I know these posts will be controversial for some of you and many will disagree, so let me just start by saying that I am a massive Star Wars fan. I have been a Star Wars fan since I first saw the original trilogy at home in my youth and much of my childhood, and that of my siblings, was spent pretending we were fighting with lightsabers, using the force, and racing on speeder bikes. I have loved it since the very first time I saw the first film, I continued loving it through the poor prequels and will continue to love it in spite of what the sequels may bring. I should also point out that for anyone who hasn’t seen the films, you are a fool, and there will be spoilers ahead so go watch the films IMMEDIATELY before reading through the rest of this post.
And now with all that said, it is time to start, knowing that this will no doubt lead to a torrent of bile and contempt being sent my way.
It is my sincere belief that, for all the problems of the prequels and nostalgic reference of the original trilogy, Jar Jar Binks is a better character than Boba Fett I should explain that my definition of ‘better’ is the more important, and frankly more badass character in the Star Wars movie universe. I shall explain my reasoning by breaking down the characters and their roles in the films – I’m not dipping into the cartoons because, well they aren’t films, nor will the Extended Universe be invoked for the same reason and because all that will be made irrelevant by the Force Awakens.
I know that Boba Fett is heralded as one of, if not the best character, bedecked in a cool armour with jetpack, flying around space in Slave I. Equally I know that Jar-Jar can be mightily annoying with his comedic voice & accent, lolloping gait, bug-eyes and flappy ears. In fact it is almost as if Lucas wanted people to dislike him, and yet I think the level of vitriol directed in his direction is unwarranted, and let me explain why.
Star Wars originals and prequels:
Like most forms of media, movies are about exploring characters’ story arcs. Almost all of the best are about the evolution of the characters on screen whether it be Lawrence of Arabia, Casablanca, The Godfather, or Lord of the Rings. The same is true of Star Wars – in the original trilogy we see Luke Skywalker grow from whiny farm-boy to a whiny Jedi, Han Solo grows from a caddish rogue to a roguish cad, Princess Leia transforms from an uptight princess, to a slightly less uptight princess who kissed her brother and Obi-Wan Kenobi progresses from her only hope to a ghost. They may develop at different rates, but they all progress at least a little throughout the three films.
Now let us switch our gaze to the ill-fated, ill-conceived prequels and their character developments. Anakin Skywalker progresses from whiny, poorly acted child to whiny, poorly acted angry man/burns victim/Darth Vader, Obi Wan changes from a youthful padawan to bearded Jedi Master, Padmé Amidala from a strong, forthright queen to an outcast who dies from a broken heart (seriously Lucas, a broken heart!?!?) and Senator Palpatine progresses from mild-mannered
janitor I mean senator to the evilest of evil Emperors.
All decent enough progressions for the key characters in the films, except of course the two that are the focus of this post.
I’ll start with the character with whom many a Star Wars fans are besotted, the armoured bounty hunter Boba Fett. I will admit, I used to love the Fett when I was a child and at first glance it is easy to see why…he’s a bounty hunter, he has cool armour and he has a frickin’ jetpack!!!
But as time has gone on, I’ve watched and re-watched the film, and grew up from childish things (ha!), I have come a realisation. For all his apparent badassery, Boba Fett is actually really rubbish.
Attack of the Clones
Boba Fett is only relevant in a couple of films based on Star Wars chronology, we first see him in the Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones as a floppy haired clone-child of his kiwi-accented bounty hunting father.
His entire role here is a Lucas nod & wink to fans of the original films because his only real contribution is watching his father die, and picking up his helmet. It is yet another completely misguided step by Lucas who, having undermined one of the greatest cinematic villains in Vader by portraying him as a whiny little kid, also does the same for Boba Fett.
But even if we skip over that, and jump forwards to the original series, I’m afraid that I no longer see him as an awesome bounty hunting demigod, for one very simple reason, he isn’t.
Empire Strikes Back
He first appears in Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back (Limited Edition) [DVD] in a gaggle of bounty hunters called in to help find the Millenium Falcon. Now I will admit that he does a good job in finding and tracking it when apparently no other bounty hunter or empire goon could, including Vader himself!
