Star Wars has always been a great, big galaxy. When A New Hope, simply titled Star Wars at the time, hit theaters in 1977, part of it’s alluring charm was the way it felt like an old friend. Audiences were meeting characters for the first time, but the universe they were being introduced to had clearly existed long before they ever got to see it. It was the perfect example of world-building, executed with more casual grace than perhaps any movie before it. This trait held true for most of the remaining entries in the “Skywalker Saga”, with each new installment giving us familiar designs and brand-new concepts in equal measure. The balance struck between expanding worlds and a concentrated, singular storyline made Star Wars feel special. While franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe packed as many references and cameos as possible into every new project, Lucasfilm maintained a large-scale sandbox that also somehow felt finite. So why, after decades of successful storytelling, has Star Wars lost this magic?
When the first season of The Mandalorian dropped in 2019, it seemed a perfect callback to those early days of George Lucas wizardry. After the magnificent Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi tore through the fandom with it’s bold ideas and fresh direction, it was nice to see something that was both original and recognizable. At a certain point, it becomes nearly impossible to institute novel ideas without alluding to entities already known. So, it was a delight to see The Mandalorian play this chord flawlessly. However viewers may have felt about the movies being produced at the time, it was with near unanimous agreement that Pedro Pascal‘s dumb-good-dad-who-wears-armor found himself dubbed a perfect baseline for the franchise. Exciting, identifiable references, a hero with a thousand faces, and a focused story fans hadn’t seen told in a context they felt comfortable with. The downside to this massively positive response, it seems, was that Lucasfilm became a little confused.
Perhaps it had something to do with the aforementioned, uber-prosperous Marvel Studios’ films and companion Disney+ shows taking over the box office. Maybe it was done in an attempt to find middle ground between sides in a wildly divided fanbase. Whatever the case, it seems each successive Lucasfilm production since that initial season of The Mandalorian has been less and less of what made it so great in the first place. 2020’s second batch of live-action Star Wars episodes saw tantalizing verbal remarks transition to full-blown character appearances, done with the intention of setting up multiple future spin-offs and side projects. The surprise seventh season of The Clone Wars was less guilty, but also dedicated chunks of it’s precious little screen time to propping up other works in development at that point. Luckily, these minor offshoots were, at the very least, also able to tie-in and support the stories they were a part of, so the slow Marvelfication of Star Wars was less noticeable and more tolerable.
Then came The Book of Boba Fett. After making his grand re-entrance to the universe in The Mandalorian‘s second season, the legendary, fan-favorite character was finally set to have his own story. The brilliant Temuera Morrison, who had previously been relegated to mostly helmeted action sequences, voice-overs, and CGI duplicates, would finally have some dramatic meat to chew on. And he did, for the first few episodes, before being cast aside in his own show. The last two episodes of The Book of Boba Fett have been a surfeit of on-the-nose shout-outs and holy-crap-I-can’t-believe-they’re-in-this cameos. If that wasn’t bad enough, Fett himself has barely been in them. The title character appeared for, at best, a few minutes, with no spoken dialogue, over the course of two whole episodes, replaced as the main protagonist by Din Djarin, who already has his own series.
This is not to say that the past few weeks of Star Wars haven’t produced some of it’s best moments yet. It’s simply to acknowledge that the franchise no longer seems interested in the saga format it once did so well, and it’s hurting the significance of their own protagonists. With a franchise like Marvel, it can be expected that large parts of any given solo project will be used to propel a different character’s story forward. That’s how their system is designed, and what they’ve been doing since the beginning. Yet, even Marvel appears to have an idea of when enough might be enough. Despite the controversy surrounding the weak third acts of their Disney+ series, the creatives involved have had enough sense not to force in characters that might take away from the spotlight and development of the titular characters. Din Djarin’s story is as compelling as it’s ever been, but it shouldn’t be taking place in the middle of Boba Fett’s show.
The first four episodes of The Book of Boba Fett took their time to set up some sort of bigger payoff down the line, which may still come in the series finale, but has since been put on hold to tell entirely unrelated tales and continue plot lines established in completely separate series. It feels as though creatives Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau deem this sort of interconnectedness as a heightened form of Lucas’ praised world-building. Star Wars has now been around forever, and thus every reference and name-drop can be about something the fans will know. Unfortunately, in their attempts to weave all their projects together, the current focus of Star Wars has shifted from world-building to fan service. Audiences are no longer being given what they didn’t know they needed, and instead are being spoon-fed the things they’ve been demanding for years. The general reaction to The Book of Boba Fett so far has been that it’s failed to keep Fett’s story interesting, and that’s because right now, they aren’t even telling Boba’s story. He is simply a vehicle for whatever grand scheme is being devised. Whatever the endgame of the story begun in The Mandalorian is, one can only hope it’s worth the damage it’s caused to the projects that precede it.