Coming to the Beskar Screen

Responding to the announcement of a movie for the most quintessentially TV version of Star Wars

Disney announced an upcoming movie featuring the characters The Mandalorian and Grogu, titled The Mandalorian and Grogu. In addition to hoping that Jon Favreau has a different title in the works, I’m also a little bit confused and disappointed by the announcement.

To be clear: I’m absolutely going to be seeing this movie, and if you think otherwise then I’m not sure why you’re reading this blog, since it’s clear you don’t know me at all. If they sold tickets before movies entered pre-production, I would’ve already bought one.

But The Mandalorian is, to me, inherently televised. It’s the most perfect translation of everything I like about Star Wars into the television format. It’s the show that I dreamed of when I was a little kid, obsessed with Star Wars and obsessed with television. But better, because it couldn’t possibly have existed back then. In fact, I think a big part of why I can’t help but gush about it is that it’s got failsafes built in: anything that might seem corny or underdeveloped feeds back into the charm of the series, because it feels like a callback to what television was like at the time Star Wars was at its peak.

In fact, I can call out the aspects of it that make it feel inherently suited to television, in handy blog list form:

Continue reading “Coming to the Beskar Screen”

Literacy 2023: Book 18: Shadow of the Sith

An interim Star Wars story in which Luke and Lando try to protect Rey’s family from a sinister Sith plot.

Shadow of the Sith by Adam Christopher

Set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, the story begins with Luke Skywalker training the next generation of young Jedi while Lando Calrissian is searching the galaxy for his kidnapped daughter. Their paths cross when Lando overhears a plot from an evil bounty hunter assigned to track down a young couple and their daughter, which ties in with sinister plans from Sith cultists and Luke’s own nightmarish visions of a dark planet called Exegol.


  • A team-up of two characters I rarely see in Star Wars stories, during a time period that we haven’t yet seen much of.
  • Carefully connects the dots between ideas and events mentioned in the sequel trilogy, or shown briefly in flashback.
  • Gives more characterization of Rey’s parents, and offers an explanation of the events that led to her being left on a desolate planet at the start of The Force Awakens, as well as an explanation for how Emperor Palpatine had a son that no one knew about.
  • Some of the locations are as evocative and imaginative as Star Wars at its best, like a ghost planet bleached of color by radiation, and a world covered in diamond “frozen” over a treacherous ocean. Their descriptions suggest classic concept art from the films and TV series.


  • The dialogue is pretty clunky, even by Star Wars standards.
  • Trying to justify some of the decisions in The Rise of Skywalker is a thankless job, and I don’t think the book quite manages to live up to the challenge. In particular, the end of Rey’s family’s story to set up the first sequel is still unsatisfying.
  • The back stories for some of the characters are too complicated with a few too many names of characters involved, implying to me that they’re attempting to piece together threads from the comics or from other novelizations that I haven’t read.
  • Tries to split the difference between science fiction and Star Wars fantasy, which works sometimes, but often feels like unnecessary explanations for things the reader would otherwise just accept and run with.
  • Related to the above: because it’s essentially a chase story, so much of the story involves characters trying to track each other down across the Galaxy. The book tries to offer a pseudo-sci-fi justification, which just draws attention to how much of the plot is characters just knowing things “because reasons.”
  • An entire storyline of the book consists of characters trying to avoid a fate that we already know is unavoidable, and our main protagonists have no real agency in affecting it.
  • As it’s trying to fill in the gaps between existing stories, it’s obligated to leave most of its threads unresolved. This results in our main characters having no real arc; they end the story pretty much exactly how they began it.

I didn’t enjoy this one, but honestly it’s as much my own fault as it is the fault of the book. It’s not my preferred “flavor” of Star Wars, but as it’s got “Sith” in the title, I should probably have predicted how much of it feels like “Star Wars For Goths.” (That still somehow manages to turn into a scene that reads like the goofy-but-horrifying-to-a-kid climax of Superman 3). I’m also realizing that I’m no longer the same kid who freaked out over Splinter of the Mind’s Eye; I just can’t get into the novelizations anymore, since they too often feel like trying to explore the inner minds of characters who, by design, are only just as deep as they need to be to drive pulp fiction.

It’s an unenviable job to have to connect the dots and provide depth and nuance to things that screenwriters only intended as Macguffins, or as puzzle boxes deliberately left for someone else to open and explore. Shadow of the Sith feels weighed down by too many franchise requirements to ever get the chance to go off on interesting tangents and tell its own story.

One Thing I Like About Ahsoka

The live-action continuation of an animated series somehow managed to feel bigger on the inside

Watching The Mandalorian often felt a little unsettling, because it was so overwhelmingly my thing. Not that I was being targeted, but that the people who grew up around the same time I did had finally been put in charge of Star Wars productions. The closing credits really drove the feeling home, feeling simultaneously like a call out to the concept art by Ralph McQuarrie that I had hanging up on my bedroom wall, and TV series from the 1970s like The Wild Wild West that had a near-subliminal impact on my aesthetic.

