Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why Boba Fett Matters

Four lines. Twenty-seven words. Ninety-one characters. However you want to put it, Boba Fett isn’t the most prolific character in the Star Wars mythos. Detractors are quick to point out that despite his immense popularity, Boba’s role in the original trilogy amounts to tracking the Millennium Falcon, hanging out with Vader, and then acting like a moron at the Pit of Carkoon. He isn’t even referred to by name until Return of the Jedi. A combination of Lucasfilm marketing and fan anticipation put Boba Fett on an unattainable pedestal of cool, but ultimately he was a side character whose only purpose in the story (thus far) was to take Han Solo out of the equation. He looks awesome, but for most viewers the fascination stops there.

So why the hell am I taking the time to write a blog about this guy? 
Because he looks really awesome! Duh!
Boba Fett’s role in The Empire Strikes Back (and the rest of the Star Wars saga) goes far beyond what he says and does.

Mass media summaries of the enduring popularity of Star Wars almost always cite the series’ black-and-white spectrum of morality. Apparently none of those journalists have watched the films, because the difference between good and evil in Star Wars couldn’t be farther from crystal-clear. The only film in the series with a binary depiction of light and dark is A New Hope; all subsequent sequels and prequels have dealt consistently with the concept that everyone has the inherent potential to do right or wrong, and that it is our own choices that define us.

The moral struggle in Star Wars is played out most powerfully between Darth Vader and Luke, particularly at the climax of Empire, when Luke discovers that his ultimate nemesis is the very man he was seeking to avenge. The audience’s understanding of the film’s morality is thrown out the window at this point. We are left to overcome the numerous psychological quandaries and obstacles that have been thrown into the mix. This is an especially sophisticated challenge for Star Wars’ intended audience – children.

After being introduced to The Empire Strikes Back, I chose to believe with all the finality my five year old heart could muster that Vader was a liar. Vader was the bad guy and lying was what he was best at – he just wanted to trick Luke into joining the dark side. It wasn’t true. It was impossible.

As I replayed the film in my mind, looking for answers, I latched on to another character whose shades of grey were much easier to relate to: Boba Fett.
Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
Boba worked for Vader and Jabba, but he wasn’t officially affiliated with the good guys or the bad guys. While similarly roguish characters like Han Solo and Lando Calrissian took sides, Boba Fett remained, and continues to remain, entirely equivocal.

Still in denial over Vader’s reveal, I embraced him.

Twenty-two years later, enter Jango Fett.

It was a masterstroke on Lucas’ part to position Jango Fett as both the template for the clone army and the father of Boba Fett. Until Attack of the Clones, Boba had no real significance beyond being able to pursue Han Solo. The prequels change that.

By creating Jango Fett, Lucas transferred a twenty year backlog of accumulated moral ambiguity to the father of the clones. The prequels are set in a far more morally complicated era than the original trilogy, comprised of tragically flawed protagonists and decoy villains: Lucas required an even more extreme factor to make the audience focus on the particular ambiguity surrounding the clones. Had the clone template been some wholly new character, the audience would quickly identify the clones as evil characters, based on the degree to which they resemble Stormtroopers.

But because the clones have a shared heritage with Boba Fett, we subconsciously grant them a measure of moral neutrality, and a badass quality by proxy.
Weirdy Beardy has always hinted that there was a connection between Fett and the Stormtroopers (Boba’s Empire role was originally filled by an elite squad of white-armoured, T-visored Imperial supercommandos). Attack of the Clones confirms that connection.
Finally we learn the mysterious origin of Boba Fett: he was a rogue clone created alongside the first generation armies of the Clone Wars. Aside from tying together some interesting threads in Star Wars mythology, this plot point also provides us with the saga’s secondary father-son relationship. Jango and Boba can't help but mirror Vader and Luke. Bloodthirsty profession aside, Jango shows every sign of having a healthy relationship with his young son, especially in comparison to the ever-dysfunctional Skywalker clan. This gives Jango a new emotional dimension and makes him into more than Christopher Lee’s silent yojimbo.

The highly masculine elements of Jango’s character are balanced out by the feminine aspect of child-nurturing. The guy is no saint, but at the very least he’s a multi-faceted human being. The antiseptic Kaminoans wring that humanity out of his DNA to spawn emotionless, identical soldiers devoid of that feminine principle. Boba Fett has no mother, while Anakin Skywalker has no father. The troubled destinies of these two men highlight the lack of balance between masculinity and femininity in their unusual conceptions. 

