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  • Writer's pictureXavier Kane

Space Vespas: A Study in Character & World Breaking

***SPOILER ALERT FOR The Book of Boba Fett, "Chapter 3: The Streets of Mos Espa"***

I have been enjoying the The Book of Boba Fett (or BoBF) that's been streaming on Disney+ the past three weeks. Finally, something that I've been imagining since 1983 is on the screen and telling a tale that explores a faction that's been lurking in the background since 1977: the criminal underworld.

A disturbance in the Force...

Disney's handling of the franchise has left the fanbase deeply divided. At this point there are people

who are not going to be happy no matter what. And up until the third episode people predisposed to disliking Disney Star Wars have had to really dig to find things to complain about BoBF. Some great examples of these nothingburger critiques: * Wood on Tatooine.

* The use of Boston Dynamics' SPOT to have actual freakin' robots in a Star Wars show. The complaint being something from our world "breaks immersion". Never mind the franchise's blasters are often based on real world firearms. Hell, there is even a character running around with an ice cream maker in The Empire Strikes Back!

* Boba Fett taking off his helmet destroys the mystery surrounding the character. Never mind the Creator himself, George Lucas, did just that in Attack of the Clones when we find out Boba is an unaltered clone of Jango Fett.

The worst was SF Gate's Drew Magary informing us the show is worse than a disease that confined its victims to iron lung torture chambers. The show's sin? Exploring a fan favorite background character who has only 6 minutes 32 seconds screen time in the original trilogy. The closest he comes to making a criticism that isn't predicated on insulting fans is when he writes:

... Boba is flanked by his right-hand woman Fennec Shand, played by Ming-Na Wen and given no back story of any kind short of being addressed as a “master assassin,” which is super impressive. I’m aware that this is a TV show, and that “TBOBF” will have plenty of time — too much time, given what I’ve seen thus far — to flesh out Shand’s character. But there isn’t even a hint of motivation to her in this premiere. There’s nothing to make you want to know more about this person and what drives her. ...

A purported fan of The Mandalorian, he's oblivious that Shand's back story and motivation has already been established in that series. (It's also been explored in the cartoon series The Bad Batch.) This lack of attention to narrative detail makes me think he would've been one of the first literati to review I, Libertine in 1956. Indeed, he would've been the first to discover F.R. Ewing.

Then the third episode drops and includes Vespas in Space.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Led by Drash, this youthful street gang are introduced to us as stealing water from the water-monger Lortha Peel. When confronted by Fett at the request of Peel (a toady vassal of Fett's), Drash stands up to the crime-lord and accuses the water-monger of price gouging. This is confirmed when Peel claims these teens owe him 1,300 credits, but we learn from Fett that 500 credits would be more reasonable.

Fett asks Drash why her gang isn't working since they live in the Worker's District (and therefore must be workers); to which she responds they can't because there is no work. This establishes the gang as being so broke they have to steal just to live. And yet their costuming and vehicles breaks this narrative and one of the basic tenants of world building that was an innovation of Lucas: the used universe.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

First up are their costuming. They are dressed not as blue collar wage slaves on a desert world; but upper middle class kids getting ready to hit up the Coruscant equivalent of Studio 54 or a rave. Their clothes directly contradict what the narrative is telling us.

As does their droid enhancements. Don't get me wrong; I think this is great and a deep dive into old Star Wars lore. They remind me of The Hunter, a cyborg bounty hunter introduced in July 1978 in Star Wars #16 of the Marvel comics series.

But again: it breaks the narrative of these youths being unemployed workers who have to steal drinking water. Indeed, the creators double down at the end of the episode when

Fett stumbles over himself apologizes to Skad for making a faux pas about "keeping an eye" on a rival criminal element. Skad brushes it off saying he happily paid a lot of money for the enhancement.

Then there's their speeder "bikes".

As someone who has spent almost two years living in a desert much like the fictional one of Tatooine; I understand just how difficult it is to keep a vehicle nice in that environment.

First to paraphrase Anakin: sand gets everywhere. It requires A LOT of water to keep a vehicle clean in this environment. Blue collar folks who cannot afford water to live will not use it to keep their hover mopeds shiny.

Secondly, sandstorms will destroy the paint job. Paint that probably has to be imported because where are they going to get the pigments on a desert planet? Remember, this is a barren planet on the Outer Rim. In fact the the Twins abandon it as a "useless rock" rather than go to war with the Pyke Syndicate over it. Maybe I'm just over thinking it, but being a writer going through the processes of editing and workshopping where minute details are sifted predisposes me to over analysis.

Indeed the space Mod Squad has it's defenders. Vinnie Mancuso in Collider is of the opinion that since they don't feel like Star Wars is exactly why they feel like Star Wars. He makes the point that Lucas is an auteur unbound by convention. That this colorful street gang by breaking the used universe aesthetic of the franchise is pure Star Wars because it clashes with it. Towards the end he responds to the criticism:

... There is a critique to be made about the logic behind this Mos Espa [sic] being both poor enough to be stealing water while still modifying their bodies with droid tech and riding around on shined-up sand-free speeder bikes. My rebuttal, put as gently as humanly possible, is this: Who gives a shit? Truly, deeply, sincerely, who gives a shit? Sanding down Star Wars' unrealistic edges is a fool's errand. It's a sprint directly into the side of a brick wall. ...

I give a shit because I care about the story. The visuals Lucas and other creatives have given us in this universe are extraordinary. Beautiful and inspiring. However, these are window dressing meant to enhance the story. Lucas leaned too heavily on visuals and not near enough time on narrative elements like character development and continuity and the result was an inferior work compared to what he made before.

Sanding down unrealistic edges is not sprinting into a brick wall. It's been with us since Star Wars premiered on May 25, 1977. Lucas wanted the world to look rough and lived in outside the polish of the Empire and other elites. This makes it easier to accept the concept of space wizards known as Jedi. Likewise he didn't need to include dialogue of Leia calling their Death Star escape "easy" and then cutting to Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader confirming that there's a tracking beacon on-board their vessel.

I give a shit because I value substance and style that contradicts the substance leaves a bitter taste.

Slashfilm's Jeremy Mathai raves about the real life inspiration for the gang. However, he misses an obvious danger sign in using "Mods" as an inspiration when he says: ... Raised in extravagant prosperity in post-War Britain, this sprawling generation of teens channeled their need to express themselves, their disposable income, and quite a bit of boredom into a lifestyle that prioritized style, fashion, and rebelling against authority. ...

This highlights why they break the narrative and world building. In this episode they are presented as a poor, unemployed group of teens that cannot afford the necessities of life.

A clue?

Right now we've seen Chapter 3 of a 7 Chapter season. At this point this may not be a hideous mistake on the part of the series' design team. There could be a narrative reason and their clothes and too cool for Tatooine scooters could hint at this. Some of their clothes hint at Imperial inspiration. Could they be the kids of wealthy ex-Imperials who are bored with "extravagant prosperity" and an excess of unearned disposable income?

Perhaps. And I hope that's the case because if it's not it's a worrisome indicator of future narrative quality.

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