It takes more than a Sarlacc Pit to keep a good character down.
If you don’t understand what I’m referring to in that first sentence, you probably are not the target audience for the new “Star Wars” series on Disney+, “The Book of Boba Fett.” If you not only recognized the reference to “Return of the Jedi” but know that the Sarlacc monster’s home is actually called the Great Pit of Carkoon, welcome aboard.
“Boba Fett,” which premiered its first episode last week, finally puts the spotlight on the “Star Wars” character with the most unrealized potential in all nine movies. A fearsome-looking intergalactic bounty hunter introduced in “The Empire Strikes Back,” Fett only got about four lines of dialogue before he unceremoniously got munched by the Sarlacc at the beginning of “Return of the Jedi.”
Or so we thought.
In “Boba Fett,” Fett (Temuera Morrison) manages to escape the Sarlacc, but then finds himself lost in the Tattooine desert. Run-ins with familiar old creatures, including the Jawas and the Tusken Raiders, ensue. Fett is captured by the Raiders, tries to escape and ends up fighting a big four-armed monster that looks like an homage to an old Ray Harryhausen movie.
But we know he survives, because most of these adventures are presented in flashback. In the present, Fett has taken over the lair of Jabba the Hutt (who also died in “Jedi”) and installed himself as the local crime warlord. But he aims to be a kindler, gentler sort of warlord. “Jabba ruled with fear,” he tells his top lieutenant, master assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen of “Mulan”). “I intend to rule with respect.” Good luck with that in a corrupt town that, to quote what Obi-Wan Kenobi said about another Tattooine city in the original "Star Wars," is a "wretched hive of scum and villainy."
A spinoff of the wildly successful “The Mandalorian,” also created by Jon Favreau, “Boba” attempts the same trick of using the tropes of an old Western to tell a new “Star Wars” story. In this case, it’s the “new sheriff in town” plot, as the aging bounty hunter attempts to wrest a corrupt, dangerous frontier town under control.
It's hard to judge how successful "Boba Fett" will be; there’s a lot of action and atmosphere in the first episode but not much plot or character development. Morrison, who played Boba Fett’s father Jango Fett in the “Star Wars” prequels, makes a believable tough guy, but the jury’s out on whether he can play the sort of charismatic antihero that the show requires.
In a way, the show may be a victim of fandom’s high expectations. For 38 years, Boba Fett managed to become an iconic “Star Wars” character while hardly even appearing on-screen. Now he’s got to deliver the goods.
Also on streaming: I’ve binged about half of the fourth season of Netflix’s “Cobra Kai,” which premiered last weekend. So far I think it’s a strong improvement on Season 3, which suffered from pacing issues. This time, the show is effectively balancing the uneasy alliance between former “Karate Kid” enemies Johnny (William Zabka) and Danny (Ralph Macchio) against the simmering rivalries among the teen characters, building up tension as the winner-take-all climactic tournament approaches.
Best of all is the inclusion of Thomas Ian Griffith as Terry Silver, the villain of 1989’s “Karate Kid 3,” who has returned to guide the villainous Cobra Kai dojo with bad guy John Kreese (Martin Kove). Griffith is terrific as a mellowed old man who is getting pulled back into his wilder younger ways.
Both my 14-year-old daughter and 80-year-old father have recommended the Netflix comedy special “Death to 2021” to me, so maybe there’s something there? The special revisits the dumpster fire that was 2021 with a series of sketches, including Tracey Ullman as a Jeanine Pirro-style right-wing commentator named Madison Madison. Which is ironic, given Madison’s politics. Maybe her name should have been Waukesha Waukesha?