Jango’s death also gives Boba Fett a classic Western character motivation: child witnesses parent's murder and grows up seeking vengeance, following personal code of justice, scarred for life. In a faintly heartbreaking shot, Boba picks up his dead father's helmet and symbolically assumes Jango’s role as the galaxy’s most proficient mercenary - unlike Luke Skywalker, who is spared from witnessing his own father's tragic downfall at an early age. Luke has the benefit of maturity when he learns the truth about his lineage, allowing him to resist taking on the mantle of Anakin’s black armour. Luke chooses his own path: the true son, instead of a clone of his father.

Boba Fett is the recurring symbol of moral ambiguity in Star Wars, ignoring the meridian between light and dark entirely. The Fett dynasty is the direct counterpart and mirror image of the Skywalkers on every level.

All in all, not bad for a guy with four lines.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From Hell's Heart I Stab At Thee - Escaping the Sarlacc

Fett opened his eyes and stared ahead into the emptiness, listening to the silence. The screams he had heard at first, those of the men who had fallen into the Great Pit with him, had ceased. He had not heard even one in some time. The fury built in Fett, self-contained, black and bone-deep. Another crack nearby, sounding very like a whip; Fett took a shuddering breath and when he spoke his voice shook slightly. 

"I don't understand this. I don't understand this at all. Why is this being prolonged? Is there a purpose? The Sarlacc can eat me when I'm dead, can't it? I've killed, I've killed virtually everything that moves, one time or another, a hundred different species, sentient and dumb; if it breathes I've probably killed it or something like it. But I've killed clean. I've killed without stretching it out. Where's the grace in a death like this?"
Fett had the impression that his question was being considered.

Daniel Keys Moran, A Barve Like That: The Tale of Boba Fett (1996)
Since his fateful fall from grace in Return of the Jedi there have been numerous accounts of Boba Fett's later escape from the belly of the beast - call it Captain Ahab pulling a Noah. While never shown on film (Lucas considered adding a shot of Fett crawling out of the pit for the Special Edition, but decided it would distract from the focus of the picture) it is generally accepted that, one way or another, the Pit of Carkoon was not the end of the bounty hunter's story.

The first depiction of Boba Fett's escape from the Sarlacc appeared in 1984, a year after the release of Return of the Jedi, in the Marvel-produced comic Star Wars #81: Jawas of Doom. No, not 'Jaws of Doom' - 'Jawas of Doom'.

It plays out how you might expect.

Pretty sweet art, though.
In Jawas of Doom, Boba Fett is ejected from the Sarlacc and is left crippled and helpless in the Dune Sea of Tatooine. This is an element of nearly all Boba Fett escape stories, although later versions tend to have all his clothes, save his helmet, melted away by the Sarlacc's stomach acid - this image has provided me with years of hilarious fetish fuel.

Jawas salvaging the wreck of Jabba's sail barge come across the emaciated Fett and mistake him for a droid, being idiots. Fett can do nothing but play along, as his time in the Sarlacc has left him with chronic amnesia (another element that shows up in later stories).

Coincidentally, Han, Leia and Artoo-Detoo are on Tatooine at the same time. Artoo is captured by the Jawas and ends up on a sandcrawler with Boba Fett, who thinks he's a robot. What a day.

Boba Fett puzzles over where this story is going.
Han and Leia go looking for Artoo and discover the Jawa sandcrawler under attack from a tribe of Sand People. In the midst of a high-speed chase sequence, Han climbs aboard the sandcrawler to rescue Artoo, and discovers his old nemesis. But Boba has no memory of his antagonism towards Han; for a brief, happy time, they're on the same side. At the last moment Han tries to rescue his new BFF, but then Leia screws everything up by calling Han's name. Flashbacks ensue.

'Hey, remember that time I hit you in the back and erased all your street cred? Yeah...'
Boba wastes precious time trying to shoot Han in the face. In a freakish case of cruel irony, the sandcrawler dives straight back into the Sarlacc pit, taking Boba down with it. Hey-ooo.
'Just when I think I'm out...they pull me back in!'
In short: Boba escapes the pit, mistakes himself for a robot, and then ends up back where he started. It's a silly story and not often recognized; he's no good to us dead all over again.

The next version of Fett's escape was recorded in 1993's Dark Empire Sourcebook, a roleplaying supplement produced by West End Games. The story was aptly named The Ordeal of Boba Fett, and it added several elements to the order of events that would be included in later variations: namely Dengar's involvement in nursing Fett back to health, and the exact method via which the bounty hunter took his leave.

A month later, Fett came out of his coma. Dengar didn't want to think about it when he could hear him discussing escape plans with guys ten years dead. Or ten years-should-be-dead. When Fett was on solid food again, they talked.
     "I thought nobody had ever gotten out of that thing..."
     "They all tried the obvious way out. I didn't. They all went for the opening; I *made* an exit."
Michael Allen Horne, Dark Empire Sourcebook (1933)

The short story also began to detail the biology of the Sarlacc creature itself, and how it digested its victims:

Oddly, Fett's seizures were because of exposure of thirst. Fett was apparently well fed, since there were all sorts of food proteins in his blood. The trouble was an allergic reaction to the foreign blood types in his system combined with an industrial-grade neurotoxin. He asked the droid about the blood shifting. The only theory it had was the Sarlacc couldn't digest its own food without help, so it fed its blood into the victims, and the blood fed the victims enough nutrients to keep them alive, so the Sarlacc had a constant food source. Meanwhile, the poor victims rolled around and got slowly dissolved.
Dengar shivered as the droid droned on, thinking about the genetic samples in Boba's blood. Some of it matched guys Jabba had iced years ago. All that "digested in the belly of the Sarlacc for a thousand years" yakkity yak was true, and Boba had been in the middle of it. It gave him the chills.
Michael Allen Horne, Dark Empire Sourcebook (1933)

While The Ordeal of Boba Fett was a step up from the explanation offered by Marvel Comics, other storytellers would approach the topic on their own terms. Daniel Keys Moran wrote a short story for Lucasfilm in 1996 entitled A Barve Like That: The Tale of Boba Fett, which was included in the Tales from Jabba's Palace anthology.

I believe it was close to being the first official “Fett survived” story. There was a previous piece of official fiction, I forget by whom, that had a barely-living man being found just outside the Sarlacc [The Ordeal of Boba Fett]. The guy who finds him assumes it’s Fett. I didn’t want to use that — I wanted to leave Fett down in the Sarlacc for some years, as the Sarlacc, which was intelligent, slowly digested him. We’d explain away the other guy as someone misidentifying Fett — who that other guy would be we’d have had to work out. Lucasfilm didn’t want to go for it, so I was stuck with Fett down in the Sarlacc for only a day or two. Beyond that, Lucasfilm decreed that the sarlacc couldn’t be intelligent — that was pretty much the breaking point for me. I stuck an alien down in the sarlacc, named him Susejo (O Jesus, backwards) … had Fett fight with him for a bit and then climb up out of the Sarlacc. I don’t think it was a really bad story — but I don’t think it was good, either.
Daniel Keys Moran, (2007)
Boba Fret, by Otis Frampton.
What attracted me to the story as I envisioned it? The nightmare of a strong man dying a slow death across years, losing his sense of who he was piece by piece — Alzheimer’s, anyone? — and then a final shot at life long after he’d accepted the inevitability of death — you can’t do complex things in short stories, but that was a story worth telling even at a short length. Long after I wrote that story I ran across a really great scene in a Stephen King novel, “From a Buick 8″ — the novel crosses a generation, and in the first half a strong man is busy being the chief of police; in the second half that same guy is going down with Alzheimer’s, and his men come to see him and he has a moment of clarity and says to them, “Boys, I’m in Hell.”
I wanted to send Boba Fett to Hell. Instead he had a bad couple days in San Bernardino.
Daniel Keys Moran, (2007)

A Barve Like That remains the most detailed explanation of life in the Sarlacc, where the consciousnesses of the creature's victims are pooled together into a communal telepathic brain. Fett experiences the memories of several absorbed individuals and is tormented by the strongest and oldest inhabitant of Carkoon. Eventually he manages to light the creature's guts on fire with his jetpack and blasts a tunnel back to the surface. The story ends with Fett returning to the Sarlacc many years later, exchanging a few last words with Susejo, and turning the Sarlacc into calamari cinders with Slave II's thrusters - very slowly. Love a good revenge story.

K.W. Jeter's 1998 series The Bounty Hunter Wars explored the events shortly after The Ordeal of Boba Fett - the first chapter is actually a rewrite of said short story - but unfortunately he spends little time on the consequences of Fett's time in the Sarlacc. Karen Traviss' Legacy of the Force novels mention a cancerous breakdown of Fett's body later in life as a result of the pit's decimating neurotoxins.

