‘The Book of Boba Fett’ Opens a New Chapter for a Classic ‘Star Wars’ Character

The Book of Boba Fett” confirms that television might be the best place to let “Star Wars” nostalgia keep on thriving. Following the success of “The Mandalorian,” this Disney Plus series brings back a fan favorite while bridging new ideas with endless nods to the past. Boba Fett is the helmeted galactic bounty hunter who made an enigmatic debut in “The Empire Strikes Back,” when Darth Vader froze Han Solo in a block of carbonite and sold him off to sluggish gangster Jabba the Hutt. Like many other “Star Wars” characters that began with such minor but colorful roles, Boba Fett has kept evolving over the decades in spinoff novels, short stories and the prequel movies. After being included in the storyline of “The Mandalorian,” now the character comes full circle into his own series. 

Like “The Mandalorian,” this new show is also the creation of Jon Favreau, who maintains the style of a sci-fi Western. With the kind of Biblical titling you’d expect in a Sergio Leone movie, the season premiere, “Chapter 1: Stranger in a Strange Land,” opens not in the present, but right after the events of the third “Star Wars” movie, “Return of the Jedi.” You may recall Fett had fallen into the jaws of a “sarlacc” in the Great Pit of Carkoon during Luke Skywalker’s rescue of Princess Leia. We reunite with Fett (Temuera Morrison) as he’s literally being digested by the sarlacc (along with some unlucky Storm Troopers). With a flamethrower built into his armor, Fett frees himself and crawls out of the sandy prison. The narrative then cuts back and forth between his post-digestion odyssey and the present, where Fett has taken over the criminal enterprise on the desert planet Tatooine that once belonged to Jabba, following the events of “The Mandalorian.” He’s getting to know the territory with his right hand, assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen). Fett soon learns that being a crime lord is tricky since those who don’t fear you will then easily try to kill you.

“Stranger In a Strange Land” is directed by Robert Rodriguez, who knows how to do modern Westerns with “Desperado” and “From Dusk Till Dawn” in his resume. He likes desert vistas and wide shots that show off the immensity of the world Fett is trying to survive in. But this is a Disney production where product control is tight, so in terms of overall style, “The Book of Boba Fett” announces itself as an enjoyable bit of fan service and slick entertainment. For “Star Wars” fans there are plenty of favorites all around. When Fett gets out of the sarlacc’s stomach he is practically mugged by Jawas and picked up by Tusken raiders. Such moments have a fun, comedic Western feel. Fett is tied up by campfires and then proves himself by helping the Tuskens fight off a massive desert beast. A sly storytelling device to explain why we’re being told this information involves Fett dreaming it all while resting inside a liquid healing chamber. 

One of the quirky pleasures of “Star Wars” is walking around its world. Fett and Shand become our guides through Mos Espa, the Tatooine town that was once Jabba the Hutt’s base of operations. Plenty of winks are strewn all around for George Lucas disciples, including a cantina where an alien band plays a slowed down version of the tune from the joint where Luke and Obi-Wan wander into in the 1977 movie. Favreau’s script also pokes fun at old gangster movie clichés. Locals render “tribute” to Fett as the new gangland boss except the mayor, who sends a goofy emissary, who has to explain to Fett that it is he who must pay off the mayor. For a bounty hunter Fett is actually a rather calm guy and wishes to rule through respect. Those flashbacks to his time among the Tuskens suggest he was humbled by surviving the desert and an alien pit’s digestive system. By the end of the season premiere Fett faces a new challenge when assassins sent by unknown enemies try to kill him in an intense street ambush. Of course, he and Shand make it out alive, but now have to get tougher to solidify their power.

What exactly “The Book of Boba Fett” will reveal about Boba Fett will unspool during the rest of the season. As a fresh entry in the “Star Wars” Disney canon, this is another enjoyable pastime. Temuera Morrison has the rugged look fit for a space Western and Ming-Na Wen is a perfect teammate with her combination of friendliness and icy killer stare. The production design doesn’t need the big flashiness of other sci-fi shows because since this is a space Western, Tatooine is an ideal setting with its vast sand dunes and dusty, gritty towns. We are definitely living in an age of franchise overkill, yet Disney has found a good formula for serializing “Star Wars” into something recognizable but fresh. Boba Fett doesn’t need an entire movie. He is the perfect kind of outlaw we can follow for a few episodes, dodging death, thieves and hungry critters in a galaxy far, far away.

The Book of Boba Fett” season one begins streaming Dec. 29 with new episodes premiering Wednesdays on Disney+.