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Book of Boba Fett review: Fun Star Wars thrills, but where's the mystery?

Star Wars fans have waited a long time to see Boba Fett as the star of the show, but has The Mandalorian stolen his thunder?

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
4 min read
Unmasked Boba Fett in The Book of Boba Fett
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Unmasked Boba Fett in The Book of Boba Fett

Boba Fett unmasked.

Lucasfilm

Boba Fett was one of the most-loved and most-awesome Star Wars characters for decades, even though we knew next to nothing about him -- in fact, because we knew next to nothing about him. All we knew from the original movies was that he had a wicked cool helmet and he was Darth Vader's go-to guy. How badass do you have to be to do stuff that's too sketchy for Darth frickin' Vader?

But that irresistible air of mystery was before the prequels, the cartoons and most recently The Mandalorian all lifted the helmet. Now that he has his own show, The Book of Boba Fett, we know pretty much everything about the dude. And what's more, those two rock-solid certainties on which decades of fan worship were built -- his cool helmet and his utter badassness -- are both gone.

Episode 1 of The Book of Boba Fett, Stranger In A Strange Land, is streaming now on Disney Plus . It's only the first half hour of a seven-episode series. It's a lot of fun, but it's yet to demonstrate why there's still more to be written in this particular character's book.

Missing (presumed digested) since 1983's Return of the Jedi, former galactic bounty hunter Boba Fett returned in Disney Plus' series The Mandalorian (watch season 2 episode 6 to see how that played out). Upon first striding from some rocks, this hooded figure was mistaken for a Jedi. Which is kind of a cruel thing to say to Boba, who inherited the famous helmet from his father Jango Fett when Jedi master Mace Windu knocked it off Jango's shoulders (with his head still inside). But more importantly, Boba Fett is no longer the faceless, amoral manhunter stalking the spaceways motivated only by galactibucks. In The Mandalorian we saw the adult Fett as a real person for the first time, bare-headed and fighting hand-to-hand and, perhaps most surprisingly, pledging to honor a deal that involved protecting a bounty rather than chasing one.

In the opening chapter of The Book of Boba Fett, we see Boba in an even more human and vulnerable state. He's healing from years of physical abuse, some of which is shown in flashback as the show answers its biggest question right up front. In a way, the answer to that long-dangling mystery isn't really important -- and it turns out, it's also reliant on a whopping stroke of luck. But what is clear is that the Boba Fett who plunged into the gaping maw of the Sarlacc isn't the same man we see in this show. He's every bit as tough (apart from getting mugged by some Jawas) but also looks to collaborate with others as he goes in search of... well, something?

Cut to years later and we pick up where The Mandalorian left off, with Fett and sidekick Fennec Shand taking over as  Tatooine's latest local crime kingpins. But Fett is determined to be more than just a new boss, same as the old boss. He rewards loyalty and does his best to show he's a man of the people, even if it leaves him open to getting his ass kicked in the street. The years have taken their toll, and while it's fun to watch even an ageing gunslinger go to work, it's clear he's even less the ruthless baddie first seen in The Empire Strikes Back (the guy who, let's not forget, had to be told to cool it with the murdering by Darth lightsaber-slicey Vader).

The Western-inspired storyline moves at a rollicking pace and is laced with great action (including a thrilling piece of Ray Harryhausen-inspired monster design), which is probably all anyone really needs from a Star Wars show. But Disney often drops the first two episodes of a new series at the same time, and Book of Boba Fett could have benefitted from showing just a little more of its hand to justify what it is and why it's essential that Fett is the star.

Before The Mandalorian came along, all anyone could talk about was Boba Fett, and since that show became a Baby Yoda-sized hit it seems to have left the OG bounty hunter with fewer places to turn.

Book of BF isn't a show about a jaded gunfighter learning through entertaining weekly scrapes that there's more to life than bounty, because that's The Mandalorian. It isn't a show about a lone wolf revisiting his heritage, because The Mandalorian already did that too. And it can't just be another story about reconciling your father's legacy or annoying Imperials or shooting up cantinas on Tatooine, because that's all Star Wars.

I'm looking forward to being proved wrong. It would have been nice to see something a bit different than another trip to Tatooine with another armored bounty hunter, but creator Jon Favreau no doubt has some twists and turns in store. From the first episode alone it seems unlikely this will be a Star Wars version of WandaVision or Loki, two Disney Plus shows that stretched the Marvel universe in audacious and inventive directions. It looks more like Hawkeye, a fun romp across familiar territory served up in pleasingly bitesize chunks. And even if he's no longer the mystery villain with a bucket on his head, maybe there's still yet more to learn about Boba Fett. 

And ultimately, Star Wars thrills in half-hour chunks are always easy to digest. Unlike Boba Fett, right?

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