It goes without saying that “The Book of Boba Fett” has been incredibly divisive among fans. There are those who find the show to be everything they’ve ever wanted from Star Wars’ favorite bounty hunter, and others who find the show to be dull and lacking. I’ll be the first to admit that I am part of the latter category, but rather than simply disparage the show and incite a riot in the comments, I think we are asking the wrong questions when it comes to the show’s root issues. I am not a fan of the show, and find “Peacemaker” to be infinitely more enjoyable despite also featuring a spin-off character as it’s main protagonist.
Rather than trying to do a side by side comparison of what works in one show and what doesn’t work in another, I think we need to evaluate the folly of continuing to frame supporting characters as leads. I get that both of these shows are wholly different. They appeal to different audiences, have completely different narratives, and are really only similar in that they are both spin-offs. So, instead of trying to draw comparisons and with it the ire of the fan base, examining the very idea of spin-offs and their rare successes is a better way to uncover why “The Book of Boba Fett” simply doesn’t work as well as we thought it would.
Let’s look at the method of what I’m talking about, and then we’ll cite a few examples that demonstrate what I mean. Then, we will get into how it all pertains to “Boba Fett” and “Peacemaker.” In short, the Hollywood method goes like this: a movie or series is released that contains a support character that somehow manages to steal the show in every scene. They are one of the best parts of the project, and audiences rave about them and rush to the stores to buy up all of the merchandise available. The studios then translate the popularity into opportunity, and immediately greenlight a solo project featuring said character in hopes to drum up even more profits from their accidental star.
What happens time and time again is that it rarely pans out the way they intended. That’s not say they don’t rake in the dough, because this method is still profitable. But it rarely translates into the kind of successful run they had hoped for, and what was once touted as the new face of the franchise ends up being viewed as another cash grab that eventually becomes a direct-to-video quality release. Again, I am not saying these attempts aren’t successful or can’t find their audience. There will always be people that buy the bill of goods. However, in the broader sense, they rarely capture that wide spread acclaim they received when they were a supporting character. The reality is that not all supporting characters, no matter how much we love them can carry their own film or series.
Let’s look at a few examples of this. Mater from “Cars“is a good place to start. In the first film, the Larry the Cable Guy-voiced character was a scene stealer. Kids and adults loved him, and he was the perfect side kick to the film’s star. People raved about how funny the character was, with some even going as far as to say he was the best part of “Cars.” Disney/Pixar heard you, and made “Cars 2” with Mater as the star and Lightning McQueen as the proverbial side kick. While the film did fine at the box office, it was a critical disaster. It is still the lowest rated film for Pixar on Rotten Tomatoes, and is largely viewed as being the worst outing for the entire studio. I am not saying everyone hated it. But “Cars 2” was released at the height of Pixar’s success, at a time when the studio could literally do no wrong. And the one film that bumped a supporting character into the lead spot ended up being the worst decision they’ve made in the last 20+ years.
Pixar isn’t the only animated studio to commit this same mistake, either. Other prime examples of support characters failing as leads include “Minions” from “Despicable Me” and the penguins from “Madagascar.” Both of these characters were scene stealers in their first outings, and when the studios decided they were all we wanted from the series, they moved forward with giving them their own movies. And again, they never even came close to matching the success of their origins. Audiences quickly realized that they loved these characters but only in small doses. An entire film of Minions doing whatever it is Minions do wasn’t nearly as fun or interesting as we all thought it would be, and after a failed run they were both relegated back to supports in subsequent films.
This isn’t just animated features that fall victim to this failed model. Anyone remember “Evan Almighty?” Steve Carell is a comedic marvel, and someone who has proven that he’s more than capable of carrying a film on talent alone. He’s a scene stealer in “Bruce Almighty,” and at the time his stock was rising rapidly. So a spin off film starring a bankable star with all the comedic chops in the world should’ve been a sure fire box office smash, right? Wrong. It sports a 23% on Rotten Tomatoes, and while its predecessor sports a lowly 48%, it was significantly more well received and far more fondly remembered than its spin-off. It even came out 4 years after its original film in hopes to capitalize on the rising stardom of Carell. Even that couldn’t make “Evan Almighty” reach the same heights as its predecessor, and is yet another example of a supporting character incapable of truly transitioning into a leading one.
