What’s the Show? The Book Of Boba Fett
What’s It All About, JG? Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), bounty hunter extrordinare (it says here) escapes his ignominious Return Of The Jedi fate of being swallowed by a toothy hole, and has a series of mildly diverting escapades until The Mandalorian shows up for no readily apparent reason and makes everything better. Or, if you want to be sightly more specific, Fett survives his encounter with the Sarlacc and learns wisdom and weaponry from a tribe of Tusken Raiders. In trying to help them, he gets them all killed so instead he pisses off to Jabba’s old palace and tries to become a crime lord / Daimyo. This goes… less that well, though he manages to recruit Fennec Shand (a criminally wasted Ming-Na Wen) to his cause,and a gang of modified teenagers on Vespa’s (for some fucking reason), then ends up defending the town of Mos Espa from spice traders so we can have a big, drawn-out shooting match in the final episode. Meanwhile, The Mandalorian does a bit of Mandalorian-ing, is reunited with Grogu / Baby Yoda, and pisses off for hopefully more engaging adventures elsewhere.
Why Did You Give It A Go? Well, The Mandalorian was solid at it’s very worst, mostly highly entertaining, and occasionally brilliant, and Dave Filoni has done well with most of the animated intrusions into the Star Wars universe. And Fett himself, a character who was originally little more than a walking suit of armour but has gone on to have a stupendous amounts of words devoted to him in Extended Universe materials, certainly had potential to anchor an interesting show. “Had” very much being the operative word.
Is It Any Good? More than anything else, and certainly separate from it being any good, is the fact that it’s frustrating. There are simply so many decisions here that are perplexing, none moreso than the decision to drop this show’s lead character for two whole episodes (out of only seven!) while we get on with what amounts to a couple of bonus episodes of The Mandalorian. The most damning thing of all is that those two episodes – the ones not actually featuring Boba Fett – are effortlessly the best the show manages to produce. Early episodes deploy a flashback structure, so while we get a tepid ten or so minutes an episode in the present, the rest – covering Fett’s back story, from escaping the Sarlacc to taking over Jabba’s palace – is told in a disjointed, chronologically-specious manner that just doesn’t work. It’s a baffling choice that manages to undermine anything happening now, while telling a story that tries hard to just be a Western In Space and can’t even quite manage that, despite just about every checkbox being, well, checked. Timothy Oliphant turns up in the fifth episode – reprising his Mandalorian role – given the chance to do the Big Shootout
At The OK Corral with Cad Bane (Cad Bane!) and he can pull it off. Fett, not so much. The Dances With Tuskens section would be deeply questionable if these weren’t all fictional tribes and people, the attempt to do a “train heist” falls flat (and feels derivative of Solo, which is not a great look), and the show struggles to get enough connective tissue to get those events to line up with the Fett we have now.
And, once more, the most damning thing of all is that lurking Mandalorian presence. Because we already have a Space Western in the Star Wars universe, and it stars the loner in the shiny silver beskar with the little green guy in tow. And it’s great! But The Book Of Boba Fett does nothing to distinguish itself from its predecessor. Indeed, it’s clearly just an inferior copy of its predecessor, drawing its roots from the same very-clear Western origins, starring a guy in basically the same armour, doing things that are less exciting and interesting, with a lead character who just doesn’t have the same ability to capture an audience. Sure, Din Djarin is just The Man With No Name in some space armour but also… he’s The Man With No Name in space armour! And he’s anchored by an incredibly compelling performance from Pedro Pascal, which is no mean feat with his face covered 98% of the time. By contrast Fett, either as a character or as a show, just can’t measure up. We already have the show that probably should have been Fett’s in the first place. By just hitting the same style, the same origins, the same basic everything, The Book Of Boba Fett just feels a bit… pointless really. It’s not irredeemably bad, it’s superficially watchable, and there’s a few bits that work, but it’s all just so obvious. The galaxy is vast and teeming with life, with thousands of civilisations to explore, and we have to dick about on fucking Tatooine again? With this crowd of losers? It just serves to make the Star Wars universe feel so very… small.
