(Book of) Boba Fett is no (The) Mandalorian
Is there a doctor in the house? Oh yeah, that's me!
Orignially posted on March 1, 2022 on my Medium blog.
A “How I’d” part two post is coming next week.
Full disclosure: I am a big fan of the Star Wars franchise, but what you are about to read will not include any “angry fanboy” moments. This is all going to be my take on the show from a purely technical perspective. Sure, storytelling is an art but there are such things as story mechanics and boy does this show need a mechanic… or a surgeon.
TL;DWR (Too Long; Don’t Wanna Read) — spoiler-free
The show looks and sounds great. The acting is fine. The plot was thin and plagued with inexplicably weak choices in nearly all aspects of the story and character development. Sadly, this show is not about Boba Fett the ruthless bounty hunter. This is about a guy who, for vague reasons, leaves his current freelance job and takes over for his former boss. There is an attempt to create antagonists but none are well defined. It almost feels like there were better ideas pitched but were rejected by Lucasfilm because there was probably a lot of violence involved. Or maybe they were worried Fett would be too much of a bad guy. Of course, he is a bad guy. This series was billed as a “Godfather” kind of story that takes place in the Star Wars universe. Alas, it is not.
What worked in “The Book of Boba Fett” (spoiler free)
First off, all of the actors, make-up folks, sound design, composers, props folks, and costumers, did a great job. When it comes to the writing and execution of the story, the part of me that is Fanboy Pete (or “Nerdy Pete” as I like to call him) focused more on enjoying all the fan service. This show featured plenty of characters from elsewhere in the Galaxy Far Far Away and 2 entire episodes that fill us in on things elsewhere and elsewho(?). Got all the nerd-tingles. The subplot with the Tuskens worked well enough, though it could have been shorter (and made to be more important).
What did NOT work in “The Book of Boba Fett” (spoiler free)
You’ve heard heard a bit from Nerdy Pete (he’ll be penning a longer piece, soon), but Script Dr. Pete has not much nice to say about the story structure (and, in fact, SDP didn’t like the fan service, but more on that further in). “The Book of Boba Fett” is missing huge swathes of character development that leave the viewer wondering “why is this happening?” and an awful lot of thinking “um… ok?” as well.
The plot itself was pretty thin especially considering the most interesting parts were either flashbacks telling us about what happened to the title character after he survived the Sarlacc monster in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.” And those flashbacks were only borderline interesting and could have been told in a fraction of screen time (Or not at all — does it really matter how he survived? It’s almost better if we don’t know). What’s worse is that the flashback storyline essentially ends after 3 episodes and is undervalued by the rest of the story. Plus, the flashbacks, in general, feel consistently disruptive to the main “present day” storyline. The rest of the story is Fett dealing with being the new mob boss on the block.
Now, you’d think that the “present day” storyline would include Fett meeting interesting characters, discovering awkward business relationships, and maybe a love interest — the kind of stuff you see well rounded characters experience in challenging careers in all manner of media. Alas, “The Book of Boba Fett” is no “The Mandalorian,” which featured characters and dynamics between said characters that were simple but got the job done. There’s nothing here to drive the plot or the characters and their relationships.
By the end of the series, or at least the end of the first season, we do get to see some fun stuff, but nothing that isn’t already entirely too familiar to anyone who watches any action-adventure fare (not just Star Wars). And because we still don’t really know or care about anyone, the final gunfight that takes up most of episode 7 just doesn’t have much tension.
