Disney’s The Book of Boba Fett recently completed its 7-episode run after debuting with a whisper, and departing with a dull groan. In fact, of all the Star Wars properties to date, it’s one of the lowest ranked in terms of critical praise and viewership. A lot went wrong with this spinoff series, and it’s going to cast a long shadow over Disney’s Star Wars universe moving forward.
The most disappointing aspect of The Book of Boba Fett was how far it fell from the Mandalorian tree, to the point of being almost unrecognizable. The story starts out where the post-credits season 2 Mandalorian scene left off, with Fett having slaughtered Bib Fortuna to claim ownership of Jabba the Hutt’s palace.
The story got off to a rather rocky start by emulating Arrow’s much-maligned flashback sequences in an attempt to paint a picture of how he got to where he was. In reality, there was only one scene that could be considered required viewing – Fett’s escape from the Sarlacc pit.
Unfortunately, audiences were forced to endure four enormously plodding back-to-back episodes showing Fett on a quest to gain the trust of a Tusken Raider clan, shoot up some swoop bikers, and fashion himself a combat staff. In so doing, the show relegated the modern plot arc to the backburner, and derailed the narrative in the process.
Things immediately changed when episode 5 brought back Mandalorian protagonist Din Djarin, as well as several supporting characters from that show. It was akin to slapping a pair of defibrillator paddles on a dying corpse, and jolting it back to a stable heart rhythm. The patient wasn’t out of the woods, but at least he was breathing.
However, this created an entirely new set of problems, not the least of which was the fact that Djarin had effectively hijacked Boba Fett’s own show right out from under him. What was shown on screen was great, and migrated successfully over to episode 6, but it could no longer be referred to as The Book of Boba Fett.
The final episode had its moments, but it wasn’t enough to turn the tide of what had essentially been a failed experiment on the part of Disney’s Star Wars agenda. With several more spinoff shows already in production, this gaffe effectively sets Disney back to the turbulent days of The Rise of Skywalker, an unenviable position at best.
The reason why The Book of Boba Fett failed is because its titular character took center stage. Fett is a great supporting character, and works best within that particular framework. Give him the lead role, and he loses all his mystery and charisma. Fett is the physical manifestation of the “never meet your heroes” quip, and that becomes clear early on.
By depicting Fett attempting to turn over a new leaf, series creator Jon Favreau and his team robbed him of his cool factor, and the damage is now permanent. Fett was a notorious bounty hunter with a set of ethics and principles, but he was altogether ruthless. That’s why audiences gravitated so much to him.
His return in The Mandalorian was handled gracefully, albeit slightly imperfect at times, because audiences never knew what his next move would be. Perhaps he’d return to the bounty hunting business, or decide to retire in infamy after his brush with death. Turning him into a distinguished anti-hero, however, was a bridge too far.
It was Favreau’s attempt to leverage a mega-popular Star Wars character in an attempt to craft a profitable show off his back, but it turned out to be a costly mistake. The lesson, as always, is to never, ever elevate a supporting character like Fett, because there isn’t enough there to handle the weight of an entire narrative.
Consider for a moment if the main plot of the show had been injected as an episodic story into say, the third or fourth season of The Mandalorian. There, Fett would have gotten screen time while remaining a supporting character, requiring the production team to carefully and wisely limit his on screen presence.
In so doing, the entire story could have been wrapped up in three episodes (tops), and that would have been that. There’s a reason why Favreau had to import Din Djarin and Grogu into the show, and it had everything to do with providing filler for a story that was positively anemic on its own.
It’s even difficult to pen a review of the season at all, given how little story there actually is. When it’s boiled down to its core elements, the show tells the story of Fett gaining a political foothold on Mos Espa, while battling illegal spice runners who want to plug their trade.
That’s it. Literally.
Of course, attempts were made to use the aforementioned flashbacks as a way to weave together a story, but it’s not a very good one. In fact, it’s downright bland, and the decision to try and inject it with new elements rarely pays off. Sometimes, those elements that do make the cut end up as wasted opportunities.
Take the appearance of Black Krrsantan, Chewbacca’s frightening mirror image, who debuted on screen as one of the coolest new characters in Star Wars, hot off a successful comic book intro. The character was a spectacular scene-stealer, but the writers never really figured out how to utilize him to his greatest potential.
Then there’s the matter of the cyborg swoop bikers who Fett contracts out as hired muscle. They don’t serve the story in any meaningful way, and their presence feels both anachronistic, and inappropriate. These are characters who belong in Cyberpunk 2077, not Star Wars. Also, the 1950s-inspired hot color swoop bikes look foolish against the backdrop of Tatooine’s run-down, distressed architecture.
With all of these elements failing to live up to their potential, it’s no wonder the paper-thin story lacks shoulders broad enough to accommodate the weight of fan expectation. There simply isn’t a lot to get excited about, no matter how glitzy the battle sequences are.
