Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What TheeeeeeeeAAAAARGH!? or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Sarlacc

'Here's my thing: When Return of the Jedi came out and Boba Fett fired off his rocket for the first time, it doesn't work right, first of all, which was heartbreaking to every little boy who had been waiting ten years for him to fire that f*cking rocket. And then he misfires it, gets bumped by a sight-impaired Han Solo and then falls, screaming like a woman, into the Sarlacc pit. And when that happened, every single boy was like, 'What the hell?!' And all I can think is: Boba Fett must have been feeling the exact same way. Nobody was cooler than Boba Fett and he was about to kill the Christ figure of the Jedi. He was about to kill his greatest enemy - and instead, in one fell swoop, when he was supposed to be the coolest ever, he got tripped into a hole that promises a thousand years of digestion. And that must have really sucked. Really sucked.'
Seth Green, 2008,

'I mean, when I read the third one I mostly was upset with the cavalier attitude towards Boba Fett, who [had been] built up as this monumental bounty hunter, and he just sort of gets, y'know, he just flies away. I thought that was going to be a major revelation: off comes the helmet, "Oh my god, it's my mother, she's a double-agent for the good guys."'
Mark Hamill, 2004, Return of the Jedi DVD Commentary

If we're going to examine the Boba Fett character, it would be foolish not to get one topic of discussion out of the way right off the bat. Every Star Wars fan is familiar with the infamous skiff battle above the Pit of Carkoon that ended the first act of Return of the Jedi with a bang - as such, they are also familiar with the frenetic circumstances leading to Boba Fett's untimely and frankly bewildering on-screen demise. Many would agree that this is the most significant of the dents in the character's history, and while off-screen literature has detailed Fett's frequent and varied escapes from the maw of the Sarlacc, the numerous problems in this scene remain.
So, let's break it down:
    As Jabba's gang anticipates the execution of the star warriors,  glorified coaster-on-wheels R2-D2 rolls to the upper decks to spring Luke's plan. Pan to our bounty hunter's gaze, following the little droid: Fett knows something is up, as usual.
    Artoo delivers Luke's lightsaber at the last moment, and the executioners aboard the skiff are overwhelmed by a torrent of green lasers and John Williams orchestration. Costumed stuntmen and Wilhelm screams are everywhere. Lando joins Luke in the fray and nearly falls into the quickly growing pile-up of sweating extras.
    Cut to Boba Fett sprinting to the top deck and taking off like Richard Branson on a zipline across the Pacific. He lands on the skiff as Luke turns. Boba Fett menaces Corvette Summer with flare gun.

    (Note: This is where things start to get weird. Why did Fett just decide to engage a magic sword-wielding opponent in hand-to-hand combat when he could have stayed aboard the yacht and sent the skiff and all its passengers to kingdom come with a single rocket? Maybe this amounts to professional pride, thinking that it would be better to capture the last of the Jedi alive before...well, killing him anyway?)

    Just as expected, Luke swings his day-glo baseball bat and leaves Fett brandishing a sawed-off shotgun. We get a brief glimpse of Boba wobbling around like a giant parade float as Han and Chewie hit the deck.

    While Luke ponders why Harrison Ford's performance has reverted to Holiday Special-mode since coming out of carbon freeze, Boba whips out a futuristic and completely badass space lasso and hogties the Jedi like Jill McBain at the Sunday square dance.
     Boba was probably preparing to switch on that 'ole flamethrower of his and KFC those baby blues, but instead some dumbass Weequay bodyguard tries to steal the kill with a laser cannon. Luke deflects the shot back at Boba, who faceplants on the deck. This sequence is more humiliating than Charlie Brown missing that darn football every year.

    Luke, maybe feeling as uncomfortable as all the Boba Fett fans in this scenario, legs it over to the other skiff to go Seventh Voyage of Sinbad on some alien fools. Boba Fett wakes up, having just had a horrible dream about having his reputation go by way of the Hindenburg, and gets to his feet.

    Behind him Han Solo does the same, delivering a line that has haunted me for the majority of my sad little life:
    "Boba Fett?! Boba Fett?! Where?!"
    The money shot. Boba Fett reaches out like Doctor Manhattan, aims one of his thermonuclear rocket-propelled Widowmakers at hero of the saga, and...

    Fires some lasers. And misses.
    Run that by me again.

    (Note: What?! Fett had a missile primed and ready to derail the entire Star Wars franchise with one fell press of a button, but instead he fires lasers?! Lasers?! I wouldn't have a problem with him not getting to fire the rocket if they hadn't added that particular effect, but there it is! When given the chance, Boba makes the worst use of his arsenal imaginable. He might as well have thrown some rocks.)

    This is around the time where I burst into pathetic, squealing pig sobs. I'm not even going to go into the logic of Boba's jetpack activating so easily. You all know what happens. A blind smuggler swings an axe, a Jedi force-kicks some punk in the face, and a vagina dentata burps. The rest is, as they say, history, and requires no commentary.

    Yes. I know. I know Boba Fett climbed out of the pit (I wouldn't have managed to get through elementary school without that life-affirming knowledge), I know that all the main characters had script immunity by this point. Despite all my problems with this scene, I can't imagine it going down any other way, any more than I can imagine a different ending to Macbeth or Moby Dick (another story that featured a wickedly ambiguous antihero sent tumbling to his doom, accidentally, at the hands of his mortal enemy).

    George Lucas mentioned in the 2004 DVD commentary for Return of the Jedi that he considered adding a shot of Fett crawling out of the Sarlacc - as much as I'd feel personally gratified by such an addition, the film doesn't need it, and I think by now I've just about made my peace. In many ways Boba Fett's startling and indefinite demise added to the lasting appeal of the character. His end may be disappointing, but you can't say it isn't memorable.

    'But that’s what is so lovely about the Star Wars films, there’s so much to talk about and argue about. If I’m at a convention, someone will say, “Mr. Bulloch, what do you think about the death of Boba Fett when he goes into the Sarlacc Pit? Could you tell us a little bit more about that?” I’ll say, “No, I’m deeply depressed that Boba Fett went into the Sarlacc Pit. But I will get out. I promise you.” And they say, “thank you very much, Mr. Bulloch, thank you.” I just made someone happy because now I’m going to get out of the pit. You say to someone, “I stay down in the pit as long as I want. There are bounty hunters falling down there every day of the week and I’ve now opened a bar. I’ve opened a Hooters."'
    Jeremy Bulloch, 2010, Vanity Fair Magazine

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