Ahsoka was not that. It was completely, unapologetically, made for fans of The Clone Wars and Rebels, rewarding them for their loyalty with live action versions of their favorite characters.

I didn’t dislike those series, and in fact there’s a lot of aspects about them that I love, from the stylized character designs reminiscent of Thunderbirds, to the storylines that delivered on jetpack-wearing Mandalorians totally kicking ass years before The Mandalorian season one. But I could never really get into the series, either. Several times I’ve attempted to get caught up on both of them, but I never last more than a few episodes.

As a result, I could recognize a lot of what Ahsoka is doing, but I spend the whole time extremely aware that it’s not speaking to me as it would a super-fan.

Continue reading “One Thing I Like About Ahsoka”

Uncertain Point of View

There’s no one right way to do Star Wars (unless, of course, it’s the way that I like)

Last week, I had a longer-than-usual wait in the queue for Star Tours at Disneyland, so I got to see more of the pre-show loop than I have since FastPass was introduced. I was reminded both of how clever and how goofy it is. More than that, I was struck by how it’s so tonally different from Galaxy’s Edge, even though they’re both in the same park, with the same IP, and even ostensibly have the same premise.

For me, an adult who’s spent an excessive amount of his life thinking about Star Wars, it made me realize how I’ve so often had a hard time “reading” it. I’ve always taken for granted that the Galaxy’s Edge version is the “proper” version: there’s plenty of room for pulpy adventure and comic relief, but overall it’s intended to be taken seriously.

After all, it’s modern mythology, isn’t it? I always thought it was supposed to be like a more-accessible Dune: straight-faced sci-fi fantasy with a shot of mysticism, but without Dune’s complexity and complete lack of humor.1Now I’m wondering if Dune was meant to be taken seriously. Is all of this an elaborate joke, and I’ve just been punked since the 1970s? Then there’s stuff like Jar-Jar Binks and the rest of the Gungans, and the Ewoks, and the various things that seem like juvenile or clumsy attempts to inject comedy relief into what is otherwise Very Serious Business.

As I’ve lamented several times before, it’s made me perpetually wonder if, now that I’m in my 50s, it’s past time for me to put aside childish things. I know plenty of people around my age who’ve concluded that the entire business is you know, for kids and doesn’t warrant the kind of attention that some of us still give to it. At times, I’ve concluded that it’s gotten to be so all-encompassing that Star Wars is now nothing more than a particular aesthetic.

But whether it’s because I’m a Gen-Xer, or if it’s just something peculiar to me: few things unnerve me more than the sense that I might not be in on the joke.

So my world was rocked a couple of years ago when the guy who voiced the Joker “confirmed” a bit of trivia, saying that George Lucas originally wanted the Looney Toons short Duck Dodgers in the 24th 1/2 Century to play before Star Wars in theaters. It would’ve been a clue that the movie wasn’t intended to be taken entirely seriously. It would’ve been nice to have heard that like forty years ago!

In any case: with Galaxy’s Edge and the popularity of the Andor series, and the animated series aiming for long story arcs and “more mature” storylines, it’s felt as if the trend in Star Wars has been to treat it as a serious setting. Or at least, to choose aspects of the setting and its aesthetic and use it to tell Grown-Up stories.

And I’m not going to say They’re Doing It Wrong — certainly not with Galaxy’s Edge, which I still love — but it would be a shame if that were to become the “preferred” way to do Star Wars, because I think the goofiness and absurdity is an essential part of what makes Star Wars work, at least as much as weathering, LEDs, and sideburns.

I’ve had a difficult time articulating exactly why I love The Mandalorian so much, most often ending up with “I just think it’s neat is all.” But I’m realizing that a lot of it is because it so confidently skips over the surface of believability, very rarely giving any indication to the audience that it’s aware of how absurd it all is. All the stunt casting and silly moments aren’t aberrations; they’re essential parts of what makes it feel so much like this is my Star Wars. Yes to the Thundercat cameo! Yes to The Mods! Yes to the Mandalorians choosing to live on a desolate planet where their children are frequently eaten by dinosaurs!

My friend Jake pointed out that Galaxy’s Edge, as excellent as it is, reminds guests that actually living in Star Wars would be more of a drag than an adventure. It’s always weird to me to see kids and families interacting with the Stormtroopers and Kylo Ren, with everyone laughing, having fun, and taking photos with murderous fascists.

