'The Book of Boba Fett Chapter 2 - The Tribe of Tatooine' Review: Humanization and Acceptance in the Star Wars Universe

Four Star Rating:
Starring: Temuera Morrison, Ming-Na Wen, Matt Berry, David Pasquesi, Jennifer Beals, Carey Jones
Director: Steph Green
Screenplay: Jon Favreau
Created by: Jon Favreau
Based on: Star Wars by George Lucas
Producers: Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, Robert Rodriguez, Kathleen Kennedy, Colin Wilson
Music by: Ludwig Goransson (Themes), Joseph Shirley (Score)
Cinematographer: Dean Cundey
Production Design: Andrew L. Jones, Doug Chaing
Editor: Dylan Firshein
Visual Effect Supervisor: Richard Bluff
Production Company: Lucasfilm, Golem Creations
Distributed by: Disney 
Network: Disney Plus
Genre: Action/Adventure/Sci-fi/Fantasy
Rated: TV-14 - Violence
Release Date: January 5, 2022
Run Time: 53 minutes

The Tusken Raiders were depicted as little more than violent monsters in the original Star Wars. They were there to just be another threat on the harsh planet of Tatooine and another obstacle for our hero, Luke Skywalker, to overcome (or be rescued from) in his hero's journey. The latest portrayal of the nomadic Sand People is further proof The Book of Boba Fett is harnessing the Western genre.

In many older Westerns, the Native Americans were often depicted as savage villains. There was very little interest in exploring why they be antagonistic to the settlers or to bother creating them as nuanced characters. Many Westerns made in the recent decades have tried to correct those sins with movies like The Lone Ranger exploring how the settlers' vision of progress and expansion to the West led to oppression and death towards the Native Americans.

The second episode further captures the vibes of the Western and expands upon using the Tusken Raiders as representations of Native Americans. While Boba Fett is the title character and it is clearly about making him more than just a cool-looking image for posters and action figures, the more intriguing aspect of the first two episodes is adding values, culture, personality and history to the Tusken Raiders. The episode challenges long-time Star Wars fans to remember a person (or alien) is more than their first impression or how they appear from one point-of-view. They were depicted as ruthless and violent nomads in all the movie appearances, but now the series is rehabilitating their image.

Most of the episode shows how Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) bonds with the Tusken Raiders and becomes an honorary tribe member that began after he saved the life of Sand Kid in the previous episode. Morrison once again brings a quiet strength to the former bounty hunter who even without his helmet hides much of his emotions and allows his actions to define him. Though there is a beautiful moment where Morrison allows his character to display some joy and an uplifting smile when he teaches the Tusken Raiders how to ride speeder bikes. It radiates the affection, respect and love that has grown between the tribe and Boba Fett.

The story effectively humanizes the Tusken Raider, thus making them empathetic figures to the viewer. This creates Boba Fett as a more nuanced and relatable figure due to his loyalty and respect for them. It helps create an understanding for who he has formed into the 'present day' storyline, and what has influenced his leadership strategy as he takes over Jabba the Hutt's former crime empire.

We also learn that the Tusken Raiders have a deep connection with nature and one of the reasons they are aggressive and hostile is they are losing their land and way of life to traders, crime syndicates and spice cartels. It is a revelation that the race often associated as vicious and dangerous were forced into that way of life for their own survival. This is further pushed when the Tusken Raiders are used as target practice by a speeding Pyke Syndicate spice train for no reason other than their race and tribe is perceived as a potential threat. Sometimes a fun little space opera can speak into our own racial conflicts and injustices.

The big action sequence in the first episode was lacking due to being coated in molasses with its lethargic pacing. But episode director Steph Green delivers two riveting action sequences that also demonstrate the character of Boba Fett, who is driven by justice for his adopted tribe. 

The first action sequence has Boba Fett beating down a nasty Nitko biker gang that is roughing up patrons at a local bar. Or what I assume was a bar, but the owner needs to work on his location choosing skills since being built in the middle of a Tatooine desert that would only draw the occasional moisture farmer and different crime members looking for a shakedown. This scene proves the nuance of Fett as he was not rescuing the patrons from the Nitko gang but rather beating down the gang, so he could steal their speeders. It was coincidence and writer Jon Favreau keeping Fett likable that he stole from bullies, because Fett intended to get those bikes even if the gang arrived for charity work, 

Boba Fett still redeems himself as a hero with those actions, because it was done to protect the Tuskens who had accepted their fate as living skeets for the laser shooting train. This leads to the joyous training scenes with the speeders that strengthens the bond between Fett and the tribe. This builds to the masterfully crafted train heist sequences that are patterned after the classic train robbery scenes where now the speeder riding Fett and Tuskens replace the bandits on horses from beloved Western cinema. In this scene, our heroes race on their speeders and leap on to the train to then scale it to its top with a high energy score and choreography reminiscent of the best Western heist scenes.  It is coated with expert Star Wars special effects spectacle and lasers that deliver the best of the universe.

