There’s a saying on the internet that often gets repeated, especially in the Disney era: Nobody hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans. Whether you believe this adage to be true or not, I've thought about this phrase a lot recently because of The Book of Boba Fett.
Or, to be more accurate, that phrase has been ringing in my ears because of the response to the new Disney Plus show. Over the years Boba Fett has grown to be one of the more popular characters from the original Star Wars trilogy. You would have thought fans would rejoice at the prospect of having a Fett-centric TV show. Though they probably aren't happy about the Book of Boba Fett mistake caught by fans either.
The reaction to having Fett turn up in The Mandalorian, and kicking the Sith out of some Stormtoopers was incredibly positive at the time.
Me having to take back all the shit I’ve talked about boba fett after watching last nights episode and kind of liking him pic.twitter.com/5YaHfuvjpIDecember 4, 2020
And yet, now that the Book of Boba Fett is here, there’s a lot of criticism that the show isn’t living up to expectations. Or more specifically, Fett himself is not being portrayed as the mythical character fans have built up in their heads.
One criticism that has stood out to me the most was from Chris Edwards at The Guardian (opens in new tab), who claimed that the new Disney Plus series has “ruined Star Wars’ coolest character”. Edwards claims that bringing back the “badass bounty hunter has systematically [taken] apart everything that ever made him the coolest and most mysterious character in a galaxy far, far away.”
While the claim seems inflammatory at first glance, the argument is that digging deep into Boba Fett as a character ruins everything about him (or at least that this version of him isn't as cool as they expected). When he first appeared on the big screen in Empire Strikes Back, over 40 years ago, Fett was this looming armor-clad assassin that did little more than stand around looking stoic and intimidating. He had his moments of action, to be sure, but the threat of Fett was always greater.
In fact, Boba Fett’s on screen time has been so minimal that actor Temuera Morrison had the opportunity to influence the character’s fighting style. Morrison told StarWars.com (opens in new tab) he drew on his own Maori background in the way Boba fights. Which is pretty incredible considering how old the character is in real-world time.
Disney or not, Boba Fett was always going to be a major character
Of course, the prospect of not exploring Boba Fett’s background has never been an option — even before the Disney takeover. In fact George Lucas’s original plan for Star Wars was to extend the saga into six movies. It turns out Boba Fett was set to be the main villain (opens in new tab) of Return of the Jedi, with the Emperor not appearing until a later movie.
And of course Fett’s popularity is why he continues to appear. From his appearances as a child in Attack of the Clones and Clone Wars, to his appearances in expanded media (many of which have now been de-canonized), the character popped up every chance they could slot him in. The long-canceled video game 1313, set between Episodes 3 and 4, was eventually made to focus on a younger Boba Fett (opens in new tab) instead of some nameless bounty hunter.
Disney knew this, and was on the cusp of announcing a Boba Fett spin-off alongside Rogue One at Star Wars Celebration 2015. EW (opens in new tab) reported that Lucasfilm even had a sizzle reel ready to go, only to cancel following the departure (opens in new tab) of director Josh Trank — who had just finished the disastrous production on the 2015 Fantastic Four reboot.
Exploring Boba Fett’s character was never going to please everyone
Edwards argues that Boba Fett’s mystique is what made the character popular, and anything more ruins the character. However, a combination of Fett’s popularity, which some have speculated (opens in new tab) may have been down to Star Wars toys, and the fact he doesn’t do a great deal, means people will have conjured an image of who and what Boba Fett is.
The Book of Boba Fett’s primary sin, essentially, is failure to live up to impossible expectations. If everyone has their own idea of who and what Boba Fett should be, then exploring that character in any official capacity is going to upset people. More so when the current incarnation of the infamous bounty hunter is a little more subdued than previous incarnations from expanded (and, again, largely de-canonized) media.
In the old Legends canon, Fett escaped the Sarlacc and ended up becoming a more heroic figure — eventually uniting the warring Mandalorian clans. Meanwhile, current canon has used him sparingly, but Fett at his peak was to be ruthless and violent in the pursuit of his bounties. Exactly the kind of character some people expected to see in The Book of Boba Fett.
The Book of Boba Fett gives good reason for that change
But this Boba is a changed man, which may happen after you nearly die because you fell into a giant toothy hole of acid in the desert. His work, and gung ho attitude as a bounty hunter almost killed him, and Fett spent the five years between Return of the Jedi and The Mandalorian contemplating on that.
As Fett himself said in Book of Boba Fett episode 4, he’s tired of lives being extinguished by idiots — whether they’re bounty hunters killed on the job or civilians caught in the crossfire. So he’s relying on the only person he can truly trust, himself, to change the system. Hence why he recruited the Mos Vespa gang instead of attacking them, and why he encouraged Black Krrsantan to give up his old way of life.
But, despite the fact this is not Fett at his peak, we’ve still seen that he doesn’t suffer fools lightly. No better place can we see that than the way he beat the ever-loving snot out of the Stormtroopers on the planet Tython. He’s certainly not the “peace loving, pudgie, wuss of a diplomat” one Reddit post declared (opens in new tab) him to be, and claims that “nothing happened (opens in new tab)” in the first episode feel over-exaggerated.
The decision to not make Boba Fett a mindless pit of never-ending violence is pretty much down to the fact the show is centered around him (Editor's Note: it also is likely due to this being a Disney Plus show and not an HBO Max original). It may be fun to watch Fett kick some butts into orbit for a while, but you can’t base a whole show around that. If anything that would get boring before the end of the first episode.
Of course, there are still two episodes to go, and it’s clear at the end of Episode 4 that Boba is ready to go to war. Considering his speeches on partnership and mutual respect, I seriously doubt he’s going to send troops to their death while he watches from a comfortable throne. He’s going to be leading the charge — possibly while riding a Rancor — which is going to be one heck of a spectacle.
The Book of Boba Fett is far from perfect, but it's still ok
This is not to say that The Book of Boba Fett is without its problems. The show, so far, has been incredibly slow moving, on account of it telling two different stories simultaneously.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much way of getting around that, since the mystery of how Boba escaped the Sarlacc (and why he took five long years to resurface) is pretty key to understanding the character. Plus it would likely prove to be about as popular as the choice to cast Jared Leto in Suicide Squad.
In any case, Boba Fett is not the problem here. He may not be the “badass bounty hunter” some fans were expecting, but that’s part and parcel with being a main character. It’s ok not to like the show, but if you don’t have a good reason I ask that you kindly keep your opinion to yourself.
Though, granted, if Boba doesn’t deal some damage before the first season is up, I may have to switch teams and ask what the heck Lucasfilm is doing. Thankfully, I don’t think that’s going to happen.