When all is said and done, Boba Fett's most satisfying escape from the Pit of Carkoon was probably illustrated in 2011's Robot Chicken Star Wars Episode III, in which Boba Fett flies straight out of the Sarlacc and cites the old Arabian proverb 'BACK FROM THE DEAD, ASSHOLES!', before proceeding to gleefully slaughter all the Star Wars protagonists.


This whole sequence turns out to be a wonderful dream, but Boba gets out anyway, as the Sarlacc finds the antics of Fett and his friend Weequay too mindnumbing to handle and forcibly ejects them both.

Until George Lucas delves into the subject, the story of Boba Fett's flight from the Sarlacc remains officially untold. Some fans argue that Boba Fett never escaped the Sarlacc, as it was Lucas' intention to kill off the character in that scene, but personally I go by the rule of 'if you didn't see them die, they're not dead'. Whatever the circumstances, Boba Fett remains too spicy for Yog-Sothoth.

'Episode Siete - Boba On The Hunt! Semicolon; Watch Your Ass, Solo.'
Boba Fett, Robot Chicken Star Wars Episode III (2011)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

'Friendo': Boba Fett's 1978 Debut

"If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it."
-George Lucas 
There have been many things said of 1978's The Star Wars Holiday Special. Author David Hofstede once called it 'the worst two hours of television ever', while actor Ralph Garman deemed it 'so bad that it actually comes around to good again, but passes it right up'. The special is the black sheep of the Star Wars franchise; the weird, overly touchy relative who only visited once.

That's not to say it's not a notable installment of the broader Star Wars mythos. Beyond featuring Carrie Fisher's drug-addled rendition of the Star Wars end theme (with lyrics) and Harvey Korman as an apron-adorned General Grievous prototype, the show was one of the first projects tackled by the great monster-maestro Stan Winston - his designs for Chewbacca's Wookiee family are debatably more terrifying than all his later extraterrestial monstrosities combined.
The Predator has nothing on Grandpa Attichitcuk.
The special also gives insight into life under the Empire like no piece of Star Wars media preceding or following it. In Palpatine's authoritarian dystopia, Stormtroopers are forced to watch Bea Arthur sitcoms once a day 'in the hope that [their] lives might be uplifted by the comparison and enriched with the gratitude of relief'; Darth Vader spends his time between movies walking up and down corridors and ordering curfews; and Death Star Troopers spend their shore leave browsing through pawn shops, in full regalia, oppressing Art Karney.

While the audience reaction to these revelations was, at best, mixed, most Star Wars enthusiasts agree that the best sequence of The Star Wars Holiday Special is the animated introduction of bounty hunter Boba Fett. Oh, hey, it's that guy!

If you stay sane up to the 51:02 minute mark, you get to see Boba Fett riding the Loch Ness Monster! Worth it.
The Boba Fett cartoon was created by the Toronto-based animation firm Nelvana Limited. Here in Canada we call Toronto 'The Big Smoke'. You guys, I'm serious.

"George wrote the story. It was called 'The Faithful Wookiee'. His outline was about nine pages, and then Rod Warren did a scene-by-scene break down, and we worked with that and created storyboards."
Clive Smith, SFX Magazine #67 (August 2000)

In the cartoon (which appears to be part Wookiee children's show, part underground Rebel news broadcast - the nature of the segment is never clearly explained), the Star Warriors recieve a transmission from the Millenium Falcon. The message reveals Han Solo hanging upside-down from the ceiling and Chewie piloting the ship away in distress. Luke, Artoo and Threepio take a Y-Wing and pursue the Falcon to a moon in the Jell-O system.

"Those are the kinds of things that we invented. We thought: 'How can we make this planet different and create something new? How does the ship hit the water? Is it just going to be a splash, or will it go right in?' That's when we came up with this idea that the water was like a thick jelly and the ships would just sit on the surface."
Clive Smith, SFX Magazine #67 (August 2000)
Luke's ship crashes in the Rasberry Jell-o Sea of Panna, and is immediately set upon by an alien serpent creature, whose skin is impervious to the young rebel's weaponry. He ejects the cockpit of the craft while the monster is busy having it's way with the rest of his Y-Wing. Those poor turbines!

Until, entering stage right...

Pictured: Boba Fett making nature his bitch. Take that, nature.
"There was a character description of who Boba Fett was supposed to be, which mentioned that he was a bounty hunter. When [Lucasfilm] sent up a cleaned up drawing of the character, he was all spiffy, and all mentions of him being a bounty hunter seemed to have slipped through the cracks. I went to the producer and said, 'We're really losing something here in terms of interest if we don't make this bounty hunter motif a little more prominent.' I suggested that they could scuff up his costume a little bit more (of course, when you actually see him in live-action, he's really beat up) and really play up the fact that he's an employee of Darth Vader. The highlight of it for me was the fact that we were able to have some input like that."
Frank Nissen, SFX Magazine #67 (August 2000)

Masterful juxtaposition between Luke's generosity and Boba's utter disdain for the eating habits of his steed. 'You are foolish to waste your kindness on this dumb creature - no lower lifeform is worth going hungry for, friend.' In English class we call this 'foreshadowing'.
Like a moustachioed forty year old inviting a niave blonde child into the back of his van, Boba convinces Luke that he knows where the Falcon has landed, and that he will take him there. Upon arriving at the Falcon, Luke falls victim to the same affliction as Han - paralysis by way of a magical Imperial sleeping amulet/bioweapon that only works on humans (as for why the MacGuffin Amulet didn't affect Fett, it's possible that the character wasn't originally supposed to be human under that helmet. That, or it's just a plot hole). Boba promptly makes use of his mechanical lasso, which is awesome.
Some exposition happens, and it turns out that the Empire sells cures for their anti-human bioweapons at the nearest corner store. Boba volunteers to go pick up some antidote and some Doritos, and Chewie insists on going with him and cramping his style. Boba is all 'whatever, I guess'.

One Nessie ride later, the two uneasy allies arrive at what could easily be the city from O'Bannon and Moebius' The Long Tomorrow.

"I worked with Frank in coming up with a graphic style. It was loosely based on Moebius, the French comic book artist. One of his series was called The Airtight Garage. I used to look at each of these comic book frames for hours. He had such an incredibly cinematic vision. He did these fantastic wide shots where your eye went exactly to where it was supposed to go. He did these wonderful 'spaghetti western' shots where it's an extreme wide shot but with an extreme close-up character in the foreground, creating a wonderful dichotomy of close up and distance. I suppose our film came out looking a little bit like Moebius."
Clive Smith, SFX Magazine #67 (August 2000)

Boba ditches Chewie next to a homeless guy and goes to the Quik-E-Mart for some instant antidote. While he's at it, he drops by a fancy ATM phonebooth and swipes his Frequent Caller's Card to contact Dark Lord of the Sith and frequent drinking buddy, James Earl. Back at the ship, however, the droids eavesdrop and discover the Bucket Brigade's nonsensical Imperial plot to infiltrate the rebel asteroid base.

Later, Boba and Chewie make good their escape on the back of the sea serpent, but are pursued by an Imperial gunboat. Boba takes a few halfhearted potshots, not wanting to betray the Imperials, but also needing to keep up appearances for the walking carpet. Chewie says '**** that ****' (loosely translated), takes Boba's gun, and turns the enemy skimmer into a miniature Death Star reenactment.

Assuming those Stormtroopers were clones, Chewbacca basically just killed Boba's dad three times. What the hell, man.
The two return to the Falcon and revive Luke and Han (who looks downright terrifying in animated form). Luke immediately starts singing Boba's praises - I can't blame him, dur hur - but this prompts the droids to let our farmboy hero know, in the least straightforward explanation they can possibly muster, that the guy with the bucket on his head is (spoiler alert!) an infamous bounty hunter and Darth Vader's best buddy. No, seriously.

And then Boba jets out of the Falcon's airlock for some reason.

"Now that you've figured out I'm the bad guy and I've got a gun pulled on all of you, it's time for me to go. See you in the sequel, fools!"
The cartoon wraps up with the gang shrugging off their experience and laughing about how racist they are to Chewbacca. Moral of the story: don't trust faceless people who smell bad, because they might help you out and then fly away (?!).

Also: Harrison Ford should sue.
For all its plot holes and ridiculousness, I love this cartoon. It's the most memorable feature of a 32 year old variety show that also had Wookiee pornography, so I guess that has to count for something. Not to mention it's the best introduction a character like Boba Fett could ask for. The story, although it drifts between fantastic and cringeworthy more frequently than the Special Editions, is an excellent bridge between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back - best of all, it enriches the brief encounter between Luke and Fett on Cloud City with an additional layer of meaning.

The Boba Fett cartoon is a lovable relic of retro Canadian animation and Star Wars-before-it-was-Star Wars storytelling, infused with Moebius and sandwiched in the center of pop culture's proverbial Ark of the Covenent. If that description isn't enough to bleach your memory of Diahann Carroll's Mermeia Holographic Wow solo, I don't know what will.

Happy Life Day, dear readers. Happy Life Day.

