The Mandalorian has exposed Boba Fett for what he really was: A creation of our own collective imaginations. It’s difficult to imagine that a Star Wars character who did so little of consequence could ever have been responsible for moving so much merchandise, let alone being elevated to the pantheon of Star Wars’ indispensibles.
In fact, to say Fett did “so little” is to give him far too much credit. For all intents and purposes, he did nothing. This was always obvious, but we wanted to believe that someone wearing such stylish armor had meaning beyond simply being a guy who was unceremoniously consumed by a sand alien after appearing so pathetic in battle.
To be fair, in his big-screen debut in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett showed some admirable traits in the service of evil, but his skills were solely limited to the realms of stealth and guile. He was the only bounty hunter that Darth Vader addressed personally while on the bridge of his Super Star Destroyer, when the Sith Lord walked up and aimed a menacing finger directly toward Fett’s Mandalorian mask. That clearly meant something, or at least we imagined it did. Apparently, Fett had a reputation within this universe, but it’s never explained precisely what that reputation was. We can only assume that he liked to disintegrate his bounties, which seems pretty idiotic when you think about it. If Fett disintegrated his quarry, how could he later prove that he’d successfully disposed of them? Were his customers simply supposed to take his word for it?
From here, let’s analyze Fett’s actions during this film and list everything he accomplished that’s supposed to make him legendary. It’s a short list.
Safely hidden within his ship, Slave 1, Fett conceals himself amidst the Super Star Destroyer’s garbage, operating on a hunch that proves to be correct. Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon were hiding amidst the cluster of Star Destroyers and were planning to surreptitiously float away with the debris the instant the Imperial fleet dispersed. Fett then identifies that Solo and his squad are headed to Cloud City, radios Darth Vader and the Imperial goons, and eventually emerges from an adjacent hallway after Vader disarms Solo and springs his trap on the Rebels.
Later, when Vader decides to freeze Solo and encase the smuggler’s body in carbonite, Fett whines to Vader about how much money he could potentially lose if Solo doesn’t survive the process. Following this, Chewbacca the Wookie goes ballistic and starts chucking Stormtroopers over the railing and into the depths of Cloud City, and Vader has to physically intervene to prevent Fett from cowardly shooting the Wookie in the back.
Solo successfully endures the freezing process and finds himself encased in carbonite, so Fett then walks the incapacitated Solo over to the east docking platform with an escort of two Stormtroopers. Spotting Luke Skywalker nearby, Fett circles back to surprise Luke and fires four blaster shots in the Jedi’s direction. Fett’s able to get the first two shots off long before Luke is able to properly defend himself. Yet, Fett isn’t any better in terms of his blaster accuracy than any of the Stormtroopers we’ve maligned for not hitting anything with their blasts. Fett had an unobstructed shot at Luke and still couldn’t put a blaster bolt anywhere near Luke’s chest.
Once the Imperials place Solo in the cargo hold, Fett flies away. That’s the sum total of Fett’s activities in The Empire Strikes Back, and we’re left with a flimsy platform upon which to construct a massive cult following. Fett successfully tracked a bounty, waited for Darth Vader and his posse to show up and do all of the heavy lifting, and then missed a Jedi at point-blank range with his blaster, even when he had the element of surprise working in his favor. Fett’s name is never even mentioned in the film itself; Lando Calrissian refers to him only as “that bounty hunter.”
I think there are two reasons why we liked this guy so much. As good as The Empire Strikes Back was, it wasn’t as visually interesting as the first Star Wars film, which treated us to a visual smorgasbord in the form of the original Mos Eisley cantina scene. By the time Luke, Han, Chewie and company depart from Tatooine, we’ve already been formally introduced to two alien species (Jawas and Tusken Raiders), and been entertained by the mannerisms of at least a dozen others. In a film series that taught us to search for optical stimulation in every frame, Boba Fett is one of the most striking new figures in the sequel film, and he’s certainly the second most consequential bad boy in the movie. Vader summarily executes any Imperial officers who show even the faintest hint of a personality during Empire, so Fett’s stock soared simply because he survived until the end of the film.
The other reason for Fett’s popularity is also connected to the fact that he just looked so much cooler than the rest of the bad guys. Who would you rather be during Star Wars playtime if you were given a choice: a random Stormtrooper, or Boba Fett? There isn’t much of a choice. And back then we had three years between Star Wars films to nourish our childhood sci-fi fantasies, with action figure roleplay producing the balance of outside source material.
Finally, as Return of the Jedi opens, Fett’s still lingering around Jabba the Hutt’s palace, although it’s never explained in the film why he’s there, or why he wouldn’t have simply dropped Solo off, picked up his money and then flown off in search of more cash. Since Fett has decided to hang around, let’s examine what he did during his final appearance in the original Star Wars trilogy.
When Princess Leia, dressed as a bounty hunter, walks into the palace with a shackled Chewbacca, Fett suspects nothing. Then, the masked Leia surprises Jabba by whipping out a thermal detonator and threatening to blow everyone to smithereens. Fett yanks his rifle into the ready position, but Jabba calmly defuses the situation, and Leia calmly defuses the detonator. Fett then nods at Leia, either in approval of her underhanded tactics, or in appreciation that she hadn’t forced him to expose himself once again for being such a dreadful shot with a blaster.
