Imagine a series, a spin-off, whose protagonist is a character that originated in a film more than 40 years ago. He is a fan favourite because he has a certain mystique and, let’s face it, he looks cool. Imagine that series stripping this protagonist of his mystique (and, for much of the running time, his iconic outfit) by taking away pretty much every characteristic they had. And now imagine the series dumping its protagonist halfway through in favour of another character from another series that himself was clearly inspired by the original character.
Yes, I know how that sounds. Convoluted and nonsensical barely begins to cover it. Still, that’s pretty much what happened with The Book of Boba Fett, the most recent addition to the Star Wars canon. What’s going on here? Were they playing with our expectations? Was the series supposed to be subversive? Was COVID-19 to blame for this mess?
We get it, Disney: a lot of very vocal fans didn’t like The Last Jedi. We don’t even have to call all of the dislike of Episode VIII an expression of toxic fandom; Rian Johnson’s stab at Star Warswas designed to be something of a slap in the face of business as usual, and while I loved the daring of many of its ideas, they weren’t always executed altogether well. At times I could see what Johnson was going for but felt that he was doing so in ways that were clunky or at odds with other things the film was trying to do.
Nonetheless, The Last Jedi had ideas, it had a vision, it was interested in doing more than being the Star Wars cover band that The Force Awakens was, even if that one delivered its version of A New Hope‘s greatest hits with panache. If Rise of Skywalker wants to do something, it’s kowtowing to the loudest and most toxic critics of The Last Jedi. It doesn’t have a vision other than that of apologising loudly and unthinkingly for the perceived mistakes of the previous episode. In short, Rise of Skywalker may just be the most cowardly expression of fan service I have ever seen.
When I first heard about Warner Bros. Pictures’ plans to bring the Potterverse back to the big screen with Fantastic Beasts and How to Find Them, I pretty much dismissed those plans as them going back to their favourite cash cow: a decision based primarily on monetary interests. Rowling’s book, published in between the fourth and fifth Harry Potter novels, was more of a sourcebook for the fans, so why turn this into a film – or, indeed, a series of films? For the many shiny sickles and galleons the producers would add to their hoard at Gringotts, obviously.