Jar Jar Binks
Jar Jar Binks is a fictional character from the Star Wars saga created by George Lucas. A major character in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, he also has a smaller role in Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and a one-line cameo in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, as well as a role in the television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The first fully-computer generated character in a live-action film, he has been portrayed by Ahmed Best in most of his appearances.
|Jar Jar Binks|
|Star Wars character|
Jar Jar Binks in Attack of the Clones
|Created by||George Lucas|
|Portrayed by||Ahmed Best (motion capture, some body close-ups, Episodes I-III)|
|Voiced by||Ahmed Best (most media)|
B.J. Hughes (three episodes of The Clone Wars)
Phil LaMarr (Lego: The Padawan Menace)
Trevor Devall (Lego: The Yoda Chronicles and Lego: Droid Tales)
|Occupation||General in the Gungan Grand Army|
Representative of the Gungan race
Senator of Chommell Sector (substituting for Padmé Amidala)
|Affiliation||Gungan Grand Army, Galactic Republic, Galactic Senate, Delegation of 2000, Galactic Empire, Imperial Senate, New Republic|
Jar Jar's primary role in Episode I was to provide comic relief for the audience. He was met with an overwhelmingly negative reception from both critics and audiences, and is recognized as one of the most hated characters in Star Wars and the history of film in general.
George Lucas was inspired to develop Jar Jar based on the Disney character Goofy. Singer Michael Jackson wanted to play the role, but wished to portray the character using prosthetics while Lucas wanted him to be all CGI. Ahmed Best, who would end up playing the character, later hypothesized that Lucas might have felt uncomfortable with the thought of the singer's casting overshadowing the actual movie; Best was chosen based on his work in the production of Stomp as Lucas wanted someone athletic for the role. During his audition he performed several martial arts moves and flips, which according to Best was a contrast to how Lucas pictured the character, more in line with comedic silent actors such as Buster Keaton. After Lucas walked out of the audition, Best felt he had failed it. Terryl Whitlatch created the final designs for the "cowardly and insecure" character.
The Phantom Menace
Jar Jar Binks first appears in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace as a bumbling, foolish Gungan from the planet Naboo. He is nearly killed by a Federation transport, only to be saved at the last minute by Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson). Qui-Gon and his padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), persuade Jar Jar's tribe to release him to their custody as a guide. He later goes with the Jedi and Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) to the planet Tatooine, where he meets and befriends Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd).
Jar Jar later appears in the film's climactic battle scene, where he leads his fellow Gungans, as a general in the Gungan army, in defeating the Trade Federation. After the battle, he appears at the funeral of Qui-Gon Jinn and in the ending parade with his fellow Gungans.
Attack of the Clones
Jar Jar's role in Attack of the Clones is much smaller, but his actions are significant. Ten years after helping to save his planet, he is a delegate to the Galactic Senate and as such, plays a role in bringing his old friends, Obi-Wan and Anakin (Hayden Christensen) back to Coruscant, where he greets them with enthusiasm. Later, on the behalf of the Naboo, he gives a speech to the assembled Senate in favor of granting Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) vast emergency powers. These are granted, giving Palpatine the power he needs to subsequently overthrow the senate and bring the galaxy into the dictatorial control of the Sith's Galactic Empire.
Revenge of the Sith
Jar Jar appears in only a few scenes in Revenge of the Sith, and has no dialogue (besides a brief "'scuse me" at one point). He was originally given some dialogue in the beginning, but this was cut. He is most prominently featured in Padmé Amidala's funeral procession at the end of the film, marching sadly behind her coffin alongside Boss Nass.
The Clone Wars
Jar Jar Binks is a supporting character in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, once again voiced by Best, although BJ Hughes voiced the character in three season one episodes. In this series, he is a Senate representative who sometimes accompanies the main characters—Anakin, Ahsoka, Obi-Wan, and Padmé—on their adventures. He and master Mace Windu are the two main characters of the two-part episode "The Disappeared" in which they had to search for missing elders and rescue a queen, who was Jar Jar's past love interest.
Chuck Wendig's 2017 novel Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire's End, set after the events of Return of the Jedi, finds Binks as a street performer who entertains refugee children but is loathed by adults who blame him for his part in the rise of the Empire. Chris Taylor of Mashable wrote that the situation reflects real life in that adults disliked Jar Jar in the prequel films, but children were entertained by him.