Ultimately, I feel like this story, certainly the way they told it, would have been better served as a movie since the Fett-based story points could be compressed down to 90–120 minutes. However, if they had done the story they chose to tell the way it should have been done, there is that one massive plot motivation that could have been the answer to all of their problems. I could tell you, but it’s a spoiler, so…
What worked in”The Book of Boba Fett” WITH SPOILERS
Episodes 5 and 6, of the 7 episode run, took us away from the main planet of the story and the main story of the series, revisiting the title character of “The Mandalorian.” While you wouldn’t know what the heck was going on if you never watched that show, these 2 episodes still managed to be more interesting than anything else on “The Book of Boba Fett.” Sure the show’s Fett flashbacks did establish that Fett became a kind of “honorary” Tusken only to reveal that the Tusken tribe was wiped out — and that’s a pretty powerful plot point!(Remember that big plot motivation I mentioned? Yeah, keep reading.) However, in the span of these 2 episodes, Mando:
1) meets up with the last surviving members of his own tribe of Mandalorians
2) defends his right to the Mandalorian’s Excalibur analog (a sacred sword)
3) lost his status as a “real” Mandalorian
4) travels to see his adopted son
5) meets up with a friend (who happened to be the effective equivalent of Luke Skywalker’s auntie)
6) and even saw Luke Skywalker again.
These are all events that are immediately more resonant with the viewer — more than anything that came before in “The Book of Boba Fett” and that’s why they work — if only as a gift to the viewer for sitting through the previous 4 episodes.
They also reminded us that the Star Wars universe is big and that’s always a good thing. It’s a shame that the rest of the show doesn’t really do that except for fleeting references to the galactic drug dealers that are the default big-bads in the show.
What did NOT work in “The Book of Boba Fett” WITH SPOILERS
Episodes 5 and 6 were totally wasted on characters and story that have nothing to do with “The Book of Boba Fett.” As much as the episodes were a breath of fresh air, I felt they were a huge waste of time (and money for the show’s budget). Those two episodes could have been used to better flesh out the story and develop the characters more. After all, there’s that big motivation I mentioned earlier that could have really filled out those two episodes and been better than a complete departure from the story of the show.
Your patience has payed off! It’s time to talk about that big plot point that should’ve driven the show.
In episode 3, we see Fett discover that his Tusken tribe has been wiped out. Fett assumes a common biker gang killed them due to seeing the graffiti the gang leaves at the sites of their attacks. However, in episode 7 (the final episode), we discover that the drug syndicate did it and just made it look like it was the biker gang.
Why did they make it look like the biker gang did it? No idea.
Why did they do it at all? Because Fett had lead the Tuskens on a raid of a train-based drug shipment run by the drug syndicate.
Why are we only finding out about this now? If Fett had utilized his previous career’s skills, his instincts as “The Most Ruthless Bounty Hunter in the Galaxy” could have easily led him to the syndicate. Fett didn’t get that title for being an idiot, but in this show he just murders the biker gang and leaves it at that.
This one event could have POWERED the entire story. (I won’t even go into the idea that Fett should have led the Tuskens on a raid of the biker gang and not the syndicate’s drug train — because they were the ones collecting protection money from the syndicate when the Tuskens should have been.) Instead, his dead family, as a plot point, is completely ignored and ultimately misused in a moment that could have been emotionally powerful, but that was avoided by Fett’s sidekick, Shand, talking Fett out of an Old West-style showdown with his old mentor, Cad Bane.
In short, because of this utter lack of motivation, the whole damn thing doesn’t work to make the viewer care. In fact, the only motivation the show gives the viewer for leaving his old job is that Fett just wanted a change. We don’t actually see how he wanted a change in any way. He just says it to Shand at one point.
How does this story exist without using his wiped out Tusken family as a motivation for everything? Do they not remember all the Tuskens that Anakin killed that ended up pushing him (clumsily, plot-wise) toward the Dark Side? (Nerdy Pete, get back in your cage!)
How I would have done it…
Normally, I like to show how I’d have written it, but since this is an entire series that I am performing surgery on, I’ll put my own outline in a separate “part 2” post next week. In the meantime, here are…
Some other specific things that did not work (here be more spoilers!)
There’s a scene where Fett gets his ship back and then he takes it back to the Sarlacc monster with Shand — not to just kill the creature — but to find his armor. For some reason, Fett thinks his armor might still be… inside the Sarlacc… Even though, when he escaped the Sarlacc, he climbed out of the sand, got knocked out by Jawas, and woke up without his armor. We saw this happen in an episode of the show. Why did he think his armor would still be inside the Sarlacc?!? Is Fett old enough to have a senior moment?
