Boba Fett, the intergalactic mysterious man

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For many viewers, “Star Wars” is synonymous with characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, embodiments of the heroism and villainy whose actions have guided the course of this long-running fantasy series.

Then there are the “Star Wars” fans whose admiration runs a little deeper, to the rank of secondary characters whose intentions are not so easy to categorize and whose screen time can be measured in a matter of minutes. .

Take the case of Boba Fett, an armored mercenary introduced to most moviegoers in the 1980 “Star Wars” sequel, “The Empire Strikes Back.” In that film, he only appeared in a few scenes, as an accessory to Vader’s plot to lure Skywalker into a fateful showdown. Fett resurfaced in “Return of the Jedi” (1983), in which he suffered a quick and mortifying demise. (Or that’s what it seemed.)

Despite this, Fett holds a unique place in the collective psyche of “Star Wars” enthusiasts, who have spent years imagining his other exploits and building iconography around his austere masked face.

Now, after decades of books, games, toys, and other merchandise that have helped keep the Boba Fett cult alive, the character will be the protagonist of his own “Star Wars” tale. “The Book of Boba Fett”, a seven-part series launched on December 29 on Disney +, charts a new course for him after the events of “Return of the Jedi”.

For the folks who make “Star Wars” and the people who consume it, the culmination of Fett’s cultural journey from peripheral gamer to major franchise figure is both validating and a bit confusing.

For many, Fett’s rise illustrates how “Star Wars” has evolved over the course of its history, telling more types of stories and giving more characters their moments in the spotlight – though Fett’s particular appeal is. steeped in mystery and his identity defined primarily by reluctance and actions implied but never shown.

“It’s not so much the things Boba Fett does in the movies – it’s the things Boba Fett at done, “said Charles Soule, the author of the” Star Wars “comic book series.

“Anyone who meets Boba Fett is either intimidated by him, interested in him, or wants to use him for the toughest jobs possible,” Soule explained. “He has this incredibly vivid place in the ‘Star Wars’ galaxy outside of his screen appearances.”

Boba Fett owes its origins to a number of accidents and hazards. After the meteoric success of “Star Wars” in 1977, its writer and director, George Lucas, began to prepare a sequel. Among the characters he envisioned was a new and improved class of Stormtroopers employed by the infamous Empire.

Joe Johnston, the future filmmaker who served as artistic director on “The Empire Strikes Back,” worked with concept artist Ralph McQuarrie to design the costumes for these super-troopers, creating armor and a helmet with a narrow visor. .

Johnston, who went on to direct films like “Jumanji” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” said Lucas had scaled back his plans due to budget issues. “George said we can’t afford an army of super-troopers, but we have this new costume,” Johnston recalled. “He said, ‘Let’s make him a bounty hunter.’ OK, that sounds cool.

Under Lucas’s direction, Johnston refined the new character, drawing inspiration from the unnamed stranger played by Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. The Bounty Hunter’s armor has been given weathered colors and bumps suggesting his past conflicts. (He was also briefly given a serape until it was determined that he was interfering with his weapons.) Boba Fett was born.

“He was neither a hero nor a villain,” said Johnston. “You could hire Boba Fett to do the job you wanted him to do. “

According to Pete Vilmur, head of fan relations at Lucasfilm, Boba Fett made his public debut in September 1978 during a parade in San Anselmo, Calif., Where he was eclipsed by Darth Vader.

Fett also appeared as an animated character later in the famous “Star Wars Holiday Special”, a poorly received television program that was never rebroadcast. A promotional offer aimed at collectors of “Star Wars” toys allowed them to send a Boba Fett figure before his appearance in the films. Nothing about the character’s life or story has been revealed.

“For people who weren’t growing up around this time, it’s hard to understand how hungry we were for information about ‘Star Wars’,” said Jon Favreau, creator of “The Book of Boba Fett” and the Disney + series from which it was derived, “The Mandalorian”.

“You were buying magazines with photo pages,” he said. “You bought the toys and played with them. By the time Boba Fett appeared on screen, we felt like we already knew him.

Fett has been seen, sparingly, in “The Empire Strikes Back,” including one scene where he stands among a group of bounty hunters that Vader has assembled to hunt down rascal Han Solo. Vader chooses Fett for a brief instruction: “No disintegrations.” (“As you wish,” Fett mumbles in response.)

This interaction alone was enough to stir the imaginations of many “Star Wars” viewers. “You say to yourself, OK, why is this the guy Darth Vader, the creme de la creme of the badass, singles out? What’s so special about him? said Soule.

