11 Films You Need To Watch After The Book of Boba Fett

Not sure what to fill your Star Wars streaming gap until the upcoming Obi-Wan series? Check out these Westerns and samurai films.

Star Wars creator George Lucas was inspired by the American Western and Japanese samurai cinema films he grew up with. At the core of those films is typically a solitary male hero who's an expert fighter with a past life that he is eager to put behind him, a willingness to help others in need, and no hesitation to make sure people get swift justice for their crimes. He lives by his weapon and a strong moral code.

Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni brought a more explicit version of this core character to Star Wars in the form of Star Wars: The Mandalorian. When Favreau got his friend and fellow filmmaking genius Robert Rodriguez to direct some Mandalorian episodes, the creators doubled down on their commitment to these genres. Now, Rodriguez carries that forward as the showrunner on Star Wars: The Book of Boba Fett

If you're enjoying what they've brought to the Star Wars universe, check out these films. Fair warning, though, some of these are for mature audiences and not typical of what you'd see on Disney+.

Robert Rodriguez, Jon Favreau, and Dave Filoni have brought in some amazing directors, writers, crew, and cast to usher in this new era of Star Wars storytelling.

Stagecoach (1939) 

Where to find it: HBO Max

What to expect: When this film was released, filmmaker John Ford was already an established filmmaker who'd spent 30+ years building the landscape for the early 20th century Western. Stagecoach is an ensemble piece that includes legendary Western actor John Wayne. The motley group of strangers makes a multi-day journey in a stagecoach, a form of 19th-century public transportation consisting of a carriage pulled by a team of horses. If you can get past the comically stereotyped versions of women, Mexicans, and Native Americans in Stagecoach, you'll appreciate its adventure and humor. (Also recommended by my dad!)

Star Wars moments similar in this film: 

Some of the ensemble cast of Stagecoach (1939).

Seven Samurai (1956)

Where to find it: HBO Max

What to expect: Seven Samurai is one of the most revered projects by legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. This ensemble piece is set in 1586 during Japan's Sengoku period, a time that had similar chaos and conflict to the 19th century West in the U.S. The film is also my favorite acting performance from the incomparable Toshirō Mifune. You'll find that the Samurai films of the 1950s and 1960s reflected a lot of the same themes and storylines of classic American Westerns. It's even hard to say who influenced who between the two genres with similar themes and storylines reflected in both.

Star Wars moments similar in this film:

The hired samurai help the villagers prepare to defend themselves.

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Where to find it: for rent from Amazon Prime, or on Apple TV+

What to expect: John Sturges translated Seven Samurai into the classic American Western genre, and it's great to watch it side-by-side with Kurosawa's original. It featured an all-star cast with Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and more. There was a remake of this film in 2016 that I admit I haven't seen, but I'd love to hear any thoughts you have on how it stacks up to the original.

Star Wars moments similar in this filmA blend of the things I listed in Seven Samurai with the Western settings and tropes you would see in films like Stagecoach or Shane (1953)

This classic trailer for the The Magnificent Seven (1960) features a cheesy-yet-catchy theme song.

Dollars Trilogy (1964-66)

Where to find it: for free (with ads) on Roku TV or for rent from Amazon Prime, or on Apple TV+

What to expect: Sergio Leone created iconic films that started a subgenre: the Spaghetti Western. These films shared settings and tropes with American Westerns, but they were created in Europe with a mostly European cast and crew. The Dollars Trilogy refers to three consecutive films with separate stories but one common theme: they star Clint Eastwood as a master gunman and antihero, a wanderer trying to earn some money while keeping to a moral code. The films are A Fist Full of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966). Lee Van Cleef is a counterpoint to Eastwood in the second and third films, and Eli Wallach (also in The Magnificent Seven) rounded out the title trio in the third film. The success of these films in the U.S. resulted in a revival and evolution for the Western genre for American filmmakers.

Star Wars moments similar in these films:

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly also makes for great memes.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972)

Where to find it: HBO Max

What to expect: If you have followed many internet reviewers of The Mandalorian, you may have heard buzz about it being a modern take on a 28-volume Japanese manga from the 1970s, Lone Wolf and Cub, by writer Kazuo Koike and artist Goseki Kojima. This film is the first of three adapted from the manga by director Kenji Misumi. Samurai cinema favorite Tomisaburo Wakayama plays a shogun's executioner, Itto, who is framed as a traitor during a political power play. After losing their household and livelihood, Itto and his son, Daigoro, become wanderers (ronin). In their travels, they get caught up in a series of adventures that involve helping others and fighting off bad guys.

