In defence of Jar Jar Binks

News Bryan Young 3/19/2009 at 1:44AM
Jar Jar Binks

Bryan has been wanting to defend the Star Wars prequel trilogy for a while. And where better to start, than Jar Jar Binks?

I’ve been meaning to write some detailed essays explaining why the Star Wars prequels are, indeed, as excellent as I say they are. I’ve given a lot of thought to how to approach the systemic defense of the prequels and, like all great battle plans, I’m going to shore up the weakest spot first: Jar Jar Binks.

I understand a lot of you have a deep and festering outrage for so outward a clown being included in our beloved Star Wars movies. To tell the truth, I find Jar Jar just as obnoxious as you guys probably do. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like him and it certainly doesn’t mean that he doesn’t serve a specific and brilliant purpose to the added benefit of the Star Wars saga.

I’m not going to try to convince you guys to like Jar Jar Binks, but at the very least, I’d like you to agree that for the stories George Lucas planned to tell with him as a central character (The Phantom Menace and Attack Of The Clones), Jar Jar was a vital part of the story and fit in with the archetypes of story and myth that Lucas based ALL of the Star Wars movies on.

Jar Jar Binks is the clown of the Star Wars films. And it makes sense to have him feature prominently in the first act. Looking to Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of Venice, we see Lancelot the Clown featuring prominently in the early act of the play, providing useful commentary, lessons, and above all, laughs and largely disappearing later in the body of the work. Jar Jar works the same way, providing those laughs in the first movie, moving on to another purpose until disappearing completely by the middle of the saga. Clowns aren’t anything new to drama. They’ve appeared back as far as our history of theatre goes. Why should George Lucas be demonized for remaining consistent with his use of classic myth, drama, and archetype? Jar Jar is the sad bunny you help on the side of the road who gives you the magic beans to slay the dragon at the end of the journey.

As far as in The Phantom Menace, Jar Jar is supposed to be annoying, and funny to the kids. That's the point. We need to see past people for their annoyance and look at their inherent worth. Jar Jar saved the day and brought two nations of people together because just one person saw through the fog of annoyance. It’s a valuable lesson that would be well learned by those who seem to have the most hatred for Jar Jar.

That's one of the strongest morals to be learned in The Phantom Menace, and that's why I'll stand up for Jar Jar.

Because of his unifying nature in The Phantom Menace, he was promoted from clumsy annoyance to Senate representative in Attack Of The Clones. His role in the second episode of the Star Wars saga was particularly poignant for a number of reasons and explored how even the most well-meaning person can, by no fault of anything but his intention to do the right thing, be manipulated into perpetrating a great evil. In being made to feel that authorizing an army for the Chancellor was the right thing to do, he was complicit in the eventual destruction of the Republic.

This is an excellent lesson to be learned from Jar Jar in the Star Wars films, and it turned out to be disturbingly prescient. Six months after the release of Attack Of The Clones, the United States Congress unwittingly pulled a Jar Jar and gave George W. Bush the same war authority powers Palpatine was given and in another six months the United States would be embroiled in its longest, most senseless war to date.

My last point is this: You’ll always hear people say, “I hate Jar Jar,” and “Jar Jar annoyed me,” and, “Could someone please kill that obnoxious Gungan?” But think of this: how often do you hear people say, “I hated Jar Jar because he looked fake,” or, “I disliked Jar Jar because he didn’t interact with his environment well?” Not very often. The team at Industrial Light and Magic created the first all-CG character so convincingly that his physical presence was never the issue with fans, merely those choking on their own hubris.

Now, you can still hate Jar Jar if you want to, but I think it’s pretty clear that he worked for specific purposes in the films, whether you liked it or not. And if you can’t at least admit to this stuff, your inability to like the prequels has far more to do with a personal problem than with the actual films themselves.

Bryan Young is a regular contributor to Huffington Post and writes about Star Wars and other geekiness at Big Shiny Robot.

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Jar Jar still remains a touchy subject, and usually a lightning rod for prequel criticism in general usually. Personally, I never really had a problem with him...I'm not rushing out to buy the action figure or anything but he didn't bug me, and even made me laugh sometimes (like pigging out on apples in TPM). He was a bit of an idiot but he's got a good heart and I've certainly known people like that during my life. Thinking about it, the way it worked out in the end, he has similarities to The Fool in King Lear really...a large role to begin with that fades away and ends up pretty tragic to be honest, someone else's pawn.

I don't mind Jar Jar really, and especially in the Clone Wars series, he is actually funny and entertaining. No, the problem here is that the main thesis is all so much bumfestering nonesense. The problem with the SW prequels is that they are just badly made films, with a story that doesn't make sense, characters that sit around doing nothing for years, and acting so bad that a spatula would have been more effective. Sorry, this is pure drivel.

I appreciate your argument but I will never get around the fact that the prequel films are just tosh.


When I play Star Wars Trivial Pursuit with my friends I actually deduct points for anyone who gets an answer right about the prequels. It's only fair.

Pretty much every part of your argument is flawed because Jar Jar offers no valuable insight, useful commentary or laughs. The fact that you tried to draw a parallel between Shakespeare's and Lucas' works is however pretty funny. In a tragic way.

I have nothing against comic relief, but Jar Jar provides no laughs. He makes you want to hang your head in shame. The fans made these movies happen and really, we only have ourselves to blame.