Monday, January 17, 2011

'Not Music, Exactly': Boba Fett's Motif

John Williams: You need a better composer than I am for this film.
Steven Spielberg: I know. But they're all dead!
- Regarding Schindler's List
In a 2009 edition of the Forcecast, Paul Bateman, a technical assistant to Ralph McQuarrie, widdled an enormous body of work down to a single, all-encompassing phrase: John Williams is the oxygen of Star Wars.

One would be hard-pressed to word a more accurate appraisal.

The music Williams composed for Star Wars is arguably the main reason why the films have such universal power and longevity. Orchestrations like the Imperial March and Binary Sunset have become keystones in the Western cultural lexicon.

While the music composed for Boba Fett may be a mere footnote in that sea of orchestration, I think it's a marvellous sonic element of the series and worthy of further examination - this being the Boba Fett blog, I'd be remiss to not go into it.

Almost every significant character, location, or theme in the Star Wars films has a personal leitmotif that appears to herald their presence in the story. Occasionally, certain themes will be reworked to recontextualize their meaning in the story - for example, the appearance of the Wagner-like Imperial March throughout the series to illustrate the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker; or, most chillingly, The Emperor's Theme as it appeared in the finale of The Phantom Menace: upbeat, up-tempo, and sung by a choir of laughing children (this revelation is high octane nightmare fuel at its finest).   
Oh my god.
The main difference between Boba Fett's theme and the others is that Boba's motif does not appear outside of The Empire Strikes Back. Even so, the theme charts a progression, and if you pay very close attention (or, alternatively, stay up to 4'o'clock in the morning listening to these tracks backwards and forwards and upside-down), you'll notice an element of narration that follows along with the progress of Boba Fett's hunt for Han Solo.

No, seriously.
"[Boba Fett's Theme is] not music, exactly [...] more of a gurgly, voila-and-bassoon thing aurally cross-pollinated with some obscure static sounds."
- John Williams, Pale Starship, Pale Rider (2002)
At this point, feel free to skip to the bottom of the article and play the video to see exactly what I'm talking about.

Fett's motif first appears a little after the one hour mark in The Empire Strikes Back, during the infamous 'no disintegrations' sequence. This is the iteration we hear most frequently throughout the film - the gurgling voila-and-bassoon thing Williams is talking about. The tradition continues in Fett's next two scenes, specifically when he calls Solo's bluff in the debris field, and when he arrives at Darth Vader's phenomenally awkward dinner party on Cloud City.
I hear the soup is good.
The aforementioned pieces are what I refer to as the 'rising action' elements of Boba Fett's theme - the first act, if you will. In all these scenes he's on the hunt - he's got Ford's trail, Bossk is off poking through hay bails on the wrong side of the galaxy, and the smell of space money is thick in the air.

The second half of Fett's theme kicks in directly after the carbon freeze sequence - I assume most people were too busy drying their tears to notice. The score takes us from the sinister, burbling non-music of before to a darkly triumphant funeral dirge, as Fett escorts the Medusafied Solo to his vessel. This is essentially the same theme as before, but with a different attitude. Quiet menace has turned to sly self-satisfaction, and we can practically hear Boba's sneaky little grin under that bucket.

The last we hear of the Boba Fett motif is the scene on Slave I's loading ramp. The tone is fittingly depressing/badass (depending on who you happen to be rooting for), as Boba Fett tells some punk airline waitress to put Solo in the trunk of his car. When the rest of the Breakfast Club shows up, Fett flips them the bird and leaves them in a cloud of toxic exhaust, riding into the sunset like every western anti-hero; Achilles dragging the corpse of Hector through the dust towards Danaan.

Children everywhere either gag in traumatized dismay, or gape in saucer-eyed admiration, the course of their little lifes forever altered by a sudden understanding of exactly what it is to be a true badass moth--


But enough about me.

Hyperlinked below (Internet wouldn't let me imbed: I hate you, Internet) is what I believe to be the only existing (and accurate) cut of Boba Fett's theme music. I commend the author for putting this together - that said, I plan to cut something a little smoother in the near future. Until then, enjoy the tunes - or, rather, the oxygen.

I knew I wasn't making all this stuff up. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fett & Son(s): The Significance of Jango Fett

'When there are clouds in the skies, and they are grey.
You may be sad but remember that love will pass away.
Oh Django!
After the showers is the sun.
Will be shining...