I think the part that I’m forgetting is that we’re a few hundred feet away from New Orleans Square, with its rides celebrating death, murder, and human trafficking; and Fantasyland, which has rides in which children are poisoned, sold into slavery (after being transformed to donkeys), or threatened with murder by dismembered pirates. The “fascists” in this fantasy don’t have anything to do with politics; they are The Bad Guys. It’s only because of years of seeing pop culture become ever more obsessed with analyzing and examining itself, that we’ve grown to believe that everything needs to have a deeper meaning. Sometimes adventure stories need Bad Guys.

That’s something else that I think The Mandalorian gets across so well — the galaxy is brutal and unfair, and everything and everyone is relentlessly trying to murder our heroes. (And our adorable leading man contributes to the brutality by constantly eating a helpless frog woman’s children). Instead of getting introspective about it, they all just shrug and say “Taungsdays, amirite?” and then go about their business. It would be a miserable life if it weren’t a fantastic adventure story.

Recently I started up Jedi: Fallen Order for the third time, after two previous failed attempts. The opening is just a fantastic sequence of world-building and place-setting combined with a tutorial using some amazing, huge set pieces. Once again, I was inclined to make the old joke about how The Empire is just a nightmare of OSHA violations — it’s bad enough that nothing in the Death Star has railings, but the construction site at the beginning of Fallen Order is full of precarious ledges that require death-defying acrobatics simply to navigate. And the whole thing is perched over an absolute behemoth of a sarlacc-type monster, eager to digest anything or anyone that happens to fall into it.

And once again, I was reminded that I haven’t made some clever, insightful new observation; the dangerous absurdity is an essential part of it. None of this stuff is supposed to be practical, or even to make sense; it just needs to look cool and be part of a cool story. It’s nice to be reminded that not everything is hung up about whether you’re laughing with it or laughing at it; all that matters is that you’re having fun and that you’re laughing.

  • 1
    Now I’m wondering if Dune was meant to be taken seriously. Is all of this an elaborate joke, and I’ve just been punked since the 1970s?

May the 4th and Always Two There Are

Reconsidering the prequels in honor of May the 4th

I frequently forget that there are tons of Star Wars fans who saw the prequels not as the embittered adult I was, but as kids, who were primed for Naboo and pod races to be their formative experiences just like the Tatooine and trench runs were formative for me.

Even when I’ve been able to acknowledge that, though, it hasn’t made me actually like the movies any more. I’ve been stuck with the least charitable interpretation possible: they’re the product of someone who is an indisputable genius at world-building, and at re-interpreting and building on film genres so that they don’t feel like simple homages or re-hashes1The film noir influences on Attack of the Clones are still about the only thing I genuinely like from that movie, and of course at assembling teams of the most talented filmmakers in the industry — but was either unwilling or unable to acknowledge that the scripts and pacing were undermining all that work and turning it into a mess. As a result, all three of the movies have some standout moments (the pod races and the Duel of the Fates in The Phantom Menace in particular) that never coalesce into something that resonates.

But! This video from Ben Chinapen (frequent editor of the Mr Sunday Movies videos) is the first defense of The Phantom Menace that’s convinced me to reconsider it at all.

In particular: I was one of the big, angry, adult nerds who was extremely put out by the whole business about midichlorians2And Anakin’s virgin birth story, for that matter, which is somehow even less tonally appropriate, but somehow didn’t generate nearly as much nerd rage. To me, it seemed to violate everything that makes Star Wars what it is: it offers a pseudo-scientific explanation for something that not only needs no scientific explanation, but is actively undermined by one. It retroactively undermines the universality of the first trilogy, reminding you that it wasn’t actually a story of plucky underdogs overcoming powerful fascists, but a story about princesses and heroes who inherited their places in the story. (Which is something Rian Johnson tried to counteract in The Last Jedi, before that got stamped out in The Rise of Skywalker).

Even worse, it added a creepy layer of eugenics on top of that, suggesting that it wasn’t just fate that was calling these heroes into action, but actual biological differences that made them better suited to be heroes than commoners like you and me.

Again with the least charitable interpretation: Star Wars seemed to say that even a young person who was really into cars and spaceships from an out-of-the-way place like Modesto I mean Tatooine could answer a call to adventure and be capable of great things. The Phantom Menace seemed to retcon that into saying that that young person was predisposed to greatness all along. It felt like another case of a talented person achieving success and then making art to assert that their success was no accident, or even the product of hard work, but the result of their being “born better.”

But what if I were overthinking it, and being unfairly uncharitable? One thing that only became clear after years of nerd rage was that George Lucas doesn’t take Star Wars as seriously as fans claim to.3I admit I’ve also been gullible enough to take Harrison Ford’s “grouchy old man who hates Star Wars” character seriously, instead of recognizing that he’s basically doing a bit. What if Lucas wasn’t as obsessed with building onto the universe as I’d assumed, and was instead more interested in using this set of movies to explore a different set of ideas? Not just exploring new methods of making movies with 21st-century technology — which was always evident in the prequels, even to the angriest fans and the people least impressed with all the CGI and green screens — but in using this framework of fantasy science fiction based on old movie serials to present a different set of parables about universal themes of good, evil, and responsibility?

