Wednesday 9 February 2022

Series Review: The Book of Boba Fett

Following the success of The Mandalorian, another mean masked mercenary has stepped up to the plate with his own live-action Star Wars series: Boba Fett. Here's my review of The Book of Boba Fett.

Steered by the same creative team as The Mandalorian (Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, Robert Rodriguez et al) The Book of Boba Fett seeks to answer important questions like: did Boba Fett survive falling into the Sarlaac Pit on Tatooine, and how? What happened to Jabba's Palace after Jabba the Hutt exploded? What is jizz fiend Max Rebo up to nowadays, and is he happy? Does Temuera Morrison regret signing on to play a clone nearly 20 years ago?

This is a Star Wars spin-off cut from the same cloth as the Marvel Cinematic Universe; if you don't know who or what a Boba Fett is beforehand, there's a lot of required reading to catch you up, including but not limited to four Star Wars films, two seasons of The Mandalorian and possibly a comic or two.

Granted, on paper, The Book of Boba Fett is a cool concept – Jabba's death has created a power vacuum in Mos Espa, one of Tatooine's grimiest spaceports, and now Boba is moving in to take charge. How does an honourable man, one who has lived his whole life by a code, contend with the criminals, uphold the law and command respect?

The problem is, Boba isn't a particularly compelling lead – until his appearance in season two of The Mandalorian, he was little more than a cool suit of armour and a throwaway gag in Return of the Jedi. And The Book of Boba Fett doesn't do enough to add any meat to these bones; after seven episodes, what did we learn about who Boba Fett is as a person? 

Visually, The Book of Boba Fett looks and feels a lot like The Mandalorian – it has the same virtual Disney+ aesthetic that comes from the filmmakers melding practical backlot sets with vast LED screens. Sometimes this works and the locales really pop; other times, it renders the world stiff and lifeless. This is largely the case on the vast deserts of Tatooine, where most of the show is set. Some of the sets look cheap and sterile too; Boba visits a bar in Mos Espa a couple of times that has none of the grime or character of the Mos Eisley cantina in A New Hope. Even Jabba's Palace feels brighter, cleaner and more...homely, with Boba in residence.

Then there's the pacing. Episodes one to four are a mixed bag, with plenty of highs (the train heist in episode two) and just as many lows (the speeder chase in episode three). The dual narrative structure offers some intrigue and fills in the blanks between Return of the Jedi and The Mandalorian, but the 'present day' storyline is dull and lacks any urgency. 

Then we reach episodes five and six, which leave Boba behind and serve as an extended prologue for season three of The Mandalorian; we check in with Din, who finds himself cast out by his peers, modifies a starfighter and pays a visit to Luke Skywalker's Jedi Academy to see Grogu and Ahsoka. Beloved characters like Cad Bane and Artoo make an appearance; all of sudden we've gone from a self-contained story to a weekly Star Wars show that connects and overlaps with everything else.

While the tangent is interesting enough, it grinds the glacial, directionless pacing of Boba's story to an even greater halt. While we're off having fun with Din and visiting old pals like Grogu and Cobb Vanth, Boba is nowhere to be seen. The overarching storyline, around Boba and Fennec's grab for power, is parked in favour of another set of characters, another storyline entirely. 

It's a strange storytelling choice. No longer a standalone story, Boba Fett's adventures on Tatooine suddenly feel secondary to the wider Mandalorian storyline. Which begs the question, why bother to frame it as Boba's story in the first place, if the plan was to check in into Din and Grogu for two episodes towards the end anyway? Why not just weave Boba and Fennec's storyline into the background of The Mandalorian season three, cutting between several strands like Game of Thrones used to execute so seamlessly.

Granted, the finale does a good job of tying it all together; Boba and Fennec's story, the motley crew he's recruited along the way, plus Din and Grogu reunite. Clocking in at roughly an hour, it's a lengthy send-off to the series that is pretty much 80 per cent battle between the Pyke forces and Boba's ragtag army. When all is said and done, it's lots of razzle dazzle but not a lot of substance – what does the future hold for Boba now? Who knows, but at least he won the day (as if there was any doubt). 

Part Western, part crime drama, part sci-fi soap opera, The Book of Boba Fett starts out small but splinters off into disparate strands that dilute the overall impact and focus. Favreau and Filoni couldn't resist the temptation to cram this seven-episode arc with all things Star Wars, and it actually detracts from the story it set out to tell. That's not to say the segues are bad – they just didn't belong in Boba's story. More focus and less flights of fancy would have helped keep this story on track.

All seven chapters in The Book of Boba Fett are streaming on Disney+ now.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the show though I will admit that it got uneven by its second half when it focused on the Mandalorian though I enjoyed seeing Luke Skywalker and Ahsoka. I just hope if that if there's a second season, improve things a bit unless this is just a stop-gap for the third season of The Mandalorian.



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