Star Wars moments similar in this film:

Itto assembles a naginata out of parts of Daigoro's cart so he's ready to fight, even if disarmed.

The Train Robbers (1973)

Where to find it: for rent at Amazon Prime and other services

What to expect: Even as Leone changed the landscape for Westerns in the 1960s, director Burt Kennedy and actor John Wayne (then in his 60s) sustained Ford's American Western-style from the 1940s and 1950s. The Train Robbers features a group hired to recover stolen gold hidden in the wreckage of a missing train engine. Ann-Margaret co-stars with Wayne in a female role that ditches the heavy skirts and perfectly curled hair for dungarees and a cowboy hat. If you're watching this film for the first time, you'll definitely not want to miss Ricardo Montalban's lines right at the end! 

Star Wars moments similar in this film:

Mexico Trilogy (1993-2003)

Where to find it: The first film for rent on Amazon Prime; second and third films are on Netflix

What to expect: This three-film series follows a man known only as El Mariachi. The film El Mariachi (1993), famously made for only $7000, was the launch of Robert Rodriguez's career as a writer and director. This led to his meteoric rise and a higher-budget sequel two years later, Desperado, with Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi. Banderas reprised the role in 2003 to round out the trilogy in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. The storytelling styles and directing nuances in these films are part of Rodriguez' signature, and they've found their way into his work in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. Throughout Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, you'll probably also recognize a lot of other familiar faces.

Star Wars moments similar in these films:

For a profile of Robert Rodriguez as a director, check out this IMdB Director Supercut:

Also don't miss these other productions:

It's hard to narrow down a recommendation list like this, but you can help me extend this list in the comments! Let me know what other Westerns and samurai cinema films you'd recommend to fans of The Book of Boba Fett or The Mandalorian

Also, don't miss Candace Bissonette's series for more on Boba Fett:
Book of Boba Fett - Getting to Know the Man Behind the Mask

Book of Boba Fett - Getting to Know the Man Behind the Mask Chapter 2

THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS

Chapter 2: The Tribes of Tatooine 

“Sometimes fate steps in to rescue the wretched,” states Fett. After the skirmish in the streets of Mos Espa in Chapter 1, we are left with a lot of questions. One stands out the most: Who wants Boba Fett dead? With a prisoner in tow, Fennec Shand makes her long trek back to Boba’s palace. Fett & Fennec attempt to interrogate the assassin, but the prisoner remains silent, only speaking to hurl a curse at the Daimyo. “We spared your life after you tried to take mine, and you curse me?” Fett’s frustration is growing with the ongoing insolence around him.  

We learn from 8D8, the droid that has been frequenting Boba’s court during meetings, that the assassin is of the order of the Night Wind. Fett seems intrigued. He’s used to being the hunter, not the hunted. Fennec is completely unimpressed, “Overpriced. You’re paying for the name. They’re just people in hoods.” It makes me wonder what Fennec thought of Boba prior to their meeting. Were clients just paying for his name as well? 

Fennec’s disdain for this assassin is apparent. “Perhaps he fears the rancor,” she states as she triggers the trapdoor and the assassin plunges into the pit. Fennec’s ability to read people is spot on yet again, and the assassin confesses as to who hired him: the Mayor of Mos Espa, Mok Shaiz. As the door rises, it reveals a lone rat in the pit. Technically now two rats and no rancor. 

Where Is Your Pomp and Circumstance? 

It’s time to visit the mayor. The small parade back into Mos Espa includes Boba, Fennec, the assassin, and the two Gomorean guards. The group is met with more insufferable disrespect when they arrive to meet the mayor. “Do you have an appointment?” “I didn’t see your litter arrive.” Fett storms into the mayor’s chambers. Mok Shaiz, voiced by Robert Rodriguez, acts like he doesn’t know who the new Daimyo is. “You know damn well who I am. If you don’t know who I am, then why did you send this man to kill me?” Fett growls at Mok Shaiz. Shaiz orders the assassin killed. These assassins are not allowed to operate outside of Hutt space, and he thanks Fett for turning him in, giving him a reward. 

“I am not a bounty hunter.” Fett is clearly trying to make a new name for himself, elevating himself from his previous position. “I’ve heard otherwise,” Mok Shaiz is content with treating Fett as he would a hired gun. 

The mayor offers a warning of the complications of running a family and gives the new Daimyo a lead to visit Garsa’s Sanctuary again. Begrudgingly following the mayor’s information, the ensemble goes to pay her a visit. Garsa then informs them that the Twins laid claim to the territory. The Twins are Jabba’s cousins. The sound of steady beating drums is heard approaching. It seems like the Hutt’s litter has arrived with the usual customs the people are used to seeing from the Daimyo. 

Black Krrsantan makes his first appearance as an intimidating figure hired by the Twins. Boba is familiar with Krrsantan and references his past of being trained as a gladiator.

You can cut the tension of the stand-off in the street with a knife. Fett makes it clear that this territory is his, and he has earned it by killing Bib Fortuna, who for a short time took Jabba’s throne after the Hutt’s death. “If you want it, you will have to kill me for it.” The Hutts decide against starting a war. “Bloodshed is bad for business. We can deal with this later.” They decide to handle the dispute at a later time. Fennec alludes to the fact Fett would have to get permission to kill the Hutts. The Hutt clan is one of the biggest, well-connected crime syndicates in the galaxy. Putting a hit out on one of them means taking a stand against all of them. 

 Back to Bacta

Once again, we are getting a glimpse of Fett’s time in the desert before taking the title Daimyo. The Tusken’s are now treating him more of an equal than a prisoner. They are training him in their form of combat, teaching him to use the Gaderffii or Gaffi stick. The clan seems invested in his advancement, even if he struggles to master the fighting form at first. Both parties in training seem frustrated with each other, yet that doesn’t stop the training session. 

The training session is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of a train. Sharpshooters from the train take potshots at the Tuskens as it passes through their territory. The Tuskens take heavy losses from the surprise encounter. The Tuskens mourn their family and tend to the wounded that night. Fett happens to catch a glance of the bandits, the Niktos, on speeders pass not far from where the clan is encamped. 

Fett is tired of the useless slaughter and approaches the clan leader, saying he could stop the train. The Tuskens let him go, and he sets out on his own. He tracks the bandits to Tosche Station.

Right before Fett arrives, we get a glimpse of local life. A quiet cantina is turned rowdy with the presence of the bandits. Laze and Camie, a young couple, are trying to mind their own business. A deleted scene from A New Hope featured Camie at Tosche station. This couple knew Luke and Biggs Darklighter. They never chased dreams off-planet but instead settled for the simple life. This couple gives off the feeling they knew the settlers the Niktos bandits killed. The thugs start taking their food and drink, imposing their presence on the couple. “It’s not right!” exclaims Laze. A scuffle breaks out, and it’s clear the Niktos will win this fight just by sheer numbers. 

Fett Walks Into A Bar

A fight breaks out. Fett downs the Niktos, leaving the bartender and human couple untouched. His mission here was a simple one: retrieve the speeder bikes. He ties them together, bringing his own makeshift train back to the Tuskens. 

On his return, it’s clear he already has a plan in mind. The gears are turning in his head, and his goal is to solve this ongoing problem. As he approaches the chief, the other Tuskens start to disable the speeder bikes. The Tuskens have long stuck to their primitive ways in the desert for survival, so Fett will need to overcome their predisposed dislike for these advanced mechanical rides. He has to reason with them to stop their dismantling, saying, “No. These are mine. This is how we stop the train.” 

With his newfound trust won with the Tuskens, he sets to work at teaching them his ways. Their ongoing communication is backed with sign language to ensure the communication is clear. They have eased into a comfortable friendship with each other, and they have a mutual understanding they are now allies.

“It’s Like Riding a Bantha”

Fett has his work cut out for himself in teaching the Tuskens how to ride the speeder bikes. He starts out with the basics, which results in one of the most gif-able situations in the series. I enjoyed watching the Tuskens learn to pilot and get their bearings jumping from one speeder to another. Practice makes perfect as they try and try again to perfect their new skills. 

While Fett is teaching the Tuskens, he does not stop training with them in the use of the Gaderffii, or gaffi, stick. Trust and respect start to run deep as his instructor starts showing a more sportsmanlike attitude toward Boba. 