But, that’s basically where his competence ends. He finds out they are going to Cloud City but does nothing with that other than let Vader do all the hard work. It is Vader who captures Solo and the rest of the crew and it is Vader who does the fighting with Luke when he arrives. Boba Fett literally just stands in the background and lets Vader do whatever the hell he wants.
Even when Fett has the opportunity to show how awesome he supposedly is in confronting Vader about Solo’s carbon freezing plan, he does little more than say a few words before skulking away and letting Vader do whatever he wants on the promise that if Solo dies, Fett will get paid. While it may be prudent, Fett basically lets Vader do all his dirty work, he is literally just a courier – Vader captures, Vader freezes, and the film ends with Fett basically being a chickens**t express delivery boy for Jabba.
Return of the Jedi
And now Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi , surely Fett will finally show just how great he can be, with his jetpack and blasters and inherent coolness. Alas is it not to be. While he is present at Jabba’s palace when Solo’s rescuers are captured, there is nothing to suggest he was instrumental in uncovering and stopping the plot. Maybe he knew, maybe he didn’t, but in the end he was one of quite a few people who were present, and does little more than stand around and try to look like a cooler version of Jabba’s other guards.
The next, and evidently the last time we see him, is on Jabba’s sail barge. He is, once again, one of the guards ensuring the executions run smoothly. At this he fails spectacularly, and with grave consequences for himself. He is actually on the barge with the convicted during this whole sequence and when it all kicks off, he tries to capture Luke with his wrist mounted grappling device apparently without realising that a JEDI could find a way out of some fibercord whip!!! Yes, it was some neat lightsabering by Luke, but you’re standing a couple of feet away form a Jedi and you use a length of fancy rope instead of the umpteen weapons you have at your disposal!
And how does the greatest bounty hunter of them all react to this does he take Luke down? Does he break out the big guns? Does he fire up the jetpack? …No, he falls over! That’s right, all those neat toys and weapons and he uses some rope, and then falls over. And to make matters worse, for some reason he falls forward, which makes no sense because if he was actually trying to control Luke with the rope, surely that momentum would be backwards not forwards, but anyway, even ignoring that, his next action is possibly the most damming evidence against him in the entire series.
Having got back to his feet, he then TURNS HIS BACK on the two characters who would have the most significant problems with him – Chewie and Solo. That’s right, having just fallen over without having even tried to move, he decides that next action isn’t to just kill the people crouching and in no position to defend themselves right in front of him – the guy he sold back to Jabba and his best buddy – nope best ignore them and turn around to face the other vessel so that now he can use one of the weapons he apparently didn’t think about using just a few moments earlier.
Now to top it all off, not only is he apparently completely tactically inept, he is defeated by a still partially blind, hibernation sickness sufferer by accident! The baddest bounty hunter in all the universe dies (I know he doesn’t in the EU, but in the films it is very strongly implied) by falling into a Sarlacc pit, essentially a giant hole in the ground with teeth and a stomach, having been unable to control your own jetpack when it was turned on accidentally by a half-blind person, without having had any influence on the only fight we see him in.
That’s it. That is the life of film Boba Fett – pointless appearance as a child in the prequels, a glorified courier who lets others do all the hard work in Empire, and fatally inept failure who can’t fight, defend or apparently do anything but fall over and die in Jedi. His entire character arc is one that transitions from someone who does nothing, to someone who does everything in such a totally incompetent manner (he probably would have been better if he literally had done nothing) and dies as a result. And somehow all of that has led many people to think, wow, he must be great, look at his fancy armour!
Even worse than that, basically nothing he does progresses the story. He does nothing the prequels that have any influence on the actual plot, and the same can almost be said of the original series as well. The only thing he does of merit is track the millennium falcon to Cloud City, but that is literally it.
The entire Jabba plot is basically irrelevant to the progression of the wider plot. Yes it does release Han from his carbonite, but in reality, there was no reason to put him in carbonite to start with, other to facilitate the opening of Jedi, which is only there to show us that Luke’s skills have progressed a bit since Empire, which could easily have been done in some other, more relevant way, such as a more jedi-ish speeder bike sequence.
The next post in this two-part series will focus on the other infamous character in the Star Wars story, and will be up on the site shortly.
Images Source: starwars.com/Ash