Finally, after three years of looking like a badass without ever doing anything, Fett’s irreversibly exposed as a fraud when Luke Skywalker unsheaths a green lightsaber on a skiff over the Sarlacc pit and starts hacking Jabba’s ruffians to shreds. Fett engages his rocket pack and leaps into action aboard the skiff Luke has now overtaken, and lands three feet in front of Luke, well within lightsaber range. Luke easily slices Fett’s rifle in half, rendering the bounty hunter useless with a single flick of a green blade. Fett’s response? He tries to tie Luke up with some twine fired from his wrists, only to be knocked to the ground by a skiff-rocking broadside blast from Jabba’s sail barge.
Luke quickly cuts himself free and leaps away in search of much bigger fish to fry, clearly believing that Fett isn’t important enough to finish off. Luke is right, because Fett’s so weak from the simple act of falling over that he takes a full 10 seconds to rise to his feet, even though everyone else in his proximity recovered far more quickly. Ever the coward, Fett tries to shoot the preoccupied Luke in the back with his wrist blasters, and manages to get off two errant shots at point-blank range, which miss by four feet. At that point, a blind Han Solo mercifully ends Fett’s embarrassment and his life by inadvertently igniting Fett’s rocket pack and sending him soaring clumsily through the air. Fett caromed off the port side of Jabba’s sailing barge and plummeted into the Sarlacc’s mouth, never to be seen again.
We’ve now accurately covered everything Fett does on screen during his original run in the Star Wars film series. Far from demonstrating himself to be the best bounty hunter in the galaxy through his actions, Fett looked like a clown (Bobo Fett?) and a coward, who couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with any of the blaster shots that were ever emitted by the firearms in his possession. His legend, therefore, was constructed entirely on the merits of what the Star Wars fanbase imagined that Fett accomplished offscreen, because onscreen he looked like a buffoon who couldn’t deliver in crunch time, and who was weighed down by armor much too complex for him to wield effectually.
This is the point where people start arguing about the novels, comic books and other Star Wars media that was churned out ex post facto by writers who wanted to give Fett the reputation of being a cunning warrior. We were led to believe that Fett was not only an adept combatant, but under different circumstances, he could even be an antihero, or a downright valiant being. The propagated myth that Boba Fett was a masterful battler is the product of instances where writers opted to force feed their fellow Star Wars fans an idea developed during playtime with action figures. It has zero basis in anything that we’ve seen.
I fell into that trap, too. As a teenager, I bought the comic books, the novels (like Tales of the Bounty Hunters), the figures and the line of crap that Boba Fett was significant, instead of simply a glorified Stormtrooper who still couldn’t shoot. George Lucas informed us all that Fett was a dolt by the way he dealt with him in the films, but we refused to listen to what he was telling us. To that end, we lied to ourselves, and then lapped up the lies that others told us as long as they jibed with the fantasies we constructed in our living rooms and playrooms using 3.75-inch pieces of plastic.
Moreover, since the 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney and the declaration that all of the adjunct Star Wars materials had been relegated to non-canonical status, every tale that elevated the status of Boba Fett is now officially apocryphal. They never happened. This means he’s back to square one as the bounty-hunting charlatan that he always was.
Despite all of this, when I heard that plans for a Boba Fett film had been scrapped, I was devastated. And then I watched The Mandalorian. I recognized that Din Djarin—an arbitrary character in Mandalorian battle armor—had competently performed more consequential, skillful and daring combat maneuvers within the first two minutes of the first episode than Boba Fett had demonstrated in two whole films. The series didn’t let up, and Djarin kept participating in breathtaking combat sequences to the point where Boba Fett was rendered as an inconsequential and superfluous character by the end of the first season. As a bonus, we were treated to several captivating battle scenes featuring an IG droid unit, so we can also quit pretending IG-88 ever did anything in The Empire Strikes Back besides pivot his head four inches to the left or right.
Based solely on what we actually saw, we can justifiably imagine that Dinn Djarin acquired the damage to his Mandalorian battle armor while triumphantly bringing in his bounties. Through the same means of discernment, we’re forced to assume that Boba Fett’s armor received the bulk of its damage from all the times Fett’s would-be bounties slapped him around before laughing in his unconscious face and sauntering off to the Sabacc table.
At its present rate of sale, I’m guessing merchandise inspired by The Mandalorian will quickly surpass the total of every t-shirt, keychain and toothbrush ever sold bearing Boba Fett’s likeness.This false idol of cinema needs to be erased from relevancy just as quickly as we can bring it to pass. I’ve seen all of the requests from Star Wars fans begging for Lucasfilm to insert Boba Fett into a future episode of The Mandalorian, and I’d be shocked if Lucasfilm didn’t succumb to the pressure and give Fett his first live-action, in-continuity, adult appearance in a Star Wars property in nearly 40 years. Lucasfilm and Disney aren’t known for leaving easy money on the table.
If Boba Fett shows up in an episode of The Mandalorian, I want you to remember one thing: The next time you see Boba Fett successfully shoot someone will also be the first time.