If you’re not as fussed about “canon” as the people making fan pages and wikis — in other words, if you don’t care as much about how Star Wars “works” as you do about what it “means” — then the midichlorians can exist almost purely as metaphor. Then, as Chinapen suggests, the entire first movie is about interconnectedness and interdependence. It actually becomes the opposite of my initial interpretation. It is, unexpectedly and more than a little confusingly, a story about a “chosen one” destined to change the nature of the entire universe, that rejects the whole notion of a chosen one. It asserts that we’re all influenced by each other, and that we all rely on each other.

I still don’t think the movies are all that deep, and I honestly can’t say that I like them that much more now than I did before. But I am starting to suspect that I was coming into the prequels with arrogance, and so much of what I found to be muddled and “anti-Star Wars” in them — why are they talking about interdependence in one scene, and then in the next scene asserting that our heroes are heroes because of cell parasites that let them do magic? — isn’t necessarily the result of poor storytelling, but my own assumptions about what these movies are supposed to be.

And I mean, that’s on me, because Lucas warned us all way back in 1980 that Anakin’s story was going to be a tragedy. But now it seems less like “a bunch of random and occasionally contradictory things that happen and then end badly, all because the conclusion of the story was already written 20 years previously,” and more like a consistent through-line. The key moments that turn Anakin into — spoiler! — Darth Vader are the result of everyone around him telling him that he can do anything.

Palpatine’s whole scheme of corruption works, not just on Anakin but the entire Republic, not simply because he’s secretly an evil wizard, but because he knows how to manipulate people’s desire to do the right thing, and their desire to have control over things outside of their control. Meanwhile, the Jedi are telling Anakin that he alone has a special gift as prophesied by the ancients, and also that personal attachments are a weakness that can be manipulated, instead of a strength. Maybe if he hadn’t spent his whole life getting such bad advice, he wouldn’t have become convinced that he alone is the arbiter of right and wrong, and he wouldn’t have flipped out and murdered a bunch of Tusken Raiders and children. Who’s to say, really?

Again, none of this was ever hidden in the movies; it just never made sense to expect that level of dramatic irony in a series so dependent on farting and slobbering aliens. That’s why I appreciate Ben Chinapen’s video so much: it hasn’t turned me into a fan of the prequels, but it is a good counter to the whole notion of “Star Wars is just for kids, stop taking it so seriously,” which is too often used both as a condemnation and a defense. (And has been since 1977). Like it or not, the whole series has become one of the most ubiquitous and most accessible set of stories there is. Even people who don’t take it seriously, or even like it, still have it as a cultural touchstone. That’s why it’s worth interpreting and re-interpreting.

That’s also why it’s reassuring that such a ubiquitous cultural touchstone that’s so important to so many people can be interpreted to have a more positive and consistent philosophy. It’s not just a story about genetically gifted space wizards fated to save the universe, that also gives occasional lip service to the “interconnectedness of all things.” It’s a set of parables about the nature of good and evil and our responsibility to be agents of good, not only by answering a call to adventure, but also by recognizing that no matter what our talents are, we’re all a small part of something greater.

  • 1
    The film noir influences on Attack of the Clones are still about the only thing I genuinely like from that movie
  • 2
    And Anakin’s virgin birth story, for that matter, which is somehow even less tonally appropriate, but somehow didn’t generate nearly as much nerd rage
  • 3
    I admit I’ve also been gullible enough to take Harrison Ford’s “grouchy old man who hates Star Wars” character seriously, instead of recognizing that he’s basically doing a bit.

May the Chip Shortage Be With You

A mysterious message from someone at Raspberry Pi that seemed interesting enough to pass along

This blog is too low-traffic for me to get anything resembling press requests, but I did get a short, intriguing message from somebody at Raspberry Pi today. They were responding to my posts about building a Star Wars-inspired Raspberry Pi setup, and my nerdy marriage proposal, with the enigmatic comment “you should keep an eye on on May 4th.”

I’m a huge fan of the whole Pi platform (especially the RP2040s and the whole Pi Zero line), and obviously a big Star Wars nerd, so this all seems highly relevant to my interests. My projects are on hold at the moment both because of limited time and because it’s very, very difficult to get Pi boards because of the global chip shortage, but I’ll be paying attention to whatever they’ve got in mind. It seems like anybody reading this blog is likely to have similar interests, so I thought I’d pass along the message!

Edited 4/4/2020: Seppo’s guess below was correct, and they were very kindly celebrating Star Wars-themed electronics projects instead of announcing any new collaboration. I think my cold, hard heart just immediately when to “product announcement” because my engagement ring box didn’t use a Raspberry Pi. I’d forgotten how the whole environment of hobbyist electronics on the internet tends to be a lot more supportive and non-competitive with each other as opposed to the world of “branded consumer products.” In any case, it’s encouraged me to get back into those electronics projects!

In addition to the products pages on and, a good channel I don’t believe I’ve mentioned before is The Rebel Base Builds. He’s a British CG artist and builder who takes on a lot of themed projects all themed to Star Wars, usually focusing on the modeling and construction aspects but still bringing in electronics (because duh, Star Wars needs LEDs).

Boba Fett and the Road Less Traveled

Reconsidering both The Book of Boba Fett and how “sophisticated” Star Wars needs to be

It’s only been a month since the finale of The Book of Boba Fett, which would be too early to go back and give it a second look, except Ben Chinapen made a pretty good video essay about the series, presenting Boba Fett’s character arc mostly independent of everything else in the show.

The video does exactly what it sets out to do: recap Boba Fett’s story in chronological order, to call out how the series managed to take what was essentially a dozen or so lines of dialogue and a cool suit, and turn it into an actual character with real motivations and such. There aren’t any shockingly surprising new takes in the video, but that isn’t a knock on the video at all. It’s just an acknowledgement that the series wasn’t really about ambiguity or layers. All of its meaning was floating there on the surface, keeping all the action scenes from being purely empty calories.

It did make me realize, though, that the series did have a little more thematic resonance than I originally gave it credit for. My main complaint about The Book of Boba Fett stands, and it’s the most obvious one: the series just suddenly loses interest in its main character and goes back to making The Mandalorian. I was willing to give the fifth episode (“Oops, All Mandalorians”) the benefit of the doubt, since it didn’t just continue Din Djarin’s story, but established it as a parallel for Boba Fett’s. But I thought the sixth episode (“How Grogu Got His Groove Back”) was a complete non-sequitur.

It seemed like the series hadn’t just lost interest in Boba Fett’s story, but stopped it completely to show us some fan-favorite characters doing predictable stuff that could’ve happened off-screen. Meanwhile, the Mandalorian chose a new spaceship completely inappropriate for bounty hunting, as if the filmmakers knew the scene they wanted to see at the end (and the toys they wanted to sell) and worked backwards from that, instead of giving it any genuine motivation. Worst of all, the ultimatum Luke Skywalker presented at the end seemed hypocritical and completely out of character; he’d seen more than anyone else how the old Jedi rule of “no attachments” always ended in tragedy, so why was he making Baby Yoda choose one or the other?

But if you reconsider that episode as an intentional part of The Book of Boba Fett instead of a clumsily-shoehorned interlude, it makes more sense. It’s yet another story of a character who has a path clearly laid out for him, but he chooses to define his own path and his own clan. Grogu didn’t even have a name until midway through the second season of The Mandalorian; until then, he was “Baby Yoda.” So of course he was going to end up following the same path as Yoda, training to be a powerful Jedi. (How that would fit in with the timeline of The Last Jedi was going to be an interesting exercise for the writers). I felt like the series was showing me stuff I already knew was going to happen, because it hadn’t even occurred to me that it could play out a different way.

In that context, the end of that episode feels less like an ultimatum, and more like Luke offering the freedom of choice. And the character appearances are meaningful, instead of just being cameos for the fans: Ahsoka chose to leave the Jedi and make her own way, while Luke speaks more like he’s doing what he thinks he’s supposed to do instead of “trusting his instincts.” Even Din Djarin’s new spaceship feels less forced; he wasn’t choosing a ship for being a bounty hunter, because he was redefining himself as something else. He didn’t need room for bounties, but for his new family.

To be clear: I still don’t think it all works. I think the series would’ve been a lot stronger if they’d spent that time developing the characters and plot threads they left hanging, like the Rancor, and Jennifer Beals’s character, and the Hutts, and the other crime lords, and Fett’s history with Cad Bane and other bounty hunters. But at least I can understand why they thought the two episodes of The Mandalorian fit into The Book of Boba Fett without being completely arbitrary.

It seems like I spend a lot of time insisting that Star Wars works best when it doesn’t try for nuance or layers or ambiguity, and just sticks to Good Guys vs Bad Guys with spaceships and lasers. The reason the stories resonate isn’t because they’re complex or open to multiple interpretations, but because they take straightforward ideas about morality and free will, and present them in interesting ways. It’s best kept in the realm of parable, which is why it feels facile to look for too much in the way of philosophy or thematic complexity, and why it feels tone deaf to try to work in too much moral ambiguity or “mature” content. But that’s also why I refuse to just reject all of it as being frivolous or just for kids; having all of the “meaning” floating on the surface, ready for interpretation, is a feature instead of a bug. The simplicity and accessibility makes it universal, not necessarily juvenile.

