I said in my previous post, which focused on Boba Fett (if you haven’t read it, do so before continuing here, or this really won’t make a huge deal of sense), that I expected these post to be controversial and that many of you will disagree, but I have actually found the exact opposite to be true. Despite his reputation as a fan-favourite, it would appear that even some hardcore Star Wars fans have come to the same realisation that I have – that Boba Fett is a buffoon dressed up like a hero.
I hope that this post will bring about the same level of agreement, but suspect that it will not given the extent to which its subject is loathed and hated by many fans. And so, before I get into the nitty-gritty of it all, let me just reiterate that I am a massive Star Wars fan.
I have been a Star Wars fan for many a year with much of my childhood spent playing at fighting with lightsabers and using the force. I have loved it since the very first time I saw the first film, I continued loving it through the poor prequels and will continue to love it in spite of what the sequels may bring. I suspect many of you are the same, and for any of you who hasn’t seen the films, what have you been doing with your life?! There will be spoilers ahead so go watch the films IMMEDIATELY before reading through the rest of these posts.
And now with all that said, it is time to continue in the full knowledge that this will no doubt lead to a torrent of bile and contempt being sent my way.
It is my sincere belief that, for all the problems of the prequels and nostalgic reverence of the original trilogy, Jar Jar Binks is a better character than Boba Fett. (I explained my definition of better in my previous post so if you want to know how I am rating them, please check there).
While my views on Boba Fett should be well-known to you by now, I want to concentrate on Jar Jar in this post, thus bringing it all to a conclusion.
Jar Jar Binks
Like Boba Fett, he is only really relevant for two films in the Star Wars series. but unlike Boba Fett, he has almost no redeeming features at first glance. He is annoying, silly and thoroughly unlikable to all by the simplest of minds. Also unlike Boba Fett, or any of the other great characters, there is no air of mystery or danger around him, except perhaps the strong desire to commit violence against him from the vast majority of viewers. I get that, I really do, and in fact felt the same for a long time after first watching the prequels.
But as time has passed, and I have had time to re-watch them and reevaluate them, I came to a conclusion that surprised even me. While Jar Jar is a bumbling, irritating, cowardly fool, he is also essential to the entire story!
The Phantom Menace
We first meet Jar Jar in the Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace when he is saved from a Trade Federation transport by Qui-Gon Jinn.
He introduces us to the Gungans and in-so-doing, reveals the symbiotic nature of Naboo, which is important for a couple of reasons.
- There is no way anyone would believe that the Naboo with their antiquated weaponry could ever defeat the Trade Federation’s army on their own. Their alliance with the Gungans, however, makes the whole thing much more plausible, or at least as plausible as it could be.
- It also allows us more of an insight into just how complex the Star Wars universe is – two species living in completely different ecosystems within the same world. Yes, we had seen alien planets before, but there was nothing in the original trilogy with that level of complexity or intrigue.
Additionally, there is the fact that he is a rarity in the Star Wars universe. Star Wars has always had alien races dotted around, but with the exception of Yoda, and maybe Admiral Ackbar, they are almost never major characters, and where they are (Chewie and the Ewoks) they speak alien languages which are incomprehensible to most. Jar Jar was the first even vaguely important character (apart from Yoda) to be an alien that we, the audience, could understand without any translation…for the most part.
Aside from that, his role in story progression is crucial across the films, and after we learn of his banishment from his home by his people simply for being clumsy (which takes bullying to a whole new level) he travels with Queen Amidala and the Jedi to Tatooine where he befriends Anakin. Yes, he acts as the comic relief for much of this episode, but he, in conjunction with others, is one of the characters instrumental in the metamorphosis of Anakin from shop slave to Jedi padawan – maybe not the key person, but he is nonetheless involved in the entire process.
Later on in the Phantom Menace he is the subject of a magnificent redemption by leading his fellow Gungans as a somewhat clumsy general in their army. Much of his success may be the result of his clumsiness, but he still manages to dispatch more enemies in these scenes than Boba Fett manages in his entire existence in all his appearances!
