Star Wars Media Is Exploring Boba Fett Riffs
In the mid-2000s, science-fiction author Karen Traviss joined the Star Wars franchise to write a series of novels based around the idea of Mandalorian culture. They proved to be a tremendous success and, perhaps partly inspired by this, George Lucas decided to finally explore Mandalore in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series. Ironically the changes Lucas made to the canon ultimately led to Traviss's books being discontinued in 2009, and she left the franchise.
In truth, Lucas's approach to Mandalore was to ignore everything Traviss had established, and instead, establish a complex science-fiction world that was primarily driven by the cool visuals of the Mandalorian armor. Lucasfilm has been following his lead since the Disney purchase in 2012, continuing to develop the Mandalorian warrior-culture in Star Wars: Rebels. Indeed, one of the central characters of Rebels was Sabine, and her entire character arc was focused upon her relationship with her homeworld of Mandalore. Rebels may not have been about Boba Fett, but the visuals were a clear riff on it.
And then we come to The Mandalorian. Jon Favreau's upcoming Star Wars TV series appears to follow on from the Aftermath trilogy, and has been theorized to star a character introduced in that trilogy, Cobb Vanth. Vanth was the man who purchased the famous Mandalorian armor from Jawas, and he's set himself up on Tatooine as a "lone gunslinger" opposing the various crime cartels. If this is accurate, then The Mandalorian explores the unexpected legacy of Boba Fett. But crucially, there's currently no evidence that the show resolves the "Schrodinger's Fett." Is Boba Fett alive after the events of Return of the Jedi, or is he dead? So far, there's no indication Lucasfilm has made a decision on that point.
Who Even Is Boba Fett?
This approach raises one curious question; who is Boba Fett in the first place? As previously noted, he only has four lines of dialogue in the entire Original Trilogy, meaning the character is essentially something of a blank slate. So much of Boba Fett's appeal derives from his cool visuals, and viewers project most of his character attributes - his efficiency, his tenacity, his fierce determination - on to him. That's particularly ironic, given the one extended combat scene we seem him in shows him beaten by a blind but lucky smuggler. In truth, Boba Fett is something of a cypher, a mask and a suit of imposing armor, not really a person in his own right.
When the old Expanded Universe attempted to create Boba's backstory, they assumed that it would live up to his mystique and reputation. George Lucas, however, took a different approach; he realized that the mask of Boba Fett could easily conceal anything at all, and so wove Boba into Attack of the Clones in a way nobody could have expected. It's telling that both Karen Traviss and George Lucas himself were subsequently more interested in Mandalorian culture than in Boba Fett, realizing that what really resonated with viewers was the armor. While both did use Boba Fett, he was hardly their focus; Traviss reinterpreted her version in relation to Mandalorian culture, while Lucas was far more interested in Mandalore itself. Ironically, Boba Fett isn't even Mandalorian. He just wears the armor.
This, perhaps, explain why the Boba Fett spinoff film has been stuck in Development Hell for so long. Those first Star Wars anthology films were greenlit on pretty sparse pitches; indeed, Solo was given the green light by Disney CEO Bob Iger because he liked the idea of the scene in which Han was given his name. As a result, when you read The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story, you're struck by just how many different versions the script must have gone through. That brief scene, in which Han is dubbed "Solo" by an Imperial because he's on his own, seems to have been the one constant in the many different iterations of Solo. But it's likely that there's even less of a solid hook for Boba Fett. After all, there's really nothing to him in the canon; he doesn't have a character, rather he just has a reputation. Should the movie ever be made, it will be fascinating to get a sense of how many rewrites the script went through.
Ultimately, Lucasfilm's is probably the most sensible one; hold the Boba Fett spinoff back until you've got a strong idea to work with, and meanwhile riff on the visuals by exploring Mandalorian culture. That approach has worked for the last six years, and they could easily continue it for quite some time yet.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019