Captain Panaka says it best in The Phantom Menance: “the Hutts are gangsters.” Dominating the Star Wars underworld through organized crime, the slug-like Hutts are a force to be reckoned with, their power and wealth coming from a conceivably endless list of illegal activities – slavery, gambling, racing, arms dealing, racketeering and extortion, smuggling, gladiator matches and blood sports, violence, and murder. Controlling large swaths the Outer Rim – from Tatooine and Mataou to the Hutt homeworld of Nal Hutta and it’s moon Nar Shadda – their collective influence seeps into the hidden corners of the galaxy while also making its way to the seats of galactic power in the Old Republic and Galactic Empire. In every imaginable way, the Hutts live up to the moniker “gangster,” their criminal dealings and nefarious presence always lurking in the shadows. And out of all the Hutts in the Star Wars universe, the one who lives up to the term gangster better than all the others is incredibly obvious. It is Marlo the Hutt.
You thought I was gonna say Jabba the Hutt, right? Well yeah, of course the answer is Jabba, but I will get to him in a second because Marlo the Hutt is worth discussing.
Introduced in Season 3 of The Clone Wars, in the episode “Evil Plans,” Marlo the Hutt was/is a member of the Hutt Council (I’ll discuss the council momentarily). Appearing as a hologram, Marlo is present for a handful of seconds and only listens while other members of the Council discuss important matters. However, at the outset of the very next episode, “Hunt for Ziro,” Marlo appears once again, and this time we do hear from him. Seeing him more clearly, able now to listen to his voice, it becomes very very VERY apparent that Marlo the Hutt was based on Vito Corleone.
Vito Corleone, the Don who heads the Corleone crime family in what is undoubtedly one of the greatest (gangster) films of all time – The Godfather. Like Corleone, Marlo has the puffy cheeks, a thin “mustache” created by marks on his upper lip, slick looking “hair,” and a wrinkled forehead. Marlo also speaks with a low, raspy form of Huttese similar to the low, raspy English of Don Corleone in The Godfather. Moreover, Marlo the Hutt – whose name is not mentioned in “Hunt for Ziro” but does appear in the credits – is clearly named in honor of Marlon Brando, the legendary actor who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Vito Corleone.
In turn, the inclusion of Marlo the Hutt in “Evil Plans” and “Hunt for Ziro” is appropriate since these back-to-back episodes of The Clone Wars are where we are first introduced to the aforementioned Hutt Council. This Council, a body comprised of the five Hutts who control the five major Hutt families, governs the collective criminal activities of the entire Hutt Clan, the crime syndicate to which these families belong. Just as Marlo is a nod to Don Corleone, the Hutt Clan is a clear nod to the Five Families in The Godfather (which were themselves based on the real-life Five Families of the Italian American Mafia), while the Hutt Council was obviously based on the Commission, the ruling body consisting of the heads of these Five Families.
As someone who absolutely loves The Godfather, I think it is pretty damn cool that the show runners of The Clone Wars chose to make these connections with the iconic film. These connections, at least for me, added a new, dynamic depth to the Hutts, a layer of rich complexity to their criminal enterprise that had not previously existed. That said, for those who have never seen The Godfather, it is at this point that I would encourage you to check it out. Even if one is completely uninterested in all the ways the Hutts are akin to the Five Families or the Corleones, The Godfather is just too damn good not to watch for it’s own sake.
That said, whether you have seen the film, need to watch it, or just don’t want to watch it, I need to clarify something before we move on. In short, while Marlo the Hutt was obviously created as an homage to Marlon Brandon’s iconic character, Marlo is not the real Don Corleone of Star Wars. Heck, Marlo isn’t even the leader of the Hutt Council – but I bet you already knew that. The leader of the Hutt Council, the real “godfather” in Star Wars, is the none other than the illustrious Jabba the Hutt, so let’s turn our attention to him.
The Original Gangster: Jabba the Hutt
There is something incredibly special about the way Jabba was first introduced in Star Wars – indirectly, through conversation. Han Solo, whom we just met at the Mos Eisley Cantina in A New Hope, gets up to leave and is immediately stopped by the bounty hunter Greedo. Gun in his chest, questioned where he is headed, Han tells Greedo “I was just going to see your boss. Tell Jabba I’ve got his money.” This statement not only sets the tone and trajectory for Han and Greedo’s tense discussion, which leads to the moment Han shoots Greedo, but it also introduces us to Jabba and establishes how we are to think about this new, mysterious figure. Without needing to see him in the flesh, it is apparent this “Jabba” is a powerful criminal boss – one with enough wealth to hire bounty hunters – and that his form of justice is simple: if you cross him, there are repercussions. Just as the real villains in The Godfather are those who betray the Corleone family, those who would betray Jabba are his villains, and Han has clearly done something to make Jabba angry.
