The Book of Boba Fett Doesn’t Ruin His Character, It Recontextualizes Him

 

The Book of Boba Fett has been a controversial show with much criticism about how the series has reimagined the famous bounty hunter. However, the series depiction of Boba Fett not only lines up with the wider franchise, but gives a personality to a character that has far too often been just an expressionless mask.

Disney+ has aired four episodes of The Book of Boba Fett and like any piece of Star Wars media released since…1980 realistically, it has been a contentious one. Look, Star Wars has never really been fun to talk about ever and the internet has made it all the worse. Teased in the end credits of The Mandalorian season 2, The Book of Boba Fett follows the titular bounty hunter and his partner Fennec Shand as they attempt to take control of Tatooine’s criminal underworld. Where The Mandalorian tease left many audiences to assume Boba Fett was doing it out of greed for power, the series proper has established a different motivation for Boba Fett: unionizing his colleagues and also the various criminal cells on Tatooine leftover after Jabba died.

While The Book of Boba Fett has been an enjoyable show, it hasn’t seemed to capture the zeitgeist the way The Mandalorian did. There are a number of factors for that. Boba Fett being a more established character might interest only more hardcore Star Wars fans, whereas The Mandalorian provided a fresh jumping-on point for viewers. The Mandalorian was also the launch show for a new streaming service where The Book of Boba Fett is the second live-action Star Wars series while also premiering just one week after the Marvel Studios series Hawkeye. The biggest issue might just be a lack of a Baby Yoda (yes, we know his name is Grogu but everyone is just going to call him Baby Yoda), who became an instant meme the second he showed up on the screen.

Now The Book of Boba Fett has some issues, but they aren’t really issues with the series individually but with streaming shows in general, particularly the ones released on Disney+. Overall it is a good idea to go for a weekly release format as opposed to the binge approach of Netflix since it allows a series to remain in the pop culture discussion longer. The issue is the way Disney structures its episodes leading to a sense of unfulfillment. Many of the Disney+ shows are not structured like television episodes, but more like a giant movie cut up into multiple parts leaving a weird pacing issue across many of their series. Disney+ would benefit from uploading the first two or three episodes of their seasons (like HBO Max recently did with Peacemaker) as it allows you to get a good handle on the story and tone, then you keep the audience coming back week after week. I think this is one reason why WandaVision is the best MCU show; the first two episodes were uploaded together and gave a better understanding of the series’ rhythm than just the first one would have on its own. The Book of Boba Fett, like Loki and Falcon and the Winter Soldier, isn’t really structured like a television show so episodes end abruptly and audiences feel like not much has happened. It is almost frustrating that a company as big as Disney hasn’t figured out how to do weekly television. I guess they don’t have to though because they know the audience will likely watch no matter what, but it would be nice to see them fix this.

A common criticism of The Book of Boba Fett has been how the series contradicts his character from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, mainly in that it has taken what was one of the series’ central villains and made him a hero. The character on Book of Boba Fett is quite different than what Star Wars fans traditionally would expect from him, as he seems to be kind to animals (which I mean I never took Boba Fett as cruel to them?) and he seems to be someone who is honorable and values loyalty, which seems like a far cry from the character Darth Vader warned about “no disintegration.”

 

However, the honorable aspect to the character isn’t quite new, and not an addition to the Disney canon but actually one by George Lucas and Dave Filoni in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. In the animated series season 2 finale ‘Lethal Trackdown,” a young Boba Fett tries to avenge his father Jango Fett by killing Mace Windu. Boba fails and is captured by the Jedi Knights, who ask him about the location of fellow bounty hunter Aurra Sing. The young bounty hunter originally refuses to reveal the information, but space pirate Hondo Ohnaka tells him that Jango was an honorable man. Boba idolized his father and wanted to be more like him; this layer added a hint of sadness to the original trilogy. Boba was not the man his father was, and he went down a darker path.