A Clan of Tuskens on Speeder Bikes Pull a Train Heist

Fett leads the attack. It’s obvious he trained them well. They seem comfortable in the task at hand, and they know what they must do to eliminate this threat. Fett teamed with the Tuskens make a good team with different backgrounds in fighting skills. The clan chief makes a dramatic appearance to help turn the waning tide in the Tusken’s favor by slamming a speeder straight into the train and barely clearing the jump to aid in the fight. Fett reaches the control and brings the train to a stop. 

With the train halted, Fett addresses their captives, a group of Pykes. Pykes are best known for their distribution of the illicit substance of spice (basically space crack.) Spice is harvested by slaves in mines on the planet Kessel. Fett wants to know if they are carrying spice on this train. The leader plays dumb at first, but the Tuskens immediately uncover a very large stash. Fett sets up some new rules for the Pykes, letting them know, “These sands are no longer free for you to pass. These people (the Tuskens) lay ancestral claim to the dune sea.” Letting them go free with their lives, pointing them in the right direction, Fett lets them know their passage is under the watch of the Tuskens, and going free is a sign of their civility. 

“I Thought He Was A Part of the Dream”

It’s clear the Tuskens have accepted Fett as one of their own. The matter of officially making him a part of the clan is at hand. They give him a gift, a small lizard, saying, “Now this will guide you.” As soon as the lizard is revealed, it jumps at Fett’s face and climbs into his nose, disappearing. He seems apologetic for losing the lizard immediately and somehow handles the situation with a diplomatic grace that understates the fact that a lizard just disappeared into his sinuses.  Doesn’t that tickle or hurt? This shows Fett’s calm and collected disposition that can stand the test of whatever unexpected or bizarre trial he may face. The chief explains that the lizard will guide Fett from inside his head.

Fett goes on a vision quest, being overtaken with hallucinations of the Dune Sea transforming into a literal rolling great sea of water, reminiscent of his homeworld Kamino. There is a massive gnarled tree atop one of the crests. As Boba gets closer to the tree, it begins to entangle him, which brings back memories of being smothered and trapped within the Sarlacc pit. He sees a vision of himself as a boy watching his father leave Kamino in the Firespray on Kamino. He breaks free from the tree and is rewarded with a dry branch. 

He makes his way back to the camp, where he is welcomed by the chief, who calls back the lizard, which crawls back out of Fett’s nose. “I thought he was a part of the dream.” 

The clan starts Boba’s final rite of passage. They clothe him as one of their own in their ceremonial garb. The child he saved excitedly leads him to the crafting station, where they teach Fett how to craft his very own Gaderffii stick. Boba is attentive to detail and has an eager willingness to learn their technique so he can incorporate it into his own life and adopt his newfound skills. Fett was orphaned at ten, and the Tuskens welcomed him into their family, accepting him as one of their own. They end the ceremonial day at night around a fire where they start the movements of war which turn into a tribal dance in which they all partake. He is now one of them. 

 Conclusion

Fett presently has much work to do as the new Daimyo. He is determined to do things his way and enact new standards overriding long-entrenched traditions and ideas of what his position means for those he presides over. His overall goal is to bring stability to this area’s ongoing bickering factions. He’s a shrewd businessman and knows there is more profit to be made when there is clear, concise communication between the powers that be. He wants to avoid an all-out war and offers compromises without wavering in his stance and vision. 

His time with the Tuskens has proven to be a true rebirth. His vision quest where his past met his present helped us see as an audience the transition from his old life to his new one. He returns, determined to embrace the change. 

Perhaps the time in the Sarlacc made him reevaluate his own priorities? He’s earned the reputation of the best bounty hunter in the galaxy, yet he seems ready to take the next step into something much larger than just business for himself. He will have to prove himself all over again in this new role. Will he be able to succeed as Daimyo? 

What did you think of Chapter 2? Let me know your favorite parts in the comments! 

Book of Boba Fett - Getting to Know the Man Behind the Mask Chapter 1

THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS

I’ve been waiting a very, very long time to see Boba Fett have his story told on screen. I was ecstatic to hear about the release of the Book of Boba Fett

I fell in love with Star Wars when I was ten years old. George Lucas re-released the original trilogy in theaters in 1997, and my parents took me to see the films for the first time. I was captivated. 