This is a franchise that has more archetypes than fully-realized characters — outside of the comics and some of the animated series, Boba Fett was the ultimate example of a “character” who had no actual characterization apart from “a bad-ass who has a cool spaceship and a jetpack.” I’m currently reading a book of short stories that recount events from the movies from the point of view of an incidental or background character, and it includes one from the perspective of Boba Fett. It’s written by Paul Dini, who’s extremely talented, but having to work with the version of the character as it exists in the movies. And it shows just how little there is to work with; it’s difficult to make music when you’ve only got one note to play.

So I respect what a big swing it was for The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett to take one-note characters and spin them into genuine character arcs about loyalty, identity, and self-determination. And I doubly respect that they did it while keeping everything in the realm of parable, instead of trying to take the Rogue One approach, trying to turn stories of Good vs Evil into “more mature” stories of politics and morally-compromised heroes. I’d expected The Book of Boba Fett to be a story about an anti-hero, with all the double-crosses and dirty deals of a mob story — Star Wars trying to bring spaceship and lasers to a more action-heavy version of The Sopranos. As frustrating as the series often was, I really like that they rejected that idea. Instead of asking me to identify or even empathize with an anti-hero, they took a pretty shallow non-character and let him become a hero.

Boba Fett and Other Figures Each Sold Separately

Thoughts about the finale of The Book of Boba Fett, and the season (series?) as a whole

When I finished watching the season finale of The Book of Boba Fett (no word yet if there’ll be a season two), I thought it reminded me of all the times I’d procrastinated and then crammed for a final exam at the last minute. Sometimes I’d squeak through with a B- because I was careful to check off all the requirements, but it was clear that my heart wasn’t fully in it.

The more I think about it, though, it takes me even further back. It reminds me of when I was little younger and playing with my Star Wars toys, throwing together my favorite figures and whatever playsets I had, trying to make a story out of it. The stories were always disjointed and a little repetitive, and clearly just building up to whatever showdown I wanted to see, like, oh I don’t know, Boba Fett riding on the back of a Rancor going raaarr! and then droids are shooting at him pew pew pew and then he fires his rocket fwoooosh and it explodes.

Characters would all gather around one small location for no good story reason, and they’d just hole up there for long stretches of time when I forgot about them. I’d suddenly remember something that I’d wanted to include, so I’d just bring it in without sufficient build-up. And most of it would be a lot of firing lasers back and forth without much actually happening.

And yes, I was still enough of a nerd to try to have a thematic arc for my story. So I did appreciate that the finale hit the right beats for Boba Fett’s story in this season — defeating the vestiges of his past with the help and the tools of the new tribe he’d found for himself — even if it came across a little obvious and clumsy.

A highlight of the episode for me was Fennec Shand’s chance to be a total bad-ass at the end, with a more brutal graphic scene than we’ve been used to seeing in Star Wars in a while. I also liked how the Rancor was depicted, in that pseudo-stop-motion practical effect style that reminded not just of Return of the Jedi but the obvious reference to King Kong. (I also liked that the framing was like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, although after all the business with the Tuskens, I’d been hoping for Lawrence of Arabia).

I still don’t think Grogu should’ve been anywhere near this series, and especially not Luke Skywalker. Including them feels like it was done for the benefit of marketing or merchandising, not for the good of the story, and just comes across as crass. But if they had to include Grogu, I at least loved his hilariously awkward walk, which always looked like that little girl who walked in on her dad in the middle of a BBC interview.

I don’t like being too critical of the series. For one thing, some of the most annoying people online have been vocally critical of the series, and I hate thinking that I have anything in common with them. But more than that, my main criticism has always been that it’s fine. I’ve gotten spoiled by the Disney+ series with The Mandalorian, WandaVision, Hawkeye, and even Falcon and the Winter Soldier being from huge franchises with built-in audiences, but still always better than they needed to be.

This series had a ton of really cool stuff, so much that it feels odd to be critical of it — Thundercat doing cyborg modifications on an assassin played by Ming-Na Wen and a space marshall, all to a space funk soundtrack? What the hell am I complaining about?! But so much of that really cool stuff was put in the wrong places, or presented in a weird or shallow way.

More often than not, The Book of Boba Fett showed me the stuff I wanted to see. But it was exceptional in those brief moments where it was showing me something I’d never expected to see. I wish there’d been more of that.

Boba Fett and the No For Real, Though, Did Temuera Morrison Get Laryngitis or Something?

