Happy New Year! May 2022 bring health, happiness, and light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
Today you'll find some further thoughts on The Book of Boba Fett, which premiered on Disney+ on December 29, with new episodes appearing every Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. UTC until the release of the seventh and final episode is released on February 9.
For those of you who haven’t seen the first episode, don't worry: no spoilers below, just some ways of thinking about what’s at stake in the series.
COWBOYS AND GANGSTERS
From the evidence of the trailers and the first episode of the series, The Book of Boba Fett renews and deepens the investment of Star Wars in the genre of the Hollywood Western, while adding to a genre that was first introduce to Star Wars live-action cinematic storytelling in Solo: A Star Wars Story(2018): the gangster film. But where Solo was essentially a heist-story with underworld elements, BBF promises a more complete exploration of the gangster genre.
For fans with acute eyes and ears, Fett's return was teased in the first season of The Mandalorian in the fifth episode, which was called “The Gunslinger.” At the very end of the episode, the master assassin Fennec Shand (played by Ming-Na Wen) has apparently been left for dead in the deserts sands of the planet Tatooine, once the home of both Anakin and Luke Skywalker. A mysterious figure approaches Shand’s corpse during the night: we see only the bottom of a cape and booted legs; we hear the sound of spurs. Sharp-eared fans remembered that when Fett walks after Darth Vader on Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back, we hear the sound of spurs. Ben Burtt, the sound designer on Empire, explains why in the Disney+ documentary Under the Helmet: “I jokingly said at one point, ‘Well, if Boba Fett is a bounty hunter, why can’t he wear spurs like we hear in the Westerns?’ Although I said it half-jokingly, [sound editor] Bob Rutledge, who was in charge of the foley, actually took my suggestion of spurs and did foley footsteps for Boba.”
In Lucasfilm: Filmmaking, Philosophy, and the Star Wars Universe, I discuss the influence of the Hollywood Western (which might be considered a kind of shared universe) on the use of melodrama in Star Wars, and I'll have more to say about it in the next newsletter, when we have seen a few more episodes of BBF. For now, let's just say that while producer Dave Filoni makes the connection between Fett and the protagonists of Sergio Leone’s “Spaghetti Westerns,” I'd suggest also thinking about the revisionist Western A Man Called Horse, starring Richard Harris, which was released in 1970, seven years before the first Star Wars film.
Meanwhile, midway through the official trailer for the series, released at the beginning of November, we are shown title cards that say “Every galaxy … has an underworld." (The cards are cued up below.)
Fans know that Star Wars: Underworld was the working title of a live-action series that George Lucas described in 2005 during Star Wars Celebration III. At the time, the series was intended to take place between Episodes III and IV of the Skywalker Saga. According to the fan wiki Wookieepedia, “Over the next few years, a variety of writers were hired, over fifty scripts were written and art designers worked on visualizing Lucas's ideas. However, in 2010, Lucas announced that the series was on hold due to budget constraints.”
Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, combined with the advent of video streaming, have now made such Star Wars series viable, and now we have an underworld series (set after Episode VI) that may well have been worth the 16-year wait. BBF is yet another example of the way in which next-generation Lucasfilm storytellers are mining the Star Wars past to create its future. As I point out in Lucasfilm, the now de-canonized “Legends” novels and comics now serve as the kind of archetypal sources for next-gen Lucasfilm that Joseph Campbell's comparative mythology provided for Lucas. BBF suggests that we should also add unrealized Star Wars projects to that list.
I'll have more to say about the gangster film as well in future newsletters, including discussions of the way in which gangsters have been portrayed in the various animated television series as well as new comic books from Marvel.
FROM DIWALI TO NEW YEAR'S
By Bhrigu Bhatra
When I first watched Return of the Jedi as a wee boy, I thought the celebration at the end was a version of Diwali—you know, a party with gigantic (specifically, Death Star) levels of fireworks, celebrating the triumph of good over evil, and more importantly, the hope of a new beginning as the god king Rama returns from exile to the city that eagerly awaits him. As I grew up, that notion slowly changed, and I saw it as more reminiscent of the New Year festivities that began last night all over the globe. I think that shift in perspective signals a shift in the way I read Star Wars and engage with it, and that matters especially with the release of The Book of Boba Fett.
Part of the shift can be explained by my greater immersion in Anglo-American culture, which helped me understand more of what Star Wars was trying to symbolize. That shift from Diwali to New Year removed some of the holiness and mythic sheen from the ROTJ celebrations, and made it much more fallible, more human. It helped me realize that the hope of a new beginning will not translate into a better future in the real world or even in the galaxy that has the Force.
That shift certainly helped me understand why Luke in The Last Jedi is not the perfect wise man that many fans (including me) expected him to be. What it did thankfully was help to divert me from the main saga of the Skywalker family, to find myself again in the Star Wars universe. Not as a powerful Force user like my childhood fantasies, but someone trying to make their way in the galaxy. For me, that has meant getting invested in another Star Wars family, the Fetts.
Boba’s return in the series as potential godfather of Tatooine after his exile in a Sarlacc’s stomach excites me terribly. He’s the coolest non Force-user around! And I’m wondering again if wee Bhrigu saw something in the Diwali connection that older me forgot, and if that brought back some more of the Star Wars magic, this time in a banged up green helmet.
Next Issue: Martin Luther King Day
For further discussion of Star Wars and my book Lucasfilm: Filmmaking, Philosophy, and the Star Wars Universe (Bloomsbury), check out the following: