Star Wars Has a Tatooine Problem – IGN
The Book of Boba Fett‘s most unintentionally illuminating line comes during the bounty hunter’s meeting with the Twins, a pair of Hutts who have decided that fighting a war for Jabba’s old territory isn’t worth the hassle.
“Tatooine is a worthless rock,” one of them says dismissively, advising Boba Fett to depart for more fertile territory. It’s a statement that seems tinged with a certain amount of sheepish awareness on the part of the writers, acknowledging both Tatooine’s relative insignificance and its outsized influence on the Star Wars universe.
Despite being described by Luke Skywalker as the planet furthest from “the bright center to the universe,” Tatooine is arguably Star Wars’ most famous planet, serving as the headquarters for Jabba’s criminal empire and the home planet for both Luke and Anakin Skywalker. Over the years it has served as a kind of convenient catch-all for the galaxy’s wild frontier, providing it a central place in the Star Wars mythos.
It has also come to represent a franchise trapped by its own history. This is especially apparent in The Book of Boba Fett, which has thus far been one long series of “Remember that?” moments aimed at fans, from Boba Fett’s emergence from the Sarlacc Pit to random Max Rebo cameos. Even Tosche Station, where Luke so dearly wanted to pick up some power converters, makes an appearance. If The Book of Boba Fett feels shallow, it may be because it substitutes meaningful world-building for endlessly playing the hits like the alien band in the Mos Eisley Cantina.
Star Wars’ Endless Frontier
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. As originally portrayed, Tatooine was a kind of jumping off point for Luke Skywalker’s heroic journey — a humble origin that could contrast with his adventures among the stars. In Joseph Campbell’s classic story of a Hero with a Thousand Faces, Luke’s escape from Tatooine was meant to be the moment that he crossed the threshold and truly began his journey to become a mythic hero. Once Luke blasted his way out of Mos Eisley spaceport with Han and Chewie, its part in the story was finished, or so it seemed.
But George Lucas was an expert visual storyteller, and Tatooine was his masterpiece. The Tunisian desert provided the canvas on which Lucas would paint the Star Wars universe, from the hulking Sandcrawler to the bustling Mos Eisley spaceport. Its endless wastes and seedy towns were evocative of everything from Dune to John Carter of Mars to Yojimbo, with Tatooine being a stand-in of sorts for Arrakis, Mars, and even the deserts of Lawrence of Arabia. In the years to come, scenes like the one set in Tatooine’s famous cantina would become synonymous with Star Wars — so much so that Lucas himself wouldn’t be able to resist returning to the planet for future installments.
With Star Wars largely dormant in the wake of Return of Jedi, Tatooine would become a popular setting for creators working within the Star Wars universe in the 90s and 2000s, appearing in a multitude of books, comics, and games. It was a useful way to provide a story with an injection of Star Wars arcana, grounding it in a place that fans would instantly recognize without having to do the work of building up a new world from scratch.
In hindsight, we should have been worried when George Lucas opted to return to Tatooine for The Phantom Menace, where it was established as Darth Vader’s home planet. It was in the prequels that Tatooine started to be the desert planet where everything seemed to happen, subsequently appearing in multiple movies and TV shows. Even The Force Awakens — itself a kind of off-color copy of A New Hope — had Jakku, which in essence was Tatooine with a crashed Star Destroyer.
Over time the Star Wars universe began to feel small, its heroes all seemingly connected in one way or another to the Skywalkers or Tatooine. Despite having an unlimited number of possibilities, Star Wars couldn’t help returning to the supposedly insignificant world its fans knew best. It was emblematic of Star Wars’ increasingly self-referential storytelling, which helped fuel marketing and nostalgia, but left the setting as a whole feeling increasingly stale.
When The Mandalorian came around in 2019, I quietly prayed that Mando and Baby Yoda would never make their way to Tatooine. I was among those taken by its first season, its episodic format lending a sense of texture to the universe that had been missing from the sequel trilogy. It brought back the sense of Star Wars being a “used universe,” its hero a sci-fi samurai out of a Kurosawa film. It made Star Wars feel new again.
But, it couldn’t last. Season 2’s premiere went right back to Tatooine, and as I feared, it established that Boba Fett had survived his turn in the Sarlacc’s belly (I had kind of hoped that his armor was just randomly around, but it wasn’t to be). The rest of the season exemplified Disney’s decisive pivot back toward fan-service, culminating in a finale that effectively mirrored the one scene in Rogue One that everyone liked. By the time Boba Fett shot Bib Fortuna dead and took his place on Jabba’s throne, it was clear that Disney was more than willing to embrace safe, marketable nostalgia — anything to avoid the fan backlash brought by The Last Jedi.
A Larger World
And so we come to Book of Boba Fett, a show that attempts to combine one of the most fan-friendly characters with the most fan-friendly planet and as many references as can be managed in seven episodes. Tatooine itself takes on the quality of a theme park, with almost every scene serving as some kind of callback to a previous piece of Star Wars media. Even the spider droid briefly glimpsed in Return of the Jedi makes an appearance.
It’s probably not a coincidence that its single best elements — Boba Fett bonding with the Tusken Raiders and the train heist that ended Episode 2 — are the sequences that draw more from classic cinema than established Star Wars stories. Scenes like Boba Fett riding around on a Bantha and blowing up trains do indeed feel like something straight out of Lawrence of Arabia, making them feel like more like an ode to Star Wars than a Black Krrsantan cameo.
But such moments are the exception rather than the rule. By and large, The Book of Boba Fett is happier referencing other Star Wars stories than the sci-fi canon that inspired the franchise in the first place, with even the Tusken storyline amounting to an extended callback to A New Hope, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Clone Wars. Watching The Book of Boba Fett, I’ve found myself kind of hoping that Boba will just say “Screw it” and follow the Twins to Nal Hutta, which is relatively fertile ground as far as Star Wars settings go, and every bit as much of an epicenter of criminal activity. But then how could you have Danny Trejo as a Rancor trainer?
I fell in love with Star Wars in part because it provided such a vast and original galaxy to explore, taking decades of cinema and literature and weaving it into something entirely new. If Disney is looking for a way forward, the solution may be to take a cue from Luke and look over the horizon to the many worlds still unexplored, drawing from our collective myths rather than old Star Wars stories.
In other words, Star Wars should complete what was begun in A New Hope. It should leave Tatooine behind and not look back, and in so doing truly take its first step into a larger world.
Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN