Thursday, February 17, 2022

Boba Fett? Boba Fett? Where?!?

I have expressed joy that The Mandalorian is unashamedly a western.  However, I also pointed out it was full of bits from all of George Lucas's other influences that led to the original Star Wars.

There will be spoilers.

The Book of Boba Fett, however, is not only unashamedly a western, but also completely and totally a Sergio Leone, Spaghetti western. From the characters to the settings, including the music and the conflicts it is 100% one of those old style stories far more than any other Star Wars influence.

Another area it has in common with its parent program is leaning on the advantages of having a protagonist in indestructible armor. That, coupled with the existence of healing Bacta, provides an in story reason for him surviving getting the snot battered out of him on a regular basis for dramatic effect.

Considering The Man With No Name inspired the creation and design of Boba Fett, the style of storytelling is fitting. (That's why he originally had few spoken words, a "poncho" and his mask had a built in "Clint Squint.")  Temuera Morrison embraced that idea and ran with it, giving us a completely distinct performance compared to Jango.

Robert Rodriguez already did a successful tribute to the "Dollars" franchise with his Mexico Trilogy.  Combining him as show runner with established Star Wars quality makers John Favreau writing, and Dave Filoni, Bryce Dallas Howard and some new blood directing? Of course it was going to be done right, and it was going to be Star Wars. We even got to see Camie and Fixer, from the cutting room floor of the original film. How much longer before we finally visit Anchorhead and Tosche Station? 

The tribute to this western sub-genre is why my daughter thought the early episodes were boring, and why my wife ignored the show until Grogu showed up. They don't like the Leone westerns. The connection to those films is also why I loved every minute of the journey, as did my Mother.

Although, Rosa did get into the final two parts, and when the season finished Anabelle gave the finale a 10 out of 10, with the whole series a 7.5 out of 10. She's also agreed to try one real Spaghetti western. Maybe we'll gain a convert...
Assuming she grows some patience in the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile I've already watched the season twice, with A Fistful of Dollars in between to jog my memory.

My Captain Continuity hat goes on quickly when I am the target audience.
To address three of the biggest complaints:

1) Folks complained that making Boba a peacekeeping force made him less ruthless and cool than his previous persona.  For those referencing the movies, to quote Bert when he saw Ernie's pirate disguise, "You are a fool."  In the original movies, Boba showed he could track a spaceship, stand ominously, and be "killed" for comic effect. That's it.  

As for those who know his "Legends" persona, read on.  Again, this is a western. How many of those films featured an old gunfighter who settled down, became the sheriff following a lawless past (especially after some life changing injury type event) and used all his old skills to protect his town? Frankly, I defy anyone who heard his "surrender terms" to say he's lost a step.

2) Folks complained about a lack of the main Boba Fett story (and the character himself) in episodes five and six. I've praised streaming shows before for this kind of flexibility. There's normally no "extra episodes" to fill network requirements, they make the amount of episodes at the length needed to tell the story. "How Boba escaped the Sarlacc pit" would fit about two and a half parts. "How Boba took over Tatooine" added to it was good for five. That left the two in the middle to show what the Mandalorian was up to after his second season and how he tied in with the tale at hand, since he was important to its resolution.  His show's success is what guaranteed all these other series and spin offs existing. Reminding everyone who is at the core of these stories and letting it serve as Mandalorian Season 2.5 to get everything set up for the differently paced series's next season was a logical but fun choice. Movies have to stay on focus; anything but the main story can be cut. It's the nature of the medium. TV shows allow time to wander. We un-spaghetti-ed for a couple episodes to check out important characters, and then came back for the climax.  The Din centered chapters still had a western vibe, but with more Samurai and Hot Rodding elements added.

Aside- Told you Baby Yoda would come back...
And: AWWWW Din kept the ball from the Razor Crest for him!

Other Aside- Peli Motto is still a hoot and that new Naboo Starfighter is awesome. 
As always, Jawas and Pit Droids are also good for many a hoot.

Other Other Aside- It was nice to see Ahsoka Tano finally interacting with Luke on her way to her own show.  

That one will likely bring a great many other nifty animated characters into live action.  I wonder if it will show more of the two Jedi's interactions, revealing more to each other about Anakin.

Other Other Other Aside- The Luke de-aging CGI was much improved. Notice he uses the force to make Grogu keep up with him instead of slowing his own pace. Young Skywalker still has not learned patience. He probably wouldn't like Leone films either.

Also, any day with Artoo is a good day. I'm still waiting for them to do something with a reunion between him and R5-D4 to throw in a "bad motivator" joke.

3) Folks were in an absolute tizzy that "woke" Star Wars renamed "Slave 1" (Boba's ship) as what was previously used as its class name- "Firespray."
First of all, when I first got the X-Wing Alliance computer game back in 1999, where you could fly one, my first thought was "Why didn't they just call it Firespray all along? That's much cooler."
Second, the Slave-1 name was never used in the films. All of Legends has already gotten retconned. In the grand scheme of Star Wars, it is a miniscule change.
Third, the way he referred to it could be the ship class name, so it may still be called whatever you want in your least until next season.

"The mods, they're like early hippies in England but they ride around on mopeds." - "Rock and Roll Doctor" by Travesty Ltd.

I'm not even going to dignify those that think this gang riding vehicles with colors, finishes and designs that look like they came straight out of American Graffiti isn't Star Wars with a full reply. However, I will point out to those that called them useless- even if one ignores their helpful participation in the final battle, it was their local knowledge that alerted everyone to the betrayal, allowing a bit of reaction time before everything went south.