So what did Han do to cross Jabba? We learn from the conversation that Han dumped a shipment he was smuggling for the crime lord when he ran into an Imperial cruiser. Explaining to Greedo that he had no choice, that “Even I get boarded sometimes,” Greedo responds by saying Han can “tell that to Jabba.” Are we to believe this Jabba would care that Han dumped his shipment before he was boarded? Absolutely not! Solo’s decision to dump the cargo was clearly out of self-preservation, Han looking out for Han. The thing is, Jabba isn’t concerned about Han or his safety, Jabba is only concerned with his own self-interests, and since that cargo belonged to the gangster, Han must pay the consequences for his betrayal. And as we know, Han does “pay” when he ends up frozen in carbonite and used as Jabba’s favorite decoration in the Hutt’s palace on Tatooine. A cruel punishment, but under the auspices of Hutt justice, an entirely fair one.
Knowing that Han was wanted by a mysterious crime lord was always one of the most compelling aspects of the Original Trilogy, a sub-plot that runs through the first two movies, and finally culminates in the first act of Return of the Jedi. From the very beginning, this sub-plot helped to establish one of the most important backdrops to the Star Wars galaxy: the criminal underworld.
Journey to the Underworld
From his first mention in A New Hope to his death in Return of the Jedi, Jabba is the very center of this underworld, its heart and soul. Sure, there are a handful of other vile characters in the Original Trilogy- like Ponda Baba and Dr. Evazan who threaten Luke in the Mos Eisley Cantina- but no one on the same level as Jabba.
What really stands out about Jabba and his role in establishing the criminal underworld is that we learn next to nothing about his questionable dealings in the Original Trilogy. While we know Han was hired to smuggle some type of illegal cargo, it is never stated what that cargo actually was. Then again, it doesn’t even matter what it was, all that matters is that it belonged to the Hutt. Jabba’s unwillingness to let even his best smuggler get away with this one act is all it takes to establish Jabba as an unforgiving mob boss, and the underworld as a ruthless and dangerous place to inhabit.
In turn, this underworld is symbolically represented in Return of the Jedi by Jabba’s palace on Tatooine. A dark, dimly lit place with strange sounds and vicious creatures, one must literally descend into the palace depths to have an audience with the Hutt. Upon entering the throne room, one finds the Hutt reclined and smoking hookah, a Sultan enjoying his opulent lifestyle as Baroque-style music plays in the background. With his majordomo Bib Fortuna at his side, and surrounded by a court of henchmen, bounty hunters, slaves, droids, and loyal subjects, there is no doubt that Jabba is the King of the this criminal underworld.
Of course, this underworld has since grown larger than it was in the Original Trilogy – thanks in large part to the Expanded Universe – becoming a realm inhabited by an endless line-up of other Hutts, small time criminals, marauding pirates, bounty hunters, and other villainous beings. There are crime organizations of all types – syndicates, death gangs, cartels, shadow armies – some having power and influence similar to Jabba and the Hutt Clan. A number of these organizations have also gained prodigious popularity among Star Wars fans (Black Sun, Kanjiklub, Death Watch), while certain criminals/gang leaders have become equally popular (Prince Xizor, Hondo Ohnaka). Plus, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that one bounty hunter has also received god-like status among fans (Boba Fett), while another is closing in on divinity (Cad Bane).
Yet, at the end of the day, all of these individuals and organizations, even those that I absolutely love with an intense passion, just cannot compare to Jabba the Hutt. Jabba will always be the the Don Corleone, the original gangster of Star Wars, a figure whose iconic stature towers over all other underworld characters. However, this shouldn’t be taken to mean that Jabba’s influence within Star Wars cannot be surpassed by another, especially following his death in Return of the Jedi.
The thing is, in my mind there is really only one character who could effectively replace the King of the underworld, who could rebuild his vast criminal empire and become a force equal to the late gangster – Jabba’s son, Rotta.
But I’ll discuss him in another post.
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