Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Season 1, Episode 8 - Bombad Jedi

Poor Jar Jar Binks. Universally acknowledged as the jump-the-shark character for many fans, and he appears in the first twenty minutes of The Phantom Menace. The backlash against him was so fierce, that his dismissal in Attack of the Clones drew cheers from live audiences, and his appearance in Revenge of the Sith was little more than a cameo.

I won't deny that I found his character a bit cloying, but he also had one moment in The Phantom Menace that showed his character as he could have been. Just before the final reel, on Coruscant, Amidala is staring out at the horizon, feeling trapped by her circumstances, helpless to save her citizens. By her side is Jar Jar Binks. In that moment, he stops yelping and falling over, and speaks about his people.

It's in this moment the now infamous "yousa thinkin' yousa people gonna dieee?" line appears. But if you watch that scene, Jar Jar never seems more photo-realistic, more honorable, and more soulful. It doesn't seem (excuse me) jarring; it seems like a natural extension of the character. There was always, it seemed, intended to be a noble soul beneath the clown. Something redeemable and even wise.

It's a shame that the films were never able to adequately mine this part of the character. Instead, he was written off-stage left. He's given an important trivia note in Star Wars lore, certainly (He's to blame for giving Palpatine emergency powers) but chalk that up to just further humiliation for the character. The powers-that-be heard the outcry, and threw Binks under the bus.

I say all this because... I enjoyed Bombad Jedi. I thought it was really rather funny, and made use of three characters in Star Wars that certainly (at least in the prequels) had some rough spots in terms of audiences embracing them. (Heck, C3-PO is one of my favorite characters, and even I groaned when I heard "This is such a drag!") I was glad to see some great character work, Jar Jar's heroic efforts, Padme's ever likable characterization in the series, and the always wonderful Anthony Daniels collecting another well-earned paycheck. It was also brought to life by Kevin Rubio, of Troops fame, and you can see him taking pains to use the slapstick for good effect. The sight gag of Padme's Naboo Cruiser being thoroughly leveled is a good one for the Clone Wars highlight reel, as well.

And while this is the "Jar Jar Episode" the story is really Padme's. Set on Rodia (homeworld of those who shot second), it's a reenactment of Ambush's dilemma - will the planet side with the Separatists or the Republic. All of this was perfectly servicable, and watchable, if not all that interesting.

All in all, though, Jar Jar remains his least interesting self. More than even in the films, this Jar Jar is an idiotic boob, relentlessly failing, with a childlike intellect. His victories come almost entirely by accident, and we are meant to view him, at best, as well-meaning. I'd love to see a hint of the noble Jar Jar beneath the surface, that was given short shrift in the films when the character fell instantly out of favor.

Rating (out of five) **1/2

1 comment:

Dave Williams said...

Definitely not as bad as it could have been and had a couple of fun moments. I could do with a little less slapstick from Jarjar especially when it causes such useful results.

However as the folks at Darths & Droids would say "Summon big fish!"