The helmet so cool that over the course of forty years it has metastasized into one of the most ubiquitous avatars of the Star Wars universe, been the subject of comic and novel spin-offs, was incorporated into an instrumental part of Star Wars prequel plot, became an entire legion, nay an entire civilization, nay an entire planet, set the foundation for the events of one show and received a slight visual and thematic palette swap to star in another, has now, finally earned a series of its own.
But what about the person wearing that helmet? Boba Fett has never been entirely a person as much as a reliable, inexorable opponent. Like Judge Dredd or V from V For Vendetta, the facade is the character, and whatever is going on underneath the mask is irrelevant. The Book Of Boba Fett is banking on fans being invested in the rich inner life of a character previously known only for intense childhood trauma and lots of wrist-based weapons. And if some of the behaviors Boba Fett displays seem slightly incongruous to the ice cold hunter famously introduced with an admonishment to ease up on disintegrating people from the galaxy’s biggest murderer, they’re likely necessary tweaks in order to make the character a palatable protagonist.
“Stranger In A Strange Land” opens immediately following the coda from The Mandalorian where Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) walk into Jabba’s palace and casually murder former majordomo Bib Fortuna in order to take over the Outer Rim’s criminal enterprise. Fett’s later proclamation that he intended to rule by respect instead of fear must apparently have begun immediately following that act.
Fett has taken over the palace and keeps a bacta tank in his chambers where he sleeps, wracked by dreams of his past. He dreams of Kamino, the planet where his father Jango brokered a trade for his genetic code in exchange for a son, and Geonosis where he witnessed his father decapitated. But more importantly, for people who are bothered by such things not being made explicit, we get to witness how the famed bounty hunter escaped his ignoble fate of being swallowed by a big desert mouth.
The thing about the Sarlacc pit is it really plays into the fairy tale dimension of the Star Wars universe. A giant toothy maw in the middle of nowhere where you are eaten over the course of a thousand years doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t have to. It’s a weird, menacing idea and makes for a great set piece to frame some high adventure swashbuckling. As such, it feels as if escaping the thing should either be equally weird, or not depicted at all, and become another legend spoken in hushed tones about the indestructible Boba Fett. Here, it’s just a guy punching his way out of a meat cave. Like Gale and Evelle Snoats in Raising Arizona, Fett emerges, reborn, onto the surface.
The remaining flashbacks revolve around the tribe of Tusken Raiders that captured him.When we first met Fett in The Mandalorian, he was carrying the gaffi stick, their signature weapon. It’s likely that his time in their village is building towards him being accepted and learning their ways. The creature he and the youngling battle at the end is pure Ray Harryhausen; a spiritual successor to Clash Of The Titans’ Kraken.
Outside the flashbacks, Fett spends his time shoring up his burgeoning empire. The sole holdout is the mysterious mayor of Mos Espa. Whoever they are, they’re powerful enough to not fear an upstart laying claim to Jabba’s empire. Which, given his entourage consists of one lieutenant and a droid, seems like a safe hedge. Fett lets the emissary leave with his life, despite Fennec’s protestations. This Fett is no cold-blooded murderer, despite all his previous murders. We don’t know how long he was trapped inside the Sarlacc, but apparently it gave him some time to reflect.
The featured fight scene with the club-wielding assassins had a great setup, but the action was simply serviceable, and never quite found a rhythm, though we do get a delightful moment of Fett blowing up an escaping assassin with a wrist rocket, and Fennec participating in a very satisfying parkour chase across the Mos Espa rooftops. Notably, Fett must be returned to his bacta pod immediately in the wake of the battle. While it’s not made explicit, it appears that the damage he suffered from being in the Sarlacc has considerably weakened him.
So far, the biggest question is why Boba Fett even wants to be crime lord of the outer rim. So far, he’s always seemed content, inasmuch as he’s had any characterization at all, to be a gun for hire. It’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t want to get as far away from the planet he was eaten on as possible. Hopefully, the show will explore his reasoning.
Otherwise, this is an even safer outing for a Star Wars Disney+ show than The Mandalorian, filled exclusively with familiar locations, familiar aliens, and familiar themes. The Mandalorian, at least before season two became a series of cameos and backdoor pilots, took its serial-numbers-filed-off Boba Fett and put him in new locations with new characters. Not so here. The lesson, it seems from the flop sweat stained, falling down the stairs with a stack of pies mess of Rise Of Skywalker is not to offer up anything new, but to at least present the old in a fun, competent fashion.
And so far, that’s exactly what Book Of Boba Fett offers; solidly delivered and totally unambitious storytelling. And if that’s what you want from Star Wars—an experience that evokes the trilogy’s movie serial roots with gee-whiz action and adventure without being weighed down by any headier notions—this delivers admirably. And yet I can’t help but hope that this isn’t the new standard for all Star Wars entertainment going forward. But, like some whiney farm kid always looking to the horizon, I should be in the present. This was a solid first episode, and I’m curious to see where it’s headed.
- Hi! I’m Nick and I’ll be reviewing The Book Of Boba Fett. My qualifications are talking about Star Wars to the point of annoyance to anyone near me for the last 40 years.
- Unknown to me, it was America’s British sweetheart Matt Berry voicing the droid 8D8 in the palace. Though, in fairness, it was pretty much undetectable underneath all those layers of distortion. 8D8 was last seen torturing droids in the dungeons of Jabba’s palace. Let’s all congratulate them on their promotion.
- “Have your helmet cleaned and serviced” is my new favorite euphemism.
- It’s good to see that Max Rebo not only survived the explosion aboard Jabba’s barge, but was able to continue finding work afterwards. The Latin spin on the cantina song was a lovely little number.
- Ludwig Göransson’s score in general is very good.
- The Trandoshan delegate brings Fett a whole Wookie pelt as tribute. This is a callback to Fett’s original armor, which was adorned with epaulet-like braids said to be made of Wookie hair.
- Being strangled to death by a captive’s chains is an alarmingly common way to die on Tatooine.
- The Tusken Raiders are so frequently featured, I’m grateful for some of the design tweaks they applied to the tribe to keep them feeling at least a little fresh. The different textiles and color scheme displayed by the clan were super-cool.