Blog 696: Close, But No Biscuit – Star Wars – Part 3

Why do we have to talk about Jar Jar so much? He was terrible, but he was also phased out of the subsequent films so his damage was successfully limited. However, he is such a large part of The Phantom Menace that you can’t ignore him, so let’s scrape the bottom of the barrel one last time before we move on to Episode 2.

No transcripts this time, just some additional thoughts in the post.

Jar Jar Binks

I think the problem with Jar Jar is that he’s just too extreme. In the original trilogy we had C3-PO for our light relief, and he always had the plot-important snarker R2D2 to bounce off. Jar Jar is a massive clown, shouting and capering and getting in the way — and even worse, we then drag C3-PO into this film where he doesn’t really belong! Jar Jar should have had C3-PO’s role as a less in-your-face comedian.

At least having R2D2 in these prequels makes sense, because even in the original trilogy we get the feeling that R2D2 knows far more than he lets on. To jam C3-PO in, and them memory wipe him later!, is just a bit unnecessary.

The planet core journey is pretty hilarious. Rathern than emphasising it as being the fastest route, couldn’t they just have said it’s the best route to avoid tipping off the Trade Federation? In terms of action sequences it’s actually another trench run, canyons and ducking and diving while under pursuit, so there is a point to it — arguably more of a point to it than the podrace — but the way it is framed is quite lame.

Oh, it all could have been so good. But that’s why we’re here — Chris might be a raging lunatic and maybe my thoughts were losing focus during this… uh… late recording session, but I will stand up now and say that The Phantom Menace really is Close… But No Biscuit.

2 thoughts on “Blog 696: Close, But No Biscuit – Star Wars – Part 3”

  1. I can only speak from anecdote and experience from working in classrooms, but kids at the time enjoyed Jar Jar far more than you might think. He’s also great for doing impersonations and quotes.

    I think it might be worth comparing Phantom Menace with the Tintin book “Destination Moon” (bear with me here). Destination Moon includes a lot of technical detail (for kids) about rocketry and nuclear physics. It’s heavy stuff, and it wouldn’t have anything going for it to sustain your attention apart from the graphics. So Herge had Captain Haddock as a constantly interrupting comic relief – acting like a total pratt. But for younger readers, he provides something to keep them entertained while the heavy stuff goes over their heads.

    Phantom Menace has a ton of heavy stuff as well – the big bad guy getting what he wants, but dressing it up as a ‘win’ for the heroes; galactic politics and the rest of it. It’s set in a society on the verge of its downfall (like pre-Great War Europe), very prim, proper and buttoned-up. I think George Lucas knew what he was doing with the idea of comic relief to entertain younger viewers while the complex stuff passes them by. (But I agree that the execution of it could’ve been a lot better; he based Jar Jar on Buster Keaton’s slapstick which might have been brilliantly choreographed, but in the 21st century works better as a spectacle than on comedic grounds.)

    I see Jar Jar as the flip-side of Yoda: an experiment in creating an archetypal fantasy character with brand new techniques. Yoda could so easily have been the muppet that ruined Star Wars, but because he mumbled deepity pseudo-zen platitudes in backwards-speak, people took him seriously. Jar Jar’s role as the innocent/fool/dupe? Evidently that’s much harder for modern audiences to get into!

    (I’m going to have to write my own blog posts on this, aren’t I?) 🙂

    I kinda identify with Jar Jar as the unpopular outsider, the one who has no idea how or why he annoys people just by being himself, at odds with everyone around him. That was me as a kid. Yet, somehow, he gets through the prequels unscathed. I like to think there’s a subtle, hopeful message in there for all the other awkward, unpopular kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the problem with the heavy stuff going over kids’ heads here is more that it’s not presented very well, because, well, it’s not rocket science at least! But there is a lot of mumbling when the topic of the Trade Federation versus the Republic comes up — even as an adult it has moments of being hard to follow if you’re not *really* paying attention. Who are they? Why are they angry again? Why do they hate Naboo so much when this planet is apparently lovely and has not much of value to be blockaded for? (Yes, this is so Palpatine can manoeuvre himself into power, but the Neimoidians don’t really have a convincing cover-story.)

      I suppose the original trilogy was just a bit more strident about saying “we are going HERE because of THIS and that’s all”, which is easier when you have the obvious us-versus-them war scenario rather than the pre-war uncertainty as you say. Maybe all it would have taken is a bit more repeated “the senate is corrupt and oppressing us, raaaar!” chest-thumping to clear things up (or in the show-don’t-tell style, senators clearly *doing* something corrupt? Accepting bribes? Punching Jar Jar even though he doesn’t deserve it?).

      Liked by 1 person

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