The list of those who have “ruined” Star Wars is ever-changing, and now as long as one of the films’ iconic opening crawls. Today, at any given hour on Twitter, you’ll still find trending tweets castigating directors Rian Johnson and J. J. Abrams for helming sequels that are, respectively, too irreverent and overly nostalgic. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and her company’s corporate overlords at Disney have absorbed their fair share of abuse as well, openly resented for taking the reins of Star Wars and leading it into a future of all-new stuff to be mad about. 

But this backlash isn’t just a recent phenomenon. Even George Lucas has been accused of misunderstanding and sullying his own creation, first with his merchandising-driven meddling in Return of the Jedi, then with his digitally spackled “special editions,” then with a trilogy of lackluster prequels. To make more Star Wars has always been to risk “ruining” it for its most zealous fans. (Oh, that’s another group that’s “ruined” Star Wars: the fans.)

So far, at least, no one has accused Robert Rodriguez of “ruining” Star Wars. But after just two Rodriguez-directed chapters of Disney+’s newest spin-off series, The Book of Boba Fett—which centers on the enigmatic, green-armored bounty hunter who captured Han Solo in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back—the Austin filmmaker has already been singled out for criticism by those who feel Rodriguez’s playful style simply doesn’t gel with Star Wars. Despite Rodriguez insisting early on that he didn’t want to put his own stamp on the show, as he told TV Insider, so far, The Book of Boba Fett feels more defined by a filmmaker’s individual voice than any other Star Wars project since Lucas’s own films. And the backlash against Rodriguez daring to make Boba Fett his own illustrates the schism between those who see Star Wars as a boundless universe for all kinds of storytelling, and those who want it to remain as fixed and sacrosanct as a vintage Luke Skywalker toy still in its Kenner packaging. 

For what it’s worth, Rodriguez seems to have anticipated all of this. “I usually avoid premier properties—you’ll never be able to please everybody, it’s a losing game,” Rodriguez told the Hollywood Reporter, shortly after assuming his co-showrunner duties. “I’d rather go do something I’ve created so nobody can say, ‘Hey, that’s wrong.’ ” Still, he took the job anyway. Rodriguez’s reasoning was that Boba Fett as a character has always been more of a projection of the fandom’s imagination, rather than some inviolable text. Boba Fett’s actual screen time in the original Star Wars trilogy clocks in at six and a half minutes, after all. He gets just four lines of dialogue in the whole thing, not counting that humiliating scream as he’s launched into the Sarlacc pit. 

Even after the prequels introduced us to Li’l Boba Fett, somehow the bounty hunter had retained his aura of danger and intrigue, largely because we never actually saw him do much. “You can kind of do anything you want, so long as you make him cool and don’t make him a buffoon,” Rodriguez told THR.

To that end, Rodriguez had already resurrected Boba Fett for an episode he directed in the second season of The Mandalorian, and successfully restored a lot of his stoic cool. When Rodriguez was then brought in to executive produce—alongside The Mandalorian’s Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni—an entire spin-off series about Boba Fett assuming control of the late Jabba the Hutt’s criminal empire, it seemed like an ideal match between artist and muse. Like Marv in Sin City, Seth Gecko in From Dusk Till Dawn, and the protagonists of both Rodriguez’s Machete films and his “Mexico Trilogy” (El Mariachi, Desperado, and Once Upon a Time in Mexico), Boba Fett is a shadowy antihero plowing his own path through a morally gray desert—an unstoppable outlaw who’s guided by his instincts and his internal, inviolable code. Plus, he shoots things out of various body parts. Who understands that better than Robert Rodriguez?

Yet the reviews of the Rodriguez-directed pilot, which streamed December 29, were, to put it politely, mixed. They ranged from Variety’s timid appreciation of The Book of Boba Fett’s relative narrative tidiness to SFGate‘s assessment of it as “an abysmal failure on every level.” Most of those critiques had little to do with Rodriguez, taking issue instead with the self-serious tone, or Temuera Morrison’s limited dramatic range as Boba, or the show’s apparent redundancy: that episode of The Mandalorian had already given fans the Boba Fett show they’d always wanted, no spin-off required.   

But by the third episode, which dropped January 12 and was also helmed by Rodriguez, the backlash had fully turned toward the filmmaker himself. Not coincidentally, this was also the episode that took its biggest narrative swing: introducing a band of cyborg punks who modify their bodies using droid parts, speak in posh British accents, and rumble through the dusty streets of Tatooine on their candy-colored space motorcycles. Jokes about Power Rangers, Captain Planet, and even Seinfeld flooded in. Unfavorable comparisons were drawn to Rodriguez’s own Spy Kids franchise. More pointedly—and just as Rodriguez had predicted—some fans quickly declared that it was all wrong. “There’s not an ounce of Star Wars in this image,” went one viral tweet over a photo of Rodriguez’s scooter gang.

