Befuddled by BOOK OF BOBA FETT
Who is this series for?
We are now three weeks into the new Disney+ series The Book of Boba Fett, and I must profess a modicum of concern. Oh, it has the right look and feel of Star Wars. Temuera Morrison is bringing his A-game to bear as the title character. Ludwig Göransson, composer for The Mandalorian, has come back to provide a sweeping epic score. The show even immediately started off with showing us something we had long envisoned: Fett’s escape from the bowels of the Sarlaac. And let’s not forget bringing in no less than Danny Trejo for a fairly sizable appearance.
And yet… there is something wildly off about this show. It’s not just because it’s “borrowed” so much from A Man Called Horse either (or in the case of the third episode, taking from The Return of a Man Called Horse, big difference there).
Maybe it’s because The Book of Boba Fett doesn’t fully understand who it is that it’s being made for. Or maybe it does, but it has forgotten its roots. See, Boba Fett was my generation’s most iconic man of mystery. We had no idea who that was beneath the helmet. And we liked it that way. Heck, for all we knew that could have been a woman in the armor posing as a man (no offense meant to the memory of Jeremy Bulloch). The only thing that mattered is that Boba Fett was the most infamous of the bounty hunters who answered Darth Vader’s call, and he succeeded in his mission to capture Han Solo. Come to think of it, Fett was the only character in The Empire Strikes Back who accomplished his purpose.
Then came the Star Wars prequel trilogy. And it gave us our first look at the man… or boy… beneath the helmet. Daniel Logan portrayed the ten-year old Boba: the clone son of Jango Fett (also played by Morrison). And though Attack of the Clones is regarded as one of the weakest entries of the nine-film cycle, we managed to be forgiving with Boba as a child.
But all that meant nothing, as soon as Boba Fett donned the armor.
Suddenly we were back to where we started: Boba Fett as a cool-looking bad guy. And maybe Kevin Smith was on to something when he suggested that an unknown drifter kills young Boba and takes his armor and becomes “Boba Fett” instead, thus preserving the mystery. I could be down with that.
But instead, we were shown Boba Fett’s real face, in season two of The Mandalorian.
And then The Book of Boba Fett compounds the problem by having Boba walking around brazenly bare-headed as he deals with the petty politicians and criminal scum of Tatooine.
This is not the Boba Fett that I… and countless others… grew up with. And Fett’s co-creator Joe Johnston has it right. “I never would have shown his face,” Johnston said during a recent interview. “I would never have had an actor underneath where he takes the helmet off and you see who it is. I think that eliminates a lot of the mystery. Before that helmet comes off, he can be anybody.”
To be succinct about it: sometimes “less is more”. We didn’t even need to be shown Boba escaping the Sarlaac.
But in this day and age, it seems that nothing is to be left to the imagination. Perhaps Star Wars itself is responsible: “The Duel” between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywlker was never going to live up to what we envisioned it would be, during our growing-up years. “The Duel” was going to be a letdown to some people (personally I thought it was as fulfilling as it was ever apt to be). It was set to disappoint, yet it had to be depicted. We did not need to see Boba Fett’s face depicted sans helmet however.
Maybe what would make The Book of Boba Fett even better would be a measure of self-restraint. It knows how to do that already. This series could have shown us what is beneath those bandages of the Tusken Raiders. Instead it has left that to us to figure out on our own. There is wonder to be had in that. Authors of fiction like Tolkien understood that there is a joy that comes with mystery. That we don’t require everything explained to us.
This saga understood that before. It can - and should - understand it again.