“Star Wars” fans should have figured out long ago that Disney wasn’t going to shut down the assembly line for “new content” in this timeworn “galaxy far far away.” Not until someone — ANYone — said, “All right, that’s enough” or “That’s going too far.”
The problem with series and movies designed as undemanding, predigested comfort food is that “going too far” never enters into it.
Thus we come to more mining of the corners, back-stories and “further adventures of” this surprisingly confining universe with “The Book of Boba Fett.” If there was gold to be dug up from the race of bounty hunters with the sci-fi Western “The Mandalorian,” surely there’s at least a little silver in exploring the further adventures of Boba Fett, the peripheral character/”way cool” cult figure from the original “Star Wars” trilogy who was our first look at a Mandalorian.
So creator/writer Jon Favreau and a favorite “Mandalorian” episode director, Robert Rodriguez, signed on to give the fans more of what they want, a pandering tale of indifferent performances and worn story tropes, with just enough “mystery” to keep those who can’t get enough of this stuff coming back for more.
It’s another “All Galactic Roads Lead to Tatooine” tale — crime lords and ruffians, Sand People and Jawas and skullduggery and schemes set on the desert planet that Obi Wan Kenobi hid out on, that Luke Skywalker could not wait to escape.
Here’s a fellow who looks like Greedo, the Rodian bounty hunter who thought he’d get the drop of Han Solo way back in “A New Hope.” There are two of the giant green tusked trolls called “Gamorreans,” who used to guard Jabba and the Hutts and now are hired by the new Daimyo, “crime lord,” of the crater-city of Mos Espa. That would be Boba.
“Stranger in a Strange Land,” the pilot episode meant to sell the viewer on this new series, fills us in on Boba’s recent history through flashbacks obtained via a sort of isolation tank, where he remembers an “Alien” like escape from an underworld, an emergence through the sand to be robbed by Jawas and imprisoned by Sand People and the escape he affected that must have somehow made him the Bounty Hunter turned Crime Lord we know today.
It’s fun seeing Temuera Morrison in the part, introduced in the bounty hunter helmet and suit in “The Empire Strikes Back,” re-introduced in “The Mandalorian,” and finally getting to act and perform lines with his helmet off as he does.
But what lines!
“Jabba ruled with fear. I intend to rule with respect.”
Wait, what? Isn’t that off-brand for a heartless, pitiless “race” of bounty hunters?
Morrison, who became famous thanks to the gritty Maori drama of alcoholism and abuse, “Once Were Warriors,” would seem to have nowhere to go with this character. If he’s an old softy in the opening, what are they going to do? Make him revert to pitiless form later in later episodes?
Lord Boba Fett’s got an aide de camp (Ming-Na Wen) who has funnier lines and a few more fight stunts to shine in. An insolent majordomo (David Pasquesi) shows up to collect tribute FROM He who collects tribute, Lord Boba.
“Want me to kill him?” Permission isn’t instantly granted. “Is that a ‘no‘?”
Almost everything about this pilot is perfunctory — a slow-footed ambush by parkour-trained space ninjas, assorted brawls with the club-wielding Sand People. That’s a lot of boredom crammed into 38 minutes.
Will Jennifer Beals (a “paradise” club owner who pays protection money) have a bigger role to play?
A pilot doesn’t necessary foretell an entire series, but it does represent proof of concept and the “putting your best foot forward” so that the audience will tune in again rule applies.
All I got out of it was George Lucas’s old-fashioned “this race is good at playing in cantina bands (a Flamenco-flavored version of the original John Williams tune), that one is only good as body guards, those guys make great bounty hunters and Greedo-looking critters are um, greedy” has yet to be abandoned, or recognized as racism with kid-friendly training wheels on it.
It may get better as it goes along, but “Book of Boba” is starting out so stale and puerile it’s hard to see daylight and/or originality peeking through even eventually. If you’re not tired of seeing these “Star Wars” beans fried, refried, refrigerated and refried again, this must seem like a Golden Age to you. The rest of us know the only “golden” thing here is what’s spilling off the screen.
Rating: TV-14, violence
Cast: Temuera Morrison, Ming-Na, Jennifer Beals, David Pasquesi
Credits: Pilot directed by Robert Rodriguez, scripted by Jon Favreau, created by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni. A Disney+ release.
Running time: Seven episodes @ 30-40 minutes each.