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‘The Book of Boba Fett’ Episode 1 Review: “Stranger in a Strange Land”

The Book of Boba Fett's first episode sets the stage for a rather rocky start, with a terribly unfocused and disjointed framing device.

*Warning: This piece may contain spoilers for episode one of The Book of Boba Fett*

After a past few Marvelous (pun intended) weeks in the world of the MCU with the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home and episode six of Hawkeye, with the former marking the first time a movie hits one billion dollars at the box-office since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hype for the latest Star Wars show, The Book of Boba Fett, has been pretty much nonexistent. Granted, I know a few that are unabashedly excited at seeing the first spin-off out of The Mandalorian (with the fact that it promises to deepen the legend of Boba Fett and explore him for the first time), but the chatter on the show on social media has been rather quiet. Of course, the premiere event was canceled due to the Omicron Variant of COVID-19, but that shouldn’t prevent Disney+ and Lucasfilm from promoting the series and getting Star Wars fans excited at the sight of a proper Boba Fett spinoff.

Read: New Boba Fett & Fennec Shand Poster Prefaces Premiere

From what I’ve gathered, Disney has not sent out any screeners to critics for this series, which feels rather unusual considering the fact that the studio usually loves to prepare word-out-mouth for their event films and series before they’re released to the public. It doesn’t help that the first (and only) trailer for the series barely revealed anything, shrouding the entire series in mystery. No one knows what it’s really about, with Disney essentially telling viewers to tune in and find out! And now that the first episode of The Book of Boba Fett is out, I still don’t know what it’s about or what it wants to say on the legendary Bounty Hunter.

Temuera Morrison plays the titular character with so much brute force he practically saves the entire episode from being a total dud. One scene where he and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) battle against a group of thieves immediately recalls his brutality in episode six of The Mandalorian‘s second season, and it rules. But that moment doesn’t overshadow the feeling that this series will be yet another disjointed and unfocused venture into the expanded universe of Star Wars. And as much as I love the franchise, I still can’t get over the idea that most Star Wars series mostly serve as an excuse to name-drop (and showcase) as many characters of the extended universe as possible, with very little plot engagement to keep the series going.

(L-R): Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) and Boba Fett (Temura Morrison) in Lucasfilm's THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT, exclusively on Disney+. © 2021 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

When The Mandalorian premiered, we knew exactly what the series was going to be about as soon as it revealed Grogu to the public. With The Book of Boba Fett, it’s hard to tell exactly what the show will be about, or what it’ll mean for the future of the franchise. It begins with an elongated flashback that (disappointingly) shows how Boba got out of the Sarlacc pit (sometimes, things are better left unexplained) and is left for dead by Jawas who steal his equipment. There’s this incessant obsession that Star Wars spinoffs (and prequels) do by trying to virtually explain everything that happened to the character. Remember that terrible scene in Solo: A Star Wars Story, where the audience learned how the “Solo” from Han came from? Yeah, sometimes we do not need to know everything. The fact that Boba got out of the Sarlacc pit should’ve always been a mystery. I mean, he’s Boba Fett, after all! The most badass Bounty Hunter in film history, who had very little screentime and yet lifted any scene he was in because he looked so damn cool. What comes after is entertaining enough, but the mystery of Boba Fett starts to dissipate itself in favor of humanizing a Bounty Hunter that doesn’t need to be humanized.

Now that may be bad fan expectations on my part, and The Last Jedi (AKA the best Star Wars movie ever, sorry, not sorry) taught us all to keep our expectations in check, but when a show wants to explain things that do not need explaining, it seems as though it’ll only be filling time for the sake of filling time. That being said, when Boba gets rescued by Tusken Raiders, the episode does pick up some steam and has a few beautifully shot moments that make it the most stunning Star Wars live-action series yet. I wasn’t the biggest fan of how Episode 6 of The Mandalorian looked. Robert Rodriguez is [in]famously known for being a “one-man army” when it comes to directing, writing, shooting, scoring, and editing his movies. And most of his films don’t look very good as a result. Episode six of The Mandalorian had all of the characteristics of a quick and cheap Rodriguez film. To some, it’s incredible to see Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni give free rein to Rodriguez and allow him to flex his one-man army muscles, but it didn’t “fit” the aesthetic that every other filmmaker established in previous episodes.

(Center): Jennifer Beals in a scene from Lucasfilm's THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT, exclusively on Disney+. © 2021 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

So it’s a relief to see Rodriguez taking his time here, through staggering shots of the Tatooine desert. When the Tusken Raiders arrive in a sandstorm, Denis Villeneuve’s opening shots of Dune come to mind, and it’s as beautifully shot as that movie. The Desert looks vast and completely clear, while the scorching twin suns bring literal physical torture for Fett as he digs for water with his own two hands. The flashback scenes climax in a battle between a Ray Harryhausen-like creature that isn’t as epic as Rodriguez would make it out to be, but gives more brutality to the character that was initially reintroduced in The Mandalorian‘s last season.

The acting isn’t the problem here. Morrison and Ming-Na Wen have great chemistry together, though the show doesn’t seem interested in developing their respective relationship, and there are a few fun appearances from David Pasquiesi and Jennifer Beals. But the series looks like it’s not going to go anywhere plot-wise and only expand the universe of The Mandalorian before Pedro Pascal’s Din Djarin inevitably cameos and sets up the [real] third season of the series. Some will criticize my feelings towards Star Wars’ unconfidence in doing something truly original for once and stop relying on characters from the expanded universe all the time, while I’m praising the MCU for doing the exact same thing Star Wars is doing, but there’s one difference. The MCU doesn’t use cameos, or old characters for the sake of cameos and getting people excited for the next film or series. These characters are only integrated into their films/series if the story supports their inclusion. That’s why Kingpin in Hawkeye worked, or the Wakandans in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Their appearances made sense because they served the story.

The Book of Boba Fett doesn’t seem to have a story and will likely spend time filling in the gaps with an unfocused “past” story on what happened with Boba Fett after Return of the Jedi, and what’s happening to him now, after The Mandalorian Season 2. That sounds cool, but it would be better if the flashbacks served the “present moments”, and vice-versa, but it doesn’t seem to be the case so far. Of course, I don’t want to jump the gun just yet and give the series its time to establish itself before making any strong judgments, but I’m not impressed so far, and I will not hide it. Let’s see what Chapter Two has in store for us next week…

Episode One of The Book of Boba Fett is now streaming on Disney+.

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