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Why is Boba Fett so popular?
January 7, 2011 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Why is Boba Fett's popularity so disproportional to his screen time?
posted by jackypaper to Society & Culture (68 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
 
He has a jet pack. Little boys love jet packs.
posted by seanyboy at 8:41 AM on January 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


A: His backpack's got jets.
posted by schmod at 8:41 AM on January 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


It's really easy to project whatever you want on a guy who doesn't do much but looks pretty bad-ass. It's been said by smarter people than me that Star Wars fans love the Star Wars in their heads but hate the Star Wars on the screen. Boba Fett is a prime example of that.
posted by Etrigan at 8:42 AM on January 7, 2011 [25 favorites]


He's a bounty hunter. In space. And he has a jet pack.
posted by londonmark at 8:44 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The toy. It was the coolest fucking toy in my opinion. He kicked GI Joes ass up and down the street all day. Also he was majorly featured in the comics that appeared between movies and the books that came after.

Here's the official tale linked from Wikipedia: Seems like it was a carefully plotted marketing scheme as well.

Finally, I mean come on, he's a freaking masked flying bounty hunter. Like A Boss.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:44 AM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


For me, because there was a promotion where you could get a Boba Fett action figure with a missile that would launch out of his backpack if you sent in a handful of proof-of-purchase seals from other Star Wars toys. How cool was that? So I dutifully collected the cardboard and sent it in and waited...

And waited and waited.

Eventually we got a Boba Fett with the normal, non-launching missile along with a note explaining there were safety/choking concerns around the envisioned toy that meant it wasn't going to be made.

Those months of anticipation made Fett cool. Then the toy was Too Dangerous For Kids. Boba Fett is dangerous and hard to find. How awesome.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:45 AM on January 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


Wikipedia, God bless it, addresses this question. There's a lot of hypothesizing in the article, but certainly one important part is that even though Boba Fett didn't have much screen time, he had his own promotional items.
posted by ManInSuit at 8:47 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I wanted to develop an essentially evil, very frightening character," said Lucas of Vader. "He started as a kind of intergalactic bounty hunter, evolved into a grotesque knight, and as I got deeper into the knight ethos he became more a dark warrior than a mercenary... I split him up and it was from the early concept of Darth Vader as a bounty hunter that Boba Fett came."
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:48 AM on January 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think his popularity stems not only from standing around and looking like a bad-ass, but also because with almost no screen time and only five lines of dialogue, he's more effective in catching the heroes than the entire Empire. And he doesn't even care about them or his employers - his only motivation is to get paid.
posted by hafehd at 8:49 AM on January 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


Partly - nowhere near entirely, but partly - because he's a badass with no face and no screentime, so he can whatever and whoever you want him to be, yet his outfit is distinctive enough to be iconic. Thus he is a symbol that means whatever you want him to be.

So for example, this makes him great costume material. People can build an outfit that is highly distinctive, instantly recognisable, and have nothing (except body language) to give away the fact that the person isn't Boba Fett. So people do, so they become Fett enthusiests, and they show up to events and so now Fett is making star appearances, which raises his profile, and creates more Fett enthusiests.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:51 AM on January 7, 2011


The special Boba Fett promotion that These Premises Are Alarmed refers to was the big reason for me and all of my friends at the time. We had no idea who he was or any recollection of seeing him in the movies. But we wanted that stinkin' toy.
posted by The World Famous at 8:51 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


because he's bad-ass.
posted by nadawi at 8:52 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The first rule of show-business: Always leave them wanting more.
posted by robself at 8:54 AM on January 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


hafehd: "I think his popularity stems not only from standing around and looking like a bad-ass, but also because with almost no screen time and only five lines of dialogue, he's more effective in catching the heroes than the entire Empire. And he doesn't even care about them or his employers - his only motivation is to get paid."

This, exactly. He's a laconic, faceless badass who GETS THE JOB DONE.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:57 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The mystery! The wrist-mounted rocket launchers!
posted by supercres at 8:59 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Believe it or not, there was a time when there was only so much Star Wars stuff available to consume. After the first movie came out there were a few comics and a ton of action figures, but there was no internet and very little information about the upcoming sequels. Boba Fett's action figure was released between Star Wars and Empire, and he made a couple appearances in comics (most notably the Holiday Special). He was the only glimpse we had of what was to come, and of course he was awesome because of it.