In “Return of the Jedi”, a temporarily blinded Solo accidentally triggered Fett’s jetpack, sending the bounty hunter crashing into the side of a barge, then into the waiting mouth of a Sarlacc monster. But even the character’s apparent death couldn’t lessen his fans’ enthusiasm for him.

With no more “Star Wars” films on the horizon, Fett admirers continued to speculate as to the identity of the never-before-seen man under this intimidating armor.

“With Boba Fett, less is more,” Vilmur said. “Things are hidden and unknown. We fill in the shadows with our own ideas of who he might be and what he’s capable of.

Jonathan Kasdan, a son of “The Empire Strikes Back” screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, said Boba Fett elicits lasting fascination by combining familiar visuals and narratives into one character.

“It merges all of those genres – the crime film, the western, the samurai, the medieval legend – into one iconic picture,” said Kasdan, who wrote the spin-off film “Solo: A Star Wars Story” with his father.

“I could intellectualize it endlessly,” Kasdan said. “But the flip side was that she was a fantastic action figure.”

Other cartoons, comics, short stories, and novels licensed by Lucasfilm over the years have continued to fill Fett’s past adventures; others have provided accounts in which the character escaped the monster Sarlacc and continued his work as a mercenary.

And as production of the “Star Wars” films resumed, Fett continued to make his way through them. The character received another brief appearance added in a 1997 reissue of the original film, now titled “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”.

A 2002 prequel film, “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones”, established that young Boba (played by Daniel Logan) was both the son and the clone of another formidable soldier for hire called Jango. Fett (Temuera Morrison).

The animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, which debuted in 2008, provided more details about the childhood of young Boba.

“We wanted to dig deeper into what made him the character we saw later on ‘Empire’,” said Dave Filoni, writer, director and executive producer of ‘Clone Wars’. “Once his father was killed by a Jedi, it changed him dramatically. You realized that he would like to mirror his father – become his father and take his armor.

Soule, the author of the comic, said that compared to other “Star Wars” characters whose life stories were almost entirely filled by the movies, Boba Fett still had many unexplored areas in his story. personal.

“There are characters that we’ve seen a lot, and it’s hard to find the places where there’s still a lot of capital left,” he said. “Then there are characters whose bank accounts haven’t been drawn much. There is still a lot of capital in Boba Fett’s account.

But Boba Fett’s popularity among the creators of “Star Wars” means that not everyone who wants him can have a piece of him. Kasdan said that while he would have liked to feature the character in “Solo”, Lucasfilm told him that “Boba was still off limits because he was in development elsewhere.”

The studio’s initial efforts to create a Boba Fett film were unsuccessful. But when Favreau and his collaborators began designing “The Mandalorian,” which premiered in 2019, they found themselves irresistibly drawn to a bounty hunter protagonist who lived by a personal code and wore armor similar to Boba Fett’s. .

As Favreau explains, “We tried to reconnect with the roots of what inspired George. A Mandalorian character lends itself to simple storytelling, in the spirit of the westerns so popular on television in my father’s generation.

After another enigmatic cameo – little more than a cape and a pair of boots – in the first season of “The Mandalorian,” Boba Fett (now played by Morrison) returned to the series the following year.

The show’s second season finale set up the story for “The Book of Boba Fett,” on which Favreau and Filoni are writers, directors and executive producers. (When asked if the new series would explain how Boba Fett survived his encounter with Sarlacc, Filoni replied, “It’s so much more exciting to see how it all plays out than to explain it to me.”)

Favreau, who directed the first two “Iron Man” films for Marvel, said this studio’s interconnecting cinematic universe has accustomed viewers to seeing “characters from the same franchise making appearances at several different properties. “.

He added, “‘Star Wars’ is something the audience is just as much an element of as what you put out as a filmmaker.”

The narrative push to provide Boba Fett with an established identity and a story that explains his motivations hasn’t thrilled all “Star Wars” fans.

“I would never have shown his face,” said Johnston. “I never would have had an actor below where he takes the helmet off and you see who it is. I think that takes a lot of the mystery out of it. Before that helmet comes off, it can be done. anyone.

But Filoni said streaming TV has taught viewers to expect all branches of a story to be available to them the moment they sit down to watch part of it.

Compared to the first time he saw ‘Star Wars’ in a movie theater, Filoni said,’ They can watch ‘A New Hope’, hear Obi-Wan talk about the Clone Wars, and they are not. only a rocker to look at him. I walked out of the theater saying, “Daddy, how come you brought me to the fourth? Why did we miss the first three?”


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