Review by C.J. Bunce
Happy New Year! My wish for everyone is they get their own bacta tank jacuzzi to help recover from last year… and the year before that, and…
It’s been 38.5 years since I first saw Boba Fett die, at the sneak preview of Return of the Jedi. It was the low point of the movie–I’d rather they’d kill off Han Solo. Let the mysterious bounty hunter drift off into the sunsets. Practically speaking it meant decades of no Boba Fett, and nothing but minor appearances of Boba Fett in the Marvel comic books. So we’ve all had a long time to picture how Boba Fett survives bumbling into the Great Pit of Carkoon, nesting place of the all-powerful Sarlacc, to be slowly digested over 1,000 years, which was as baffling as making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. Now thanks to Jon Favreau, we get to see the vision in his head, in the first episode of The Book of Boba Fett, now streaming on Disney Plus. (Moderate episode highlights and a revisit to 1983 and 1997 follow).
You know it’s Jon Favreau’s vision because he’s the episode’s writer, and also because he pronounces Gamorrean as guh-MORE-ian instead of GAMOR-REEAN like the rest of us. (Yeah, I realize we only knew its name, like most Star Wars aliens, via the action figure packaging. But why pick guh-MORE-ian?) Robert Rodriguez returns to direct the series opener following his debut of Boba Fett’s return to the Star Wars galaxy “in canon” in the second season of The Mandalorian. For good or bad, many scenes seem really close to a kid (ahem, little Jonny Favreau) playing in the sandbox with his action figures. But that’s partly what made The Mandalorian a fun ride, like bringing the Troop Transport toy to life, so no complaints here on that point.
But what would improve this show?
Pick up the pace, fast. Despite the first episode feeling like a longer episode, it’s a tad on the clunky side. They only have seven episodes to tell whatever story they’re wanting to tell so get on with it! In fairness, the thunder for this return was used up for The Mandalorian. Favreau and Rodriguez & Co. have some work to do to capture the excitement of Boba’s thrilling return with Ming-Na Wen’s protector/master assassin Fennic Shand to save The Mandalorian aka Din Djarin and Baby Yoda aka The Child aka Grogu. In fact…
Any hope of matching The Mandalorian will need some type of Baby Yoda. Without it, The Book of Boba Fett is missing half of what made the other show great. Or Baby Yoda detractors will learn why a show like this needs some kind of “save the cat” moment to make us care about the leads. I can’t imagine someone watching this who doesn’t know Boba’s backstory having a clue what is going on or why we should care about Boba any more than the red Greedo guy or the sand raider kid.
Boba’s emergence was… too brief. So now what? That’s about all that can be said. It was underwhelming. We waited four decades to see what happened and they only devoted 90 seconds to it? No “all-powerful” Sarlacc fighting back at all? Huh? Not even a wiggle or reach-out from his toothy mouth? It’s too late to repair this approach, unless the sarlacc, this sarlacc, has a Jaws-like revenge story ahead (yes, I mean Jaws not Jawas) and over the course of the season he stalks Boba for lighting up his campsite. Or would that be too much like Dune?
Thick on nostalgia. There’s too much homage going on, too many angles showing reverence for the set re-creation for Return of the Jedi, too much DUN-DUN-DUNN! as Boba… puts his clothes on…? The episode feels more like the prequels and The Clone Wars. It’s missing the “Star Wars Story” teams Gareth Edwards/Neil Lamont, Ron Howard/Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan, and Lee Sandales/Jamie Hall and their outworld, sand planet vibe they perfected in Rogue One and Solo. Bryce Dallas Howard is expected to direct at least one episode, which is a plus. The show does have in common with the movies their production designer, Doug Chiang. So maybe it’s the cinematography itself that’s not quite right. Nostalgia is great, but the series needs to have something else.
The music is… similar. The composer again is The Mandalorian’s Ludwig Göransson, although Joseph Shirley gets the billing as composer. Göransson’s work on that series was superb. Disney might have mixed it up a little to make this series different. Göransson uses many repeat cues from that series in just this first episode, when maybe looking back to Return of the Jedi makes more sense. Boba deserves his own memorable theme. Speaking of music we did get to see Sy Snootles and a cantina guitarist, and torture droid 8D8 is back (in Bib Fortuna’s shoes).
Defaulting to beast-killing plots was overdone as far back as The Phantom Menace. Do something else. Also in common with the prequels is the Default Beast Baddie. It’s a crutch used in science fiction or fantasy when you can’t think of anyone else to fight. You can see the script: “Insert ugly beast here.” Lucas beat the idea to death with giant underwater beasts in The Phantom Menace and in that colosseum combat homage in Attack of the Clones. It felt like half of The Mandalorian episodes used a similar device (kill the dragon, steal the egg, etc.). Like in Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, the antagonist’s character is hidden from the viewer, is allowed no sympathy, and is killed with no regard to its life. In this case, Favreau and Rodriguez conjured the ghost of Ray Harryhausen to make what looks like a cross between his Ymir, a kraken, and a Star Trek Gorn. Cool, but enough treating these guys like soulless characters. We’ve seen it before. And finally, the biggest quirk…
Isn’t he supposed to be the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy? Morrison’s Boba is as nice as Pedro Pascal’s child caregiver. It’s really hard to find that “no disintegrations!” and “he’s no good to me dead!” guy from the original trilogy here. If the point is Boba learned something and experienced some character change after being digested… (for a few hours? days? months?) then the writers need to explain that character development pronto. Boba was a vengeful dude. He carried wookiee scalps. The only thing on his mind should be going after Han, Chewbacca, Lando, and Luke for dropping him into the pit. Boba was 32 when he was first hired by Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. So he’s supposed to be about 41 when The Book of Boba Fett takes place, with the flashback scenes to Return of the Jedi when he was about 35 (according to Disney’s Star Wars timelines). Morrison the actor is 61, playing someone in his early forties, with no apparent de-aging CGI. This retired, bacta tank jacuzzi, Old Man Boba story is happening 20 years early (actually it’s more bacta tank CPAP but that may be too on-point for many). Didn’t you figure that once that helmet came off the guy inside would look more like Jason Statham? Maybe that’s just me. No doubt my vision of Boba Fett’s return looks different than everyone else’s, just as yours and theirs’ and apparently Jon Favreau’s does. After all we did have 38.5 years to think about it.
When I walked out of the theater in 1983 it was the most disappointed I’ve been leaving a theater. I thought it was all over, not just for Boba, but for Star Wars. For those that loved Boba Fett, that mysterious guy from the free action figure send-in-your proofs of purchase Kenner era–I want to point out my favorite Boba Fett moment. It happened much later, 25 years ago this month, January 31, 1997, with Lucas re-issuing the Special Edition of Star Wars: A New Hope. Editing Jabba’s first, deleted scene with Han back into the movie with the now-known first “canon” Boba Fett scene is all the nostalgia I need, and with each new episode what I am hoping Lucasfilm or Disney can capture or re-create. If you don’t remember, check it out here.
Hey, it’s only the first episode. It’s fun enough that someone is finally making this show. That alone was unthinkable before Disney took over. The prospect of Jennifer Beals as a recurring cantina owner with the very Lucasian name of Garsa Fwip is all you really need to keep us coming back for more. The Easter eggs alone should keep fans busy for the next week. We have six more episodes to watch and talk about.
It’s without comparison the most anticipated series of 2022 and it is certain to be the #1 genre show to keep an eye on. Watch The Book of Boba Fett, with new episodes arriving each Wednesday on Disney Plus.