“The Book of Boba Fett” | How an Action Figure Comes to Life
When I was in elementary school, my favorite Star Wars toy was the R2-D2 action figure. It had more points of articulation than most of the human characters, and translucent plastic at the top and front of his domed head made it look like his little eyeball-light thing was illuminated whenever I’d shine a light on him.
Star Wars toys were at the center of a lot of playtime in my childhood. R2-D2 and the Luke Skywalker action figures (which, by the way, bear only the vaguest resemblance to Mark Hamill) were always on the lookout for Stormtroopers on top of my dresser, or hiding from bounty hunters under the desk, and sometimes plummeting from the top bunk into the chasm between the bed frame and the wall. When our family’s golden retriever chewed the leg off a Han Solo action figure, my brother stated as a matter of fact that Jabba’s rancor had done it.
There’s more creativity and imagination in a young kid’s playroom than in most Hollywood writer’s rooms.
I bring this up after watching The Book of Boba Fett, a Disney+ series on which the creatives spent $100,000,000 playing with their real-life Boba Fett action figure (Temuera Morrison, stepping into the role after playing Jango Fett in 2002). Let’s be clear: this show exists almost entirely because a portion of Star Wars fandom has been crying for nearly 40 years that Boba Fett never got enough screen time. His re-entry into Star Wars canon is meant to quiet the vocal Boba Fett enthusiasts, many of whom are the same people who whined about the sequel trilogy. A big part of this franchise’s fan base will never be happy until they see their favorite action figures recreate the adventures of their childhood imagination in live action. Thus, The Book of Boba Fett. The mysterious bounty hunter was a bit player in the original Star Wars trilogy in the early 80s, and decades later he’s front and center to… um… become a community organizer?
The actual plot of The Book of Boba Fett is almost secondary: this series is meant to be a crowd-pleaser, a chance for Boba collectors and cosplayers to see him kick some ass on the big-ish screen. It’s also world-building for the Mando-verse – cameos from the Mandalorian Din Djarin, Ahsoka Tano, Luke Skywalker, Grogu and Cad Bane are popcorn moments which also lay the foundation for future Disney+ content.
But what Boba himself wants? At least, in the 5 (out of 7) episodes he actually appears in? He wants to take Jabba the Hutt’s throne and become the crime boss in Tatooine… despite his apparent reluctance to actually commit crimes. We’re watching this notorious mercenary walk around a desert to politely ask Tatooine’s scum & villainy for their loyalty, thank you very much. It doesn’t work – both in-universe because the crooks don’t like Boba’s rules, and as a show because we have only the tiniest understanding of why Boba Fett wants to be head of the underworld.
There’s some backstory in the early episodes of The Book of Boba Fett which might explain Boba’s new pseudo-retirement in Mos Espa, the Arizona of the galaxy far, far away. After seeing him not-die in the moments immediately after “Return of the Jedi,” Boba is captured and/or rescued by the Tusken Raiders. Their hard earned mutual respect – and the tragic slaughter of Boba’s Tusken friends – is about as hefty as the character development gets on this show.
I’ll say this for the Boba Fett show – the treatment of indigenous people as more than just scary brutes is a new fresh idea for Star Wars. I’m a big fan of this move to show familiar people(s) not just to please fans but to challenge their preconceived notions of them. Heck, the way this show treats the Tuskens approaches actual commentary about real world issues – although summarily killing them for impact continues Hollywood’s bad trend of making spectacle out of indigenous and minority communities’ suffering.
But I digress. This is supposed to be a show about badass dudes effing stuff up, right? And it kind of delivers on that, although some of the pacing and blocking in the direction feels clunky. And sure, cynics are treating this show as nothing more than The Mandalorian season 2.5 – a workaround to get Grogu back with his adoptive father before starting Mando’s season 3 adventures. But I’m an optimist (and recovering snark addict). Let’s look at the bright side: I’m truly happy for the kids who grew up with Boba Fett as their favorite action figure. How cool that that a mega-corporation built a TV show specifically to please them. But this is Star Wars, and I’m sure many were left disappointed that the story didn’t go the way they’d imagined it way back when.
That’s Star Wars for ya. 🤷♂️
Either way, I fear this show is NOT great news for the people who want NEW stuff. We now have extensively covered the eras of this galaxy between each of the trilogies, and even between individual movies, but always anchored with the same handful of characters. It’s starting to feel once again that we aren’t allowed to have new stories in Star Wars without the people and places we met decades ago.
Since Disney acquired LucasFilm 10 years ago, Star Wars has been like an over-the-hill rocker on tour. Just like McCartney, the Stones, or Elton John, we’ve seen the franchise break ground with new and exciting concepts (broom boy in “The Last Jedi” demonstrating that the Force is strong in all of us), play some of the greatest hits for the casual fans (Darth Vader’s brutality in “Rogue One”), and even serve some groovy riffs from the deep cuts that the diehard fans love best (Ahsoka Tano mentioning Thrawn is gonna go over the heads of anyone who didn’t watch Star Wars: Rebels but delight people who did). If you can balance those contingents, you can sell out arenas for the better part of a century. It’s why we’re still talking about Star Wars; it’s why our kids will still be talking about Star Wars.
There’s stuff to like in The Book of Boba Fett which could make the next era of Star Wars exciting. Timothy Olyphant’s marshal Cobb Vanth is intriguing – a righteous cowboy who has to make a deal with shady characters to save his townspeople from even shadier characters. Boba’s reluctance to rule could set up the ascension of his lieutenant Fennec Shand, who frankly has more street cred and on-screen charisma than her partner anyway. And exploring the cultures of non-human species is fun, and I hope they do more of it.
And yeah, I hope they do fewer CGI-voice deepfakes of original trilogy favorites. I hope we eventually get a project in the Star Wars universe where no Skywalkers appear. And I hope we see a little less of Tatooine once the Obi-Wan Kenobi project is done.
But then again, there are a lot of action figures out there which people want to play with again. And with a zillion dollar budget, there’s no limit to the possibilities. There are plenty of stories to tell for each figure in the galaxy far, far away – old and (hopefully) new. Fans are lucky that a colossal studio is willing to bring those stories to life. All it takes is a little imagination.