Thoughts about episode 6 of The Book That Used To Be About Boba Fett

Things are heating up with chapter 6 of The Book of Boba Fett, with a guest appearance that must’ve gotten a lot of fans excited. There’s one scene with a fan-favorite character, a mysterious and notoriously deadly bounty hunter who hasn’t made a lot of appearances in the Star Wars universe lately. His name is Boba Fett.

I gave a pretty charitable interpretation of the last episode, figuring that it fit into the story because it showed how Boba Fett’s story and the Mandalorian’s were thematically similar. This one, though, just had a pretty cool showdown in a desert town that was at least tangentially building on the season storyline, and then a ton of stuff that should’ve been in season 3 of The Mandalorian.

It bugs me because I would’ve liked almost all of it, had it been presented as part of that series instead of interrupting the story I’ve gotten invested in. It actually retroactively makes me like the series so far a little less, because the stuff that’s been introduced — like the Rancor, and the Sanctuary club, and the Mods — no longer feel like parts of a building story, but just seeds for images that’ll appear in the final showdown with the bad guys. There was so much room that could’ve been used for telling an intriguing story of crime bosses and double-crosses and revenge plots, but they chose instead to just use it as a vehicle to squeeze more comics and animation characters into live action.

(I say “almost all of it” because the choice at the end seemed like a completely false one that never should’ve been presented in the first place. It seemed like something meant to play on the audience’s emotions instead of something that would’ve been genuinely motivated by any of the characters involved).

I hate to say it, but I was pretty disappointed and even annoyed by this episode. I’ve seen quite a few disgruntled types bad-mouthing the series around the internet, and I don’t want to add to that — even the episodes I’m not crazy about still seem to have stuff I like a lot. I just feel like the storytelling has been frustratingly disjointed, from a team that in the past has been able to give the audience everything what they want to see but make it feel resonant as well.

Boba Fett and the Mystery of the Disappearing Boba Fett

My thoughts on Episode 5 of The Book of Mostly Boba Fett

When the first episode of The Book of Boba Fett showed him punching and flamethrower-ing his way out of a sarlaac, I thought that clearly the series was trying to make up for all the indignities the Star Wars franchise has piled on the character over the decades. But I can’t think of much that’s more disrespectful than getting Cousin Olivered out of your own series!

Obviously, I love The Mandalorian, and I’ve been eager to see how the story progressed after the finale of season 2. The last episode all but explicitly said that he’d be coming back in this one, and I was really looking forward to seeing what had changed. And it would’ve been awkward to just say, “Hey look, Mando’s back!” without addressing any of that. And this was, by any standard, an excellent episode, full of cool stuff. But it was an episode of The Mandalorian.

I wish that they’d managed to bring him back in a story that kept Boba Fett’s moving forward, and saved all the best moments of this one for an episode of the next season of The Mandalorian. They could’ve teased the intrigue in this appearance — Where did he get that new ship? What did he get for Grogu? — and then gone into all of this detail in a flashback.

One of the reasons I’ve loved these series is because they don’t just show me what I want to see, even as they’re showing me exactly the version of Star Wars I’ve been wanting to see since the early 1980s. There’s always a real effort to make stories that have thematic resonance and show a real arc for the characters, even for those of us in the audience more preoccupied with seeing space battles and jetpacks. This episode just left Boba Fett’s arc hanging.

I do appreciate that it sets up Din Djarin to be a kind of analogue of Boba Fett. They’ve both lost their tribe, and they’re reinventing themselves on their own terms instead of what other people have told them they have to be. That’s been the ongoing theme of this series so far. It would’ve been stronger if both characters had been there to play off of each other.

But apart from that, I really liked everything in this episode. The new ship is, indeed, wizard, even though I wonder how a bounty hunter can work with a starfighter that only has enough extra space for a baby Yoda. I loved seeing the BD droid from Jedi Outcast, Amy Sedaris speaking the Jawa language, the Rodian kid staring at the Mandalorian like on every commercial flight, the arches in Mos Eisley taken from Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art that I had hanging in my bedroom. I even gave a genuine gasp of emotion at The Armorer’s final dismissal, which surprised me as I hadn’t thought I had any emotional attachment to any of these characters apart from Grogu.

I just wish they’d figured out how to work Boba Fett into an episode of The Book of Boba Fett.

Boba Fett and the Thundercat-Installed Stomach Mod

Random thoughts after Episode 4 of The Book of Boba Fett

It has come to my attention that the street gang in last week’s episode of The Book of Boba Fett were directly (and blatantly!) patterned on Mods, not just “vaguely European” as I’d thought. I regret the oversight. I do love that Fennec Shand explicitly calls them “the Mods” in this episode, presumably from “modified.”

(I’m also embarrassed that I didn’t come up with with calling them “Mos Vespas.” I mean it was right there and I didn’t see it).