As many were quick to point out, however, that’s not entirely true. George Lucas was a well-documented hot-rod guy, after all; his gearhead obsessions are all over his earliest movies, from his college thesis film 1:42.08 (A Man and His Car) to his big, breakout hit, American Graffiti. Those fixations naturally bled into Star Wars: Lucas swapped Deuce Coupes for starships and landspeeders, and spent a whole lot of screen time over the decades pitting them against one another in interstellar drag races. Rodriguez had merely updated Lucas’s many fifties greaser homages with nods to sixties mod culture. (Boba Fett’s gang modifies itself with droid parts, hence “mod gang.” Get it?) Besides, in a universe where little green wizards have laser sword fights, and fishmen are promoted to the rank of admiral, are some teens on Vespas really pushing it?

Nonetheless, the accusation that Rodriguez (who also directed the season’s final episode, which will stream February 9) is putting his personal mark on The Book of Boba Fett is grounded in facts. The motorcycles were only the shiniest, most GIFable evidence. There are also gee-whiz gadgets, “acid crayon” Easter eggs, and cartoonish, fruit cart–upending chase scenes, which all feel straight out of Spy Kids. The robo-teens who make up the mod gang continue Rodriguez’s fascination with (and, at times, fetishization of) people who turn their bodies into mechanized weapons, something he’s previously explored in Planet Terror and Alita: Battle Angel. The third episode also introduces us to a local water broker, played by honorary Texan Stephen Root, a callous aristocrat who’s oppressing a downtrodden populace, in the mode of so many of Rodriguez’s antagonists (and the kind of villain that seems destined to show up in his upcoming Zorro reboot). And Rodriguez even found a place for Danny Trejo as a surly, yet surprisingly sensitive Rancor trainer. (It bears mentioning that no one seems to have any problem with Trejo.)   

But perhaps more than anything, The Book of Boba Fett has so far been defined by Rodriguez’s abiding love of all things “badass,” a word he’s used to describe both Boba and his loyal muscle, Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), but that more broadly describes Rodriguez’s entire approach to directing. “For Wen, I would design whole sequences just to end on her and the look she would give Boba because she’s so badass,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. Talking to Collider about bringing Boba Fett back for The Mandalorian, Rodriguez said, “I just gotta make him super badass in this moment [and] be that character that I imagined him being when I heard about him when I was 12.” Rodriguez’s Boba Fett episodes, as with so many of his own movies, all feel deliberately structured around a “badass” payoff, like the parkour-style rooftop chase in the pilot, or the low-angle shot of Sophie Thatcher, who plays a “mod gang” member, swooping up into the camera on her speeder bike. “[Rodriguez] was like, ‘This is going to sell,’ and it does,” Thatcher said of that scene, adding, “He has such a specific way of seeing what people want.”

Rodriguez has also described working on The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett as getting to play “with all the toys” he loved as a kid. It’s no surprise to learn that Rodriguez created his home-taped Mandalorian “audition” for Favreau and Filoni using his sons’ Star Wars action figures, or (as Wen confirmed to the Hollywood Reporter) that he’s continued to use them even now to act out Book of Boba Fett sequences, complete with sound effects, for his cast and crew. Rodriguez’s movies have always had the manic energy of a kid smashing his playthings together, defying both physics and narrative logic to create the giddiest, most over-the-top scenes imaginable. So it only makes sense that he would bring that childlike enthusiasm to bear on Boba Fett, who—lest we forget—was a toy long before he was anything close to a fleshed-out character.  

Some may quibble with Rodriguez’s specific execution of his enthusiasm, saying that the pilot’s parkour scene felt overly choreographed and stagy, or that the scooter chase scene just came off as goofy—too clumsily slow and obviously CGI-ed. But at the root of the Rodriguez backlash—this insistence that there’s “not an ounce of Star Wars” in his take on the material—lies the more fundamental conflict over how people like to “play Star Wars” themselves, and how this often doesn’t jibe with others. Some Star Wars fans love the classic, Joseph Campbell sweep of its mythology, its epic themes of good and evil, destiny and redemption. Some are taken in by the world building and design, and its tactile, lived-in vision of futuristic technology. Others are invested in its flawed, deeply human characters and the soap-operatic stories it tells about love and family. There are some fans, presumably, who get off on interplanetary trade disputes as much as George Lucas seems to. And then there are those who, like Robert Rodriguez, just want to see a bunch of badasses in cool suits flying around, firing lasers at each other.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these approaches. Still, it’s easy to see why those who regard Star Wars with even a touch more solemnity would take issue with Rodriguez coloring outside the lines with big, neon markers. That said, you know, they should probably get used to it: as Star Wars has moved further into bite-size, episodic storytelling, it has increasingly allowed its overarching lore to take a back seat to big set pieces and elaborate fight sequences, emphasizing heavy action and short-term gratification. On the plus side, that’s also allowing more latitude for defiantly individualistic takes like Rodriguez’s. Whether or not you actually liked it, now that Rodriguez has busted the door wide open with the Skittle Punk Scooter Dudes, there is officially no idea that can be considered too far outside the franchise’s well-trodden realms to explore—and that’s a good thing. Robert Rodriguez isn’t ruining Star Wars so much as he’s helping redefine it, and ensuring that this galaxy stays big enough for everyone.