Whenever we turn on Star Wars in my home, I almost always receive a few questions from people whose curiosity warms my heart. But wait, didn’t they already blow up the Death Star? is one of my favorites. Why doesn’t he just use the Force? is another strong contender (especially when in reference to Han Solo). Whenever someone asks me one of these questions, it adds three years to my life based simply on the rush of dopamine I get when answering them, and none fill me with the same level of glee as when I am asked that single, inevitable question:
What is the deal with Boba Fett?
This is usually the point when I would pause the movie, pull out my notes, and bask in the undiluted regret lying behind my friends’ eyes.
To understand the Boba Fett love, you really have to understand early Star Wars. After 40+ years of established canon, it can be hard for newcomers to imagine a world before anyone knew that Darth Vader was Luke’s father, before Palpatine was a name on everyone’s lips, or before Han’s legendary “I know.” These monumental moments in the Star Wars universe feel innate, and they make the films seem as though they were built for nostalgia more than they were ever supposed to entertain or shock (although I assure you that they very much did).
When it first came out, Star Wars rose to its position as a pop culture icon almost immediately. The effects, lore, and irresistibly lovable characters enticed viewers to the point of seeing the film in theaters three, four, five or more times just so that they could experience that same fuzzy feeling in their gut that they felt the first time. No one could get enough. If a person was into Star Wars, then they were into Star Wars without doubt, hesitation, or inhibition.
On top of that, a tortuous three years passed before The Empire Strikes Back came out, during which time this newly founded fanbase only grew, both in number and in passion. The legend of the galaxy far far away began to spread and the excitement for the next installment mounted. With the kind of momentum that can only be bred by time, Episode V hit theaters and fans were ready to dissect it piece by piece.
Among the much larger elements to appear in the film—the introduction of Yoda, details about Han’s backstory, the greatest plot reveal in all of cinematic history—there were plenty of smaller moments to digest. Empire was the first film to give audiences a real glimpse of the Star Wars universe outside of the Rebel Alliance, showing us characters that existed (or at the very least tried to exist) outside of the war. Boba Fett, though his lines few, quickly became one of the more prominent symbols of this greater world.
Some perspective for those who, for whatever reason, have not been able to follow Star Wars from the beginning: at the time, Darth Vader was as menacing as a character could get. No one knew about Palpatine, there was no Anakin to build sympathy, and no other villain to date had quite lived up to the legend of the Sith Lord. Without question, he was not to be crossed. His desires were to be carried out. His orders were to be followed. As we saw in A New Hope, any opposition was sure to be met with a chokehold, either physical or by use of the Force.
Except, apparently, when it came from Boba Fett.
This bounty hunter back-talked Vader with such confidence that he kind of had to be a badass. What’s more, is that Vader let him. Did the two have a history? Had Boba Fett somehow earned Vader’s respect? Could anyone truly earn Vader’s respect? Those few simple transactions at Cloud City sparked an explosion of questions. With another three years until the next film, fans took the time to answer those questions themselves.
It was during this period in between Empire and Return of the Jedi that the legend of Boba Fett really began to take root. He was featured in comics, speculated about in fanzines, and was the subject of an action figure with a super cool missile launcher. Every movement was analyzed, every word deconstructed. He was the man who never took off his mask, which made him perfect for any story that fans could dream up. Over the course of just a few summers, Boba Fett became a legend.
That is, until he died (or, well, kind of died, because there are some Legends materials that brought him back). Half an hour into Return of the Jedi, Boba Fett fell victim to a clumsy and undignified death that left fans of the character wholly disappointed. Once a legend, now a mockery. It was the ultimate unintentional betrayal.
Boba Fett’s legacy continues in the prequel series, much to the chagrin of many fans who don’t believe that the films did him justice. Not much is established outside of the character’s origin and it does little to answer the questions that his theatrical debut first introduced. When it comes to the galaxy’s most notable bounty hunter, it seems as though he lives best off screen.
But for casual viewers or for those who have not yet ventured into the Expanded Universe, the cultish love of Boba Fett can easily bring about confusion. This guy? The one who was on screen for five minutes? I get it. Without those years of waiting between movies, Boba Fett simply doesn’t live up to the hype. But for those who did endure the wait, he characterizes everything that was worth waiting for.
How the Beloved Boba Fett Came to Be
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