of the most embarrassing on screen "deaths" of all time be given their own spin off show. With such striking resume items as, "wears a cool helmet" and "talked back to Darth Vader," Boba Fett has captured the minds of Star Wars fans for over forty years. So much so that Mandalorians have become an integral piece of primary Star Wars canon and story direction for this next phase of Lucasfilm content. Personally (for what little it matters), I was never a huge Boba Fett fanboy. When I was little my family couldn't afford many Star Wars action figures so my most prized possession was a Han Solo 3.5" in Storm Trooper armor that I earned by sending in some box tops or something.
My best friend at the time was wealthier and had every Star Wars Figure under the sun, and unsurprisingly Boba Fett was one of his favorites. My rare mail away Han versus his Boba in the sandbox are fun memories of pretend that I look back on fondly. I bring forward this recipe-introduction-cringe-inducing-personal-anecdote to highlight the starting point for MANY Boba Fett fans. For my friend, all he knew about Boba from the movies was that A) he looked really cool and B) He apparently was REALLY good at what he did. Everything else was essentially a blank slate. He filled in the remaining gaps of what he perceived to be cool about the character, and let me tell you...when you give a 7 year old the power to make a character however cool they want, it basically becomes every min-maxed character rolled into one. So as a student of cinema and a fan of storytelling my primary concern when I saw they were doing a Boba Fett show was that they would act like a bunch of 7 year olds in the sandbox. The showrunners would make Boba as "cool" as their imaginations had always desired and we'd get 7 episodes of fun, yet not truly substantive popcorn eating Star Wars.
...we did not get that...
The Current Star Wars Problem
I very much like The Last Jedi. Regardless of how that colors your opinion of me, there's no arguing that that very sentence is tinder to ignite some sort of...heated discussion in any Star Wars social media outlet. Facebook has taught us that negative engagement equals profits because it keeps users locked into using their platform more than they would if they were happy; walking outside, laughing...touching grass. Disney also wants people locked into their content, so you'd think the old adage of "there's no such thing as bad press" would keep their marketing strategies in line with what something like Facebook is doing. However, Disney has one big cloud that hangs over it...the TRUE moneymaker for the company...
Disney as a brand does NOT like its fans arguing over the merits of its content. The Mouse has a very specific "magical childhood nostalgia," they like to use to attract poor millennials who only have the thoughts of the past to get them through the dread of their futures. Happy childhood memories are the building blocks to future profits. Disney wants to grab consumers while they're young and hold onto them forever. They don't want kids seeing their dad's foam mouth shout at their uncle as to why Rey is a Mary Sue. I'm not a marketing expert, but the amount of "nostalgia-baiting" in Hollywood recently is unmissable. And why do these companies, with Disney leading the charge, adopt nostalgia based content creation policies? Say it with me...
Because it's safe.
The Last Jedi was a worst case scenario for Disney because it was critically adored, boasting some of the highest percentage of positive reviews for a Star Wars film ever. Yet it also had such immense push back from a vocal part of the fan base that it made the higher ups rethink how they wanted to pursue Star Wars content. Now, I won't get into my conspiracy theories about how gamergate style bullying and online discourse for the sake of negative engagement and ad revenue hit its stride against the most popular nerd brand in the US in 2017...but suffice to say Disney needed to recalibrate how it was going to Star Wars moving forward.
So then we got Rise of Skywalker, which I don't think many Star Wars fans will argue isn't hot garbage. Disney returned to JJ Abrams because he made a safe Star Wars film for them. Disney had just taken a pretty significant story risk with Rian Johnson, who pulled Star Wars into a direction that was divisive. Fans got loud and Disney put their hands in the air and said, "okay time to go back to our tried and true strategy," which is basically that Leonardo DeCaprio meme of him pointing at the screen.
This is all a massive oversimplification, but for brevity everything we're seeing in Star Wars right now can be attributed to a marketing strategy of, "How many times can we get fans to point at the screen and say 'I recognize that!'" If the discourse is controlled to where fans talk more about that "thing" they saw in the show instead of what they didn't enjoy, suddenly you've controlled the reception of your content. Obviously Disney doesn't have a perfect batting average with this particular strategy. They were a bit heavy handed with it in Rise of Skywalker...