Luis Bacalov, Django (1966)
Though it may come as a surprise, the origins of the Jango Fett character may have predated not only his debut in Attack of the Clones, but the character of his son Boba, as well. In Leigh Brackett's 1978 script treatment for The Empire Strikes Back we are introduced to Lando Kadar, who would later become Lando Calrissian. In the early draft Lando is a member of a family of clones, who participated-in and eventually became refugees-of the then nebulous conflict of the Clone Wars. Kadar lived in a Cloud City, along with a mystical race of natives appropriately named the Cloud People.

The concept of a clone legacy and a genetically identical family was one of many early ideas that Lucas, true to form, would put in the proverbial back pocket of his blue jeans and utilize in the prequel trilogy. However, rather than applying this backstory to the Smoothest Cat in the Galaxy, The Maker gave Boba Fett a father and enough big brothers to make the Sarlacc's belly burst - the Cloud People, too, were to evolve into the Kaminoans.

For better or worse, this revelation irrevocably changed how the hardcore audience would percieve Boba Fett in the original trilogy - Boba's a clone; Boba's a Stormtrooper; Boba's a human being; Boba was once a curly-haired squealing ten year old from New Zealand with a papa who loved him and now he's an orphan. They even took away Jason Wingreen's phenomenally sinister vocal performance in The Empire Strikes Back and replaced it with the voice of Temuera Morrison, muttered long distance through a speaker phone (probably just to spite me).

Jango as seen in Open Seasons.

While this seems to tell us more than we ever wanted to know about our enigmatic tax collector, we have yet to learn anything truly illuminating about the origins and motivations of Jango Fett. And no, I'm not taking into account the Open Seasons comic series produced in 2002. While certain elements of that series (Death Watch, the Vizsla family) were adopted into official, or 'G-Level' canon, the identity of Jango as a Mandalorian warrior was one of the details left behind: the concept was outright rejected in the second season episode of The Clone Wars 'The Mandalore Plot'.

Other EU material depicts Jango slightly before the events of Attack of the Clones, and gives us little to no insight into his character other than hinting at a relationship between Fett Sr. and bounty hunter Bond girl Zam Wessel.

So if traditional Expanded Universe sources aren't to be trusted, what do the films tell us about Jango Fett?

For one thing, the whole family appears to have an antagonistic relationship with doors.
He's the Clone Template.
This is Jango Fett's most significant contribution to the Star Wars story: his flesh and blood was destined to annihilate the Jedi Order and transform the GFFA into an interstellar Third Reich. But rarely is it asked why Jango was selected to be one the of the defining elements in Palpatine's machinations.

We can guess at the criteria. On a genetic level Jango probably had to be perfect, or the next best thing, to meet the Emperor's standards (while Fett is not exactly Aryan, one wonders to what extent Palpatine subscribes to the theory of a master race. By the time of A New Hope all the Imperials are white human males). And while a genetically flawless nerf herder wouldn't be much use to the Emperor as a clone host, a notorious galactic gunslinger he can work with.

An army of these guys? Christopher Lee can understand the appeal.
He wanted a son.
If the Clone Army is Jango Fett's most notable contribution, his desire for offspring was his most notable characteristic. Jango's decision to nurture a young life is the sole light of altruism and humanity we see in him; at least, on the surface. The actual motives for Fett wanting a son are somewhat murkier upon close examination.

Like the father-son bonding scene from Jaws, but with the sharks.
It has been suggested that Jango was out to create a legacy for himself in creating Boba. It's hard to argue with this assessment - after all, when we look at the phenomenon of reproduction on a cold, purely philisophical platform, we want to have children because we hope that a part of ourselves will continue on into the future.
But Jango Fett takes this desire to an extreme, because Boba Fett is a clone. If Jango wanted a son so much, he probably wouldn't have had trouble finding a partner to have kids with the old fashioned way (chicks dig the armour). So barring impotence, why did Jango choose to carry out his legacy in such an artificial fashion?


When we view Jango Fett as a complete egotist the pieces of his character's puzzle fall neatly into place. He was genetically perfect, and he was the mold for the most sophisticated and successful armed force in galactic history. Of course he was a narcissist, and his sheer vanity would prevent him from even considering siring a son with inferior genetic fortitude. He didn't want a sullied fragment of himself to continue on after his death: he wanted an heir and a replacement. While the Clone Army would be deployed for Palpatine's ulterior motives, Boba Fett was Jango's personal master plan.

Boba Fett is not the man his father was.
Jango's inferred vision of a long line of identical Fetts never came to fruition. He, like his son down the road, succumbed to a potent recipe of animal cruelty, jetpack malfunctions, and Jedi interference, with an unhealthy additional dose of Samuel 'Trying-Real-Hard-To-Be-The-Shepard' L. Jackson. The instruction of his clone protege was cut short, and Boba was left a pretty sad kid.