The mayor’s assistant is played for laughs and since these are the only laughs in the show, sadly, the character comes off as someone who belongs on the set of Peacemaker, and stuck out like a sore thumb.
When the mayor’s assistant escapes city hall in a speeder rather than letting himself be questioned by Fett, the most boring chase scene in all of Star Wars commences. It’s kind of like watching a Volkswagon Beetle being chased by mopeds.
Speaking of mopeds, those hovering mopeds were ridden by “The Mods” which are a streat gang of young people who were inspired by the Mods of the 1960s. Hip, skinny, well dressed, trend setters in our real world… on Tatooine, a desert planet on the Outer Rim of the galaxy. Not only did these people fit about as well as the comedy mayor’s assistant did, their candy-colored, Vespa-inspired speeder bikes, were just the opposite of a tough street gang who Fett would hire as muscle (does Fett have no colleagues he can call?). Oh and they had cybernetic implants that were of seriously dubious use. I think just once, we saw the guy with the eye-piece actually use it, but it was for something you wouldn’t need a thing bolted to your face to do.
Cobb Vanth gets shot in his right shoulder by Cad Bane . Who Nerdy Pete (and hardcore Star Wars fans) knows is a total bad ass and Fett’s old mentor from when he was a boy — it’s not a fatal shot at all. Yet, Vanth dies. Not that it matters because he ends up in Fett’s bacta tank at the end of the finale, which means he’ll live. So, why bother killing him? Especially since Cad Bane isn’t the kind of guy to leave someone alive unless he means to. And if he meant to, why didn’t he say so? “Leavin’ you alive to send a message to my former protege, Boba Fett.” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
We are introduced to twin siblings who are part of the Hutt clan. They show up in two episodes. On their first visit to their late cousin, Jabba’s palace, they tell Fett they want his territory since it’s rightfully theirs. The second time they show up, they totally cave and tell Fett he can keep Jabba’s old territory. The subtext is that they sent Krrsantan, the bad ass Wookie gladiator and bounty hunter, to kill Fett but he failed and they are so sorry that they are literally leaving the planet. So they totally bailed. They didn’t even show up during the finale as an added obstacle. Oh but they gave him a rancor monster to eat his enemies! Acquiring the rancor could have been easily justifed another way.
Cad Bane, shows up, seems to almost get Fett’s proverbial goat, does eventually end up in an Old West-style showdown with Fett only to get stabbed in the chest by Fett’s gaffi stick, and we assume, killed. This climax for these characters seems to come out of nowhere — especially since it’s revealed that Bane has known Fett since he was a boy and yet there is almost no build up to either confrontations they have. Therefore there is no emotion when they end their relationship with Bane’s death. Nerdy Pete would tell you, their is SO much backstory that should have been explored to get us to this point (maybe in those 2 episodes Mando stole?) and without any real exploration of their relationship (aside from a scant few words), Fett’s killing of Bane, no pun intended, falls flat. Hell, Nerdy Pete would tell you Bane should probably have died years before the events of this show even happen (Nerd note: Bane had a run-in with Fett’s sidekick, Shand, back in the early days of the Empire and she had him seriously winded, I was thinking he would be dead soon after that but 30+ years later, he’s still around.)
In the end, “The Book of Boba Fett” was no “The Mandalorian”
“The Mandalorian” is a very straightforward show with a premise featuring a single dad trying to get his kid to a safer adult than himself. What’s the premise of “The Book of Boba Fett”? After a near death experience, a bounty hunter is nursed back to health by a tribe of native people, and then decides to become a mob boss who rules with respect. Somehow the finished product is less interesting than even that premise. But I still wonder how the show got made with a premise other than “The most ruthless bounty hunter in the galaxy does his job well.”
I, and especially Nerdy Pete, think that this is the Boba Fett show we deserve.
Was “The Book of Boba Fett” entertaining? Kinda? But if they had avoided all the things I pointed out above, you have to admit, it would have been better. Stay tuned for the “How I’d Write It” next week!