The heist scene is energized by a fun and playful spirit with the armed Pyke guards one by one getting yanked out the roof's hatches and being replaced by Tusken Raiders poking their heads out. The scene displays the whimsical and endearing side of tribe's personality. The scene climaxes with the heroes overtaking the train, and then Boba Fett decreeing the Pyke syndicate are crossing through Tusker Raider territory thus they must pay a toll. The brief exploration of ownership of land and what is owed once again plays into real world issues, and the story sides with the Tusken who have great respect and love for the land they live off.

As reward for leading them to victory, Boba Fett is officially initiated into the tribe. This apparently means he gets a lizard up his nose that created a major acid-like head trip. He not only wrestles with images from his past like the sarlacc and his father's decapitated head but also with a giant tree that is attempting to re-enact an infamous scene from the original Evil Dead. Did you ever think that movie would get referenced in a Star Wars entertainment? 

Star Wars doesn't delve into the surreal very often, and usually expects the viewer to take everything on the screen literally, so this sequence was artful and daring by blurring truth with dream. Even Boba Fett isn't sure what is reality until he returns to the camp with a branch from the wrestling tree. It proves to be a rites of passage, as the branch is formed into the staff and weapon that every one of the Tusken Raiders brandish. It is a revelation of the importance and symbolism of what they carry, and as someone who has read some great Native American literature and tales, the supernatural and surreal elements are another link between the two.

The importance of respect that Boba Fett mentions as the way he will rule his crime empire in the first episode is further shown as birthed by his relationship with the Tuskens, as he participates in the ritual dance to officially makes him a tribe member. He will adopt the customs and culture of those he is among. This is also one of the first times in a live-action Star Wars series that we see the Tusken Raider's culture and the sacred rituals that define them. It also shows the character of Boba Fett that he openly embraces all of them.

The episode also has an opening scenes in 'present day' with Boba Fett and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) confronted by Jabba's twin cousins. As a kid, I loved Return of the Jedi and a major reason was the Jabba the Hutt scenes. I was in love with the intimidating palace and its wide collection of unique and ghastly creatures and aliens. I know many kids my age were terrified by Jabba's palace, but I was always fascinated. I confess that the first shot of Jabba's palace in the end credit scene in the last episode of The Mandalorian filled me with warm nostalgia. But what I really wanted was a return of the Hutts, so I had giddy excitement with the appearance of the Hutts and the tease they would be major antagonists. I understand it is quicker, but I do wish it was the puppet form of the Hutts rather than CGI, but it was just great to see them back in the universe.

The 'present day' was designed as a teaser for future stories and episodes. We learn that the mayor sent the space ninjas, but then the Hutts sort of hint they did it. Or at least they are threatening more future problems for Fett and Shand. This may be setting up that the mayor works for the Hutts, and also makes me think that Bib Fortuna's rule was as a puppet for either the Hutts or mayor (or both). Fett is encountering aggression, because clearly, he doesn't plan to play that Fortuna game. To add to the conflict. this episode hints that the Pyke Syndicate will have its issues with Boba Fett too.

And yes, I noticed the Hutts have a Wookie guard, and he is awesome. I am way behind, so everyone reading once again knows where they go with this character, But I am intrigued and excited, and assume he will pay off in a big way for future storylines. Apparently, his name is Krrsantan and is a major character in the Marvel comics Star Wars series, Doctor Aphra. It sounds awesome, but I know nothing about it other than a quick Wikipedia skim. If this site takes off the way I hope this year, maybe I will look into reviewing some comic series like that one. I miss comics, but like video games, my current situation mostly means I only have time for stuff I can review.

The other stand-out in the 'present day' is the camaraderie and respect between Fett and Shand, and both actors play off each other in a natural way that we believe the bond. At this point, the 'past story' is the stronger one with more engaging themes, but the 'present day' has been fun in dropping teases and setting up a future story about the conflict Boba Fett and Fennec Shand will face with rival syndicates.

I like the balance between the two storylines right now, as the past helps shape the Boba Fett who is trying to become a top crime boss. I am fascinated how he got to that point, and ready for his continued rise to the top. The Tusken Raider stuff is by far the more entertaining and focused, but there is lots of interesting questions to be answered in the future. Jon Favreau proves he knows how to make intriguing Star Wars series, and this has been a different but worthy follow-up to The Mandalorian so far.