In Defense of Boba Fett
Boba Fett is not a loser.
This is apropos nothing, but I disagree with the assessment that Boba Fett is all look and no substance. The argument predates the prequels, and resurfaces whenever Star Wars makes a comeback.
I aim to prove Boba Fett is not a loser or a minor player. And I am not talking about anything from the Extended Universe. Not only doesn’t any other character in Empire Strike Back accomplish as much as Boba Fett, Boba Fett is the only character in Empire Strikes Back who accomplishes anything.
The Rebels Are Losers
Famously, in Empire Strikes Back the good guys lose. The thing is, it’s not just the ending. From Luke getting walloped by the wampa a couple of minutes after the opening scroll to Luke staring off into space minus one hand and one Han, things are bad for the Rebels. Short lived victories include:
- Han finds Luke and they both survive a night in Hoth;
- Luke getting some cardio, then doing a handstand and lifting some rocks and R2, the only parts of his Jedi training that don’t go poorly;
- Han et al think they’ve escaped the Empire until they realize they fed themselves to a giant space worm;
- The short stroll through Cloud City before 3P0 explodes;
- Chewbacca finds 3PO in time to save him from an incinerator.
Otherwise, the Rebels struggle through their ESB screen time. Looking at the main characters individually:
Luke’s first scene has him declare an intent to check out a meteorite. The closest he gets to accomplishing his first goal in the movie is stating it. Immediately, the wampa knocks him out and drags him away to eat him (incidentally, he too fails).
Luke then goes to Dagoba to find Yoda. There, he spends an extended period of time trying to get Yoda away from him. Luke botches his Jedi training so badly that Yoda and Obi-Wan discuss a back-up new hope. Then he abandons his training to save his friends. He does not save his friends.
Han and Chewbacca and the Millennium Falcon
Like Luke, Han’s first scene is declaring an intent: He’s leaving Hoth to settle his debt with Jabba the Hutt. He fails this. From his argument with Chewbacca, they don’t leave because Chewie was working on the Millennium Falcon’s engine. It’s not clear if this was a miscommunication about when they were leaving, or if they can’t leave because the Millennium Falcon’s broken. If it’s the latter, this is one of several instances of the Millennium Falcon not working, because even the good guy’s ship fails in Empire.
To Han’s credit, failing to leave Hoth means he’s there to save Luke from freezing to death, one of the Rebels’ only wins. He tries to use this win to seduce Leia, which results in her giving her brother the more passionate of their two kisses. The rest of the movie sees Han eluding, but not escaping, the Empire, trusting Lando only to be betrayed, and getting frozen in carbonite.
The rest of the movie for Chewbacca includes repeatedly failing to fix the Falcon, saving 3PO but putting his head on backwards and not getting around to reattaching his legs.
I don’t think I realized this until now, but Empire is Leia’s weakest movie. In A New Hope, she manages to get the Death Star plans off her ship even as it’s boarded, trick Grand Moff Tarkin into believing the Rebel base is on a planet that it isn’t, resist torture, and start blasting Storm Troopers as soon as she’s out of her cell. She even correctly suspects that the Empire let them escape.
In Empire, she fails to leave the base, getting stuck on the Falcon with Han. She spends most of the movie rejecting Han’s advances only to tell him she loves him at the end. He knows, because she wasn’t fooling either of them.
R2-D2 and C-3PO
We join our favourite droid duo after R2’s biggest failure of the movie, turning up the heat in Leia’s room and getting her clothes all wet. From there, C-3PO can’t translate the probe droid despite knowing a million languages, and both droids prove themselves questionable at math. Luke survives despite R2 giving him 725 to 1 odds. Han successfully navigates an asteroid field despite 3PO’s 3720 to 1 estimate. Funny enough, two of the Rebels only wins were statistical impossibilities according to the droids.
When 3PO arrives on Cloud City, he describes Lando as friendly then almost immediately explodes. When R2 arrives on Cloud City, he mistakes a power socket for a computer terminal and electrocutes himself.
The Empire Are Also Losers
Somehow, the bad guys also lose in Empire Strikes Back. Vader keeps chocking officers to death for failing him. It’s a running gag.
Came out of lightspeed too close to the system, alerting the Rebels of their presence and allowing them to escape.
Took responsibility for losing the Millennium Falcon and personally apologized to Vader.
Barely finished telling Vader that the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive was disabled when the Millennium Falcon’ activated its hyperdrive. Even though it’s heavily implied Vader’s about to threepeat officer executions, for whatever reason Piett is spared.
Sure, his officers kept failing him, but that reflects on Vader’s failure as a leader. That, and in the climax of the movie, Vader tries and fails to convince Luke to join him, despite the rebel being disarmed.
Why is Boba Fett canonically even in the movie? Because despite having the Millennium Falcon out numbered and outgunned, the Empire fails to capture them. So they bring in bounty hunters.
Boba Fett Wins
How can the good guys and the bad guys both lose? This isn’t Star War Games.
Literally, because of Boba Fett.
Boba Fett outfoxed Han’s maneuver and found him after the Empire lost him, then figured out he was heading to Cloud City. If that hadn’t happened, the Empire wouldn’t have beat the Rebels there, Luke wouldn’t have sensed his friends were in trouble, Han wouldn’t have been captured, Luke wouldn’t have lost his hand, 3PO wouldn’t have been destroyed.
Because Boba Fett figured out where the Millennium Falcon was going, he got Vader’s bounty on the Rebels, Jabba’s bounty on Han, and he got away with it.
It’s crucial to remember I’m speaking canonically. Boba Fett the fictional character didn’t write Empire Strikes Back and make himself look good. But the argument that Boba Fett is popular despite being a total loser in his two film appearances misses that canonically Boba Fett is the biggest winner in Empire Strikes Back. No other character in that movie is as better off after that movie than Boba Fett.