I have been waiting for this show for Forty-Five years. I know that's longer than Boba Fett has existed, that's not what I'm talking about. When Star Wars first came out, Darth Vader and Chewbacca were the coolest things I'd ever seen. Not too far down my "coolest things" list (which expanded hugely with that film) were the Tusken Raiders.
In the original film, they're wild looking, dangerous, had a bizarre language, and groovy lethal staff/ mace/ pole arm weapon things. They served admirably as Luke's "threshold guardians." (To go all Joseph Campbell for a moment.) The prequels made them look uncivilized, stupid and thuggish. Building on what came out of The Mandalorian we got to see an exciting, complex culture.  

If they went more radio show heroic instead of spaghetti on their western, we could have had the LoneDalorian and his faithful Tusken companion.  

Seriously, I would watch a whole show about the Sandpeople, their society, their customs...
And how they figured out nasally fitting a lizard sends one on a hallucinogenic tree finding vision quest.

Much like the classic westerns, the set up was slower, yet punctuated with exciting action. Then the overall climax was explosive and non-stop; from the outstanding double Mandalorian "last stand" up through the finish.

Given the source material, this was the perfect place to import Cad Bane from animation. He mentored Boba as a child in the Clone Wars cartoon lost episodes. This isn't the main reason though. While Eastwood was the source of Boba Fett, Cad Bane's was based on Lee Van Cleef as Angel Eyes in The Good the Bad and the Ugly. 
The final showdown between Fett and Bane was done right. Given his past appearances, Bane had to be much older. However, showing that he still had the fastest draw preserved the character, as that was his defining trait. He did lose, but he lost because of what Boba learned from the Tuskens, not from any skill that could be traced back to his former mentor.

Given his role as marshal of a frontier town, Cobb Vanth returning worked as well. (Especially as played by Rango's Eastwood clone, "The Spirit of the West.")

Also from comics Black Krrsantan, the Wookie pit fighter, showed up. He's played by Casey Jones. (I'm throwing that in because most of the "covered" Star Wars actors don't get enough credit for bringing individuals to life when being so hidden by the costume and makeup.)  His addition was perfect- apart from the reason that everything is better with more Wookies.
He's a huge, terrifying, impossibly strong individual, heavily armed, with a double bandolier and braids. Ever hear of an actor named Mario Brega? 
If you saw the Man With No Name trilogy, you have. Except since Santo
 joins the good guys, instead of succumbing to an impressive death, he gets several outstandingly awesome combat showings.

Note for those who haven't lived and breathed Star Wars for the past four and a half decades.  Trandoshans hunt Wookies for their pelts, hence Santo's generally harsh reactions to them.

Speaking of awesome- two more bits of it need to be mentioned.

The possibly immortal but definitely ageless Ming Na-Wen, as Fennec Shand is one.  Not only is she the only person to have the trifecta of the Marvel, Star Wars and Disney Princess franchises, she did it with the same pizzazz:
Fennec Shand- Most Pragmatic and Terrifyingly Lethal Assassin. (Her solo takedowns of the other crime lords! Great googely moogely!)
Agent May- Most Pragmatic and Terrifyingly Lethal Shield Agent. (The Cavalry's Here!")
Mulan- Most Pragmatic and Terrifyingly Lethal Disney Princess (By several orders of magnitude, via avalanching the Hun army)
Plus, her stoic eye rolls were perfect punctuation to the more ridiculous elements of the Star Wars Universe.

Then there's Boba astride the Beast! Gotta love having a Chekov's Rancor. (It was only a calf! Imagine when it grows up!) I wondered how Rodriguez was going to sneak in Danny Trejo. He did not disappoint. 
Silly, yet it fit completely in the type of story they were telling. Why?
First, riding a huge monster is a call back to Boba Fett's first appearance riding that big pink dinosaur thing in the Holiday Special.  
Second, the hero riding in on his noble steed to save the day is a standard trope of most westerns. Granted the horse usually doesn't eat people and do a King Kong impression, but that just added to the awesome.  
Third: It provided a way to remove those Super Droidekas. (Scorpenek Droids...this story's version of Gatling machine guns.) More importantly, it also provided another heroic moment for Baby Yoda. (Yes, I will continue calling him that, it's cute.)  My whole family loved his adorable little "mosey."

While it was a Spaghetti Western, there was a twist. Endings to the source material are usually bittersweet, with a hunk of moral ambiguity. This story went the more traditional route at the end, showing "ruling through respect" built up a large "tribe" able to protect the town from the bad guys and win the day.

Final thought- one thing I really like about Star Wars. Whether the government is a noble democracy rebuilding after a rebellion, an evil totalitarian empire, or an aging and corrupt republic- there seems to be absolutely no reduction on the huge, and unstoppable network of organized crime that is complete with drug and slave trades throughout the galaxy.  The Pikes did get taken out. (Honestly, I refuse to believe there's any way those clowns got all of the Tusken tribe, some have to have escaped into the desert.)  Meanwhile, the Hutts were unscathed. They know how to run a "family."

Post Final Thought- I hope Max Rebo is all right, 
and Jennifer Beals too. She was cool as "Miss Kitty in Spaaaaace!"

Second Post Final Thought- Awwww. I liked seeing competent Gamoreans for the first time. I'm gonna miss those two.

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