For ‘a generation of Star Wars fans’ Boba Fett was the archetypal bounty hunter, except of course for the fact that he wasn’t. Just like Anakin Skywalker did not turn out to be the stereotype bad-ass that some original trilogy fans were expecting, also Boba Fett turned out to have a much more complicated back story. In view of the fact that we may very well be getting a Boba Fett anthology film, let us take a slightly closer look at this character.
Boba’s story evidently begins with his father, Jango. In the Prequel trilogy we learn that Boba Fett’s origins are much deeper intertwined with the rise of the Empire then we could have ever expected from the Original Trilogy. In the OT we do not learn of Boba’s name until Han Solo mentions is, hanging half-blinded, top-down, above the Sarlac pit. Up until that moment we have seen Boba Fett primarily in The Empire Strikes Back where he plays what is essentially a minor role. His pursuit of Han and Leia leads to their eventual capture by Vaders troopers, not by Boba himself. What the sequences with Boba tell us is that he is smart, as he sees through Han’s escape plan, and that he is fearless with respect to Darth Vader. Especially this fearlessness should give us reason to wonder about his origins. Even Lando Calrissian does not seem able to escape the dread radiated by Vader. Yet this masked and unknown bounty hunter does not seem impressed by the Sith Lord’s ominous presence. This is impressive and adds to the mystery surrounding this bounty hunter and probably partly explains why he was so revered after the original trilogy concluded. Yet both his smartness as well as his fearlessness in the presence of Sith were characteristics he crucially acquired due to his father, Jango Fett. Jango was not just any bounty hunter, and he was in league with the Sith ever since before Boba was born.
Boba and Anakin
There is an odd kind of resonance between Boba and Anakin’s story. Boba evidently is about 10 years younger than Anakin but they both loose their only parent within just a few days from one another. Anakin is the fatherless child that loses his mother, Boba is the motherless child that loses his father. The name ‘Jango’ originates from the language of the Roma people meaning ‘I awake’ properly indicating that the ‘line of Fett’ is started singularly with Django Fett, Boba being his first off-spring without any outside interference. This is duplicated or mirrored exactly in the ‘line of Skywalker’ where Anakin’s mother has the name ‘Shmi’ which is Hebrew for ‘my name is …’. This name too indicates a name-giving, a beginning!
Anakin has special powers that set him apart from all the others of his age. Boba, well he is a ‘fabricated product’, a clone of his father, not designed to be different from his brother but rather intended to be equal. But of course we know he is not identical as he was not tampered with to make him more ‘docile’ or to accelerate his growth. So in his unique way, he indeed is different. We don’t know why Jango Fett ordered a clone of himself, but whatever his reasons may have been it did bring a motherless child into existence that was closely connected to the fatherless Chosen One. From the moment on he becomes an orphan his ‘family’ consists of bounty hunters. He grows up in anger and frustration at his inability to avenge his father’s death. Yet when he teams up with the likes of Aurra Singh to exact this revenge he quickly discovers he is not as ruthless and vicious as she is. Like Anakin, Boba is not an ‘evil kid’ but he is a kid that has been dealt a heavy hand. In the Original Trilogy Boba Fett never really was a villain in the story, he simply was going about his business and was hired by Jabba to capture and retrieve Solo. He skilfully combined this with being hired by Vader for essentially the same job. In the Prequel Trilogy, young Boba is depicted as a child that wants to make his father proud, that experiences delight when defeating an enemy but that is fully capable of displaying normal human emotions when confronted with a loss of a loved one. He never says it in the Prequel Trilogy, but from his expressions and actions it is clear he loved his father, Boba has a sense of honour and duty, inherited from his dad, that will lead him onwards. During the Clone Wars he learns important lessons about himself and about how far he can go when encountering force-users … especially Ventress leaves him little space for doubt.
Towards the end of the Clone Wars era Boba has grown into a fearsome bounty-hunter, despite his young age. He is following in the footsteps of his father and while he will never become as good-humoured as Hondo Ohnaka, the Pirate, he also never becomes as cold-hearted as Cad Bane or as outright vicious as Aurra Singh. The Prequel Trilogy and The Clone Wars have given Boba Fett a back story that, in my view, does not take away the ‘mystery’ at all. Quite on the contrary, due to the fact that some factual aspects of this back-story have been revealed the real mystery about Boba Fett now is his psychological make-up.
When Darth Vader meets Boba Fett in the Original Trilogy on the bridge of his super-star-destroyer Vader knows exactly who he is talking to. Despite the fact that Boba’s armor is different in colour and composition from that of his father, I think Vader must have recognized him. Whether Boba knows it is Anakin in front of him remains a mystery. Boba’s acquisition of the Mandalorian armor is more than just a guy dressing up in fancy equipment. It is indicative a journey on which young Boba was sent when Mace Windu killed his father. After the anger and the lust for revenge, Boba must have sought a way to reconnect with his past and with the life if his father. A father of whom he saw hundreds of thousands of copies in the early Imperial Army. But with time all these Clones outpaced Boba in aging until, around the time of Empire Strikes Back, he was the only Clone left alive.
An Anthology Story
So at the end of the Old Trilogy there is again this strange resonance between Anakin being the last of the old Jedi Order of the Republic and Boba being the last of the Grand Army of the Republic. Their presumed deaths bring a final end to that story, now there is truly place and time for something new. It will be interesting to see whether an Anthology film about Boba is going to resurrect him from the Sarlac Pit, which to me would seem the lazy thing to do, or whether they are going to explore part of Boba’s journey from vengeful yet skilled young adolescent at the end of the Clone Wars to the bounty hunter with Mandalorian armor we saw in Empire Strikes Back. Which ever of the two it is, I hope the authors are keenly aware of how central the ‘line of Fett’ is to the Saga.