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'The Book of Boba Fett' adds an impressive chapter to the 'Star Wars' saga

Temura Morrison plays the title bounty hunter in <em>The Book of Boba Fett. </em>
Temura Morrison plays the title bounty hunter in The Book of Boba Fett.

In one of the final episodes of the brilliant AMC drama series Breaking Bad, a supporting character named Saul Goodman, a shifty lawyer played by Bob Odenkirk, reveals his secret plan for survival. He'll adopt a new identity, and, in the best case, if things work out, manage a Cinnabon in Omaha. And that's exactly what happened, at the start of an equally wonderful spinoff series, Better Call Saul, which took this peripheral character and made him the star of his own show.

That's what Jon Favreau, the creator of The Book of Boba Fett, is doing with this new Disney+ fantasy series. Favreau directed the first Iron Man movie, the one that established the modern Marvel superhero universe. He also created The Mandalorian, so he's already worked that same magic for the Star Wars universe as well. And with his new Boba Fett spinoff, he does it again, impressively.

You can get way, way deep into the weeds describing and dissecting this Star Wars stuff — after all, there's close to 50 years of onscreen history — but I'll try not to. All you need to know, really, is that Boba Fett is a bounty hunter who first showed up in The Empire Strikes Back, and appeared to die in the next film, Return of the Jedi. Decades later, in a series of Star Wars movie prequels, Boba Fett's father was introduced, played by Temuera Morrison.

On TV, Morrison now plays the role of the son, Boba Fett — first in The Mandalorian, and also in this new series. In The Mandalorian, Boba and his fellow bounty hunter, Fennec, helped rescue Baby Yoda from its evil captors — and reappeared, in a teaser clip at the end of last season, to kill another Star Wars villain, a descendant of Jabba the Hut. I know, that seems pretty deep into the weeds already, but stay with me. These are the building blocks for The Book of Boba Fett.

The premiere episode was the only one shown to critics, but it's a good one. It's written by Favreau, and is one of three episodes directed by Robert Rodriguez, who's really comfortable with action, humor and special effects. The Book of Boba Fett is loaded with all three. It explains, in flashbacks, how Boba escaped death long ago — and also picks up the current story line, with Boba and Fennec trying to rule the city after killing its ruthless dictator.

Boba hopes to establish a more benevolent rule — but his partner Fennec has other ideas. She's played by Ming-Na Wen, who played one martial-arts expert in the ABC series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and portrays an even tougher character here.

The biggest name in The Book of Boba Fett, so far, is guest star Jennifer Beals, who makes a small appearance in the premiere episode. But it's the story, and the way it's told, that really propels the series. The first 10 minutes contain no dialogue, which is a bold move, but it works. The characters are well-defined, the action is exciting and the special effects are as good as in any Star Wars movie. When Boba Fett squares off against a giant, six-limbed lizard creature, that battle scene is better than anything in any Godzillamovie, old or new.

The music by Ludwig Göransson, who also provides music for The Mandalorian, is majestically weird — an odd cross between a John Williams score and a spaghetti Western. Many of the same writers and directors from The Mandalorian also are doing double duty for The Book of Boba Fett – and in my book, that means this latest "Star Wars" chapter is in really good hands.

Copyright 2022 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

David Bianculli is a guest host and TV critic on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. A contributor to the show since its inception, he has been a TV critic since 1975.