Ever since Disney bought the Star Wars franchise, they’ve energetically set about producing new movies to continue the saga and add sumptuous detail to obscure corners of the Galaxy Far, Far Away that we all know and love. As a committed Star Warsian from the earliest years of my existence, I am beyond thrilled at this turn of events, even if The Force Awakens was a tad unimaginative.
Fortunately, Bib Fortuna: A Star Wars Story is the best of the new Star Wars movies by far. It’s a rough and gritty cinematic portrait of one of the most fascinating characters in all the lore of all the Star Wars: Bib Fortuna, a Twi’lek alien who first appeared in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Bib Fortuna is best known as the majordomo of Jabba the Hutt’s Tatooine-based intergalactic criminal empire, but Bib Fortuna: A Star Wars Story shows that he is so much more than that.
The movie opens on Bib’s home planet of Ryloth. The Twi’lek species live in a network of caves beneath Ryloth’s surface. Ryloth is a rather inhospitable place, due to its abnormal planetary rotations that leave each hemisphere shrouded in darkness for half the year and drowned in light and heat for the other half. It’s also plagued by catastrophic quakes, which provide the formative event in young Bib’s life.
Bib and his family struggle through collapsing tunnels during a particularly horrendous quake. It has been quaking for three days with no end in sight. The family is dispirited and ready to give up. One by one they stop moving forward, giving in to the rockslides and sure death. Bib endeavors to push on, but he too, stops in the rubble. Then a strange red Twi’lek appears out of nowhere and attempts to lure the Bib to his death. “Just give in to the stones and the quakes,” she urges him, “Sleep and dream yourself a sweet and abysmal ending.” But finding some heart deep within his chest, he shakes off his stupor and her entreaties to discover that the quakes have abated, and that his family’s cave is only a few meters away.
In true biblical fashion, the movie fast forwards to years later to see the adult Bib making the final payment on a longstanding gambling debt to a sleazy Toydarian loanshark. It turns out that the unscrupulous Toydarian is associated with the Hutt mafia. He screws over Bib by bringing Jabba the Hutt and his gang to Bib’s small nightclub. Knocked unconscious by one of Jabba’s henchman, Bib is kidnapped into slavery.
Nearly thirty-five minutes in the middle of Bib Fortuna: A Star Wars Story are dedicated to Bib’s indenture in the droid torture rooms of Jabba’s palace. This section is extremely tedious, repetitive, and sadistic to the point of feeling like a snuff film. At times I felt I could endure it no more, but pressed on for the love of Bib.
If you do make it through the desert of the movie’s overlong middle, you will be richly rewarded by the next sequence, in which Jabba offers Bib his freedom in exchange for him performing a hit on a rival. Bib is led to believe that his target is a small-time criminal of Sullustan extraction. However, the target turns out to be none other than Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) himself! We only glimpse Donald Glover’s Lando for a few moments, but it got me all hot and bothered to see the The Adventures of Han and Lando: A Star Wars Story, due out one year from now. Anyway, Bib fails to kill Lando but takes out several of his associates and is severely wounded in this botched assassination attempt.
In addition to the potentially fatal blaster wound he sustains, Bib realizes that his assignment was a set-up. Jabba double-crossed him and he had no expectation he would survive his debut as a hitman. But Jabba is so impressed by Bib surviving and even killing some of Lando’s business partners that he offers to make him his majordomo. This is a big deal, and you’ll feel like a million bucks when you see the warm glow all over Bib’s face and head tentacles.
With moody direction by Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Killing Them Softly), Bib Fortuna: A Star Wars Story eschews the endless parade of action set pieces that characterized previous films in the franchise in favor a more artful, deliberately paced approach. It really rubbed all my movie watching parts in exactly the right way. Bib’s always been one of my favorite minor characters in a Galaxy Far, Far Away and I’m so glad he finally got a chance to shine on the big screen where he belongs.
I’m so excited for Ackbar’s Triumph: A Star Wars Story, due out 3 months from now. That’s right on schedule, and I've never felt more pleased over Disney’s ambitious plan to release four Star Wars movies every year from now until the end of time.
TL;DR – Bib Fortuna: A Star Wars Story is a fan-friendly exploration of one of Galaxy Far, Far Away’s most indelible characters, but don’t go expecting a bunch of J.J. fireworks because this one’s a real slow burn.
What the rest of the critics are saying:
“Bib Fortuna: A Star Wars Story spins Star Wars into a whole new orbit!” – Walter Chaw, Film Freak Central
“Writer-director Andrew Dominik’s muddy character sketch largely short-circuits action adventure thrills in favor of a grimly funny portrait of thugs taking care of business, in every rotten sense of the word.” – Justin Chang, Variety
“The best movie of this decade so far!” – Pete Hammond, Deadline
“Never before has Star Wars been so willfully hard to follow.” – Siyaka Camacho, New York Daily News
“Less of A Star Wars Story and more of a mash up of spare parts from older, better movies set for some reason in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.” – Nathaneal However, Guernica Magazine
“Bib Fortuna is back, baby, and he’s better than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com
“Bib Fortuna: A Star Wars Story starts wearing out its welcome at about the hour mark, and there’s another 95 minutes to go, including over thirty minutes of exhausting droid torture scenes. It feels like it stomps along forever. I fell asleep six times.” – Legs Lavish, New York Observer
“It isn’t much of a movie. I might forgive the slow start if it weren’t for the slow middle and slow end.” – Dian Maulana Rizki II, Austin Chronicle
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