Concerning the comment by borad about Jar Jar being a racial stereotype. If anyone's read that transcript of Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan talking about the genesis of Indiana Jones that surfaced on the net recently, there can be NO DOUBT left in anyone's mind that George Lucas is a xenophobic idiot. There are priceless quotes in there that probably should have never been read by anyone. Lines like "it's the oriental mind, who knows how it works?" or "No, not italian, italians are too crazy". And that's only a small sample.

The thing that was missing from the prequels was chemistry between the actors, throwing a fully cgi character into the mix of Lucas's dross direction didnt help. Jar Jar played out exactly like he was meant to , a fool. And when ATOC came around he was the perfect patsy to setup giving Chancelor Plapatine absolute power, we hated him beofre that , and even more afterwards....basically the clone wars, the empire, Darth Vaders fall to the darkside, was all Jar Jar's fault

Bryan, you are not alone. I belong to a tribe [of probably 1 member] finding the prequels much better made in every single aspect than the first. And I am one of those having seen teh first trilogy when it came out between 1977 and 1983.

Jar Jar is a vital part of the story as you point out, mirroring on the funny side Anakin's road from cute, precocious kid through highly angered teen to well-meaning but ultimately evil adult. The Gungan starts out as a bumbling fool and then becomes a well-meaning but slightly over-his-head enabler. In his clown shenanigans he fills the same role and is not more or less annoying than the original trilogy's clowns [two metallic entities referred to by model number].

The only trouble I have with the prequesl is that GL listened a bit too much to fans. The robots were superfluous to detrimental, Jar Jar's role in Ep 2 and 3 should have been larger instead of smaller ...

Ah well, fanboys, always wrong.

well, what you people fail to realize is that somewhere in between trilogies, Lucas decided he was only making Star Wars films for children.
So his approach with characters like Jar Jar was to come at an almost Sesame Street like level. THAT's why JJB provides no laughs, etc. etc. And given that change, I'm out of any discussion of these films, as I haven't been a child in many a year.

I'd like to read further defense against the prequels, because I can't find much in them that works. I could get over the fact that Jar Jar was annoying if I were grabbed by any other part of the new stories. But FX aside, they were poorly conceived, poorly acted and poorly directed. Jar Jar's an easy scapegoat for much larger problems.

WhoDis...I don't think it's that Lucas is deciding to make SW films only for kids. That's his rationale for his movies. It's that he's lost touch with the creative spark that made the first movies so magical.

As for us Fanboys--yes, we will always find something to complain about. But that's not a good enough reason to let a small, but vocal, minority of filmgoers dictate the creative direction of movies.

Everybody here seems to be lumping in all 3 movies together, IMHO episode 1 is poor (perhaps for me the thing I was looking forward to, Darth Maul, barely featured), episode 2 was a lot better but rather confusing as to who was working for who while episode 3 was very good. I don't think it is a coincidence there is a co-relation with the amount of screen time that Jar Jar gets...

Oh snap, someone defending the prequels--anyone taking bets on how high this will rate on the flameometer? I'm gonna guess this bad boy will go all the way up to eleven. :p

But seriously, I think the reason people don't like Jar Jar gets back to why people don't like the prequels in general. It's not so much that they're "bad" in the Ed Wood sense, but they're a major departure from the first trilogy in terms of tone and theme. Star Wars, ESB and ROTJ aren't preachy or pretentious, but they're Serious Business in the sense that there's major stuff going on and these characters are really out to hurt each other. There's some of that in Revenge of the Sith, but I think for most people the payoff is too little to compensate for the first two being basically family-movie adventure tales that happen to be set in the Star Wars universe.

I think what I'm getting at is due to that shift in tone, a lot of the ire directed at the prequels comes from many people grouping them with (bad) fanfiction in terms of it not quite "fitting" with the "original" material. Personally I thought they sucked, but not as bad as many make them out to be.

Ummmmmmm.....

I refuse to even say the characters first name.

Binks suxked chez whiz outta the can. 'nuff said. Now lets move on and hope. Hope, that Lucas will produce a set of movies after the fall of the Empire and get a Director who knows how to stand up to Lucas and wont be a yes man.

Please move on. Binks was the worst character ever created in cinematic history.

i believe that jar jar is the greatest jedi master he was always around for that stuff but didn't want to use his powers cuz it made the people around him more powerful watch them again and look

First of all; I was a huge fan of the original trilogy and I love the prequels as well.
While at first I dislike Jar Jar I've grown to accept him more over time. But my problem with Jar Jar, and what I think other people's problem with him is, is not his important part of clown, but the fact that he is an overdone one. His slapstick raptures is too over the top almost defying physical laws (his jump into the water and the way he dispoeses of battle droids at the big battle). I guess what I am saying is that he should be the clown, but he should also be more realistic and funnier in a different way.

The trouble with the prequels is the problem with making coincidence tie things together. Jar Jar is an example in Phantom Menace when he destroys a battle tank and several battle droids through clumsiness. But there is also Anakin, building C3PO - why would he build a 'protocol droid for Mom'? The worse offender is when Anakin 'accidentally' takes off then 'accidentally' destroys the droid control ship. This is pure laziness and you cannot dress that up I'm afraid.

The Star Wars prequels were fun, entertaining and radical. Any grown adult who says otherwise is kidding themselves.

Sorry to say it but only folk who know they've lost an argument start to bandy around the term 'fanboy'.

From a storytelling perspective, from a character developmental perspective, even from the creative sfx design perspective, the SW prequels are a busted flush, frankly embarrassing for any so-called moviemaker, a lazy half-arsed version of 1-3. No other director would be able to make such a load of old tosh, as the money-men would have pulled the rug out well before principal photography began. The cynicism is obvious at the army of blink-or-you'll-miss-'em characters that appear for a dozen frames or so, but are named and of course have several action figures based on them.

Here's the clincher: the Jedi were set up in eps 4-6 as a supercool, uber-wise, all-seeing guardians of all that is right and moral. In the prequels, they are lazy (Mace Windu does exactly 2 things of significance in 3 films, most of the time he's sat on a pouf), stupid (I mean, come on, Yoda fell for that "oh look, someone's bought us a clone army. Let's not ask too many questions"), and totally bureaucratic rules-mongerers, jobsworths of the highest order. The Jedi are portrayed as less effective than Dad's Army. Resounding success, there George...

This has probably been said 1000 times, however... Why would Lucas spend millions in special FX, but NOT dish out a few hundred thousand to get SOMEONE ELSE to write a decent script? Is Lucas that big of a meglomaniac that he has to control, and thus destroy, what could have been awesome? The dialogue was the most painful part of the prequels for me. The acting a close 2nd. And... what's up with the Anakin character arc? In one scene he's a petulant teenager, and in the next scene he's slaughtering Jedi younglings!!! WHATUP with that? A few more scenes were definitely needed to make the descent of Anakin believable. Another problem with the prequels was that we were missing Han / Leia-esque sparring dialogue. Their dialogue at least provided a degree of levity, without being "cute-sy". With the prequels all we have is Jar Jar the clown and everybody else taking themselves way too seriously. Finally, no offense to Carrie Fisher or any of the other originals, but one of the biggest lackings in the prequels was the Han Solo factor. Who walked away with a career? The only one with a modicum of charisma. Need I say more? The prequels, for me, just became a big exercise in special FX. On the rare occasion that I'll watch one the following usually happens: a) I dare a buddy to watch with me, b) anytime a character is speaking my buddy and I critique with the volume off, and c)the volume only gets turned up (way up) for a cool action sequence. In fact, I've thought about editing out any parts that make me yawn or cringe and then simply stringing together the stuff that's cool. Between the three films, I'd probably have about 40 minutes of footage worth sitting through. Perhaps one day when Lucas is well into retirement (in a galaxy far, far away... where we have all distanced ourselves from these painful memories), someone like Christopher Nolan will come along and re-boot the franchise (this time doing it the way we all know it can be done). Until then all we can do is hope.

Is there not any way you could have just made your inane Jar Jar points without foisting your own particular political ideology on us about the war in Iraq and George W. Bush? Do you do so just to appear "cool" to the countless geek liberals out there, or because you're trying to attach some relevancy to a set of movies gone by, the last of which came out nearly 4 years ago; with "Menace" debuting A FULL DECADE ago???

The CG work done for Jar Jar was terrible! Even by "kid movie" standards. ILM failed to make him believable to even a casual skeptic. Actor eye-lines were not even close in most cases, and the more veteran actors were clearly straining to sell Jar Jar as physically real. The worst CG was when they had him jumping into the water early in the film. It was so artificial looking I had to laugh. Not laughing at the "clown of the film" but laughing at the utter incompetence of George Lucas not to realize how bad it looked. These "prequels" were terrible movies. Mediocre special effects, weak and thin plots and the corniest dialogue I've ever heard in any film of any budget. This is largely accepted sir because it is true. Sorry.

Why is no one mentioning the obvious? Jar Jar is annoying because he is Lucas' lazy and obnoxious attitude to creating alien races writ large.
Quite a few Lucas-created aliens represent western steretypes of ethnic minorities. I know he's in thrall to the old movie serials, but did he really have to include their rampant xenophobia in his series?

Klijpo, actually my use of 'fanboy' was not against you or anyone in particular. It was also not part of an argument, just a verbal shrug. I find that all too often - yes, always - those seeing themselves as staunch supporters of a movie, musical performer, book or franchise are the ones least capable to say anything meanigful about the subject.

Just look at Watchmen, a rather uninteresting movie because the director decided to go for least trouble = adhere to what the fans want. In the case of Harry Potter, a franchise popular with both boys and girls, I found the most ardent fans to be girls. Curiously they rarely go against the movies on the grounds of 'they left that out, they changed that, and it doesn't look like what I want' - it's the boys.

It seems male fans [let's not forget the root of the term: fanatic] are more vocal, more contrarian, less sensible, less forgiving. Fits right with all arguments I've read or listened to against SWEp1-3, it is not what some former 10-year boys have expected. That is enough to downplay the movies. They conveniently forget that the original movies aren't well plotted - i.e. nobody can make sense of the time in Empire>/i> -, the main actors aren't, for want of a better word, good. They fill their roles [there are no characters] appropriately. You could have used cut-outs.

Lucas' might have thought his fans grew up with him and are capable of something a bit more complex than guys with black and white hats. Clearly a mistake.

It's true. Jar Jar is always voted 'worst CGI character ever' on the basis of being annoying in stead of his animation. Watto never makes the list and he's also basically a cartoon. And to me his most annoying aspect is his voice. If he hadn't spoken at all or in an Alien laguage, he'd be far more acceptable. Also, the Gungans should have been called Gundarks to make that one line in TESB even funnier.

I must have missed the bit where Jar Jar was amusing in Episode 1. I saw the bit where he accidentally killed people trying to get a droid off his foot, but that wasn't funny, just embarrassing.

And what is it about Lucas and accidentally killing people?

Han with Boba Fett.
Jar Jar with numerous droids.
Anakin and the trade ship.

Time for a new theme George.

Apologies Dierk for seeing affront wher enone was intended. On other boards that has been my experience of the use of the term fanboy.

I'm not saying SW 1-3 'sux' because it didn't meet some pre-conception, I'm saying that they are very bad films. And while it is true that the acting in SW4-6 isn't even near great, somehow worse actors project more charisma in their little fingers than so-called 'good' actors like SLJ and MacGregor.

If I as a 7 year old could clearly follow Empire I can't see how it doesn't make sense. Ep 4 is of it's time, a slow burning 70's film that picks up with a bang halfway through. It's an experimental movie in the way that 1-3 are just breathtakingly cynical adverts for a toy line. SW and Empire are clearly 'good' films, with vision and a breathtaking storyline. 1- 3 are so much meh, and the Jedi are literally the dumbest bunch of chumps ever to appear in sci-fi.

The prequels biggest flaw is the totally undisciplined CGI. It might as well be vomit. There's too much, all over the place, with no narrative vision or direction. It might be sophisticated, but a mess is a mess.

CGI in movies nowadays more often than not just masks lazy film-making. It's TV cgi that has all the creativity. The prequels are just the most highly polished turd ever; but tunky still stinks.

There is a lot I like about the prequels. I thought the storyline was actually rather good. Better in some ways to the original trilogy, particularly Palpatine's manipulations playing sides against each other to orchestrate his rise to power. There are flaws in the story too (I agree the Jedi were depicted weaker than I would have liked, and I didn't find the extent of Anakin's switch to the dark side that believable. Turning to save his wife is one thing. Massacring infants as one of his first acts is another. The older Vader might have done that, but this was way too soon, just for shock factor.) The main problems weren't with the story however. The acting and script (the spoken dialogue I mean) was a LOT to be desired. I suspect the former wasn't entirely the actors fault since a) they're good in other things and b) they were required to act in a 30s acting style, which didn't gel well with the other trilogy. As others have said, the actors in the original trilogy, despite being 'worse actors' did a much better job, cheese and all. The problem also wasn't Jar Jar. He was annoying, and I'm glad his role was reduced. But he was supposed to be annoying and therefore worked. As for the CGI, I largely liked it, but I agree it was probably overused.

sorry, but i agree with most of these comments. Episodes 1-3 are a complete disappointment. a total mess. Jar Jar was just the tip of the iceberg.

Palpatine and how the wonderful Ian portrayed him is probably the best acting of all 6 films. Isn't Ian amazing going from the genial good-guy senator from Naboo to the evil, melty face Sidious? What an incredible range.
I prefer the prequels - watch them many times more. I find the history, the beginning of the saga to be the heart of the story (the innocence and goodness of Anakin lost due to the most basic human element - fear of losing love - first his mother and then Padmé; and the glory years of the Jedi (and the number of them!) reminds me of the Golden Age of Greece - the Jedi Temple - wow. Love the OT too, of course. But it was AotC that sent me to Lake Como.
The tragedy of RotS sends me into a grand funk - have to immediately watch ANH just to have same - hope.
But that's part of the great storytelling of George.

and back to topic - Jar Jar definitely had an annoyance factor but - I can't say I dislike him. He was quite the player actually - it was his revelation of the native army on Naboo that inspired Amidala's plan that saved her planet; it was Jar Jar, with the best of intentions, who put into motion the Chancellor's first grasp of absolute power - but before you condemn him, remember that Mace, Yoda, Obi-Wan, Anakin and most devastatingly, Padmé, were all blinded by Palpatine so who can blame Jar Jar for the same weakness?

Thanks for the comments guys, good and bad.

And I think you've given me plenty of ideas for my next "In defence of the prequels" essay...

I've always pointed out that Jar Jar is a CHILD. Sure, a large, overgrown child - but still a rather dopey, sometimes annoying kid. He isn't mean or cruel, and you can see him grow into a more restrained maturity in the second and third film. And yes, his vote to turn power over to Palpatine does turn him into a tragic figure, an act done by someone with all the good intentions in the world.

There is a much more proximate antecedent for Jar Jar Binks in one of the 1930's serials that inspired Star Wars. If you watch 'Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars' you will know exactly which character I mean.

It's not just the awful character (and terrible films... it IS the bad CGI as well!

i love jar jar.... i also saw episode 1 ten times in theaters when i was little and own the vhs

Ok. Here's the problem with this line of reasoning. It implies that the reason that we don't like Jar Jar is that we don't understand his significance to the films' storyline. Of course we do. Those "messages" are bludgeoned into our heads by the story's complete lack of subtlety. The point is, if your story is dependent on a loud, garish, obnoxious cartoon of a stereotype to function, then maybe you should work on your story because it's STUPID AND CONTRIVED. We don't need our Star Wars movies to teach us to "see past people for their annoyance and look at their inherent worth." That's patronizing at best, and COMPLETELY unearned by an illogical and silly premise. And don't try to tell me that Lucas was planning Jar-Jar's "arc" through all three films. After the uproar around Jar Jar when Episode I came out, he decided to sneak the character out the back door without admitting that he'd screwed up. What's truly annoying about the revisionist Lucas saga is the fact that he has this arrogance to pretend that he has this ultimate auteur vision of this entire saga, when everyone knows that it just happened to be the most profitable screw-up in the history of cinema.

We, the geeks of the world, have taken a vote and must regretfully request that you return your Geek membership card. Your membership has hereby been withdrawn. You should expect similar letters and requests from The Guild of Sensible People, The League of Defense for Good SciFi, and the Plan to Get Laid in the Future Club.
We don't wish you violence but at this point, we can no longer wish you well.

To clarify, when I discuss the most profitable screw-up in the history of cinema, I'm talking about the prequels. And the "Special Editions." And the DVD editions. And the Super Special BlueRay editions sure to come out soon, where CGI Ewoks and Jar-Jar Binks' nephew will shoot Greedo first so Han doesn't have to.

I think you're the one who should give back your Geek membership card "Lucasletmedown".

There's nothing wrong with Jar Jar beyond him being annoying.

And be sure that I'll be back with more prequel defenses, DaddyGeekBoy.

The Star Wars prequels were bad films. Any grown adult who says otherwise is kidding themselves.

Jar Jar still remains a touchy subject, and usually a lightning rod for prequel criticism in general usually. Personally, I never really had a problem with him...I'm not rushing out to buy the action figure or anything but he didn't bug me, and even made me laugh sometimes (like pigging out on apples in TPM). He was a bit of an idiot but he's got a good heart and I've certainly known people like that during my life. Thinking about it, the way it worked out in the end, he has similarities to The Fool in King Lear really...a large role to begin with that fades away and ends up pretty tragic to be honest, someone else's pawn.

I don't mind Jar Jar really, and especially in the Clone Wars series, he is actually funny and entertaining. No, the problem here is that the main thesis is all so much bumfestering nonesense. The problem with the SW prequels is that they are just badly made films, with a story that doesn't make sense, characters that sit around doing nothing for years, and acting so bad that a spatula would have been more effective. Sorry, this is pure drivel.

I appreciate your argument but I will never get around the fact that the prequel films are just tosh.


When I play Star Wars Trivial Pursuit with my friends I actually deduct points for anyone who gets an answer right about the prequels. It's only fair.

Bryan, you are not alone. I belong to a tribe [of probably 1 member] finding the prequels much better made in every single aspect than the first. And I am one of those having seen teh first trilogy when it came out between 1977 and 1983.

Jar Jar is a vital part of the story as you point out, mirroring on the funny side Anakin's road from cute, precocious kid through highly angered teen to well-meaning but ultimately evil adult. The Gungan starts out as a bumbling fool and then becomes a well-meaning but slightly over-his-head enabler. In his clown shenanigans he fills the same role and is not more or less annoying than the original trilogy's clowns [two metallic entities referred to by model number].

The only trouble I have with the prequesl is that GL listened a bit too much to fans. The robots were superfluous to detrimental, Jar Jar's role in Ep 2 and 3 should have been larger instead of smaller ...

Ah well, fanboys, always wrong.

The thing that was missing from the prequels was chemistry between the actors, throwing a fully cgi character into the mix of Lucas's dross direction didnt help. Jar Jar played out exactly like he was meant to , a fool. And when ATOC came around he was the perfect patsy to setup giving Chancelor Plapatine absolute power, we hated him beofre that , and even more afterwards....basically the clone wars, the empire, Darth Vaders fall to the darkside, was all Jar Jar's fault

Pretty much every part of your argument is flawed because Jar Jar offers no valuable insight, useful commentary or laughs. The fact that you tried to draw a parallel between Shakespeare's and Lucas' works is however pretty funny. In a tragic way.

I have nothing against comic relief, but Jar Jar provides no laughs. He makes you want to hang your head in shame. The fans made these movies happen and really, we only have ourselves to blame.

Concerning the comment by borad about Jar Jar being a racial stereotype. If anyone's read that transcript of Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan talking about the genesis of Indiana Jones that surfaced on the net recently, there can be NO DOUBT left in anyone's mind that George Lucas is a xenophobic idiot. There are priceless quotes in there that probably should have never been read by anyone. Lines like "it's the oriental mind, who knows how it works?" or "No, not italian, italians are too crazy". And that's only a small sample.

well, what you people fail to realize is that somewhere in between trilogies, Lucas decided he was only making Star Wars films for children.
So his approach with characters like Jar Jar was to come at an almost Sesame Street like level. THAT's why JJB provides no laughs, etc. etc. And given that change, I'm out of any discussion of these films, as I haven't been a child in many a year.

I'd like to read further defense against the prequels, because I can't find much in them that works. I could get over the fact that Jar Jar was annoying if I were grabbed by any other part of the new stories. But FX aside, they were poorly conceived, poorly acted and poorly directed. Jar Jar's an easy scapegoat for much larger problems.

WhoDis...I don't think it's that Lucas is deciding to make SW films only for kids. That's his rationale for his movies. It's that he's lost touch with the creative spark that made the first movies so magical.

As for us Fanboys--yes, we will always find something to complain about. But that's not a good enough reason to let a small, but vocal, minority of filmgoers dictate the creative direction of movies.

Everybody here seems to be lumping in all 3 movies together, IMHO episode 1 is poor (perhaps for me the thing I was looking forward to, Darth Maul, barely featured), episode 2 was a lot better but rather confusing as to who was working for who while episode 3 was very good. I don't think it is a coincidence there is a co-relation with the amount of screen time that Jar Jar gets...

Oh snap, someone defending the prequels--anyone taking bets on how high this will rate on the flameometer? I'm gonna guess this bad boy will go all the way up to eleven. :p

But seriously, I think the reason people don't like Jar Jar gets back to why people don't like the prequels in general. It's not so much that they're "bad" in the Ed Wood sense, but they're a major departure from the first trilogy in terms of tone and theme. Star Wars, ESB and ROTJ aren't preachy or pretentious, but they're Serious Business in the sense that there's major stuff going on and these characters are really out to hurt each other. There's some of that in Revenge of the Sith, but I think for most people the payoff is too little to compensate for the first two being basically family-movie adventure tales that happen to be set in the Star Wars universe.

I think what I'm getting at is due to that shift in tone, a lot of the ire directed at the prequels comes from many people grouping them with (bad) fanfiction in terms of it not quite "fitting" with the "original" material. Personally I thought they sucked, but not as bad as many make them out to be.

Ummmmmmm.....

I refuse to even say the characters first name.

Binks suxked chez whiz outta the can. 'nuff said. Now lets move on and hope. Hope, that Lucas will produce a set of movies after the fall of the Empire and get a Director who knows how to stand up to Lucas and wont be a yes man.

Please move on. Binks was the worst character ever created in cinematic history.

i believe that jar jar is the greatest jedi master he was always around for that stuff but didn't want to use his powers cuz it made the people around him more powerful watch them again and look

First of all; I was a huge fan of the original trilogy and I love the prequels as well.
While at first I dislike Jar Jar I've grown to accept him more over time. But my problem with Jar Jar, and what I think other people's problem with him is, is not his important part of clown, but the fact that he is an overdone one. His slapstick raptures is too over the top almost defying physical laws (his jump into the water and the way he dispoeses of battle droids at the big battle). I guess what I am saying is that he should be the clown, but he should also be more realistic and funnier in a different way.

The trouble with the prequels is the problem with making coincidence tie things together. Jar Jar is an example in Phantom Menace when he destroys a battle tank and several battle droids through clumsiness. But there is also Anakin, building C3PO - why would he build a 'protocol droid for Mom'? The worse offender is when Anakin 'accidentally' takes off then 'accidentally' destroys the droid control ship. This is pure laziness and you cannot dress that up I'm afraid.

The Star Wars prequels were fun, entertaining and radical. Any grown adult who says otherwise is kidding themselves.

Sorry to say it but only folk who know they've lost an argument start to bandy around the term 'fanboy'.

From a storytelling perspective, from a character developmental perspective, even from the creative sfx design perspective, the SW prequels are a busted flush, frankly embarrassing for any so-called moviemaker, a lazy half-arsed version of 1-3. No other director would be able to make such a load of old tosh, as the money-men would have pulled the rug out well before principal photography began. The cynicism is obvious at the army of blink-or-you'll-miss-'em characters that appear for a dozen frames or so, but are named and of course have several action figures based on them.

Here's the clincher: the Jedi were set up in eps 4-6 as a supercool, uber-wise, all-seeing guardians of all that is right and moral. In the prequels, they are lazy (Mace Windu does exactly 2 things of significance in 3 films, most of the time he's sat on a pouf), stupid (I mean, come on, Yoda fell for that "oh look, someone's bought us a clone army. Let's not ask too many questions"), and totally bureaucratic rules-mongerers, jobsworths of the highest order. The Jedi are portrayed as less effective than Dad's Army. Resounding success, there George...

This has probably been said 1000 times, however... Why would Lucas spend millions in special FX, but NOT dish out a few hundred thousand to get SOMEONE ELSE to write a decent script? Is Lucas that big of a meglomaniac that he has to control, and thus destroy, what could have been awesome? The dialogue was the most painful part of the prequels for me. The acting a close 2nd. And... what's up with the Anakin character arc? In one scene he's a petulant teenager, and in the next scene he's slaughtering Jedi younglings!!! WHATUP with that? A few more scenes were definitely needed to make the descent of Anakin believable. Another problem with the prequels was that we were missing Han / Leia-esque sparring dialogue. Their dialogue at least provided a degree of levity, without being "cute-sy". With the prequels all we have is Jar Jar the clown and everybody else taking themselves way too seriously. Finally, no offense to Carrie Fisher or any of the other originals, but one of the biggest lackings in the prequels was the Han Solo factor. Who walked away with a career? The only one with a modicum of charisma. Need I say more? The prequels, for me, just became a big exercise in special FX. On the rare occasion that I'll watch one the following usually happens: a) I dare a buddy to watch with me, b) anytime a character is speaking my buddy and I critique with the volume off, and c)the volume only gets turned up (way up) for a cool action sequence. In fact, I've thought about editing out any parts that make me yawn or cringe and then simply stringing together the stuff that's cool. Between the three films, I'd probably have about 40 minutes of footage worth sitting through. Perhaps one day when Lucas is well into retirement (in a galaxy far, far away... where we have all distanced ourselves from these painful memories), someone like Christopher Nolan will come along and re-boot the franchise (this time doing it the way we all know it can be done). Until then all we can do is hope.

Is there not any way you could have just made your inane Jar Jar points without foisting your own particular political ideology on us about the war in Iraq and George W. Bush? Do you do so just to appear "cool" to the countless geek liberals out there, or because you're trying to attach some relevancy to a set of movies gone by, the last of which came out nearly 4 years ago; with "Menace" debuting A FULL DECADE ago???

The CG work done for Jar Jar was terrible! Even by "kid movie" standards. ILM failed to make him believable to even a casual skeptic. Actor eye-lines were not even close in most cases, and the more veteran actors were clearly straining to sell Jar Jar as physically real. The worst CG was when they had him jumping into the water early in the film. It was so artificial looking I had to laugh. Not laughing at the "clown of the film" but laughing at the utter incompetence of George Lucas not to realize how bad it looked. These "prequels" were terrible movies. Mediocre special effects, weak and thin plots and the corniest dialogue I've ever heard in any film of any budget. This is largely accepted sir because it is true. Sorry.

Why is no one mentioning the obvious? Jar Jar is annoying because he is Lucas' lazy and obnoxious attitude to creating alien races writ large.
Quite a few Lucas-created aliens represent western steretypes of ethnic minorities. I know he's in thrall to the old movie serials, but did he really have to include their rampant xenophobia in his series?

Klijpo, actually my use of 'fanboy' was not against you or anyone in particular. It was also not part of an argument, just a verbal shrug. I find that all too often - yes, always - those seeing themselves as staunch supporters of a movie, musical performer, book or franchise are the ones least capable to say anything meanigful about the subject.

Just look at Watchmen, a rather uninteresting movie because the director decided to go for least trouble = adhere to what the fans want. In the case of Harry Potter, a franchise popular with both boys and girls, I found the most ardent fans to be girls. Curiously they rarely go against the movies on the grounds of 'they left that out, they changed that, and it doesn't look like what I want' - it's the boys.

It seems male fans [let's not forget the root of the term: fanatic] are more vocal, more contrarian, less sensible, less forgiving. Fits right with all arguments I've read or listened to against SWEp1-3, it is not what some former 10-year boys have expected. That is enough to downplay the movies. They conveniently forget that the original movies aren't well plotted - i.e. nobody can make sense of the time in Empire>/i> -, the main actors aren't, for want of a better word, good. They fill their roles [there are no characters] appropriately. You could have used cut-outs.

Lucas' might have thought his fans grew up with him and are capable of something a bit more complex than guys with black and white hats. Clearly a mistake.

It's true. Jar Jar is always voted 'worst CGI character ever' on the basis of being annoying in stead of his animation. Watto never makes the list and he's also basically a cartoon. And to me his most annoying aspect is his voice. If he hadn't spoken at all or in an Alien laguage, he'd be far more acceptable. Also, the Gungans should have been called Gundarks to make that one line in TESB even funnier.

Apologies Dierk for seeing affront wher enone was intended. On other boards that has been my experience of the use of the term fanboy.

I'm not saying SW 1-3 'sux' because it didn't meet some pre-conception, I'm saying that they are very bad films. And while it is true that the acting in SW4-6 isn't even near great, somehow worse actors project more charisma in their little fingers than so-called 'good' actors like SLJ and MacGregor.

If I as a 7 year old could clearly follow Empire I can't see how it doesn't make sense. Ep 4 is of it's time, a slow burning 70's film that picks up with a bang halfway through. It's an experimental movie in the way that 1-3 are just breathtakingly cynical adverts for a toy line. SW and Empire are clearly 'good' films, with vision and a breathtaking storyline. 1- 3 are so much meh, and the Jedi are literally the dumbest bunch of chumps ever to appear in sci-fi.

The prequels biggest flaw is the totally undisciplined CGI. It might as well be vomit. There's too much, all over the place, with no narrative vision or direction. It might be sophisticated, but a mess is a mess.

CGI in movies nowadays more often than not just masks lazy film-making. It's TV cgi that has all the creativity. The prequels are just the most highly polished turd ever; but tunky still stinks.

I must have missed the bit where Jar Jar was amusing in Episode 1. I saw the bit where he accidentally killed people trying to get a droid off his foot, but that wasn't funny, just embarrassing.

And what is it about Lucas and accidentally killing people?

Han with Boba Fett.
Jar Jar with numerous droids.
Anakin and the trade ship.

Time for a new theme George.

There is a lot I like about the prequels. I thought the storyline was actually rather good. Better in some ways to the original trilogy, particularly Palpatine's manipulations playing sides against each other to orchestrate his rise to power. There are flaws in the story too (I agree the Jedi were depicted weaker than I would have liked, and I didn't find the extent of Anakin's switch to the dark side that believable. Turning to save his wife is one thing. Massacring infants as one of his first acts is another. The older Vader might have done that, but this was way too soon, just for shock factor.) The main problems weren't with the story however. The acting and script (the spoken dialogue I mean) was a LOT to be desired. I suspect the former wasn't entirely the actors fault since a) they're good in other things and b) they were required to act in a 30s acting style, which didn't gel well with the other trilogy. As others have said, the actors in the original trilogy, despite being 'worse actors' did a much better job, cheese and all. The problem also wasn't Jar Jar. He was annoying, and I'm glad his role was reduced. But he was supposed to be annoying and therefore worked. As for the CGI, I largely liked it, but I agree it was probably overused.

sorry, but i agree with most of these comments. Episodes 1-3 are a complete disappointment. a total mess. Jar Jar was just the tip of the iceberg.

Palpatine and how the wonderful Ian portrayed him is probably the best acting of all 6 films. Isn't Ian amazing going from the genial good-guy senator from Naboo to the evil, melty face Sidious? What an incredible range.
I prefer the prequels - watch them many times more. I find the history, the beginning of the saga to be the heart of the story (the innocence and goodness of Anakin lost due to the most basic human element - fear of losing love - first his mother and then Padmé; and the glory years of the Jedi (and the number of them!) reminds me of the Golden Age of Greece - the Jedi Temple - wow. Love the OT too, of course. But it was AotC that sent me to Lake Como.
The tragedy of RotS sends me into a grand funk - have to immediately watch ANH just to have same - hope.
But that's part of the great storytelling of George.

and back to topic - Jar Jar definitely had an annoyance factor but - I can't say I dislike him. He was quite the player actually - it was his revelation of the native army on Naboo that inspired Amidala's plan that saved her planet; it was Jar Jar, with the best of intentions, who put into motion the Chancellor's first grasp of absolute power - but before you condemn him, remember that Mace, Yoda, Obi-Wan, Anakin and most devastatingly, Padmé, were all blinded by Palpatine so who can blame Jar Jar for the same weakness?