How Many Of These Did You Watch? I watched all seven episodes, somehow. I don’t half wish I’d written up The Mandalorian instead of this nonsense.
Would You Recommend It? I wouldn’t even know how to recommend it because I have no idea who this show is actually for. If it’s for fans of Boba Fett as a character, they must surely feel they’ve been done dirty. This is meant to be one of the best bounty hunters in the galaxy, a badass in cool armour who can take on anything and everything the universe throws at him. And what does he taken on? The Mos Espa Vespa’s, who look like they’re about to burst into a quick chorus of, “When you’re a Jet you’re a Jet all the way!” and serve no useful plot or character function whatsoever. Their bikes are awful, their Big Chase Scene is staggeringly badly directed, and not one of them has a distinctive personality – or indeed any personality at all. They’re not even good at being discrete spies – what with all that robot stuff sticking out of their faces – but Boba thinks they’re the crew for him! This is what you waited since 1980 to see? That can’t be anything other than a disappointment.
And the show can’t be for fans of crime-lord shows, that’s for sure. For one thing, for a crime lord Fett sure doesn’t seem to be into the idea of crime. He defends the Tuskens from their enemies (and gets them killed in the process, but oh well, omelettes and eggs and all that), tries to stop the spice trade because Drugs Are Bad, defends his town for Reasons, and even tries to get water rationed and charged for fairly. It’s not exactly The Sopranos. It wouldn’t even make it as The Three Tenors. You could argue that, after his experience with the Tuskens, he’s a changed man and has seen the error of his ways, but if so the show needs to do a way better job of articulating that because Fett seems really into the idea of being some kind of overlord, just without all that nasty overlording business getting in the way. Fett himself barely emerges as a character at all, and we’re given little reason to know about, or care about, his motivations. That’s partly because the useless flashback structure obfuscates his journey when a more straightforward narrative would have been considerably more helpful, partly because the character just isn’t very well written, and partly because once The Mandalorian turns up it’s pretty tough to care about him one way or the other. It’s not Temuera Morrison’s fault – he’s a fantastic actor who can do a lot with a little, but he’s mostly just given nothing, and there’s not much anyone can do with that. Fett’s strategy in the final episode – when they are being assaulted on all sides by attacking forces – is to just stand there taking shot after shot, not even ducking for cover. He just looks thick, which is not, one suspects, what the writing was going for, and no acting in the world can compensate for that level of idiocy.
It’s not all bad, though. The production is typically excellent, and it’s clear that a huge amount of money has been spent here. Mos Espa, Jabba’s palace, the deserts, everything absolutely convinces as a location, and the design work is exemplary. That helps a bit. The direction is frequently patchy, and occasionally downright dreadful, but the environments feel real and lived in, in the very best traditions of Star Wars. The final rancor vs droids battle is extremely well realised, even if the whole King Kong aspect is taken way too far, but seeing it simply go apeshit is satisfying because monsters fighting robots is very rarely anything else. Indeed the creature designs all round – from recurring characters to new aliens – is also brilliant. As mentioned earlier, Ming-Na Wen – who honestly could have anchored a much more compelling show than this one – is entirely wasted in what amounts to a nothing part, but she’s still great even when given little to do. The two episodes of The Mandalorian are mostly great – though it’s another weird choice to have Din Djarin and Grogu’s reunion happen in the middle of a “comedy” rickshaw chase – and you have to put up with uncanny-valley Luke Skywalker (Just! Recast!), but it mostly works so that’s something. But beyond that…?
So we circle back to the question earlier. Who is this show for? If you want Tatooine action, you’ve got A New Hope. If you want to see Boba Fett not be crap you’ve got The Empire Strikes Back. If you want to watch What If A Western But Star Wars? you’ve got The Mandalorian. If you want compelling world-building you’ve got…well pretty much the rest of Star Wars. If, however, you want a lively and engaging show, with interesting characters, a well-thought out story and and an enthralling lead at the centre of it all… well. You don’t have that. Not here, at any rate.
Alright, live action Cad Bane was cool.
Scores On The Doors? 5/10