Plus, he was a really cool character even without knowing anything about him. Lando was featured in the trailer for Empire (...and introducing Lando...) but I don't remember anyone being excited by him. Other than the talk of "there's going to be someone new..." there was nothing cool about him for kids who didn't know who Billy Dee Fucking Williams was. All he had was a cape, not armor and a jet pack.

All those kids who were excited by this new action figure built him up into something huge and he only got more huge as they got older.

Mystery + Rarity + Cool + Sneak peek + Fan boys who can't ever let go of their childhood = Forever Awesome
posted by bondcliff at 8:59 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think his relative lack of screen time contributes to his popularity. The attractions of Boba Fett in his initial appearance are easy to explain - he's a bounty hunter, he has a jet pack and cool weapons and gadgets and special armor. Then his role in the second movie seems to set him up as an important character. He's got a name, a signature space ship, he flies off with the number two protagonist in custody. Maybe he's the nemesis to Han Solo, a subsidiary villain second only to Darth Vader. No: he barely shows up in the third movie before he crashes into some shit and disappears down the maw of the Sarlacc. It's that initial attraction and contradiction of his relative unimportance in the first series that makes you notice and focus on Boba Fett, and why he keeps getting written in to the expanded Star Wars universe (and why he's such an iconic figure in things like the Robot Chicken parodies, which really play up the contradiction of his character).
posted by nanojath at 9:00 AM on January 7, 2011


Adding to the bad-assery:

Boba Fett is the only character that comes close to verbally crossing Vader ("He's no good to me dead") without getting choked. Vader also made a deal with Fett and didn't screw him (a la Lando).

Most fans love Vader. If Vader gives props to Fett, it follows that we should, too.
posted by Anephim at 9:01 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Stolen from a Something Awful Post, which does sum it up pretty well:

"What made him badass was implied rather than explicit in Empire. First, we have to remember that in Empire, Vader is fucking psychotic. Yet in Fett's first scene, [Vader]'s having to reel him in. Later, Fett gets up in Vader's face and demands to know what happens if Han dies and Vader gives him a money-back guarantee instead choking or threatening him, which he subsequently does to Lando in a similar disagreement. Finally, Vader tells everyone to let Skywalker through and Fett, for no apparent reason, defies the order and takes a couple of pot-shots at him."
posted by Benjy at 9:03 AM on January 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


I think Boba Fett is that sweet spot where his appearance in the movie is practically trivia, but not obscure enough to not have actually appeared in the movie. So he's legit and it's COOL to know about him, as opposed to all the characters that Star Wars nerds who read the books talk about. Laypeople don't generally subscribe to the philosophy that "the movies were only the beginning."
posted by mokudekiru at 9:17 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Han Solo's the most badass character in Star Wars. Just don't give a damn, handsome as hell, rocks the vest to a degree that science still cannot explain, seduces the heck out of Leia, shoots Greedo without giving a FUUUUCK

Boba Fett takes him the fuck down, doesn't even break a sweat.

The most powerful Sith Lord in the fucking GALAXY hires Boba Fett so they can WORK TOGETHER. This is like if Satan outsourced evil deeds to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Think of it this way:

Han Solo -- Velociraptor
Vader -- T-Rex
Boba Fett -- The La Brea Tarpits
posted by Greg Nog at 9:20 AM on January 7, 2011 [81 favorites]


ROBOT CHICKEN: STAR WARS EPISODE III ( search for it for you local viewing pleasure) has 10 times the screen time for Boba Fett filling in some needed backstory that the above comments alude to. He is better in the story others make up about him than his screen time really deserves. The heavy drinking may be an issue as well :-)
posted by stuartmm at 9:26 AM on January 7, 2011


You never see his face. The mask is a big deal. You essentially get to project your own fears and fantasties on to the character without the interference of an actor.
posted by zooropa at 9:29 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


(most notably the Holiday Special)

This. In the now-infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, there was a whole Boba Fett cartoon segment right in the middle of the thing. All of a sudden there was this entirely new character who wasn't even in the movie getting an amazing amount of attention, followed by A LOT of advertising for that Boba Fett toy several others have mentioned. Every kid I knew instantly assumed Boba Fett was going to be a major character in any future movies, or maybe even as a spin-off for an afternoon cartoon show. All this talk about bad-assery is revisionism from people who probably weren't even alive when the Star Wars Holiday Special aired. We were promised a Big Deal, and to this day I *still* don't know why they played him up so much except as a way to sell yet another toy.
posted by briank at 9:37 AM on January 7, 2011


Seconding the notion that it all started with the toy, which was released prior to Empire with only the cryptic "he will play a big part in the next movie" messaging that sowed the seeds for his popularity.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:45 AM on January 7, 2011


In the now-infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, there was a whole Boba Fett cartoon segment right in the middle of the thing.

At the end, actually. But yeah, the appeal was that everyone was dying for more Star Wars (we sat through the Holiday Special, after all) and Boba was both in that and the first action figure available from the next movie. Instant celebrity.

His ignomious dispatch in Jedi marks the start of the decline.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:55 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Note also that Bob Fett has little in the way of personality and emotional reaction, making it very hard for George Lucas to fuck the character up with retrofitted cutesy bullshit.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:00 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Dr Dracator gets it. I was (and am) in the original BF fanboy demographic. Here's the deal: When Boba Fett shows up, it's like he's entering from a different movie. He's Clint Eastwood in a "For a Few Dollars More," while everyone else in ESB is prancing around like they're in "The Muppets Take Cloud City." Even though ESB is a pretty great film (as far as Star Wars goes), it was, and is, extremely goofy and winky throughout. Granted, the early '80s were a goofy and winky time: Billy Dee Williams was doing those pimpalicious Colt 45 commercials, and the Muppet Show, with Yoda's cousins, was on prime time. But Boba Fett sliced through all that fluff. His short screen time, cool duds, and anonymity helped immensely; macho wasn't particularly in fashion, and too much of it would've lumped him in with boring old-man stuff like WWII movies and yes, Eastwood himself.
posted by turducken at 10:03 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Let's also not forget Boba Fett showed up with battle damage! His armor had blaster scars, chipped paint, it looked a little rough (ditto with the toy). He had seen some shit. Given that most of the armored people in the series go down with one hit, clearly he was a force to be reckoned with!
posted by yeloson at 10:15 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Note also that Bob Fett has little in the way of personality and emotional reaction, making it very hard for George Lucas to fuck the character up with retrofitted cutesy bullshit.

Note that every single character in episodes I through III (except Palpatine) has little in the way of personality and emotional reaction so that particular theory fails miserably.

Kenner tempted us with the toy before Empire even came out. We loved Fett before we even knew who he was. Good guy? Bad guy? Who knew? But he looked cool and you had to save proofs of purchase to get him. Awesome.
posted by The World Famous at 10:16 AM on January 7, 2011


I love this thread.

Many reasons listed above are spot on, but lets not forget:

HIS SHIP CAME WITH HAN FROZEN IN CARBONITE.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:46 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Boba Fett was the last cool character/creature idea that Lucas created. After that it was Ewoks and Jar-Jar all the way.
posted by dhartung at 10:48 AM on January 7, 2011


I second the comments above. Boba Fett was hyped early and we all fell for it.

Does anyone else remember this rumor? In Empire there is the scene where Obi-Wan and Yoda are talking about Luke and one of them (don't remember which and I'm not looking it up) says "He's our only hope" and the other character says "No, there is another". Growing up in Eastern Mass. the rumor mill suggested Boba Fett was the "New Hope". Imagine our surprise when he's killed on the Sand Barge and Leia is the one.
posted by JohntheContrarian at 11:05 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


He looks and acts intensely bad-ass but more importantly, he is very anonymous. You can't see his face and no one knows anything about his past. As the view, I can fill in the details with whatever back-story I want. Everything about the character's backstory is ideal to me because I can create it myself. Heck, I'll bet he even looks like I would if I were an intergalactic bounty hunter in the Star Wars universe. For every other character we know something more about their past and it is bound to be disappointing to some extent for everyone but George Lucas. It isn't his aura of mystery so much as what that mystery lets us think up about him.
posted by VTX at 11:10 AM on January 7, 2011


via IMDB:

[as Luke leaves before completing his training]
Yoda: Told you I did. Reckless is he. Now, matters are worse.
Obi-Wan: That boy is our last hope.
Yoda: No. There is another.
posted by spilon at 11:13 AM on January 7, 2011


I've always attributed Fett's popularity to the fact out of most villains, he's not arrogant, incompetent, or genre-blind. His success at capturing Han Solo is testament to his intelligence, resourcefulness, and accurate assessment of his prey's capabilities and tendencies. For most of my childhood, it seemed all the bad guys lost not because of the hero's skill, but because they underestimated or ignored seemingly obvious clues that their hair-brained schemes just wouldn't work. Boba Fett, and to an equal extent Darth Vader and General Veers, were shining examples that yes there can be villains who can actually think.

I figured Boba Fett's popularity stemmed from his resourcefulness and out-of-the-box thinking. We're led to believe that Han Solo is a crafty escape artist, able to use his knowledge of Imperial protocol to successfully sneak away undetected. Suddenly we're aware that there is a bad guy who's just as smart and has managed to predict the moves of the wily and cunning hero, versus the stormtroopers and Imperial commanders who seem so inflexible and stupid. And Boba Fett does it without bragging, without dramatic flair, and without overextending his abilities. I mean, instead of trying to capture Solo himself and risk fighting Leia and an angry wookie, he just calls Vader and they bring the entire might of the Empire to overwhelm them.

Heck, out of all the villains I can think of, Fett and Vader and Veers are the only ones who don't seem to have a need to laugh maniacally when they're about to succeed.
posted by CancerMan at 11:14 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


In Empire there is the scene where Obi-Wan and Yoda are talking about Luke and one of them (don't remember which and I'm not looking it up) says "He's our only hope" and the other character says "No, there is another".

Much like Darth being Luke's father, that's another thing that was retconned. See the Secret History of Star Wars.

That said, I like the dialog choice. It leaves narrative room for the main character to fail.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:23 AM on January 7, 2011


Because he's cool.
posted by Lobster Garden at 11:24 AM on January 7, 2011


The attractions of Boba Fett in his initial appearance are easy to explain - he's a bounty hunter, he has a jet pack and cool weapons and gadgets and special armor.

Yeah, I mean, for kids, he's the ultimate action figure. That was definitely the appeal. The worm in the apple, though, was always Boba Fett's ride – the Slave I was just about the least capable-looking thing in the whole Star Wars universe, except maybe the Rebel cruiser fleet in Return of the Jedi.
posted by furiousthought at 11:27 AM on January 7, 2011


JohntheContrarian; yes, my friends and I thought Boba Fett might be the Other. A lot of our play-stories between Empire and Jedi involved him turning good (or at least switching sides.) I was so disappointed by his death-by-pratfall...
posted by jessenoonan at 11:30 AM on January 7, 2011


In addition to all the above, there's fan-snobbishness. Back in the day, one of Boba Fett's biggest points of appeal was that most people didn't know who he was. To people who had only seen the movies, he was just "that bounty-hunter guy". If someone asked you who your favorite Star Wars character was, and you said "Boba Fett", you weren't just declaring your favorite character. You were showing that you were a genuine fan.

Nowadays, he's well-known enough that this might not apply any more. But it was definitely a factor back in the days of the first trilogy.
posted by baf at 11:41 AM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Dr Dracator: "Note also that Bob Fett has little in the way of personality and emotional reaction, making it very hard for George Lucas to fuck the character up with retrofitted cutesy bullshit."

Incorruptibility. Star Wars keeps changing (for better or FOR WORSE), but Boba Fett is still pretty much just a silent cat with a cool costume that no one knows anything about.
posted by hafehd at 11:57 AM on January 7, 2011


<starwarsgeek>>
Empire Strikes Back came out when I was about 7 years old. Boba Fett was a mysterious bad guy with a cool ship and a suit of armor that had clearly seen a lot of action, evoking a different kind of bad-assness than Darth Vader's impeccably shiny black breastplate and helmet. He was also a different kind of bad guy... at 7 years old I didn't know the word "mercenary," but the concept was new and intriguing especially in a story that was otherwise about unambiguously good and evil characters.

In the days before the internet enabled fans to debate and analyze everything to death, and before George Lucas totally demystified him ("You get to see him as a little kid!" - Patton Oswalt, NSFW), the rest was left up to our imaginations... so there you go. I don't really remember how I imagined Boba Fett's back story at 7 years old, but I know if was a whole lot cooler than him being a little clone kid whose dad gets killed.

And, agreed: the send-away toy probably had something to do with it too.
</starwarsgeek>
posted by usonian at 12:12 PM on January 7, 2011


His name is Boba Fett. What other reason do you need?
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 12:52 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


yeah ok but can any of you nerds find me the Boba Fett shirt that I bought from the Lucasarts fan club. my mom threw it out. =(
posted by lslelel at 12:53 PM on January 7, 2011


Note also that Bob Fett has little in the way of personality and emotional reaction, making it very hard for George Lucas to fuck the character up with retrofitted cutesy bullshit.

In the same vein, he's not saddled with a lot of Lucas' terrible, terrible dialogue.
posted by brundlefly at 12:53 PM on January 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


Dr Dracator: "Note also that Bob Fett has little in the way of personality and emotional reaction, making it very hard for George Lucas to fuck the character up with retrofitted cutesy bullshit."

Except that Lucas did just that with Ep. II and III, except it was decent. The story for Boba Fett was the prequel trilogy I wanted to see for Darth Vader - a young kid, neither good nor evil, caught up in something bigger than himself, is "wronged" by the Jedi and grows up to seek revenge.
posted by I am the Walrus at 1:04 PM on January 7, 2011


Because even though he didn't have the force Bobba Fett could stand his own to Vader:


Darth Vader: You may take Captain Solo to Jabba the Hutt after I have Skywalker.
Boba Fett: He's no good to me dead.
Darth Vader: He will not be permanently damaged.
Boba Fett: What if he doesn't survive? He's worth a lot to me.
Darth Vader: The Empire will compensate you, if he dies. Put him in.
posted by furtive at 1:41 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some of these arguments are persuasive.

But I still can't get past the fact that he loses control of said jet pack, gets jerked around like Neville Longbottom during his first flying lesson, and then suffers in ignominious death that is a hair away from being played for comedy.

That has always struck me as the antithesis of "badass".
posted by Joe Beese at 1:59 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not really sold on Boba Fett "standing up" to Vader. I think that had more to do with Vader's expectations of his underlings and hired help to be successful, and his intolerance of failure. I'd imagine if Fett had actually disintegrated the bounty, or failed to even provide a clue as to the Falcon's whereabouts, Vader would have been less accommodating in their dealings.

Fett's demise in Return of the Jedi rubbed me the wrong way because it was yet another example of a hero's plucky good luck and a ham-fisted plot device forcing the story to move along. Boba Fett had demonstrated the ability to present an actual threat to the heroes, such that it would have been nice for the good guys to work a little bit harder in defeating him. And since his exit from the trilogy was so anti-climactic, I can't help but feel he got robbed of a good villain's death and that just endears me to the character.
posted by CancerMan at 2:13 PM on January 7, 2011


There's something in me that LOVES the way Boba Fett dies, though... Like, he's the most badass guy in the galaxy, even Vader is a little scared of him, so does he die in a blaze of glory with him against an army of soldiers? Or is he the one non-Jedi who gets into a lightsaber duel, and almost wins it? Does he pull every single gadget out of his Mandalorian battle armor? No, he trips. Yeah, trips and dies.

Real life is a lot like that.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 3:14 PM on January 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Part of it is the gadgets. Boba Fett has a lot of cool gadgets. Jet-pack, grappling hooks, flame thrower, darts, and mystery items in his belt pouches (what's in there? probably even MORE cool stuff!). Nerdy-types like sci-fi and they like real-life gadgets. So a sci-fi character with lots of just-cooler-than-real-life gadgets is bound to be a little popular.

Batman, ninjas, Boba Fett, James Bond. All mysterious mere-mortal men, with amazing but (slightly-less-than) realistic physical abilities and an array of very cool weapons/gadgets. They bend but don't really break the rules of physics. They accomplish dazzling feats that would make some assume they are superhuman or have magical powers but they don't. This makes them compelling in a way that Superman, Darth Vader, or Harry Potter are not. When a character will great but ill-defined supernatural powers can do A and B but not C, your mind tries to come up with a convoluted explanation for this, but then often fails and either makes a leap of faith or just accepts the plot hole. When a Batman-type character can do X and Y but not Z, you don't have to do this. It's just the laws of physics or equipment failure catching up with them. Boba Fett is one of an enduringly popular character-type.

Also, Boba Fett and the also-popular Han Solo are mere mortal men in a world of superhumans (Vader, Luke, Kenobi, etc), monsters, and giant robots. And they punch above their weight-class, getting the respect of their superhuman peers.
posted by K.P. at 5:40 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The gadgetry and non-superhero elements make for a good comparison to Batman, but back in the 80s, I think part of the mystery must have been that you didn't know what he was... human, alien, cyborg?

I do wonder how popular he was soon after the movie came out, and how much of it was a gradual awareness of his spiffiness during the gap between trilogies. Is he just as popular with the generation of kids who first saw him in the '97 rereleases, where there was no buildup, and no much-sought-after action figure?

Regarding his lame death, that was a result of George not really having a particular affinity for the character. It wasn't until later on when he realized how popular he was with fans. And as far as his death being a plot device, his life was a plot device. Of course, that was anything but ham-fisted. Say what you will, but George had a knack for cool side villains.

Interestingly, no one's mentioned another cult figure from the original trilogy: Wedge. He was famously the only pilot to survive all three movies, and grew from pencil-neck rookie to unflappable X-Wing commander. And unlike Fett, he was able to outlive his embarrassing moment (getting hit and having to bail out on Luke).

Other cult figures include Lobot, Gonk... and Jek Porkins.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 8:12 PM on January 7, 2011


Because they wanted the toys to compete with G.I. Joe and other action figure lines that had dozens of figures and models and accessories to collect, and because kids can only buy so many Luke, Han, R2D2, and Vader toys.

Another example of this is the Ewok action figure set my family had. We had like 5-10 different Ewoks and their treehouse, and I think some vehicles, too. Even though the Ewoks are only in like 20 minutes of one of the movies, are pretty dull, and sort of all look the same.

(And, of course, because of the decades between trilogies, half the mythology of the series has stemmed from the merch, not from the films themselves. Which would make a great thesis for someone getting a degree in both English and Marketing.)
posted by Sara C. at 9:14 PM on January 7, 2011


But it was Star Wars that revived GI Joe (and spawned the modern action figure market), and that was two years after Empire Strikes Back. He-Man wasn't until a year after that.

And by the time Return of the Jedi came around in '83, I'm sure the marketing people were more worried about the potential lack of movies later on.

Anyway, I think the role of Fett's send-away toy is maybe overrated, as not all of his fans were old enough (or born) to be intrigued by that aspect. And his character in the actual movie could've sucked, and he would've been forgotten.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:47 PM on January 7, 2011


Did the tertiary characters and "featured extras whose makeup we invested time/money in" get action figures in that first go-round before GI Joe and He-Man got involved?
posted by Sara C. at 10:17 PM on January 7, 2011


I was 7 when I saw Empire. Boba Fett immediately struck me (and my brother, and my mates) as the dark counterpart to Han Solo. Dude in a ship with a blaster, out for himself, but with none of the goody goody baggage Solo carried around. No sidekick, no chicks, just flying around in a fucking cool ship (Slave I? Does it get any badder?) being fucking cool. What else did he do? We didn't know, but we'd spend hours speculating in the years between Empire and Jedi, and it was all bad, and it was all awesome.

I remember my mate's teenaged brother and his friends speculating that Fett was really Solo's disfigured / aggrieved father, or perhaps his brother, possibly even his twin brother, and that's why he wanted to capture him so bad. And I remember feeling like we'd been sold out when he went arse over tits into the Sarlaac, even over the shock and awe of a black-clad Luke Skywalker wailing on bad guys with a green lightsaber (I swear I almost pissed my pants when he lit up that bad boy). And almost immediately after the movie, we were speculating that he'd lived, because he was Boba Fucking Fett, and he would be back.

I think all this Mandalorian warrior culture bullshit ruined it, frankly, and the prequels took it out the back, shat on it and kicked sand over the top. He didn't need explaining. Boba, he's just this guy, you know?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:56 PM on January 7, 2011


A lot of Boba Fett’s appeal to me is the same as with the Operative (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) in Serenity, in that he is a bad-ass character made all that more significant and compelling because of his small amount of screen time. His mystique is what makes him interesting, because you are forced to imagine his actions on your own; since his character is portrayed as powerful, capable, smart, savvy and ass-kicking, your imagination will use those aspects to fill in the blanks. The more you see of him, the less interesting he becomes because the less ambiguous his representation in your head is.
posted by KuraFire at 5:06 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Like has been said already he looks cool and you can make up your own story about him.

When I was playing with the Luke and Vader figures as a kid it was always "Luke I am your father! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Ksh kash ksh kash zroooom.

Boba fett went off and kicked everyones ass whether they be GI joe, batman, and any other unfortunate action figure that got in the way...
posted by Redmond Cooper at 10:31 AM on January 8, 2011


I'd echo a bunch of comments above about Boba Fett's status as an outlaw and a loner. You never see him do particularly horrible things first-hand (torture, graphic depiction of killing innocents, etc.) and he's a ferociously independent loner. Kind of an Evil Marloboro Man, if you like.

I also think there's an element of underdefinition to him. You don't see a face, you just know the way he unsettles those who otherwise don't fear anything. (He reminds me of Keyser Söze as a fictional device in this way, though obviously he precedes that character.) As a kid, for me, the defining moment is that shot in The Empire Strikes Back on the deck of an imperial cruiser when Vader is talking to the bounty hunters and makes a point of talking to Boba Fett. Even the imperial troopers think they're all scum, and Darth Frickin' Vader is running the meeting, but he has to go over to Boba Fett, wag a finger in his face, and tell him hot to get up to his usual tricks. What the hell is it that Fett does all the time? What level of sheer, unhinged evil does this guy coolly do on a regular basis that he has to get his coat pulled by Darth Vader? It as though Vader is saying, "Dude, we're all really into the Dark Side here, but you gotta turn it down a notch. I got an empire to manage with an iron fist here."

My friend and I always used to talk about "Boba Fett moments," when someone who was the paragon of some chaotic or harmful trait saying someone else was yet worse. For instance, it struck us a Boba Fett moment when Axl Rose dismissed former G'n'R drummer Steven Adler as a talentless sociopathic drug addict.
posted by el_lupino at 12:23 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


For me it was the fact that he's introduced to the audience with supreme bad-ass Vader telling him "No disintegrations", This instantly gives him credibility as someone who, given the choice, has turned to excessive violence.

When the biggest scary guy in the room cautions someone to play nice, you start to think that person might be someone to pay attention to.
posted by quin at 2:30 PM on January 8, 2011


From what I can tell online, the number of figures Kenner promoted gradually increased from year to year, 20 in '78, 30 in '80, and not quite 50 in '82. Dunno how many of those were variations of the same character, but I'd imagine a lot had to be tertiary/generic characters.

And apparently what caused Kenner to take away Fett's loose missile was a choking incident with a Battlestar Galactica figure.

I 'm currently borrowing the new "Making of ESB" hardcover book, and couldn't find much on Fett. Some background on his character, a George quote similar to what Potomac Avenue linked, and the casting. George also cites Eastwood/Leone's Man with No Name, and there's even a sketch showing Fett draped in a cape similar to Eastwood's poncho.

His first public appearance was at a parade in San Anselmo in '78. Hey, I guess that explains it.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:36 PM on January 8, 2011


The comparisons to Westerns is interesting: Boba Fett's appearances come with the sound effect of spurs in the movies. (Lucas's talents as a sound designer - or hiring great sound designers - have been somewhat under-appreciated).
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 4:00 PM on January 8, 2011


Another cool touch: when Leia-as-bounty-hunter "sells" Chewbacca to Jabba in Return of the Jedi, Fett gives her a subtle, respectful half-nod.

