REVIEW: Kiwi actor Temuera Morrison’s near two-decade dream has finally come true.
He’s the lead in a Star Wars story, a seven-part The Mandalorian spin-off which continues his association with the Fett family first begun in 2002’s Attack of the Clones.
Back then Morrison’s Jango Fett was “just a man trying to make his way in the universe”, now, as his son Boba, he’s trying to make a name for himself in the galaxy’s underworld by taking over a Tattooine palace and wider territory that formerly cowered under the reign of Jabba the Hutt.
As teased in an end credits sequence at the conclusion of season two of the widely successful and beloved Mandalorian this time last year, Fett Jnr. and master assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) have assumed power after killing former occupant Bib Fortuna. But, as he rests his increasingly battle-weary body and contemplates his next move, Boba is haunted by visions of his past.
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Filling in the blanks of how he escaped his supposed certain, excruciatingly slow death in the Sarlaac Pit (as seen in 1983’s Return of the Jedi), we learn how he also had to endure humiliation at the hands of both the Jawas and the Tusken Raiders large and small.
However, there are also more pressing present duties to attend to. A line of callers is already forming, eager to pay tribute to the newly installed Lord Fett. Even as he demonstrates a determination to attempt to rule by respect, rather than Jabba’s fear though, there are those who seek to undermine, dethrone or kill him.
Featuring plenty of action, sand and no little fan service (from character callbacks to an offensive move Return of the Jedi-era Leia Organa would have been proud of), The Book’s opening chapter – Stranger in a Strange Land (directed by former Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn helmer Robert Rodriguez) – is a solid, if unspectacular entry into the Star Wars canon.
Writer Jon Favreau clearly thinks it’s 1983 all over again, not only offering up plenty for Jedi fans to chew on, but also casting the star of one that year’s other major movie hits in what looks to be a key role.
But the well-choreographed fight scenes already start to feel a little laboured (there’s an awful lot of sequences that involve the now 61-year-old Morrison’s Fett – who looks like a Doctor Who Sontaran in flashbacks – being pummelled), the plot a touch too telegraphed (a warning about a follow-up delegation from “the Mayor” here, an aside about the need to cover a lot of ground to keep Jabba’s empire together there) and the situations a bit over-familiar.
Better is the banter between Wen’s cynical Shand and Morrison’s laid-back Boba, What We Do in the Shadows’ Matt Berry’s distinctive dulcet tones bringing to life droid 8D8 and the former Jake the Muss’ delivery of such lines as “no hard feelings mate” as he bests an opponent.
So there’s definite potential in amongst the parkouring would be assassins straight out of Crouching Tiger central casting and the slightly clunky fractured narrative (his ability to pick up a memory from exactly where he left off is impressive), but what this Book needs is a really terrific nemesis for our Tem’s Boba to find himself up against, so he can truly unleash his greatest weapon – those pithy one-liners we know he’s well capable of.
The Book of Boba Fett is now streaming on Disney+. New episodes debut each Wednesday night.