On the sands of Tatooine, beneath the harsh light of its twin suns, a legend dies and is reborn. At the heart of Book of Boba Fett is an epic tale of a former bounty hunter turned crime boss in the making. Along the way it continues story threads from Return of the Jedi (1983), connects the dots back to The Mandolorian (2019 – Present), and still tries to find time for big action set pieces. The result is a fun show without much depth, filled with interesting characters that are never developed, to support a succession of plots stitched together, pacing be damned.
For The Mandalorian Jon Favreau created a Star Wars story without the same scale as the films. Mando was exploring the galaxy, but he did it a planet at a time, and the conflicts were significantly smaller. There was a bounty hunter tracking down a sniper in the desert who needed help completing the job. There was a rag tag group of mercenaries needing an extra gun to free a prisoner from a transport. The beginning of Book of Boba Fett sets itself apart by promising an epic journey, from the first moment that Boba reaches his hand out of the sand to his time spent among the Tusken Raiders. There are moments in the show that maintain that ideal, most notably with the episode directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, but it’s Robert Rodriguez’s direction that starts, continues, and finishes the show, establishing and carrying out the show’s most lasting ideal: it has to look cool.
By the time Mos Espa becomes a shooting gallery in the desert it doesn’t look entirely far off from his earlier work in El Mariachi or Desperado. A new group of characters called the Mods (a teen youth group that modifies their bodies with cyborg parts) come into play, and the last episode is devoted to the entire breadth of their dialogue, despite their being introduced a few episodes before. Characters are in so little danger that they’re stylishly spinning before shooting for the hell of it, while other characters end up in danger just so they can be rescued. It’s a big fight that goes on for longer than you’d expect or want, but at the very least it looks good.
Where The Mandolorian felt like its own story, Book of Boba Fett frequently suffers from being an extension of other stories. The pivotal moment that thrusts Boba Fett into the Sarlacc Pit happens in Return of the Jedi, the death of Bib Fortuna and Boba’s claim on Jabba’s palace happens in the post-credits of a different show. Mando himself comes along to steal the spotlight for an entire episode, and while his part of the story is probably the most interesting, it does rob Boba Fett’s plot of its own momentum. The ultimate villain of the show gets no introduction, so if you haven’t watched The Clone Wars (2008 – 2020) then you’re just going to have to assume that the character was developed elsewhere.
Which is disappointing because the show does have interesting characters, with great performances backing up what little they do. Temuera Morrison gives Boba Fett a slow, but careful demeaner, always measured and menacing. Ming-Na Wen comes back as Fennec Shand, and the show does, at the very least, help develop the relationship between Boba and Fennec, giving them good reasons for doing what they do. Pedro Pascal returns as Mando, stealing the stage to provide a teaser for the direction of The Mandalorian: Season 3. There are more notable performances, such as Jennifer Beals as a Twi’lek mob boss running a cantina, or Matt Berry as a torture droid turned administrator, and Danny Trejo’s arrival into the Star Wars universe clearly took too long.
There is one glaring exception: Luke Skywalker.
Since Disney had taken over the franchise there seems to be a running idea that actors playing characters from films decades old shouldn’t just look sort of like their original counterparts, but rather there should be special effects to make them look exactly like their original counterparts. This idea has looked off, such as the effects for Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One, or simply uncanny, such as Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian.
With Book of Bobba Fet they decided that it wasn’t enough just to have a computer render a face over a new actor, but also to have a computer digitize the speech of the character. Luke’s voice in the show is entirely synthetic, based on vocal samples taken from the original films, as well as interviews that he recorded at the time. The result is a robotic intonation that lacks inflection, making Luke sound less like his original self and more like a bland Luke Skywalker impression.
The show suffers most from trying to do too many things in one season. It wants to fill in the gap between Boba’s supposed death and his return to the scene, it wants to tell a story about a crime boss, it wants to continue Mando’s journey. It’s an interesting idea that devolves into a mess, but if you’re willing to look past that, or are just eager for at least half-decent Star Wars, there is fun to be had.