Normally, this narrative would barely be enough to cover a single episode, much less seven of them, which is why the first half of the season felt like watching paint dry, while the latter half was forced to dash in and rescue it from itself. In fact, if the Mandalorian side plot were kept out, it’s a surefire bet the show would have imploded in on itself.
As always, visual gimmicks were kept on the tool belt in order to compensate for a weak story, and there’s plenty of them here. Some of that content is good, while some of it is more transparent than Windex’ed glass. The most obvious example is the decision to bring Luke Skywalker back into the story, alongside fan favorite Grogu.
As we noted in our review of episode 6, Skywalker’s de-aging performance is light years ahead of his appearance at the end of The Mandalorian, season 2. For the time being, this is the closest fans are going to get to the “real” Luke, and it was a glorious return to form that gave him more screen time, and better fleshed out his post-ROTJ lifestyle.
However, it also hedged its bets on nostalgia, which was an ineffective smokescreen for what was really going on behind the scenes – an attempt to create a springboard for Ahsoka Tano’s standalone series. It also set up Grogu reuniting with Din Djarin, which occurs in the final episode of the season.
In short, The Book of Boba Fett was little more than a prologue for season 3 of The Mandalorian, and it showed. Jon Favreau and his team attempted to save a bag of surprises for the final episode, including an admittedly cool scene of an unleashed Rancor tearing up battle droids on the streets of Mos Espa, but it was not immune to a stumble or two.
For instance, the Rancor’s obvious homage to King Kong felt downright embarrassing, to the point of parody. This is part and parcel of a problem that has been plaguing Disney Star Wars properties for years, and it isn’t going away. For some reason, the company likes elbowing the fourth wall at every opportunity, sometimes without realizing it.
This can be glimpsed in everything from shot design, to on-set extras, many of whom looked like they were plucked from Disney’s accounting office and thrown into costume, then told to “act.” It rarely feels natural, and these little problems really are noticeable. The same goes for alien characters who speak with a “Hey, how ya’ doin'” nonchalance, which seems like it was done on purpose.
This kind of creative direction is best suited to a Pixar film, and looks absolutely trashy when held up side-by-side with iconic Star Wars classics like Empire Strikes Back.
When the show sticks to traditional Star Wars, it works. When it tries stepping outside of the boundaries of established lore, it ends up stumbling. The Mandalorian largely succeeded because it cemented its story within the confines of George Lucas’s original universe, while completely sidestepping Disney’s sequel trilogy.
However, lightning did not strike twice in this instance, and we are now left with the first live-action Star Wars show to completely miss the mark. This, at a crucial moment when fans are actively tuning out of Disney+ shows in droves, for various reasons.
Jon Favreau is going to have to take the blame for this one, seeing as how it’s his baby. He started off strong with The Mandalorian, but is it possible that the show’s success was nothing but a fluke? The next live-action Star Wars show being prepped for debut is 2022’s Obi-Wan, followed by Star Wars: Andor in (presumably) Q3, with The Mandalorian season 3 debuting sometime in the late fall.
Do any of these shows stand a chance of achieving critical or commercial acclaim? Perhaps Obi-Wan, especially with Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen reprising their roles, but it’s a safe bet that Andor will probably spiral into oblivion like an out of control TIE fighter, for the same reason that Boba Fett failed to light a cultural fire.
It would also be a remarkable coincidence if Boba Fett’s show got a second season. It’s far more probable that any future appearances by the character will be done via supporting role, which is precisely how it should have been from the beginning.
So, where does this leave Star Wars as a whole under Disney’s not-so-watchful eye? Not in a good spot, by every indication. The Mandalorian was a desperate Hail Mary for the franchise, but rather than capitalize on that formula, it appears as if Disney has once again been hobbled by its Achilles Heel – bad storytelling.
Until Lucasfilm and Disney creatives are forced to sit in a room and endure a lengthy training course on what made Star Wars the cultural phenomenon that it is, this audacious fumbling will continue. The Book of Boba Fett felt like bad fan fiction supplemented with the only ace in Disney’s sleeve at this point, but that’s not enough to take it over the finish line.
Now, the card has been played, and Disney is out of options. With Star Wars-related properties like Galaxy’s Edge, Star Wars Eclipse and The Galactic Starcruiser Hotel suffering abysmal PR, the franchise as a whole has been wedged further into the box it tried so desperately to escape from.
No more Jedi mind tricks, Disney. The jig is up, and it’s time to clean house at Lucasfilm, lest one of your most expensive franchise purchases bleeds your shareholders dry. To everyone else who grew up with Star Wars, it’s hard to picture anything but a tombstone with an epitaph reading “Here lies history, ground under the heel of corporate malfeasance.”
- Certain characters get excellent live-action debuts
- Din Djarin, Grogu & Luke Skywalker salvage the story
- Post-ROTJ nostalgia sometimes scores a win
- Boba Fett becomes a background character
- A paper-thin story with no substance
- Very odd creative decisions throughout the season