...but reigned in some nuance with the release of The Mandalorian. I absolutely love The Mandalorian. It's probably overall my favorite piece of new Star Wars content, and a lot of it is because Pedro Pascal has a maxed out Charisma stat. Despite my love of the show there's no denying that it foundationally preys on an entire generation's love of Star Wars. Din Djarin is essentially the character we thought Boba Fett was, but a "good guy" and Grogu was dubbed "Baby Yoda" immediately by the internet. What Mando Season 1 boiled down to was: Boba Fett lookalike fights Stormtroopers to protect a baby Yoda. In fact I would not be surprised if that was the exact initial writer's room pitch for the show. It checks EVERY SINGLE BOX on the Disney marketing chart.
Nostalgia for older fans? Check
Cute thing to make toys for kids out of? Check
There are arguments to be made that it was basically just a Star Wars skinned Lone Wolf and Cub, but there's been plenty of discourse about that already. The key thing to remember is that The Mandalorian, despite some narrative faults, does an excellent job at the most important part of storytelling: strong character development.
Remember that bolded term because I'm sure you big brains reading this can see where this is headed. I'm not as high on Mando S2 because they just couldn't resist doing that "thing" more often. You know...the thing....
To list off a few:
Wow Krayt Dragon!
Ahsoka is such a badass.
Oh cool Dark Troopers!
IS THAT BOBA FETT!?
OAGHOAOHGAGJHSDGJKLSHG LUKE SKYWALKER!!!!!
This is not me poking fun, these were actual quotes from me watching the show live. I have a weakness to the nostalgia-baiting too, but in retrospect as the show got deeper into the season these fun cameos started to encroach on what I was actually enjoying about the series, which was Din and Grogu's growing bond. Fortunately these cameos were integrated fairly well into the story, and for the most part served a purpose towards enhancing the D&G I mentioned. Yet I worried about what might happen if Lucasfilm, Favreau, and Filoni began to rely to heavily on these cameos. What would happen if nostalgia-baiting went too far again...would we get Rise of Skywalker again?
Who the Heck is Boba Fett?
And now finally we get to Book of Boba Fett. From the onset Lucasfilm was in a bit of a pickle here. Disney does not like to produce media about bad guys, unless they are fighting WORSE guys. They want a pretty clear line of morality drawn into the Tatooine sands. Well then how do you begin to make a show about somebody who is best known for being the bounty hunter who Darth Vader hired to freeze Han Solo in Carbonite? Well from a script writing 101 standpoint you could force him into some sort of clear redemption arc. Let his past demons try to impede his progress and watch as he attempts to overcome them. I'm not saying very groundbreaking stuff here. Han Solo isn't exactly a "good dude" when we first meet him, but we throw our fist in the air when he flies in to save the day at the end of A New Hope. That's the sort of character development you're looking for.
Another element of script writing 101 is to give your protagonists clear goals. These goals do NOT need to remain the same throughout the story. In fact, they probably should evolve and change as the character does. For example, in Mando Season 1 Din goes from just wanting to make money to fighting for Grogu's safety. However, it's crucial the script does at least a competent job showing, or at the very least telling, the audience what the character wants. We're total saps. We want to root for the main character, but it's really hard to root for someone when we don't know what their goals are. Once we know what they want, we then can focus on why they want that. This can lead to difficult choices for the protagonist which allows them to grow as a character and make us care about them. Because here's the real trick of scriptwriting, it's not always about giving the character what they want, it's about giving the character what they need.
So, having outlined this very basic script writing foundation, let's ask a couple of questions.
What does Boba Fett want?
Why does Boba Fett want this?
What does Boba Fett need?
I'm going to try and be as generous as possible and guess at a few of these based on what was shown through 7 episodes.
What does Boba Fett want? To be the crime lord of Mos Espa and the successor to Jabba the Hutt.
