Boba Fett has always been a bit of a peculiar character, mostly in the sense that he isn’t really one.
First introduced on film in The Empire Strikes Back, the bounty hunter was taciturn and mysterious, inspired by Clint Eastwood’s famous Spaghetti Western character The Man with No Name. Boba Fett made a strong impression in the Star Wars sequel, though his popularity was as much (if not moreso) because his action figure had already been released two years prior: a character that was essentially a blank slate onscreen had already been defined in the minds of fans.
Boba Fett appeared again in Return of the Jedi; despite early plans for the character to be the main villain of that film, Fett was quickly killed off in a borderline-slapstick sequence near the beginning of the movie. His death – apparently eaten by the Sarlacc – was memorable if undignified, and fans already attached to the bounty hunter insisted that Boba Fett would surely have survived such a fate.
For the most part, Boba Fett is something of a cypher: that sense of mystery, married to some distinctive costume design, makes it easy to project different things onto the character. Beyond the iconography, though, there’s not actually much substance to Boba Fett, and many Star Wars fans resisted George Lucas’ attempts to add to the character in the prequel trilogy (though, in fairness, “Star Wars fans resisted something” is not exactly unique to Boba Fett). Previous Disney+ Star Wars series The Mandalorian seemed to have found an answer to the Boba Fett problem – in borrowing that iconography, taking the cool costume and applying it to an actual character, they’d seemingly opened up the potential of the idea without having to address the simplicity (or absence, really) of the character.
The question The Book of Boba Fett has to answer, then, is why? Is this character one worth building a television series around – particularly given there’s already a very popular Star Wars spinoff about a bounty hunter with a moral code and a shiny helmet? Is there something substantially new here, or is The Book of Boba Fett content to offer only the dim thrill of recognition and not much else?
At this point, it’s still a little hard to tell. This opening episode, Stranger in a Strange Land, is very much an introductory piece: it establishes Boba Fett’s current status quo, and offers some flashbacks to his escape from the Sarlacc Pit (which are seemingly going to form a running thread throughout the series), and that’s about it.
What’s immediately interesting though is that The Book of Boba Fett isn’t working with a particularly intuitive premise for a Boba Fett television series. It’s easy to imagine something very episodic, each instalment following a new mission as Boba Fett moves through the galaxy as a bounty hunter. Instead, The Book of Boba Fett opens with its lead no longer a bounty hunter, but a newly established gang boss trying to hold onto Jabba the Hutt’s criminal empire – it’s not a huge departure as such but it does feel like something at least approaching new territory. Certainly, it’d be a shock to learn Josh Trank’s failed attempt at a Boba Fett movie would’ve dealt with a similar premise, and it feels like series creators Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have put in at least a moment’s thought as to what might distinguish The Book of Boba Fett from The Mandalorian.
Admittedly, the series doesn’t ask a great deal of Temuera Morrison, who reprises his role as Boba Fett here. The character is still essentially taciturn, still essentially mysterious, still seems to live by a code. Morrison portrays it well, lending the role a certain gravitas and sense of control; he’s also got an easy repartee with Ming-Na Wen (here playing intergalactic assassin Fennec Shand), and the pair of them together are always watchable if nothing else.
Otherwise, the series is largely what you’d expect: there’s a lavish recreation of the 1970s Star Wars aesthetic; there are well-staged fight scenes and moments of tension; there are Tusken Raiders and Twi’leks. Sometimes it almost feels a little too expensive – doesn’t the original trilogy aesthetic lose something if it’s not also at least a little rubbish? – but it generally looks good throughout. There’s also one overly reverent sequence of Boba Fett getting dressed that might prompt a few eye-rolls, but equally that’s the only time they indulge that instinct in the first episode: it’d be easy to fall into that trap, and they might still, but for the most part The Book of Boba Fett isn’t too concerned with emphasising exactly how cool they think you think its lead character is.
Ultimately, you’d be hard-pressed to call The Book of Boba Fett ambitious – after all, it’s a series borne of a very particular set of calculations about what Star Wars fans are willing to watch (and more importantly pay for). But it’s an entertaining enough piece of television, lithe and confident and consistently engaging. Insofar as it makes a case for itself, it perhaps doesn’t convince that Boba Fett is a character that can sustain his own television show, but it does still seem worth tuning in next week.
The Book of Boba Fett is available to watch every Wednesday on Disney+.
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