“From the Desert Comes a Stranger”
So whatever is the point of The Book of Boba Fett? Purported to be a spin-off of The Mandalorian, it has effectively transformed itself over two episodes into simply being more of it. This sixth episode is dominated wall-to-wall with characters from The Mandalorian, follows up on plot threads in The Mandalorian, and for the second week in a row does not functionally feature Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) at all. Remember the bottom line of reviewing: what is the artist attempting to do, and do they succeed in that goal? Had you asked what creator Jon Favreau was trying to do two weeks ago, and I would have said he was making a science fiction drama about bounty hunter Boba Fett’s path from bounty hunter to crime lord. Ask me now and I honestly wouldn’t have an answer for you. The title seems arbitrary now. It is as if Favreau simply got bored with his own project, or that in his plans for The Mandalorian’s third season he found he had too much plot and needed to offload the first two episodes onto another series’ budget. I feel the need to strongly impress on you that the individual merits of this episode are irrelevant: this is a terrible, incompetent way to make a serialised narrative. This is honestly the worst approach to storytelling in Star Wars history – and I mean that sincerely.
Many fans will, of course, absolutely lap this episode up. It comes co-written and directed by Dave Filoni, mastermind of the popular Clone Wars, Rebels, and Bad Batch animated series. It features several of his most popular characters including Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) and blue-faced bounty hunter Cad Bane (Dorian Kingi and voice actor Corey Burton). Most exciting of all, it features the return of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill – sort of), digitally de-aged as he was in the Mandalorian Season 2 finale.
It is an exceptional piece of visual effects. It does not convincingly work all the time, but from shot to shot there are moments when you would swear Hamill’s performance was filmed in the mid-1980s. It triggers a deep-seeded love for the original Star Wars trilogy, essentially a nostalgic dopamine hit that feels exciting and heartwarming in equal measure. It helps that Skywalker’s scenes, in which he trains the young Grogu (‘Baby Yoda’) in the ways of the Jedi, feel particularly strong and emotionally effective. Grogu was never this interesting in The Mandalorian. The interactions between Luke and Ahsoka also feel deeply satisfying, and hint at more scenes together in the future.
That was my immediate reaction after watching the episode. Since then I have been reading about how they put the young Hamill together on screen, and I can’t deny it is troubling stuff. While there is a physical actor underneath the CGI, it isn’t Hamill – and thanks to an audio algorithm it is not even Hamill’s actual voice. It is impressive technology, but it seems a creatively poor one – do we need to revisit Luke Skywalker like this? Is a simulation of a human being genuinely preferable to a different live actor cast into the role? There is a lot to unpack and consider here, not in the least the ethical considerations once the original actor passes away.
Back on Tatooine, the episode re-introduces Mandalorian character Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant) as he considers a request to help Fett from the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal). He is a good character. Had he been approached by Fett directly – or even Fett’s majordomo Fennec (Ming-Na Wen) – it would have seemed a good continuation of the main plot. Tied into the other series’ characters and it feels separated and frustrating.
This series is a mess. There is no excuse for it either. There are no set numbers of episodes required for a broadcast schedule any more. There are no network-mandated deadlines on when a season should premiere and when it should end. No one has to wait for ‘sweeps’ any more. Television producers these days have creative freedom as well as time. Whatever has happened behind the scenes of The Book of Boba Fett, it has staggered badly – and depending on what happens in next week’s season finale it has damaged the series irreparably. This is incompetent storytelling. It is ‘weaksauce’. This is the continuing collapse of Star Wars as a quality proposition, abandoning the mainstream audience in favour of strings of fan-pleasing nonsense.