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The news that James Mangold will co-write and direct a movie based on Star Wars’ cult bounty hunter Boba Fett is something that will likely thrill a significant portion of the franchise’s fanbase, especially given Mangold’s genre pedigree on projects like 3:10 to Yuma, The Wolverine and, most especially, Logan. There is just one thing he should bear in mind when working on the story: Pretend the prequels never happened.
Prior to George Lucas returning to Star Wars with 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, Boba Fett was a cult character amongst the franchise fandom despite having very little presence in the movies at all. Sure, he certainly had a great spaceship, but what did he actually do in the movies, beyond delivering a frozen Han Solo and then flying to his doom because someone else accidentally set his jetpack in motion?
Still, he looked cool, and that counted for a lot. Just ask another Empire Strikes Back background character, the even less impressive, yet still beloved, Dengar. (It should be pointed out that Boba Fett fandom was assisted by appearances in spinoff comic books and novels, all of which managed to make the character seem not only more capable, but actually pretty bad-ass, in comparison with his movie appearances. Let’s not even go near his actual debut appearance, however.)
It was against this backdrop of potentially unearned goodwill towards the character that it emerged that 2002’s Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones would deal with his backstory, and include an appearance by his father, Jango Fett. Finally, it seemed, audiences would get a movie appearance that treated Boba with the respect he deserved! Except, of course, the reality was nowhere near that.
If a perpetual risk of prequels is ruining the appeal of a mysterious character by revealing too much information, Attack of the Clones should be applauded for managing to double down on that problem by revealing too much information and then ensuring that all of that information underscored how dull Boba Fett really was. Attack of the Clones answered questions like, “How did Boba Fett get such a cool outfit?,” “What’s going on with Boba Fett’s great space ship?” and “How did Boba Fett become a bounty hunter, anyway?” with exactly the same answer: his dad.
Jango Fett wore Boba Fett’s outfit, except it was different colors. He was a bounty hunter, and he piloted exactly the same spaceship as Boba. It turned out that everything that audiences had loved about the character were, according to the newly created mythology, literally inherited from his father. As if to double down on the idea that nothing about Boba Fett was in any way original, Attack of the Clones also established that Jango Fett wasn’t his father in the traditional sense; Boba was actually a child clone of Jango. Every single thing about the character, according to official Star Wars canon, could be traced back to his father.
It was a retcon that immediately undermined any potential interest in the character. He went from being dangerous to being dangerously incapable of making any decisions for himself, a character that did everything his father did without question, all the way down to wearing his clothes and driving his space car.
It was as if Sherlock Holmes was revealed to be a clone of Jimmy Holmes who, it turned out, was also a detective who liked to wear a deerstalker hat and hang around with a Dr. Watson while solving crimes. Who would rather know more about Sherlock after finding that out, when Jimmy was waiting to be explored? Who cared about Boba Fett once Jango was introduced?
Mangold cannot, sadly, undo the Jango Fett of it all in his upcoming movie; it’s part of Star Wars canon, which is an immovable beast. He could, however, ignore it entirely and instead concentrate on giving Boba a sense of personality of his own, concentrating on what has always worked about the character — the look, yes, but also his bounty hunter career and the notion of him as the most fearsome bounty hunter in the entire galaxy and what that would mean in the Star Wars galaxy in particular — so that, for the first time ever, Boba Fett actually manages to live up to the hype.
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