Book of Boba Fett Trailer

The Book of Boba Fett: Series Premiere Review

The Disney era of popular entertainment is defined by a toxic dependency on nostalgia. There’s a pleasure and sweetness in the indulgence of comfort, like a few nice chocolates with a spiked hot cocoa on a winter day. But Disney, throughout all of its franchises, has taken that indulgence and rendered it such a sickly substance that you forego the chocolate and reach immediately for a bottle of Pepto-Bismol. Star Wars at its best as a political opera of weighted characters but since its purchase by Disney has simply thrown everything at the wall and rarely attempted to build something of its own.

At its best, The Mandalorian was building something of its own. At its worst, it was vacuous storytelling occasionally rescued by a visually inviting landscape, a desperate attempt to hoodwink you with countless renditions of “didn’t you like this character, place, or gadget in The Empire Strikes Back?” The Book of Boba Fett is The Mandalorian at its worst but somehow even lesser in its first installment, its primary culprit resting in its very concept.

Ever since his ignoble death in Return of the Jedi, Boba Fett’s (Temuera Morrison) death and or survival has been a consistent question explored through a variety of theories and lore. Here it’s presented in a simple enough answer, with the insides of the sarlacc pit depicted in a rather underwhelming fashion. But once that little business was taken care of, the episode then moves towards two separate story threads: what happened to Boba Fett after he escaped the sarlacc pit and how he is trying to fill the power vacuum left behind on Mos Espa after Princess Leia assassinated Jabba the Hutt.

Neither of these threads so far is particularly interesting. The crux of the show’s problem, aside from dangling every possible original trilogy reference down your throat, is that Boba Fett is a character whose primary appeal has been mystery. Throughout his entire run in The Empire Strikes Back, Fett gets very little screen time but he has the presence and magnetism to draw even Darth Vader’s attention. Him being the man who captured Han Solo in Cloud City only added to his appeal.

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Book of Boba Fett Mandalorian

With every visit to this character, we know more and more about him. His ignoble death in Return of the Jedi was the first mistake but the allure of the character was so strong the series has returned to him again and again and again with the energy of someone who just can’t let things go. When a character’s primary appeal is mystery, unraveling that mystery can be a pretty easy mistake and with this episode, Star Wars has removed so much of the mystery that 

The action is also lackluster. There’s a fight sequence towards the beginning whose framing is simultaneously interesting yet the background is so utterly devoid of color and place that all the tension is drained right out of it. The fight could be happening in a desert landscape at night but the way the sequence is shot and lit it could be happening in a portrait studio at the mall. It’s a bizarre and confounding choice partially echoed later in an ambush scene that has the energy of Power Rangers cosplayers teaming up at a Star Wars theme park. (Cosplay is fun! TV shows with this kind of budget should have better costuming and fight choreography.)

The pilot’s most interesting element is the idea of how projecting power is integral to maintaining it. Fett prefers the rough and rumble “down to earthiness” of his bounty hunter persona, but as Ming Na-Wen’s Fennec Shand rightfully points out, his bounty hunter persona on its own is going to be wildly inadequate when it comes to maintaining power in a world where the most genteel of interactions comes laced with the unnerving threat of imminent violence. It’s a little clumsy, but there’s at least some story element The Book of Boba Fett seems to be hinting at that goes beyond Disney’s penchant for lackluster, uninspired storytelling.

The Book of Boba Fett is streaming on Disney+. New episodes drop weekly on Wednesdays.

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