So the show does a pretty good job from episode 1 of showing this. He killed Bib Fortuna in the aftermath of Mando S2 and seems like he wants to be the next Kingpin...errr....Daimyo. The issue here, and what the show is attempting to establish, is that it's not so easy to just kill your way to the top. There's muddy politics and rival factions to contend with. After the first episode, I'll admit I was skeptical, but as my podcast Co-Host said to me, "If they make this The Wire, but with Boba Fett I'm in." Well, they didn't do that. I think a lot of fans were excited to see Star Wars dip into a bit of crime/gangster style genre conventions, making Boba Fett some sort of Godfather like figure. The major barrier to that happening is question 2:
Why does Boba Fett want to be a crime lord? To become like his...father? No...to rescue Tatooine from outsiders? But he's an outsider. Because crime is all he knows?
As you can see, I'm having difficulty figuring out WHY Boba wants this, because through 5.25 episodes of a 7 episode show we never really get any connective tissue that binds us to giving a crap about him. The bacta tank flashbacks serve to remind viewers that, "this is the same kid who was in episode II." Mando S2 makes it clear that Boba's armor is VERY important to him. He chased Din across the galaxy for it. The same problem existed there, WHY did he want his armor back? Because it was his fathers? WHY is his father important to him? Is being a Mandalorian even important to him? I'm sure we can contrive answers to all this, but the show does not do a great job of presenting them in a clear way. Luckily, episode 7 helps us answer the third question.
What does Boba Fett need? A home.
That's it. Straight and simple. We could infer that he only wants to be a crime lord to create a sense of belonging in Tatooine and help "his people". The usage of "my people" is important in the finale because you can see Boba really cares about making Tatooine a place he can reside in and that he has a general connection to it. Why? The major conclusion we can make from the show is that his time with the Tuskens essentially remade him. The tree rebith into making his of Gafi Stick and being accepted into the tribe may have been the first time in his entire life he felt like a part of something instead of being an outsider. Again, I'm grasping at straws here to give the show the benefit of the doubt because it's not made particularly clear. Given these pieces a logical way to outline the show through some dialogue/flashbacks/action would be:
Boba Fett's only connection to anything is the armor of his father and the cloning facilities of Kamino.
He became a bounty hunter to create a name for himself, but it isolated him.
After the sarlaac incident and becoming part of the Sand People tribe he realizes that he wants a home, and to be a part of something more than himself.
The only way he knows how to do that is through crime, so he looks to cement himself as a crime lord.
Once he has enough power he can make Tatooine the home he always wanted.
Obstacles include: Dealing with his brutal violent nature, politics vs violence, members of his past popping up to tell him he can't change.
All of that sort of exists within the confines of the show, but in order to find it I needed to sift through mountains and mountains of...well...
Who's Show is This Again?
"I'm not loving Book of Boba Fett, but I'm really enjoyed Mandalorian Season 3 Episode 1," is a common joke being passed around Star Wars circles right now. And here's the thing...I AGREE! I really loved the standalone episode and a half of Din doing Mando things. Was it objectively good? I'm not sure, BUT from the very onset he's significantly more interesting than Boba Fett because we've actually had two seasons of proper character development. He's a character who wants to be a proper Mandalorian, but actually needs to be a father of Grogu and he's fast approaching a point where he can't have both. *chef's kiss*
But wait...this show is called Book of Boba Fett right? I am currently of the opinion that Disney has not really figured out the right way to do television. Actually, I'm of the opinion that MANY streaming services are having this exact difficulty. There's a fine line between setup and independent storytelling. How much should a Marvel show or movie lay the groundwork for something coming next? How much should it stand on its own? Traditional wisdom would suggest that all content should be able to stand on its own without viewing anything else. Modern conventions are throwing that all out the window. If you want to be a fan of Star Wars, you best be ready to have absorbed A LOT of previous content. Imagine someone like my dad, who likes the original Star Wars trilogy but hasn't really watched a lot of other Star Wars media. He sees that a Boba Fett series is coming and DiCaprio points to the screen. After watching up to episode 5 he calls his son, me, who has watched "all of the Star Wars stuff." and asks, "hey who's this other guy who looks like Boba Fett?" You might be reading this laughing and assuming that there's no way he would watch Book of Boba Fett without also watching Mando, but I assure you its very possible and I'd argue INTENTIONAL of Disney. They DiCaprio memed him into watching the show, and since then he's watched both Seasons of Mandalorian. The strategy is working as intended.