In retrospect, it's kinda funny how he'd draw his gun at the drop of a hat (in the carbon freezing chamber, and in Jabba's palace), and when he gleefully got to see some action at last, it led to his demise.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:17 PM on January 9, 2011


The comparisons to Westerns is interesting: Boba Fett's appearances come with the sound effect of spurs in the movies.

There's a link there that leads to another page with a great old video of Burtt demonstrating him. I think it pretty much encapsulates why the character is so popular. And it makes me think they could've done a whole movie just on someone like him alone.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:33 PM on January 9, 2011


Look, there are a lot of reasons why Fett was cool. The two moments that always stand out for me: Vader pointing a finger in his face and saying "No disintegrations" - you get the sense he has a reputation for disintegrating his targets (which is cool) and you can almost hear his eyes roll with his "As you wish" replay to Vader, who has been either killing or threatening to kill someone in every scene of the movie.

The second scene is when Han drops the Millennium Falcon off the side of the Star Destroyer with the rest of the trash. We've all been wondering where he is, what he did to get away, and then you see what a cool thing Han did again - hiding in plain sight! Fucking A, Han, you rock! And then Boba Fett has pulled the same trick...he just one upped the coolest guy in the film.

Of course, his death is completely disappointing.
posted by never used baby shoes at 12:17 PM on January 10, 2011


Okay, apologies if this has been mentioned, but the EU has Fett surviving the Sarlacc. If you thought he bought it like a chump, well he didn't necessarily (depending on if you buy into the EU stuff):

Fett's armor and body were extremely battered by his ordeal in the Sarlacc. When he plunged into the beast, he was kept alive by numerous fibrous suckers that attached themselves to his body. This was part of the Sarlacc's horrible metabolic process; it would keep its prey alive for thousands of years, all the while slowly feeding off it. Fett almost lost his identity in the swirling dementia brought about by the Sarlacc's toxins. His resolve held, and he used his weapons to blast free of the beast.

Just sayin'
posted by juv3nal at 1:01 PM on January 12, 2011


This was part of the Sarlacc's horrible metabolic process; it would keep its prey alive for thousands of years, all the while slowly feeding off it.

First, the Sarlacc makes no sense at all. It has some bizarre ability to prolong the life of a human for thousands of years? It's the fountain of youth monster? That has bothered me since I was a kid. Good news! You're going to live for thousands of years! Bad news! You'll be inside a monster the whole time!

Second, why doesn't Boba Fett (or anyone else, for that matter) just go nuts shooting everything in sight as they fall into the Sarlacc, killing the Sarlacc and then just climbing out? Ridiculous. Not even close to the most ridiculous thing in ROTJ, obviously. But still.

When Leia pointed out in Episode IV that only Vader could be so bold, I'm not sure she had any idea just how boldly stupid the trilogy would get. It's a good thing Vader did the sassy hands-on-the-hips thing (at 4 seconds in), thereby adding infinite points to his boldness ranking (seriously, I have no doubt there's an epic eye-roll happening inside the helmet there.) Otherwise Leia might have been proved wrong. And Hayden Christensen really should have incorporated the hand-on-hip sassy move to his Anakin/Vader repertoire in Episodes I-III. It would have made the character much more believable.

Sure, Boba Fett is bold - spurs jingling and jangling and talking back to Vader. But Boba Fett is the Vince Vega of the Galaxy Far Far Away, right down to talking back to authority figures and dying in a stupid way. Vince Vega gets shot coming out of the bathroom. Boba Fett trips and falls in a hole. Are they both bad-ass? Sure. And I can totally imagine a scene where we see, from the inside, a speeder's trunk open to reveal Boba Fett and Greedo reaching in to grab their blasters while they talk about what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese on Coruscant and the perils of Boba Fett being asked by Jabba to take Leia out to dinner.

But being the henchman hit man who talks back to his boss and is more interested in flashy presentation than tact is a sure-fire way to a sucker's death.
posted by The World Famous at 2:12 PM on January 12, 2011


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