I’ve never been the biggest fan of Boba Fett. Oh, I loved Star Wars as a kid and still harbor some fondness for the franchise, but I’ve never been part of the cult that thought the bounty hunter from The Empire Strikes Back was the alpha and omega of coolness. Indeed, I must admit to trolling those fans who love Boba by pointing out that their hero, the most badass bounty hunter in the galaxy far far away, was ultimately defeated by a blind guy and died in agony after falling into a giant sand anus. This was canon.
At least, it was until Jon Favreau decided to take Patton Oswalt’s rant about how Episode VII should open from a 2013 Parks and Recreation episode and made it reality. Which brings us, after a detour through two seasons of The Mandalorian, to The Book of Boba Fett. And you do have to have seen Season 2 of The Mandalorian, because the only real flaw to the Book of Boba Fett’s first episode, “Stranger In A Strange Land,” is that it presumes you’re coming into it from The Mandalorian.
“Stranger In A Strange Land” is split between two stories. In the first, a largely silent flashback, we learn of how Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) escaped the Sarlacc, only to be enslaved by Tusken raiders, after his trademark armor was stolen by Jawas. In the second, we follow Fett and his new majordomo, the assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), as they lay claim to the territory once claimed by Jabba the Hutt. Fett’s new rule does not go unopposed, however, and someone is gunning for the newly minted crime boss.
Robert Rodriguez presents all this at a surprisingly sedate pace, allowing Morrison to slowly show us who Boba Fett is through his actions rather than drowning us in expository dialogue or big action sequences. While this seems to have offended the aforementioned Boba Fett cultists (who I think wanted a Book of Boba Fett series that played out like a certain Robot Chicken sketch) I personally found Rodriguez’s approach to Jon Favareau’s script far more engaging. I particularly liked the opening scene, in which Rodriguez pays homage to the opening of John Milius’s Conan The Barbarian, and the tribute to Ray Harryhausen near the end of the flashback sequence. Favareau’s script also contains more than a few nods to the classic science fiction and fantasy that inspired Star Wars. (What? You thought the title “Stranger In A Strange Land” was a coincidence?)
It’s clear that Favareau is building toward something big with The Book of Boba Fett, though this opening chapter does precious little to take advantage of its cast beyond allowing Ming-Na Wen a chance to fight ninjas. Jennifer Beals is also introduced as a Twi’lek madam, but her appearance amounts to little more than a cameo. Still, I enjoyed this first episode of The Book of Boba Fett far more than I thought I would given my antipathy for the character and I’m looking forward to what comes next.