Worst 'Take Your Kid To Work Day' ever.
You need only compare the costumes of the two Fetts to see where their life paths differed, and even what subject matter the different characters are most aligned with. Jango Fett's armour is a spotless, gleaming relic of honourable weapons and civilized ages; a space nouveau rocketman with Flash Gordon guns and low-slung holsters. Boba Fett's armour is quite the opposite: a ramshackle mishmash of chipped paint, burned mementos and dented war machines.

They're not even physically the same set of armour. Jango Fett's helmet, which most thought Boba would use as his own, was utilized in an episode of The Clone Wars as a booby-trapped IED intended for Mace Windu. The rest of Jango's armour is of very different dimensions than Boba's, which puts a hole in the 'Boba takes his papa's armour and goes out for revenge' theory (would you stripsearch your brutally decapitated dad?).

And Boba's personality differs from Jango's as well. While Fett Sr.'s main concern appeared to be the legacy of his DNA, Fett Jr. had no cloned offspring and was later rendered impotent by the treacherous stomach acids of the Sarlacc (the EU suggests that before the Pit, Fett started a family and had a daughter, whom he later abandoned. You can take this theory or leave it depending on your Mary Sue tolerance).

Rather than answering old questions, the revelation that Boba is a clone opens up new ones. Jango Fett's true origins remain as shadowy as Boba's ever were. And while I'll always hear the Jason Wingreen voice when I think of Boba Fett, Jango Fett remains a fascinating and welcome addition to the Star Wars mythos.

'Oh, he looks even better without the helmet! Surprise ending!'
Boba Fett, Robot Chicken: Star Wars

Friday, December 10, 2010

Caped Crusader

"The heart, Ramon! Aim for the heart, or you'll never stop me."

That's right, cats and kittens. Maybe you thought I was going to be reasonable. Maybe you thought this website would be reflective, measured, or relevent. Think again. Because today I'm talking about a scrap of clothing that is barely visible in any of the Star Wars movies.

Boba Fett has long been compared to Clint Eastwood's Joe/Manco/Blondie character from Sergio Leone's first three Spaghetti Westerns - better know as the Dollars Trilogy. I personally find Fett's sensibilities and motivations more in line with Charles Bronson's 'Harmonica' from Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West, but the connection between Fett and The Man With No Name is made clear by a shared element of both their wardrobes: the serape.

Leone originally wanted the American bodybuilder Steve Reeves for his protagonist in Fistful of Dollars - when Eastwood got the part instead, Leone had him wear the serape to disguise his more mundane proportions. Eastwood bought the costume piece himself and, according to legend, never washed it all the way through the filming of the trilogy. Years later, Leone's body of work was a significant influence on the young filmmaker George Lucas: the initial designs for Boba Fett were inarguably an homage to the Italian filmmaker.

Ralph McQuarrie concept art for The Empire Strikes Back consistently depicts Boba Fett as wearing a striped poncho, very much in line with Clint Eastwood's morally ambiguous appearance in the Dollars westerns.
The makers of Empire eventually abandoned the concept of the full-body serape, instead opting to have the cape draped over one shoulder, displaying the armour underneath.
The prototype cape was actually a Star Wars beach towel, but the Fett-Man can can make anything look classy. 

The Super Trooper prototype had the cape falling down behind Fett's left arm, very similar to how it appears in the final film. This particular positioning is best visible in the first moments of the carbon freezing scene.
Pre-Production 1's military canvas cape. This olive green design will later be utilized in Return of the Jedi, though not in the same position.
The final cape made for the film is the closest to Ralph McQuarrie's original concepts - brown with a horizontal stripe of orange. Like other parts of the costume (those damn kneepads), the placement of the cape changes from scene to scene.

Special thanks to The Dented Helmet for the wonderful pictures, and whoever got through this article for indulging my eccentric fashion interests.

'Occasionally, I would make a movement, but a little one, because the less you do, the stronger the character is. So I would just stand with my hip one way, and I'd cradle the gun a certain way. He's aware that something could happen any time, so he's quick with the gun. It's ready cocked. He knows exactly what's going on behind him. He may be moving slowly, but he's deadly when it comes to that sudden movement...I thought of Boba Fett as Clint Eastwood in a suit of armor.'
Jeremy Bulloch, Star Wars Insider #49 (May/June 2000)