Empire Strikes Back was my first glimpse of the mysterious helmeted figure of Boba Fett. I soon delved into  novels, comic books, and video games, where the universe expanded. I discovered there was a lot more depth to this onscreen two-dimensional character. He had one heck of a story. As the layers were peeled back and glimpses of his present and past unfolded, he quickly became my favorite character in the franchise. He thought himself a simple man, yet his character revealed he was far more complex than he liked to let on. That was part of his legacy. 

Here is the conundrum: Everything I thought I knew about Fett might be wrong. Once Disney acquired Star Wars, if it wasn’t in the film or animated series, it ran the risk of being *gasp* Legend. Would the character I grew to love simply vanish and diminish into the ether? The memory of the great man be undone and re-written in a way that insulted fans like myself?

Let me give you a rundown of the first chapter and see what story unfolds. 

Chapter 1: Stranger in a Strange Land

Jabba’s palace lies quiet and nearly desolate, long silent are the raging parties and booming laughter of the deceased Hutt and former crime boss. We get our first view of Boba submerged in a Bacta pod, vulnerable, dreaming of his recent return to the living. What led him here? 

Awakened in the Sarlacc's stomach rumored to digest its prey over a thousand years, Boba does what he does best: survive. Cutting through the Sarlacc, he makes his way out and digs himself out from a deep grave. We don’t know precisely how long he has been here, but it’s been long enough for the Sarlacc's digestive fluids to penetrate his gear and for him to run out of his own supply of oxygen. Covered in stomach acid, the harsh sands of Tatooine cling to him like any hope for survival. I was surprised his immediate reaction was not to turn around and detonate his jet pack’s missile straight into the pit, but this went to show how bad of a state he was in. 

Disoriented and still on the brink of death, the Jawas find him and strip him of his beloved, iconic armor. The Jawas have proven to be an ongoing menace throughout the galaxy. Barely hanging on and drained beyond exhaustion, the mask he’s been hiding behind for years is now gone. Beings throughout the galaxy respect what the armor stands for, but Fett’s reputation and brand are known by the bold green, red, and gold-colored Beskar. It’s rumored he chose his colors for the responsibility he felt for avenging his father’s death and the responsibility to live up to his legacy. If Boba survives this, will he still hold the same respect if he can’t get back his armor? 

 The Sarlacc, Jawas and Tusken Raiders. Oh My!

Boba is unlucky enough to meet all three within a short time. The Tuskens have plans for their new prisoner. Burned, scarred from acid, delusional, dehydrated, being dragged through the sands of Tatooine, a notoriously harsh planet as notorious as his own reputation. It’s fitting we see him resurrected here in a resounding contradiction from the water world Kamino where he was born. His survival through these extreme circumstances is a true testament to his grit, endurance, and will to survive against all odds. 

Resurrected from the harsh sands of Tatooine is a stark contrast from where he was born on the stormy water world of Kamino. 

The first line of basic (what English is referred to in the Star Wars universe) in our story is nine minutes in: “Rodian, do you want me to cut your bonds?” A foreshadowing of his intent on a larger scale, perhaps?  Boba is offering an alliance so they can both have a chance again at freedom and survival. It doesn’t go well. The Rodian is a snitch and gets Boba in trouble with the Tuskens. The first battle of wills between Boba and the Tusken clan. 

The term Daimyo originally comes from the Japanese, meaning "great name" or "large estate."

We’re brought back to the present, where Boba is still healing after his stint in the desert. “The dreams are back,” he greets Fennec. We see him suit up and take the throne as the new Daimyo, a great moment of significance. 

 Politics and Tribute 

“We really need a protocol droid,” clear communication seems to be an ongoing problem for those who bear this title. We see roles reversed as the rank of power has shifted as one of his former employers' approaches and offers the hide of a Wookiee as tribute. “I used to work for that guy, ” Fett says as Robert Rodriguez, the director, approaches as a Trandoshan. 

Boba once hunted Wookies and wore their braids as trophies

Not all are in favor of the new Daimyo, as we soon see the Mayor send a delegation not offering tribute but asking for tribute. Fennec is quick to resort to the immediate power play of killing the offender, but Boba shows himself to be a smart man by looking at the larger picture and setting forth to resolve this… misunderstanding. He never got upset but was calculated in his response. 

Mos Espa, in all its sprawling glory, expects the new Daimyo to hold to certain standards and traditions, but Fett is uninterested in pomp and circumstance. He chooses to walk the streets himself rather than be carried in a grand display. Fennec keeps reminding him, “Things will go a lot smoother if you accept their ways.”  Fett is sticking to his guns with his intent to rule with respect rather than fear.  