Thanks for the comments guys, good and bad.

And I think you've given me plenty of ideas for my next "In defence of the prequels" essay...

I've always pointed out that Jar Jar is a CHILD. Sure, a large, overgrown child - but still a rather dopey, sometimes annoying kid. He isn't mean or cruel, and you can see him grow into a more restrained maturity in the second and third film. And yes, his vote to turn power over to Palpatine does turn him into a tragic figure, an act done by someone with all the good intentions in the world.

There is a much more proximate antecedent for Jar Jar Binks in one of the 1930's serials that inspired Star Wars. If you watch 'Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars' you will know exactly which character I mean.

It's not just the awful character (and terrible films... it IS the bad CGI as well!

i love jar jar.... i also saw episode 1 ten times in theaters when i was little and own the vhs

Ok. Here's the problem with this line of reasoning. It implies that the reason that we don't like Jar Jar is that we don't understand his significance to the films' storyline. Of course we do. Those "messages" are bludgeoned into our heads by the story's complete lack of subtlety. The point is, if your story is dependent on a loud, garish, obnoxious cartoon of a stereotype to function, then maybe you should work on your story because it's STUPID AND CONTRIVED. We don't need our Star Wars movies to teach us to "see past people for their annoyance and look at their inherent worth." That's patronizing at best, and COMPLETELY unearned by an illogical and silly premise. And don't try to tell me that Lucas was planning Jar-Jar's "arc" through all three films. After the uproar around Jar Jar when Episode I came out, he decided to sneak the character out the back door without admitting that he'd screwed up. What's truly annoying about the revisionist Lucas saga is the fact that he has this arrogance to pretend that he has this ultimate auteur vision of this entire saga, when everyone knows that it just happened to be the most profitable screw-up in the history of cinema.

To clarify, when I discuss the most profitable screw-up in the history of cinema, I'm talking about the prequels. And the "Special Editions." And the DVD editions. And the Super Special BlueRay editions sure to come out soon, where CGI Ewoks and Jar-Jar Binks' nephew will shoot Greedo first so Han doesn't have to.

We, the geeks of the world, have taken a vote and must regretfully request that you return your Geek membership card. Your membership has hereby been withdrawn. You should expect similar letters and requests from The Guild of Sensible People, The League of Defense for Good SciFi, and the Plan to Get Laid in the Future Club.
We don't wish you violence but at this point, we can no longer wish you well.

I think you're the one who should give back your Geek membership card "Lucasletmedown".

There's nothing wrong with Jar Jar beyond him being annoying.

And be sure that I'll be back with more prequel defenses, DaddyGeekBoy.

Oh come on! Binks was teh biggest mistake of the series - worse than the ewoks!

Even Darth Vader hates him! Check this out:

http://www.yourlocalguardian.c...

The Star Wars prequels were bad films. Any grown adult who says otherwise is kidding themselves.

I was browsing for some info on Phantom Menace, and your article happened to catch my eye. How could anyone defend Jar Jar? But after reading your essay, I agree!! And I am ashamed I did not see it myself after the 2nd viewing of the films in sequence: poignant clown-everyman, funny for the children in the audience, and he helps to make a very true point on politics. THANK YOU, Bryan!

This is probably the stupidest thing I've ever read in my life.

I still feel that as a balance for the other themes of the story, that Jar Jar was narratively the wrong choice. I believe that he could have been as equally an important character without having to sacrifice his dignity. Audiences don't want to empathize with a character whose function is to suffer indignity, because it's a deeply hurtful aspect of our existence.

Nah..

i know you are trying to be brilliant, but you suck at that as well/

A little late but I'll use bullet points:
1. this article is an attempt at rationalizing why Jar Jar Binks doesn't suck. Nothing in the movie actually happens because who else but Jar Jar could've done it? They could've put an adorable ducky in the part and the result would've been the same.

2. Jar Jar is an exaggerated attempt at having a character that's similar to C3PO in the original movies. Except Jar Jar gets way too much screen time and action. Possible reason for this in next point.

3. It's clear Jar Jar's behavior and "goofiness" is merely a way to get younger viewers interested in star wars because he's oh so funny if you're 5 y/o. I understand it from a business point of view but it really wasn't necessary for the star wars franchise.

With that in mind it's actually scary to think what they'll come up with now that the new movie is under control of Disney and financial success and marketability has to be increased exponentially.

Thank you for not being one of the stupid people who disregard him as a legitimate star wars character. I have always liked Jar Jar.I feel like the mass hatred of him comes from a bunch of people hopping on a bandwaggon and not even having real reasons why they're there,

I honestly really like Jar Jar...

Nice, for me Jar Jar get's a bit obnoxious, but I like him! He's funny sometimes and I like to look at him. And hell, it wasn't lost on our main characters that he wasn't normal as you alluded too. They stated it or behaved that way through out the movie. I'd have a beer with Jar Jar. lol

I really appreciate this article. Well done!