Perhaps it’s the obsession with cool helmets and lone gunslingers against an expansive galactic setting, but Star Wars fans have always loved the grimier side of the universe created by George Lucas.
It originally stemmed from the ‘wretched hive of scum and villainy’ of Mos Eisley in Star Wars: A New Hope, before the introduction of Boba Fett, and a whole array of other nefarious bounty hunters which arrived during The Empire Strikes Back, sent the fandom into a fever pitch.
We all love a scoundrel like Han Solo (just ask Leia) or Lando Calrissian, because their rogueish nature makes them more captivating than a stereotypical hero. But why do we love the Star Wars underworld so much?
First, let’s address the Mandalorians in the room. When Boba Fett first appeared in The Empire Strikes Back, he was in an instant hit – the unique armour and character design struck a chord with fans, selling toys and merchandise like wildfire.
Add in his intimidating silence, alongside a slick set of weapons, and Boba Fett quickly became a fan favourite. Perhaps it’s easy for the audience to picture themselves as the cool, calm and collected bounty hunter since his iconic helmet completely covers his face (until Attack Of The Clones anyway).
In the Expanded Universe of books and comics, Boba Fett survived his fall into the Sarlaac Pit during Return Of The Jedi, and his story eventually saw him becoming the leader of his homeworld, Mandalore.
This fully cemented his role as an anti-hero in the Star Wars universe, and the love for the Mandalorian race only grew as they’re explored further in books, comics and television.
While Boba Fett’s origin was briefly touched on during the prequel trilogy, fans were given another Mandalorian to satiate the desire for a lovable rogue – except Jango Fett was a straight-up villain.
Since it was revealed that Boba was Jango’s clone, it was a sneaky way of delivering the same character, just dressed up in a different narrative. Still, his fight with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Kamino was a fantastic sequence, as were Jango’s solo adventures in the Star Wars: Bounty Hunter game.
And now that The Mandalorian series has debuted on Disney+, fans have been given yet another faceless rogue to fall head over heels with. With a new colour scheme, an elegantly simple helmet design and a captivating mission, Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau’s dive into the Star Wars underworld has proved popular so far.
While little is known about Pedro Pascal’s bounty hunter, the western genre for the lone gunslinger works a treat. His adventures in the grimier side of the Star Wars universe instantly reminds fans of the murky Mos Eisley cantina, first introduced to the series in 1977.
Obviously the Mandalorians aren’t the only bounty hunters in the Star Wars universe (far from it) with the lizard-like Bossk, the robotic IG-88 and the aggressive Dengar all appearing The Empire Strikes Back as they’re tasked with hunting down the Millennium Falcon.
Their individually unique appearances, mixed with incredibly detailed armour and weapons, made them fascinating to viewers.
Taika Waititi is even voicing another version of IG-88 in The Mandalorian, IG-11. That in itself shows the room for expansion for even the smallest characters within franchise.
We all love to hate a villain, and the franchise has given us some incredible villains to watch the Jedi and the Rebellion go up against.
While Darth Maul only had a minor appearance in The Phantom Menace, his intimidating look and incredible double-edged lightsaber made him an instant favourite.
His horned appearance alongside his samurai-styled robes and acrobatic fighting style proved that the Sith could be more than just Darth Vader.
It’s no surprise that him being ‘killed off’ almost immediately helped cement his legacy among fans. So when Maul returned in The Clone Wars animated series, it was a crowd-pleasing return – as was his surprising cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Could there be more Maul on the way? Perhaps.
But another interesting twist on the Sith was the robotic General Grievous, who was technically a cyborg since his internal organs, eyes and brain all had survived an explosion engineered by Count Dooku.
He enjoyed hunting Jedi, collecting their lightsabers and using them with robotic precision. His fight with Obi-Wan during Revenge Of The Sith showed how deadly he could be with the weapons, splitting his arms into four to use the blades as deadly spinning rotors.
It seems to be that it’s the unique twist on the generic idea of duelling villains that strike a chord with fans.
The latest twist comes from Kylo Ren, the son of General Leia Organa and Han Solo, who turned to the Dark Side after being corrupted by the legacy of his grandfather. His saber has an impressive crossguard (they’re vents for his cracked Kyber crystal, but I digress).
The fact that he’s closely tied to two of the heroes from the original trilogy, and his interesting relationship with Rey, gave fans a new villain they love to hate. It’ll be interesting to see where his story ends in The Rise Of Skywalker.
With the endless nature of the Star Wars universe, the fans’ connection to it is comparable with something like Dungeons & Dragons.
It’s literally filled with endless characters and stories to embrace, while simultaneously picturing yourself in the sprawling tales that take place among the Jedi, Sith, bounty hunters and everything in-between.
While the flashier, bombastic nature of Star Wars will always dominate the big screen, it is a little grittier and murky, making it feel a little more real.
It never pushes it as far as the dystopian nightmares of Alien and Blade Runner, but the grounded element to Star Wars somehow feels more relatable. Well, as grounded as it can be with space wizards using magic and duelling with glowsticks – of course.
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker will be released in UK cinemas 19th December.