Fennec chides Boba to go along with certain grandiose customs, so Boba takes her advice on a minor issue of having his helmet serviced, replying with her very own words on his reasoning.

Meeting Garsa Fwip a Twi’lek, played by Jennifer Beals, at her cantina, the Sanctuary, Boba is straight to business. I really hope we get a Max Rebo band album soon because he was laying down some jazzy tunes. Garsa Fwip, ever the great hostess, most likely is used to having to cater to the whims of the Daimyo. She seems slightly relieved yet dismissive of Fett’s businesslike no-nonsense approach. She has her business to run, and so does he. She pays tribute in New Republic credits which lends a clue to where we are in the grand timeline of Star Wars.  

Shortly after leaving The Sanctuary, Fett and Fennec are ambushed in the streets by a band of assassins. It’s clear someone or many people want him dead. They are surrounded by masked, shield, and electro-blade-wielding baddies. Once the fight breaks and Boba blows up one of the assailants with his wrist rocket, Fennec gives chase with instructions of taking one of the two escaping alive. She is highly skilled and easily deciphers who will give up the information they are looking for. She only needs one of them alive. 

Well, that escalated quickly.

The fight took a lot out of Boba as we see him forced back into the Bacta pod for more healing. 

The cinematic fuzzy filter transition from the present day to his past lets us know we are once again in his dreams and reliving his past. 

 A Tusken kid and his dog (massiff) take two prisoners for a walk to find water. 

Along the way, they encounter a settlement being raided by bandits. The bandits are harsh and excessively violent. Even Fett averts his gaze as they kill their victim. Fett may be the best bounty hunter in the galaxy, but he doesn’t enjoy violence and unnecessary suffering. The way his character is subtly being built and reinforced will bring us a greater understanding of who he really is moving forward. I am glad to see this as it stays true to who I know Boba Fett to be. 

As Fett and the Rodian dig for the precious life-giving water, the Tusken child and its massiff (dog creature) lay not far from them. Boba, upon finding water, does not ask permission to drink but takes what he knows he needs to survive. The kid isn’t happy about it and wastes the rest of the water to show who’s boss in their current situation. 

The Rodian unearths a beast hiding in the unforgiving sands. The new, unfamiliar creature kills the snitch and turns on Fett. Survival instinct kicking in, Boba goes to work and kills the new beast with the chains that bound him just as the beast was closing in on the Tusken child. This earns his tentative freedom, and he follows the kid back to camp as the kid totes the head of the beast as a trophy, barking in the unique Tusken tongue about what just transpired. Fett has proved he’s more useful, not as a prisoner but as an equal. The episode closes as one chieftain offers his water pod to Fett as a silent thank you and gesture of respect for returning one of their own. 

Son of Jango, unchained.

Conclusion

As the credits roll, the theme song starts its crescendo. It reminds me of a haunting sea shanty with tribal elements tying his past with his present. A steadfast cadence that signifies his life as it starts and goes darker in its elements yet builds into a hopeful, uplifting melody ending with somber horns. 

Listen to it here:

The story builds slowly as we observe who the man Boba Fett really is. I appreciate the delicate approach and the reliance on subtleties throughout this introduction. We get to judge and interpret his story as it unfolds, as the layers peel away. As much as I love the action Mandalorians tend to ensure wherever they go, I am enjoying the slow, realistic portrayal of Boba’s quest for survival. It’s clear his return to society has taken time, along with his healing process from the event of the Sarlacc pit. He’s a highly skilled man with limitations when the odds keep stacking against him, but his perseverance is rewarded time and again. Sometimes the solution to the problem isn’t violence with a quick blaster fight or calling on the mystical energies of the universe in a grand display of power. Sometimes the solution lies in sheer determination and pacing yourself to get to where you need to be. Fett shows himself to be a patient man, and that proves to be a strong virtue. Temuera Morrison has done a phenomenal job in his portrayal of the beloved character of Boba Fett. 

Tell me what your favorite moments were in Chapter One in the comments! Is the story living up to your expectations? 

Allowing Cowboy Bebop to Evolve

Does this new live-action Cowboy Bebop from Netflix still preserve the unique style and feel fans love from the anime series? Or is it something altogether new?

Classified in genres like neo-noir and Space Western, the Cowboy Bebop hit the Japanese anime scene in 1998 to both critical acclaim and commercial success. When it became part of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup in 2001, it gained a solid fandom in the West, too. Creator Shinichirō Watanabe has been behind several hit anime productions, but Cowboy Bebop is his signature work and biggest global success. While fans would have loved to have more than the 26-episode series, Watanabe did state that he did not want the series to go on for years. He had a specific ending in mind, which was ultimately the ending that made it into the anime.

Spike Spiegel from the Cowboy Bebop anime series
Spike Spiegel from the Cowboy Bebop anime series in 1998 was voiced by Kōichi Yamadera in the original Japanese and by Steve Blum in the popular English dub.

When I heard that Watanabe was a creative consultant in Netflix's live action Cowboy Bebop revival, I was hopeful that creator and writer Christopher Yost and directors Alex Garcia Lopez and Michael Katleman would honor Watanabe's vision and maybe add in some things that didn't make it into the anime. My hope grew when I learned that Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts were back together to do music for the series.

But I was worried... 

Fans like me are attached to the anime series because of its singular combination of characters, visuals, music, dystopian sci-fi, and a noir/Western blend of storytelling. It's a one-of-a-kind experience. And I kept hearing people around me who had already decided, without even seeing the show, that Spike and Faye were miscast.

So I prepared myself mentally... 

I reminded myself that this isn't going to be my Bebop from two decades ago. It can't be, and, honestly, it shouldn't be. The anime series is a unique experience that can't be replicated. It was perfect as it was, and it will always be something I go back to and enjoy.

Ein on the Bebop
Ein on the Bebop

I adopted the mindset that the live-action Bebop would be an evolution, not a retelling. It may tell some of the same stories and have many of the same characters. But, it will be its own thing, and its quality and value should be evaluated independently, not held in comparison to the anime. That's the approach I've taken with Dune recently, too. It freed my mind to experience the new creation as its own experience that's inspired by the original work but not seeking to duplicate or replace that work.

The result now that I've seen it? I'm in love. Like... totally heart-eyed emoji in love. 😍

Netflix's Cowboy Bebop hits all the right notes for me. 

While I'm still only about 80% happy with how the story has evolved from the anime, the overall experience has me enthralled. The music sparks nostalgic feelings throughout each episode. John Cho absolutely rocks as Spike Spiegel, and his performance is easily my favorite part of the series. Mustafa Shakir as Jet is perfect, with Jet's character being the most faithful to the anime. And Daniella Pineda as Faye works perfectly for how this series has evolved that character, making her more grounded and sensible than her anime counterpart.

Faye (Daniella Pineda), Spike (John Cho), Jet (Mustafa Shakir), and Ein

As for the story, to make it cohesive, Yost chose to reimagine almost all the familiar bounty hits we encounter in Season 1 as part of a larger story that ties back to the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate. As a result, Spike is continuously forced to face his past as a Syndicate hitman, even when his old Syndicate partner Vicious isn't around. This cross-connecting and continuity resolve the issues that Watanabe had in his series with the bounty hunting being episodic adventures loosely connected by the main characters and the mysterious underlying story of Spike and Vicious. Watanabe's structure left his series open to continue (if he ever wanted to), but at the risk of becoming formulaic.

A flashback of Julia and Spike
A flashback of Julia and Spike (a.k.a. Fearless).

The cross-connected stories also make this new series much easier to follow than its anime counterpart. This is where I have to admit that I didn't connect to the Cowboy Bebop anime when I first saw it. I liked the story of Spike, Julia, and Vicious, and I cried at the end of "Hard Luck Woman." But it took asking friends questions and rewatching the episodes a few times to understand the world and to follow everything they talked about. In contrast, I think this evolution from Netflix makes it easier for a new audience to get into Bebop and to engage with the characters and story.

It's definitely an evolution, though...

The most common thing I've heard negative about the Netflix series is that it's "not Cowboy Bebop." What they really mean is that it's not the anime series. I feel like this type of criticism is short-sighted and not open to the idea of allowing the story to evolve or be told in a different way. I don't think it's reasonable to say, "If it's not like the original, it's crap." Is it, though? Wouldn't an exact match just be... boring?

