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‘The Book of Boba Fett’ Review: Disney’s Latest ‘Star Wars’ Story Touts Some Impressive Chapters, But Loses Focus of its Greater Narrative

Temuera Morrison and Ming-Na Wen in "The Book of Boba Fett."
Temuera Morrison and Ming-Na Wen in "The Book of Boba Fett." By Courtesy of Disney+
By Kieran J. Farrell, Contributing Writer

This review contains spoilers for Season One of “The Book of Boba Fett” and Season Two of “The Mandalorian.”

The Book of… who now?

With the conclusion of the second season of “The Mandalorian” in Dec. 2020, viewers were made aware that a spin-off series starring one of “Star Wars”’s most popular characters, Boba Fett, was in the works at Disney+. Long thought to have been killed in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi,” the broody bounty hunter made a triumphant return to the screen nearly 40 years later in “The Mandalorian.” Given the massive popularity of “The Mandalorian” and Boba Fett’s status as a pop culture icon, it seemed like a natural move for Disney and Lucasfilm to expand on Boba’s story. Despite the character’s popularity, though, many forget that he only ever had roughly five minutes of screentime in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, so this was also a prime opportunity to pair his cultural prowess with an appropriately powerful narrative. It’s ultimately disappointing, then, to see that this narrative falls far short of what it could have been, and to realize that this didn’t only happen by chance — rather, it was a creative choice. “The Book of Boba Fett” opts to function as a mere vehicle for the overarching trajectory of “The Mandalorian,” and the byproduct is a series that contains a few excellent episodes but tells a story that ultimately feels incomplete.

“The Book of Boba Fett” aims to simultaneously tackle two timelines: one that catches us up with everything that happened to Boba since “Return of the Jedi” and one that continues his story following season two of “The Mandalorian.” In this later timeline, he assumes the throne of Mos Espa on the planet Tatooine, a role once held by ruthless crime lord Jabba the Hutt. The show’s split-timeline structure never quite finds its groove, though, as there’s no apparent pattern for the amount of focus each timeline receives in a given episode, and this imbalance makes the timelines feel a bit disjointed. This weakness might also be seen as an ironic microcosm for the show as a whole, in the sense that the balance of its overall story is disturbed by Chapters 5 and 6. In any case, the show’s earlier timeline consistently proves to be more intriguing, as it immediately confronts the most pressing question raised by Boba’s return: How exactly did he escape the Sarlacc, the slimy sandworm that supposedly killed him? The sequence that gives us the answer is at once a wonderful expansion of classic “Star Wars” lore and a triumph of visual effects portraying the gory guts of the Sarlacc in ways that were unimaginable in 1983. And, most importantly, it’s a sequence that initiates Boba’s reformative transition from cold-blooded killer to respectful ruler.

Boba’s character is handled best amid his journey of recovery in the earlier timeline. Though he doesn’t speak the language of the Tusken Raiders, the desert-dwelling tribe that takes him in, Boba evidently experiences a slow-burn assimilation to their way of life beneath the blistering twin suns of Tatooine. Temuera Morrison, who originally played the role of Jango Fett in 2002’s “Attack of the Clones,” makes a masterful transition to becoming Jango’s son, as Boba’s ever-pensive demeanor particularly shines in sequences with the Tusken Raiders that feature little dialogue. The penchant for trust and belonging instilled in him by the Tuskens clearly influences his perspective in the main timeline, as he emphasizes the following to his companion, Fennec Shand: “Jabba ruled with fear. I intend to rule with respect.”

Unfortunately, the main timeline’s directionless plot doesn’t give Boba anything meaningful to do with this newfound development. From Chapters 1 to 4, Boba largely just strolls through the streets of Mos Espa and confronts issues that feel unthreatening from a narrative standpoint, while the implied main conflict involves the unsanctioned operations of a crime syndicate — the Pykes — but no clear central villain. This messiness only devolves further in Chapter 5, when Boba’s story is utterly relegated to the background. Oh, and something else about Chapter 5? It’s the best one in the series.

“Chapter 5: Return of the Mandalorian” does exactly what its title suggests, showcasing the chrome-plated, fan-favorite character last seen in the season two finale of his own series. This standout chapter offers a satisfying mix of action-packed bounty-hunting business and an interrogation of the feelings beneath Mando’s rarely-removed helmet. Pedro Pascal, who has donned Mando’s glistening armor since the character’s debut in 2019, continues to impress, given that his role requires him to work with nothing more than his voice and body language. His struggle in coping with his recent departure from his foundling son Grogu (better known as “Baby Yoda”) is the most gut-wrenching piece of storytelling “The Book of Boba Fett” has to offer, and it ironically has nothing to do with the series’ main character. This flaw only makes itself more obvious in Chapter 6, which, for much of its runtime, whisks us away to the gorgeous greenery of the planet on which Luke is training Grogu. In bringing back more fan-favorite characters and hitting on all the right story beats between master and apprentice, Chapter 6 makes it easy to forget that this series is even supposed to be about Boba Fett.

Chapter 6’s best attempt at salvaging the series’ story is its introduction of Cad Bane (Corey Burton), a bounty hunter made popular by the animated television series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” In revealing himself to be working with the Pykes, the volatile Bane indicates that he’d rather remain a hired gun than make a lifestyle change similar to Boba’s, and he finally provides the crime syndicate with a presence that feels significant. It likely would’ve done wonders for the series to have teased him in an earlier chapter, but Cad Bane’s transition to live-action is still executed well, as it’s incredible to once again encounter the threatening blood-red eyes and chilling growl of this dastardly space cowboy.

Ultimately, though Chapters 5 and 6 contain some of the series’ best individual storytelling, they also represent its most gaping narrative problem:These chapters serve the future of “The Mandalorian” well, but “The Book of Boba Fett” most definitely does not benefit from this critical departure from its story. The series finale does well to focus on the ideological conflicts and eventual face-off between Boba Fett and Cad Bane, but none of it feels fully deserved. Chapter 7 instead exemplifies the series’ overall tendency of being just a bit behind the ball in fleshing out everything it needs to, while its highlight is rather an action-packed team-up between Boba and Mando. The two characters’ jetpacks and shining suits of armor are glorious in tandem, but this unfortunately isn’t enough to rescue the series from its narrative dilemma.

In the end, it’s perhaps best to remember that Boba Fett was only on screen for a few short minutes in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, yet he still became nothing short of a cultural icon. It’s fittingly ironic, then, that the best parts of his own television series are the ones that barely feature him at all.

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