Friday, May 27, 2016

Nostalgia Nugget: Boba Fett - Bad Ass or Ass Hat

Fett. The man, the mystery, the wookie scalper.
It is human nature to always want to know more about something or someone mysterious. And when you find out more – you’re usually disappointed. What you can imagine is almost always more impressive than what the actual story turns out to be. In a lot of ways that analogy is perfect for the Star Wars prequels. We all wanted to know what happened to our favorite characters and worlds before A New Hope started and the result was something that didn’t resonate with a lot of fans.

This is also the case for Boba Fett, one of the most feared bounty hunters in the galaxy, at least according to the folks at Lucasfilm before The Empire Strikes Back came out. He was going to be a major part of the new film and cause some real problems for Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbacca. When we got a look at him, he was unlike any character we had seen before.

No you don't get to play as Fett in this game!
Boba Fett’s mystique is all in his costume. He’s wearing armor and a helmet, much like a stormtrooper, but using grey and green instead of black and white. Visually this puts him in the middle of the conflict, neither good nor bad, but willing to work for whoever provides the most cash. Then you had his weapons, unlike any we’d seen in the series yet. His blaster rifle looked powerful. His arms were bristling with weapons of all kinds, and then you had that jet pack with the rocket on the top. Holy crap was this guy armed to the teeth!

In The Empire Strikes Back Boba Fett has three lines. They don’t tell us much about him. Vader makes a point to say, “I want them alive. No disintegrations.” Vader points at Fett when he says that last line, implying some kind of past between the two. Fett replies with “As you wish”. Later Fett is concerned about his prey being killed by the carbon freezing, “What if he doesn’t survive. He’s worth a lot to me.” This guy is in it for the hefty reward from Jabba the Hutt, and doesn’t give a crap about the Empire or Rebellion. His last line is to order some stormtroopers around.

So there you have it: three lines, some pot shots at Luke and flying in his odd looking space ship. Yet Boba Fett was one of the most popular characters in the entire Star Wars universe. I’m telling you, it is all in the mystery.

You see that image and all kinds of stories
kick into your mind!
I first encountered Fett when my parents bought me the 12-inch action figure that came out in 1979, before Empire Strikes Back was released. Obviously this was a new Star Wars character and on the box he’s blasting fire out of his arm and flying in SPACE! He also had Wookie scalps as an accessory. WOOKIE SCALPS! What a bad ass! I was suddenly obsessed with this character. This tall version and the smaller standard sized figures became some of my favorites to play with. Fett would always end up switching sides, capturing Han Solo and getting into battles with Darth Vader. It is also safe to say that my first Star Wars fan fiction (written in the late 80s when I got back into the series) was about Boba Fett escaping from the Sarlacc and discovering Jedi powers to fight a resurgent Empire. So yeah, I had drawings of Fett wielding a grey lightsaber (to match is grey outfit naturally).

Now lets talk a little bit about that “death” in Return of the Jedi. For a character that was so mysterious and dangerous in Empire, Fett goes out like a punk in Jedi. He gets hit by a blind Han Solo and then ricochets off the side of the sail barge and plummets into the Sarlacc, only to end up a burp joke – A BURP JOKE! (The third in a series of burping that Lucas was sure the kids would enjoy). Kiddies might have been tickled by burping aliens, but I was actually disturbed by Fett’s pathetic demise. I envisioned some kind of deadly battle against Chewbacca or Han. Hell even that short skirmish he has with Luke on the skiff seemed to promise something great. But no, flailing, falling and burping was all that was in store for us.

Fans of Fett knew he could get out of that, had to get out of it. Even the novels that occur after Return of the Jedi had Fett getting his jet pack working and escaping from the Pit of Carkoon and coming back to blast the crap out of the Sarlacc. Then the vengeance game was on with Fett pursuing Solo into infinity. We didn’t have to settle for the ending that George Lucas gave us, so we made our own and it was fitting to the mysterious character.

Nintendo's bounty hunter and one
woman army.
The fact is, we didn’t know much about Fett at all. Lots of rumors were floating around, especially before the comics and short stories of the late 90s and 00s really kicked in. I remember one great theory that had Boba Fett being a spurned lover of Han Solo and was more than happy to bring him to Jabba the Hutt. Cool concept, but I think someone was thinking of the bounty hunter Samus Aran from the Metroid games on Nintendo.