With the 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm by The Walt Disney Company, most of the licensed Star Wars novels and comics produced since the originating 1977 film Star Wars were rebranded as Star Wars Legends and declared non-canon to the franchise in April 2014.
Binks is a Lego mini-figure in the Lego Star Wars video games, and appears as an Angry Bird with a hook move called "Jar Jar Wings" in Angry Birds Star Wars II. Ahmed Best was signed on to portray Binks in the show Star Wars Detours.
Even before the release of The Phantom Menace, Jar Jar Binks became the subject of a great deal of media and popular attention. After the film's release, Binks became symbolic of what many reviewers such as Brent Staples (The New York Times), David Edelstein (Slate), and Eric Harrison (Los Angeles Times) considered to be creative flaws of the film. The character was widely rejected and often ridiculed by people who felt that Jar Jar was included in the film solely to appeal to children. Bruce Handy of Vanity Fair wrote that "Jar Jar has come to symbolize what many fans see as the faults of the prequel trilogy: characters no one much cares about; a sense of humor geared toward the youngest conceivable audience members; an over-reliance on computer graphics; and story lines devoted to the kinds of convoluted political machinations which wouldn’t have been out of place in adaptations of I, Claudius or The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, but which fit less snugly in films with characters like Jar Jar Binks." One fan, Mike J. Nichols, created and distributed, free of charge, a modified version of the film, entitled The Phantom Edit, which cut out several scenes featuring what Nichols dubbed 'Jar Jar antics.' The character was also lampooned on an episode of the television show South Park entitled "Jakovasaurs", in The Fairly OddParents (Episode: "Abra-Catastrophe!"), The Simpsons (Episode: "Co-Dependent's Day"), as well as the parody Star Wars episodes of Robot Chicken, in which Best reprised the role in voice-over form.
Along with film critics, many have also accused the film's creators of excessive commercialization directed at young children (a criticism first leveled with the introduction of the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi). Star Wars creator George Lucas stated that he feels there is a section of the fanbase who get upset with aspects of Star Wars because "the movies are for children but they don't want to admit that... There is a small group of fans that do not like comic sidekicks. They want the films to be tough like The Terminator, and they get very upset and opinionated about anything that has anything to do with being childlike."
Allegations of racial caricature
Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal described the character as a "Rastafarian Stepin Fetchit on platform hoofs, crossed annoyingly with Butterfly McQueen." Patricia J. Williams suggested that many aspects of Jar Jar's character are highly reminiscent of the archetypes portrayed in blackface minstrelsy, while others have suggested the character is a "laid-back clown character" representing a black Caribbean stereotype. George Lucas has denied any racist implications. Ahmed Best also rejected the allegations, saying that "Jar Jar has nothing to do with the Caribbean".
Speculations of villainy
In late October 2015, a Reddit user by the name of "Lumpawarroo" published a detailed theory speculating that Binks was originally written as a major antagonist of the series, a manipulative, prominent collaborator of Palpatine, before being written off from his major villain's role due to the character's initial (and ongoing) negative reception. This theory was related to an earlier interview with Jar Jar's actor Ahmed Best in /r/IAmA, where he claimed that Jar Jar had been displaced from the story's main focus due to the backlash, implying at the same time that the hate received by the character was not entirely unintentional.
The post quickly became viral and received significant media coverage internationally by independent bloggers and major news outlets like The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, which included analysis of his actions in The Phantom Menace and gave him the nickname of "Darth Jar Jar". Journalist Andrew Street from The Guardian called it a "classic twist", comparing it to Yoda's role in The Empire Strikes Back, while Matt Hickey from Forbes came to the extent to contact George Lucas about the question, only to receive no answer.
In response to the speculations, actor Ahmed Best tweeted, "I will say this, it feels really good when the hidden meaning behind the work is seen. No matter how long it takes," apparently confirming the theory. Some months later, he expanded upon his tweet in a YouTube interview, stating, "there is a lot about it that is true, there are some things about it that are not true... Could Jar Jar have evolved into that? I think the answer is yes. Because of the backlash, and rightfully so, Lucasfilm backed off of Jar Jar a lot, but a lot of the influence that I put into the character mirrored a lot of what was already in the Star Wars universe." Best concluded only George Lucas could unveil the actual role of Binks, yet he also revealed that a deleted scene from Revenge of the Sith would have shown Palpatine darkly confiding his plans about the Empire to Jar Jar.
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