The problem is, and this is where the criticism comes in, the show is an unfocused mess. By being too focused on dumping out a toy chest of action figures into the show Boba's character massively suffers. I had mentioned above that I was concerened that the showrunners would make Boba too overpowered and badass, but instead they did much worse. They made him boring. Unlike some fans, the issues I have with BoBF have very little to do with how badass Boba is or isn't and everything to do with pacing, character progression, and cinematic choices.
Pacing: Six episodes in and very little actually happened to Boba. The show runners did not make very efficient use of the allotted time. There's a lot of what I like to call, “Runtime Filler” where additions are made just to extend the episode, but don’t end up relevant to the plot or character development. It doesn't matter how much money you have, everything you add in a television show should serve some sort of tangible purpose in achieving a goal or furthering the audience’s understanding of something.
Character Progression: As I mentioned above, the show never does an effective job setting a baseline for Boba Fett. This isn’t Temura Morrison’s fault, and though I don’t find him to be the greatest actor in the world he’s doing the best he can (Though can Disney PLEASE consider recasting people?). Good television is all about showing us character growth in some direction. The Sand People flashbacks are an attempt to illustrate how Boba was remedied, but the problem is he doesn’t START as anything. I loved in Mando S2 when we saw flashes of Boba's absolute brutality. Of his wide eyed “crazy face”. I would have wanted the show to address his anger issues and violent tendencies. If the Sand People had helped him reform that, there would have been some excellent parallels between him and Anakin (especially because Anakin killed a bunch of them).
Cinematic Choices: I don’t think Robert Rodriguez was the correct fit for the tone of this show. He’s a guy who operates better in low budget campiness than he does with serious high end action. The Mandolorian had a clear “feel” to it, so much so that Bryce Dallas Howard's episode 5 was far an away the best looking of the show. Part of the issue was that we only saw Boba on Tatooine, and overall I was pretty whelmed by how the action dialogue was shot. This is sort the nature of the beast when you bring in different directors episode to episode (which is why I’m happy Kenobi is staying mostly consistent) because if you don’t bring in GOOD talent then you get what happened to the Sequel Trilogy. Every episode become disjointed, especially when you waste two episodes on a character the show isn't even supposed to be about.
There's so much more I could hit here, such as Luke's puzzling inclusion to streamline Grogu's reunion with Din. Asoka showing up just to remind us she has a new show soon. The Hutts existing only to point at the screen and maybe have an antagonist for a possible S2. The very "not Star Wars" cyborg kids who feel so out of place I was honestly surprised that they were included. OR how Boba spends more of the show with his helmet OFF than he does with it ON, which drops his cool factor by like 50%.
But these are merely minor quibbles with the true tragedy of Book of Boba Fett: it doesn't justify its own existence. The most impactful thing in that happens storywise isn't even ABOUT Boba. It's about Din and Grogu. Almost 6 Hours of content, which is enough to be it's own trilogy, and we fundamentally know nothing about who Boba Fett is. The closest we got was a Boba v Cad Bane face off, which though cool happens so late into the show there no substance to the encounter other than a DiCaprio screen point.
If I were recommending this show to someone I would tell them to only watch episodes 5-7, and treat it as a continuation of the Mandalorian. When viewed from that lens it's actually a fun little side mission for Din. He arrives in Tatooine and Boba is in the middle of this gang war. The narrative works significantly better as him being a supporting cast member. Again, which is a shame because there really was an exceptional opportunity to create a lot of layered and nuanced depth to Boba, but instead we got a bunch of lazy fan service and this gif.
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