The 1990s was the boom of Fett fandom. The mystery of the bounty hunter seemed to intrigue everyone, and Lucasfilm and Hasbro took notice. Soon we had tons of Boba Fett merchandise to pick from. He went from being the character that the cool fans talked about, to the character that all the fans talked about. So the cool fans decided to talk about Pondo Baba instead. When the Special Editions came out, Lucas and his team made sure that Boba Fett was inserted into A New Hope during the Jabba the Hutt scene, and had additional footage in Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi. Fett fans were thrilled, even if they also felt a bit dirty from being pandered to. It also didn’t stop the Shadows of the Empire video game from featuring Boba Fett on nearly all the advertising and posters promoting the game. Fett was everywhere and there was no getting around it.

Spike from Cowboy Bebop doesn't quite
seem as good at his job as Fett does.
One other little thing I noticed in the 1990s, when Fett-mania was going strong, was that space bounty hunters became a thing. I already mentioned Samus from Metroid, but she was always labeled a bounty hunter even back in the first game from 1987. But the place I saw it was anime. Series like Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star and even Trigun all featured bounty hunters as the main characters or as key characters in the story line. You also had shows like Firefly and X-files that featured bounty hunting humans and aliens running around. I think we can all thank Boba Fett for that.

But too much of a good thing can lead to the diminishment of that thing. With each new novel, comic book and video game, Boba Fett became less of a mystery. The oversaturation of his character type and his character in general started to get old. This was all building to the prequels.

Cool looking character, but Aurra
didn't even get a line of dialogue!
The Phantom Menace attempted to scratch the bounty hunter itch with Aurra Sing, a female bounty hunter that appears in one scene, but still managed to appear on merchandise and magazine covers. Folks were even calling her Babe Fett. I don’t think the Fett fans went for her too much, although she appeared quite a few times in the animated Clone Wars television series.

So we got the origin story for Boba Fett, and met his father Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones. This revealed to us that Boba and Jango were from New Zealand and that Boba was a clone of Jango, who was in fact the source for all the clone troopers. Which means that Boba Fett was basically a glorified Stormtrooper. Um, yeah, that really sapped the mystery out of our favorite bounty hunter. Aurra Sing isn’t looking so bad now. But seeing Boba Fett as a little kid (and sadly portrayed by an actor who wasn’t so good) really seemed to diminish the mythic status of this character. After that a lot of folks seemed to lose interest in the bounty hunter.

Disney and Lucasfilm have never forgotten the heyday of Fett-mania. So in time for The Force Awakens along with all the Darth Vader merchandise that hit the shelves (even though Vader isn’t even in the film) we got a ton of Fett merchandise. Yeah I have to admit I might have recently picked up the odd Fett here or there. But I figure if I want to indulge in my Fett fetish, I still have a bunch of my 80s and 90s Star Wars stuff around. Yes folks, I’m that kind of fan.

So there you have it, how Boba Fett went from intergalactic badass to just another ass hat thanks to the prequels. But you know what, I can still watch the original version of Empire Strikes Back, where Fett doesn’t have a New Zealand accent and he is a greedy son of a bitch. Besides it looks like this new trilogy already has its own Fett-a-like. Captain Phasma only had about three lines too, right?

The woman, the mystery, the smell of armor polish.


  1. It could have been worse. The Green Lantern and the Green Hornet disappointed for two hours each.

    Maybe Fett needs a movie in which he collects a bounty on Howard the Duck.

    1. Disney already has a Fett-centric movie in the works. I wonder if they will keep the New Zealand accent. :)

  2. Well, I guess like comic books or like Star Wars did as well, you can always retcon whatever part of the cannon you wish too. What continuity, forget all that back history stuff. Irrc, Star Wars said to heck with all those books, comics, etc. that came out after the original trilogy, we want to start anew. But then they didn't really start anew either.

    So which Batman is the real Batman? I guess it's the one that's current written or it's the original one from the Golden Age, but it's probably the one you specifically grew up with and remember the most.

    I think it would be cool if Boba showed up in the new Star Wars. How? Well, if he was a clone you could always clone a clone. Or that could have been a clone that fell into the Sarlacc or a minion. The Empire has its ways...

    1. Good point. I'm not sure how people would react if Fett came back. I can certainly see him appearing in one of the spin off movies, even "Rogue One". Not sure about the new trilogy. I can see how Disney would be tempted to include him. But as I mentioned, just because he wasn't in "The Force Awakens" didn't stop anyone from pumping out all kinds of toys and other merchandise for him (of which I purchased a couple items - I know, I'm an enabler).