The examples are endless; Taj from “Van Wilder,” Samuel Gerard from “The Fugitive,” Annie from “Speed,” the conspiracy computer hackers from “The X-Files” (a whole series called the “The Lone Gunmen” did in fact exist), and on and on it goes. Are they all bad? No. But generally speaking (as the aforementioned examples demonstrate) the promotion of supporting characters to lead characters doesn’t have the desired payoff as consistently as the studio’s recurring mistake would have you believe. And it is here where we return to “The Book of Boba Fett.”
Now before you start foaming at the mouth with rage ready to fire off a volcano of comments about how ignorant I am about television and Star Wars, please understand that I am not trying to say that you can’t love the show. I think I have made it very clear that even the worst offenders have audiences that disagree. If they didn’t have audience, studios would stop committing the same mistake over and over again. I am simply trying to highlight a common error that is more than likely affecting the success of the show among audiences.
The hard truth is that Boba Fett isn’t nearly as interesting as we all wanted him to be. As it turns out, he’s much better when we know as little about him as possible. Sure, you can read all about him in a long list of fan fiction-turned-canon after the Disney acquisition, but none of that translates into compelling television. “The Book of Boba Fett” suffers from a number of things: poor, tonally imbalanced writing, uninteresting characters and plot threads, and the “Spy Kids” influence of director Robert Rodriguez. This is further exemplified by the fact that the best episode to date doesn’t feature Boba Fett and is directed by Bryce Dallas Howard. It is a departure from just about everything “The Book of Boba Fett” is trying to do, which unfortunately reinforces the idea that Boba Fett is better in the background than the frontman.
In contrast, “Peacemaker” is powered by a cohesive vision from writer/director James Gunn, who also understands how to highlight the best parts of his talented cast. Rather than waste his talent on hand, he taps into the very things that make them great. John Cena and Freddie Stroma have incredible comedic timing and chemistry, and Gunn understands that that is what the show should focus on. Conversely, Rodriguez and Jon Favreau seem to not fully understand how to utilize Temuera Morrison or Ming-Na Wen, two powerhouse actors with incredible talent that largely goes untapped throughout the series.
The conclusion is that “Peacemaker” is the exception to the rule, and “The Book of Boba Fett” falls victim to a common folly of Hollywood spin-offs. It boils down to the fact that Boba Fett is significantly more interesting when he is a cameo, and ends up falling flat when we try to put him front and center. The character works best in small doses, and a series dedicated to him is just not as compelling as we all thought it would be. He is the Minions of the Star Wars universe, the Mater of a galaxy far, far away. He is the least interesting character of a very large universe, and rehashing stories we already know simply doesn’t translate into a show that can hold the interest of all fans.
Hollywood simply hasn’t learned their lesson, and I doubt the divisive discourse of “The Book of Boba Fett” will be the catalyst for change. But we should be mindful of this underlying issue, and maybe pause before we clamor for supporting characters being transformed into leading characters. Not all supporting characters can carry their own series or movie, and we should be a bit more selective about who we nominate to carry beloved franchises. I know we THINK we want “The Rancor Adventures” or “Fennec Shand Origins,” but history dictates that these are bad ideas regardless of how much we think we want them. [Editor’s note: I totally want a Fennic Shand spinoff series.]
Sometimes, the best characters are so because we get very little of them. This sparks the intrigue, and lets us relish in the few moments we get with them. The magic is in the restraint, not the indulgence.
And sure, “Do You Wanna Taste It” by Wig Wam as a show’s intro is a big selling point.