I can empathize, though. If someone is looking to experience exactly what they experienced in the anime, they may be disappointed. Episodes 1-8 are definitely not what the anime was. Instead, they feel like Yost called in Guy Ritchie and Robert Rodriguez to consult, appealing to fans of their films (like myself). But maybe that was the natural path for Bebop to follow since Watanabe drew inspiration from some of the same places as Ritchie and Rodriguez. Ritchie stated in a 2008 interview that Sergio Leone has been an influence on his filmmaking, and Bebop is often associated with the Spaghetti Western genre that Leone is famous for. Rodriguez has cited influences from John Carpenter and Quentin Tarantino whose combined film credits have subtle reflections throughout the Cowboy Bebop anime.

Episodes 9-10, though, follow a style that's closer to Watanabe's original work and tell a backstory that fans have been eager to see for two decades. They feel like a hybrid of Cowboy Bebop and Blade Runner, a franchise in which Watanabe created the anime short Blade Runner: Black Out 2022.

A flashback of Fearless (Spike) and Vicious being debriefed by their Syndicate boss after a hit.

The most notable and, perhaps, the best overall change to the story in live-action is getting more character development for Julia and Vicious. Julia has a fully fleshed-out story from the start, and we learn that Vicious has a more concrete motivation for his actions. I won't say more about that to avoid important spoilers, but suffice it to say Elena Satine (Julia) and Alex Hassell (Vicious) take those characters to the next level in their performances. Julia's story at the end of the season, though, is part of that 20% I am still not sure I'm happy with. It's still very new to me, so I'm hoping it will grow on me after some rewatching.

Adding to what I've mentioned so far, here are some other ways that Cowboy Bebop has evolved with this new series:

Genre shift -- The first eight episodes trim back the original neo-noir elements from the anime, shifting more heavily toward the cyberpunk style that was more of a backdrop in the original series. Season 1 also minimizes the themes of loneliness and just scraping by, which were big throughout the anime. In place of those themes is a heavier emphasis on each main character "carrying that weight" of their respective pasts while seeking connection and trust with this new Bebop family.

Rebalance of comedy and drama -- The anime was a drama with some added humor, which is how Watanabe envisioned it. The first 8 episodes of the Netflix series boosts the humor factor, adding in more comedic moments, even during action scenes.

Cowboy Bebop clock showing 15 hours
Clocks across the solar system in Cowboy Bebop use 15-hour cycles instead of the 12-hour cycles of Earth.

Alternating pace -- The first eight episodes of the new series click off at a steady pace, saving the long, dramatic camera shots to slow music (a staple of the anime) for the last two episodes of the season. Those who like the slower pace may feel like those early episodes are rushed. I wonder if it's an effort to pack in as much as they could in Season 1. With the Netflix episodes being 45 to 60 minutes each, a single live-action episode is like watching three of the anime's 24-minute episodes in one chunk.

Dialog drives things forward -- The new series develops a lot of the story and characters through clever dialog. Occasionally, that dialog is delivered at a break-neck pace, usually to a humorous effect. The way dialog was woven into each scene reminded me a lot of Guy Ritchie's films. I'm always hungry for engaging and memorable dialog, and this show definitely delivers!

Gren from Netflix's Cowboy Bebop
Mason Alexander Park plays Gren in Netflix's Cowboy Bebop, a character who has been reimagined for this adaptation.

Gender and race switches -- Some of the characters who were male in the anime series have a different gender identity in the Netflix series. Also, the casting for the new series adds more racial diversity across all the characters.

Sexuality shift -- The new series shows a future where humans accept gender and sexuality differences as normally as they might accept differences in hairstyles and clothing. This manifests in several scenes and in characters like Gren, Faye, Spike, and the nice woman on the bus (you'll know what I mean once you see it).

Language shift -- The new series is loose with profanity. For a Western audience, you might say it has a language profile that matches the maturity level of its other content (violence, sexuality, etc.). 

Quick note for fans looking for Radical Edward and haven't seen the show yet: Be patient! She'll be in there, just not much, and her appearance is more of a tease for Season 2. I love Ed so much and I look forward to seeing more!

I sincerely hope that others, especially long-time fans, give this new Cowboy Bebop a chance. I think it's brilliant and evolves the story and characters in good and interesting ways. Plus, the Season 1 ending changed the game from what we're used to knowing about the story, and it's kind of exciting not knowing what's going to happen next!

Have you checked it out yet? What do you think of the series? And have you spotted all the fun Bebop and non-Bebop Easter eggs throughout? Let's jam in the comments!

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