A modern comic book event usually showcases a catastrophic or important story taking place in a shared universe, told through a miniseries format. It features appearances by other characters and tie-ins to other comic books about the event, which act as a reference to the main event while continuing on its trajectory. “The Book of Boba Fett” can be defined as a modern comic book event.
“The Book of Boba Fett” also suffers from expectations; expectations about Boba Fett himself, a character who was a stoic badass and had a cool design, who was finally and unceremoniously taken off the board in “Return of the Jedi” (1986). The extent of his limited appearances doesn’t deter “Star Wars” fans from enjoying the Fett stories in the Expanded Universe, a universe where he is a badass with an expanded history and story.
However, Boba Fett is now canonically alive. Reintroduced in “The Mandalorian” Season 2, Boba Fett is a much older and grizzled version of the same ambiguous bounty hunter that Fett lovers knew him to be. This feeling was reinforced when “The Mandalorian” announced in its final episode of Season 2 that “The Book of Boba Fett” would arrive in 2021. Then, the trailer dropped! Fans were introduced to a much more reserved version of Fett and a show that would finally explore the underbelly of “Star Wars”, a story thread that had been in development for a while under the tutelage of George Lucas.
The above preamble is pertinent from a contextual standpoint. “Star Wars” has very much become a game of expectations. It is almost impossible to walk into a “Star Wars” project with a blank slate if you are a “Star Wars” fan. However, when “The Book of Boba Fett” begins, fans are treated to a version of Boba Fett who is significantly different from what they had expected to see. This is a Boba Fett who is careful, reserved, maybe a bit softer in his old age, and, most importantly, a character interested in taking the lead and reigning over the underworld of Tatooine, the planet ruled by Jabba the Hutt before he was deposed. The character change of Boba is explored in the flashback sequences, showcasing him escaping from the Sarlacc Pit, discovered by the Tusken Raiders, leading and starting a new life with them, and learning about the importance of companionship and tribal values. It is an interesting and, frankly, a markedly different take. The credit goes to co-creator and writer, Jon Favreau, for crafting a compelling backstory for the reconstruction of Boba’s character.
However, the story of Boba’s takeover of Tatooine and him facing resistance from the different factions of the planet is equally uninteresting and dull, one of the primary reasons being Boba’s recontextualized character. It is simply not compelling enough as a lead in a gangster show, which “The Book of Boba Fett” touted itself as being. Secondly, while the planet of Tattooine undergoes a hefty amount of world-building, it’s still an arid desert planet, which begs the question – what is it about this planet that, at least a majority of the films, and now almost an entire season of a live-action show, is focusing itself on? Thirdly, the newer additions in the context of this show are very hit or miss. That is because of the influence of Robert Rodriguez as a co-creator. He is well known as the vanguard of independent filmmaking and for crafting neo-westerns, such as “Desperado,” and, on the other hand, movies like “Spy Kids” with cheap and colorful visual effects. So, that is not a problem per se, but these characteristics of Rodriguez stand out like a sore thumb.
The introduction of modified humans, young teenagers who install android appendages and extensions on their bodies, is unique, but a lot rides on how the story is imparted. For a planet such as Tatooine, with its lived-in feel and dirty, grimy clothes, vehicles, and dusty landscape, the appearance of brightly colored motorcycles tends to stick out. The fault lies with the creators, either from a technical or a storytelling standpoint, who never really manage to justify their existence. Episode 3, in particular, manages to highlight this singular problem, in which a chase scene through the streets of Tatooine is filmed and edited with such slow pacing that any form of tension or dynamic storytelling feels invariably lacking.
The show’s cardinal sin lies in how it manages to sideline its protagonist. During the moments where Fett is trying to be the “daimyo” or the big boss, he comes off as noticeably uncomfortable or, more appropriately, “playing the gangster.” In contrast, Fennec Shand, his co-conspirator, turns out to be a far more ruthless customer. Her attitude and general pragmatism manage to overshadow Boba in some aspects. Ming-Na-wen plays Fennec Shand with a supreme level of confidence and skill, due to which her character invariably overshadows the titular character in his show.
But the show takes the sideline one step further when it decides to rope in the bigger Star Wars universe to its narrative. Episode 5 is almost entirely dedicated to The Mandalorian. Pedro Pascal returns to the character, not having missed a beat; it feels like an episode of The Mandalorian Season 3 more than an episode of “The Book of Boba Fett.” Under Bryce Dallas Howard’s direction, it is arguably one of the strongest episodes of the whole series.
Then Episode 6, not to be outmatched, brings back a host of other characters into the story-some tangentially connected, some not connected to the narrative of Boba Fett at all. There are characters making the jump from the animated Clone Wars show to live action, hinting at previous history. It’s all Catnip for hard-core Star Wars fans. This, again, raises an important question: Does this mean that the writers have lost faith in the show itself? That doesn’t seem to be the case. If reports were to be taken as gospel, “The Book of Boba Fett” was always supposed to be The Mandalorian Season 2.5. The issue here is that these interlude episodes turn out to be far more interesting than the main narrative, simply because the main narrative doesn’t have enough of a compelling plot, even if it was advertised as one.
The penultimate and final episodes successfully wrap up and introduce plot threads from the larger Star Wars universe without getting bogged down by their sheer weight. The final episode is essentially the big culmination point. Again, directed by Rodriguez, the final episode is a perfect mixture of the silliness and the high-flying western action we had been expecting. It does manage to make the landing as painless as possible. The show, as a whole, is so weirdly structured that there are episodes you can literally recommend watching out of context to a newcomer or a fan of The Mandalorian; they won’t feel like they missed a thing. With respect to crafting continuity in a heavy universe, “The Book of Boba Fett” is successful, like its predecessor, in shaping up a lived-in universe. While not as expertly or intricately as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is still a step in the right direction.
As a Star Wars show, the visual effects varied from episode to episode, but there were moments when the ethos of Star Wars as a pioneer of visual effects storytelling did come into play, especially in Episode 6. As for performances, Temuera Morrison as Boba Fett brings to light a far different Boba Fett than what we expected, and that could be a sore point for a lot of fans. I didn’t mind it all that much. Ming-Na Wen as Fennec Shand is the clear standout, just like Pedro Pascal as The Mandalorian, with a host of supporting characters too long to list, but each doing their part and managing to insert their disparate tonality into this universe.
Because that’s what “Star Wars,” at least the Original Trilogy and the Prequel Trilogy, has been-a mixture of genres and tonalities, where even silliness is a part of this universe, for better or worse. I am glad that all of these tonalities are being embraced as the universe moves forward. However, the universe-building should not come at the expense of crafting a coherent serialized story, and “The Book of Boba Fett” is decidedly not that. It is a narrative mess with astronomical highs and very silly lows. Weirdly, that is “Star Wars” in a nutshell.