Among the sci-fi/fantasy, western, operatic blends that make up the fabric of the galaxy far, far away, there are few who paint a picture more vivid than the masked gunslinger who stands stoic and menacing at all ports of call on Tatooine, Boba Fett.
If you were lacking the details on the character before the release of season 2 of The Mandalorian, one could be forgiven. But Fett is no longer the beloved background character of decades past. Not only was he integral to the season’s plot, but with the promise of his own series The Book of Boba Fett coming later this year, the bounty hunter is being thrust directly into the hyperspace limelight.
It’s a smart move on Lucasfilm’s part. Fett has captured the imagination of fans for over 40 years now. His popularity is such that the character was retroactively added to the special edition release of A New Hope, with George Lucas even going so far as to film new footage of Fett lingering on in Mos Eisley’s Docking Bay 94 to give him a few extra seconds of precious screen time. It wasn’t until The Empire Strikes Back that we actually heard the bounty hunter speak. Even then, his lines are few and far between.
“He’s no good to me dead.”
First appearing in the deeply unpopular Star Wars Holiday Special, Fett’s mysterious background has been gradually filled in as time passes. But has this actually served Fett as a character? Did it make him more interesting? The reveal in Attack of the Clones that Fett was in fact a clone of another masked bounty hunter was divisive among fans. It seems that the power Fett had over the audiences had little to do with the man behind the mask.
So why is it that a disintegration-happy soldier of fortune who was defeated by a blinded Han Solo became so very popular?
I put forward that it is not Fett himself that is the source of his popularity… It is the idea of Fett that makes the man.
With little to go on to inform viewers of the true nature of the bounty hunter, we instead fill in the blanks ourselves. The mysterious warrior who says little but speaks volumes with his presence alone means that the greater details of his life are left to the imagination. In the mind, Fett echoes more of the old western hero than he ever could on his own. Much like Clint Eastwood’s “The Man with No Name,” Fett comes to eschew the legendary warrior of the past, now given physical form.
Some evidence of this can be seen in the first episode of The Mandalorian’s second season. We are presented with a man who dresses like Fett and acts like Fett, but is in fact an altogether different man. By separating that well-known armor from the more ambiguous man, audiences are forced to reconsider their thoughts surrounding the galaxy’s most feared bounty hunter. All before being presented with a tantalizing tease in the episode’s final shot of the unmasked clone warrior himself. It seems that we don’t (or rather didn’t) appreciate the appeal of Boba Fett.
However, things are different now.
Stories of Fett’s exploits can now be found in a wide array of books, comics, and animated shows. But they all fail to capture the original intensity of his silent stare. A moment that often goes unmentioned is in Return of the Jedi when Fett gives a nod of respect to Leia disguised as fellow bounty hunter “Boushh.” I believe that this sole hint of recognition has impacted our understanding of Fett as a person more than anything else. He isn’t just some unemotional killer.
Beyond this, it wasn’t until the sixth episode of The Mandalorian season 2, “The Tragedy,” that we actually see Fett for the first time. By see, I mean that only then in December of 2020 does Fett truly come alive for the first time. Brilliantly directed by Robert Rodriguez, it is only then, after decades of filling in the blanks, that the most dangerous man in the galaxy is truly unleashed. The impact is immediate and astounding. All the elements that have contributed to the idea of Boba Fett have finally been arranged into a beautiful tapestry of audio/visual pleasure. Boba Fett was complete.
Even as I write this, the temptation to open Disney+ on my laptop and re-watch the scene in question is rising.
It wasn’t just the spectacular and stylish action sequences that only Rodriguez could conceive. It was the unification of Fett’s collective elements on screen for the first time that truly made for something special. The presence of Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett and his clone army, brings a delicious amount of continuity to the franchise. Not only that, but incorporating Morrison’s indigenous Maori New Zealander warrior tradition into the character feels so right that it was simply meant to be.
There was even a wonderfully obscure reference that only the most diehard fans would have picked up on during an initial viewing, making mention of legendary Mandalorian Jaster Mereel who only appeared in a 2002 comic book in the old Legends continuity. The attention to detail was simply breathtaking.
If Fett wasn’t cool before, he certainly is now.
The Mandalorian is available streaming on Disney +
What are your thoughts on the famous clone bounty hunter? Let us know in the comments section below. For all things Boba Fett, The Mandalorian, and Star Wars, make sure to check in with Dork Side of the Force.