I was also aiming low last episode, apparently, since I was delightfully surprised to see Stephen Root show up in a Star Wars franchise. In retrospect, he was bound to show up eventually, considering the demand for character actors for all the new movies and series. The bigger surprise was this week, when Thundercat showed up as a rad black market cybernetic-modification installer. Complete with a rad soundtrack during the A-Team-inspired montage where he wheels out a special cart holding his robot arm replacement. It was one of those cases where I could tell he was having a blast to be in Star Wars, and I was so happy for a complete stranger. I’m sure the make-up crew was also happy that they didn’t have to do a whole lot to make Thundercat fit into Star Wars.

Even though episode 2 is still by far my favorite, I’ve liked all the episodes so far, and this one definitely didn’t disappoint. On the surface, episode 4 just seems like wrapping up act two and heading into the climax — the flashback part of the episode detailing how Boba Fett found and saved Fennec Shand didn’t seem to be reinforcing or building on ideas in the “main” story, but simply connecting the dots. It was full of great, satisfying moments, but I didn’t immediately pick up on any “thematic resonance” that the other episodes had.

But after thinking about it some more, I think it just makes explicit the themes that have been going through the rest of the series. This one is about loyalty through respect, explaining exactly why Boba Fett has been doing what he’s doing. It’s important to see him continuing to build alliances and add characters to his gang. Even past adversaries, like Black Krrsantan and that rabbit droid. I’d been wondering how they’d make a story about an anti-hero feel compelling, and they’ve done it by showing he’s got his own code of honor.

And I’ve got to admit it’s fun to have a series where the characters aren’t constantly struggling to stay true to the light side. Watching Boba Fett mow down a murderous biking gang was oddly satisfying, as was watching him and Fennec Shand take on the Sarlaac with the coolest weapon in Star Wars.

I also loved the Bantha. Through all of these episodes, I’ve been wondering how things are “supposed” to look, and how much is a limitation of practical effects, shooting scenes in studios instead of on location, or using TV-budget CGI. But the Bantha was so much more expressive and detailed than they’ve ever been shown before, and it never didn’t feel real to me. I don’t want to watch a making-of, because I don’t want to know exactly how it was done.

One thing that occurred to me during this episode is that it feels like they’re finally achieving what Star Wars has been wanting to do in live action for a long time. The train heist from episode 2 was a perfect rendition of late 70s/early 80s Star Wars action and comedy, and I think the scene in the kitchen from this episode nailed the tone that much of the prequels were trying to achieve. Hitting the right combination of goofy slapstick and action violence.

I don’t know how to write fan letters in the Modern Era, but if I did I’d want to thank Jon Favreau for delivering, over and over again, the fun and expansive version of Star Wars that I’ve been wanting to see ever since I was little.

Boba Fett and the Eurovision Street Gang

The third episode of The Book of Boba Fett was gloriously corny, and I loved it

Considering that I’m enough of a nerd to write a whole treatise about what “feels like Star Wars,” I guess it could be surprising that I loved just about every second of the third episode of The Book of Boba Fett.

It introduces a gang of young toughs who look less suited to the streets of Mos Espa than to a Shadowrun-themed Eurovision act. With their suits and accents and brightly-colored speeder Vespas, they looked more like citizens of Paris than citizens of Tatooine. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d abandoned any pretense of being in Star Wars and just started blasting Prototypes on their speeder speakers.

The sedate car chase through the city had already won me over by the time a car actually crashed through concept art of Jabba’s palace being carried, inexplicably, across the street. That moment just sealed the deal for me. After the first episode, I’d said that I couldn’t figure out whether the hints of cheesiness were intentional; this episode felt kind of like Robert Rodriguez saying, “Bitch, I made Spy Kids!

I’d be lying if I said that no part of my enjoyment of the episode, and the car chase in particular, was imagining how angry it was going to make other Star Wars nerds. I’ve already watched a couple of nerd reviews on YouTube, and I admit it makes me low-key gleeful to see them complaining about the corniness. I’m realizing that one of the many things I don’t like about Rogue One is that it takes itself so seriously; I can’t remember any moments of comedy (or even levity) in it, and it just seemed to need the audience to think it was bad-ass.

There was a guest appearance by Danny Trejo, which honestly was inevitable as soon as they announced Robert Rodriguez was an executive producer. I was more surprised to see Stephen Root show up, because he’s just awesome and because I never would’ve expected to see him in a Star Wars project. There was also a character in the background in a flashback to Mos Eisley that clearly seemed to be Amy Sedaris’s character from The Mandalorian, which was a nice callback.

I’m enjoying all the machinations and misdirections and happily avoiding making assumptions or predictions (although come on, the main bad guy has to be Jennifer Beals’s character, right?). Instead I’m just enjoying watching Boba Fett going out and collecting friends to bring back to his castle. It’s like a Star Wars version of Suikoden.