Lately, it seems that everyone is talking about Jar Jar Binks. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. In fact, the only thing more surprising than the fact that I just wrote that is the fact that I did so at any point after May 19, 1999. But truth is often stranger than fiction, and the polarizing character has re-emerged in the pop zeitgeist by way of the actor who brought him to life, Ahmed Best.
The renewed discussion of Jar Jar began about two weeks ago when Best took to Twitter to defend his character’s place in cinema history in response to a Wired video that cited Andy Serkis’s work on ‘The Lord of the Rings’ as the beginning of modern performance capture. This despite ‘The Phantom Menace’ predating ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by two full years. And Best (who made sure to extend credit to the film’s visual effects artists) is absolutely making a valid point. Whatever one thinks of Jar Jar as a character (the popular opinion being well trod ground if ever there was such a thing), there’s no denying the technological achievement he represented back in 1999. And as undeniably impressive as Serkis’s performance capture work in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was (and remains to this day), these sorts of breakthroughs almost never happen in a vacuum. Or, as Best phrased it, “Jar Jar walked so Gollum could run. Gollum ran so the Na’vi could fly.”
Now, the actor is making waves again. During a guest appearance on Jamie Stangroom’s podcast, Best addressed his character’s fate, explaining he raised the issue with George Lucas upon realizing just how small (Blink and you’ll miss it!) his role in ‘Revenge of the Sith’ would be. Best, essentially, wanted to leave his character with some sense of closure. And if he’d had his way, it would certainly have been memorable:
“I always complained to George when I realized that ‘Sith’ was pretty much not going to have Jar Jar in it and they were moving very very far away from me, I always complained to George that I didn’t get a good death! I wanted to really be just hacked to pieces in some kind of way… and George wouldn’t do it. I always said that Jar Jar’s fate was too open ended, I would have loved to have it closed in some way. I think everybody wants some kind of Jar Jar closure to happen, including me.”
While I can’t imagine many ‘Star Wars’ fans would object to Jar Jar getting that sort of “closure,” I do have to wonder how much demand there actually is for it. Setting aside that we do have a measure of canon closure for the bumbling Gungan courtesy of Chuck Wendig’s novel ‘Empire’s End’ (which Best has called “a very somber, very dark eventuality”), the thing about the popular fixation on Jar Jar (such as it is) has always seemed – fairly or not – to be more about holding the character up as a symbol of everything that went wrong with the prequel trilogy.
Though it is unlikely to include or acknowledge Jar Jar, ‘Star Wars’ will next return to theaters with the release of ‘The Last Jedi’ on December 18, 2017. Directed by Rian Johnson, the film stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Gwendoline Christie, Anthony Daniels, Adam Driver, and Domhnall Gleeson.