Yes, much of this is by accident, but his body count (including robots) far outweighs Boba Fett’s, which is surely a big qualification to being called a badass. Whereas Boba Fett falls over and does nothing, Jar Jar falls over and things die – he out-kills someone who is supposedly one of the best bounty hunters in the universe!!
Jar Jar starts out as a bumbling, exiled fool, but over the course of the film he transforms into one of the key characters in the defence of Naboo from the Trade Federation – apart from a couple of Jedi, the Sith and maybe Solo/Chewie, there is actually no other character who is that much of a badass, not only does he defend his planet and defeats a frickin’ robot army!
Attack of the Clones
In Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, we see that Jar Jar, a mere 10 years after being banished by his people, has become one of the Gungans’ delegates in the Galactic Senate and plays a key role in bringing back his old Jedi buddies Obi-Wan and Ani back to Coruscant – it is an important plot point and one which was necessary for the progression of the story as it facilitates our understanding of the growing discontent within the grumpy padawan and brings the catalyst for his descent to the dark side with the instigation of Padmé/Ani.
He was also a key figure in the bestowing of emergency powers on Chancellor Palpatine. Now, I grant you that it wasn’t a clever move, but it was one of the most important developments in the entire Star Wars plot. And you can hardly blame Jar Jar for being naive and doing what he thought was best for his people and the republic as a whole.
Up until the very end of Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine had hoodwinked everyone including supposedly the wisest group in the republic, the Jedi! Jar Jar was manipulated by Palpatine in much the same way Padme, Anakin, and the entire senate were. Even the wise master Yoda didn’t realise what he was up to until it was too late, so I don’t think it is very fair to blame all of it on Jar Jar.
But even if you really want to be that unreasonable, Jar Jar and his actions in facilitating Palpatine’s rise to Emperor are fundamental to the entire story of Star Wars. Without this, there would never have been the empire, there would never have been Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker or Han Solo, there would never have Star Wars as we know and love it!
Revenge of the Sith
Sadly, once this whole process has been established, Jar Jar fades into the background with only a couple of cameos in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.
But over the first two films of the prequels, he plays one of the most significant roles in the Star Wars universe, and despite, or perhaps because of, his clumsiness, he has a higher body count and a more interesting character arc then Boba Fett.
And so after all that, I know that many of you will still disagree with me, because Boba Fett looks cool with his fancy armour and his jetpack. Equally, I know that the loathing and contempt many of you have for Jar Jar is now so deep-seated that there is nothing I can say that will redeem him in your eyes. But look at the facts – annoying Jar Jar overcomes huge difficulties to be a leader of his people, defeat an army and act as the catalyst for the entire Star Wars story, while Boba Fett stands around a lot and fails spectacularly in the only fight we see him in.
Boba Fett’s entire role in the film is literally to look cool and act as a catalyst to a scene which only has a single purpose – to show us that Luke has some Jedi skills in the opening of Return of the Jedi, and to fall into a big pit of teeth in the desert. That’s literally it! He doesn’t progress the main plot, he doesn’t kill any major character, and he doesn’t even actually use his jetpack except for one scene when someone else accidently hits it. Yes there was a mysteriousness and this an aura of danger to him when he first appear on the screen but none of that actually manifests to anything in the films or the Star Wars plot.
Jar Jar is a key figure in the first two prequels, he helps bring Ani to Coruscant not once but twice and without that, there is no grumpy Anakin so there is no Darth Vader. He acts in defence on his people both in battle and politics, and he helps defeat an entire army. For all his failings, Jar Jar is instrumental in the progression of the plot and without him, there is no original trilogy, there is no Emperor, and there is no Boba Fett.
Jar Jar may be annoying and at times incredibly irritating, but he actually succeeds when he fights, and he actually progresses as a character through the films in which he appears, and he progresses the plots and has a significant role in the films in which he appears, and for that reason he is the better character!
If you disagree, feel free to tell me why in the comments…
Images Source: starwars.com/Ash