The opening visuals of “The Tribes of Tatooine” have a charm that is almost immediately dispelled their cheapness. Say what you will about the weaker elements of Return of the Jedi, the sequences on Tatooine have a visceral impact that The Book of Boba Fett desperately tries to recapture. It attempts to offer an occasional delight, but inadvertently makes an argument for stories that are more interesting than the primary one it tells.
The visual disconnect is considerably stronger here than it was with The Mandalorian. The tactile nature of some of the visuals exists awkwardly with the elements that feel at best, much like last week, impressive cosplay. They do not resemble the work of a major studio production. That has arguably always been a part of Star Wars to a certain degree, but in the absence of a truly compelling story and main character, that disconnect is glaringly augmented.
I’m thrilled that Temuera Morrison is getting more work and he certainly tries to develop Boba Fett beyond the limited script, but this story could and should have been about someone completely new. Boba Fett carries so much baggage that it detracts from the interesting stories of a post-Jabba power vacuum and the exploration of Tusken Raider society. But that would require taking genuine risks, and Disney isn’t likely to do that anytime soon.
The most glaring instance of the mistake in centring this story around Boba Fett is the scene where two Hutt twins arrive on a litter to symbolize their claim over Jabba’s holdings and fortune. It’s not a subtle display, but that is the point, a point that Boba refused to concede in the pilot. The Hutts are well aware that theatrical displays of power are key to maintaining power, and it’s clear that Boba is going to pay for making the mistake of dismissing their importance.
The central problem with this otherwise interesting power dynamic is that Boba comes across as wildly naive. His appearance in the original trilogy as a feared bounty hunter suggested someone who, even if he might not have a grasp on the minutiae of governance, understood the ruthlessness of the crime world of which he was a part. Here he comes across as a Boba Fett who is deeply constrained not by organic character progression, but rather by the family-friendly constraints of Disney+. A new character, bounty hunter even, would be more interesting in this space but alas, that’s not the show we have.
The deeper look inside Tusken Raider society is fascinating, even if the “man trains a native society to defend itself” story trope is repurposed here with little ingenuity. The carving designs on their weaponry, the black melons they use to avoid dying of thirst, the meaning of clothing as a symbol of belonging–these little pieces invite the audience into the world of a people who haven’t received their due of nuance and Star Wars feels better off for it.
At least the train heist sequence is an excellent merger of practical and visual effects that pairs beautifully with a kinetic sense of direction. The sequence is thrilling, with a callback to another part of the Star Wars universe that thankfully feels more “oh, hey” rather than a desperate attempt to maintain audience viewership. There’s a little more fuel to this particular fire with the second instalment but for now, it remains mired in a tinderbox that is too wet to become a conflagration.
New episodes of The Book of Boba Fett stream Wednesdays on Disney+.