The Book of Boba Fett also reveals that Boba Fett’s quest to transition from a bounty hunter to a crime lord comes from wanting a tribe of his own after his time with the Tusken Raiders. On the show, Boba’s crew so far consists of Fennec Shand, a couple of Gamorian guards leftover from Jabba the Hutt, the Wookie bounty hunter Black Krrsantan, and a group of cybernetically enhanced teenagers on colorful speeder bikes called the Mods. It is an oddball collection and while the bounty hunter in Empire Strikes Back seemed to work alone, this isn’t a new development for the character either. In Star Wars: The Clone Wars (which, reminder, was before Disney’s purchase of Star Wars so the narrative that Disney is changing the character doesn’t track), a young Boba Fett forms a bounty hunting syndicate with bounty hunters later seen in The Empire Strikes Back like Bossk and Dengar, as well as recruiting former Separatist general Assaj Ventress for a mission. While not stated it appears a reading can be Boba’s attempts to unionize were thwarted during the reign of the Empire. He became a much more ruthless individual trying to survive in a cruel galaxy, and now after the Empire’s defeat and his time with the Tuskens he is a new man.

This also lines up with how Disney has portrayed Boba Fett in the Star Wars comics recently. While it is not fair to ask a general audience to know all these details in supplemental materials, it is there and it does appear to be an arc the creators of The Book of Boba Fett are following. The Boba Fett depicted in the Star Wars comics, even as recently as the crossover event series War of the Bounty Hunter, is more in line with what Star Wars fans would expect from him. He is a lot more ruthless, cold-blooded, and a real rogue.

 

The general arc of Boba’s life appears to be a story in three acts, with each point in the timeline being the start of a new point. During The Clone Wars, he was a boy who was only wanted revenge and reworked his father’s profession into something more of his own. When the Empire came to power those plans changed and Boba adapted to survive becoming a very different man from his father. Boba Fett meets his end at the exact point the Empire does, and as the galaxy reforms into The New Republic so too does Boba Fett. Boba is saved by others, he is forced to reevaluate his life and profession and seek a better life after seeing how his job treated him and those he knew. This is one of the interesting aspects of the Star Wars universe: the way the broad sweep of time and the various power structures change the galaxy. The Skywalker Saga, the main Star Wars story that stretches from The Phantom Menace to The Rise of Skywalker covers about 67 years of history. For real-world reference this would be from the start of World War 1 to the end of the Cold War, meaning the characters can undergo massive changes that are informed by the world around them and it appears the same is true for Boba Fett.

Boba’s emergence from the Sarlaac pit is a rebirth for the character, a second chance for him both narratively and in a larger meta context. Every fan knows a version of Boba Fett emerging from the Sarlacc pit has been a part of the old expanded universe and was something everyone just accepted. Patton Oswalt’s character on Parks and Recreation predicted it perfectly. However, Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, and Robert Rodriguez were left in a similar position that Rian Johnson was when crafting Luke’s story in The Last Jedi. The previous entry left the character in a certain place, so where do you go? The creative team could have had Boba Fett come out and just be a ruthless killer and reclaim his stuff and go back to his old life, but is that really a story? That seems both predictable and boring. They took it as a chance to tell a new story with the character. He is a new man and a new character, but that is the point. For the original trilogy Boba Fett doesn’t really have a character or personality; yes there are hints but any sense of “this guy is the coolest most ruthless killer in the galaxy” is a projection by fans based on his armor. George Lucas even cleverly subverts this by giving the character such a silly demise in Return of the Jedi. It’s worth noting the only time Boba Fett actually does anything ‘cool’ in live-action was in The Mandalorian when Boba just wrecked a bunch of Stormtroopers. Director Robert Rodriguez grew up with this idea of Boba Fett in his head and he could actually make it a reality.

I think it is safe to say that fans wanted Boba Fett to be Jason Voorhees meets John Wick (who if you remember goes back to killing after they hurt his puppy so he also loves animals). The Boba Fett they’re getting in the show is not that, but is more in line with the character Lucas imagined Jango Fett to be, so it makes narrative sense for Boba to try to make himself in this image. Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni aren’t taking away from anything that wasn’t already established in other media of the character. That isn’t saying you have to like the series, you can have issues with how it is structured or even it not being what you would have done with the character. But maybe it is entirely possible that the idea of who Boba Fett was to many, was never what he actually was. The series appears to not only fit within the previously established Star Wars canon, but also is using that to tell the story of a man who reinvents himself for the betterment of not just himself but those around him. There is a possibility the series will take a tragic turn in the final three episodes, that no matter how hard he tries he will not be able to escape and change who he is and that the criminal world will not bend. The sequel trilogy painted a bleak portrait of the galaxy’s future so this is entirely possible that the series will swerve into a tragedy. He is hoping the series’ final three episodes continue this trend and stick the landing. The guy has a jet pack; how can he not?

The Book of Boba Fett is currently streaming on Disney+.