Once upon a time, Michael Jackson wanted to play Jar Jar Binks.
Think about that for a second.
The King Of Pop, friend to all the world’s children, playing the voice and mo-cap moves behind one of cinema’s most loathed characters?
It could have generated enough spluttering internet forum anger to power a small nation like Switzerland for at least week, if not longer.
At least if Jackson had been involved, I’d understand why Star Wars fans hate Jar Jar so much.
As it stands, though, I’m confused. Why does this clumsy-but-kindly Gungan from the planet Naboo stir the haters?
True his Caribbean accent, straight off a Lilt advert circa 1986, was in totally tropical poor taste. But did Jar Jar really deserve to become the lightning rod for all The Phantom Menace ’s racism?
Why not Watto the money-grabbing, faux-Jewish merchant? Or the inscrutable, could-be-Japanese Neimoidians with their dastardly trade blockades?
Ahmed Best, the African-American actor cast as Jar Jar’s body and voice, never saw him as a Rastafarian Stepin Fetchit stereotype: “I just thought I was doing a funny role,” he lamented. “I didn’t know that the Jedi were a metaphor for the Man...”
Poor bugger. By rights, Best’s name should be mentioned alongside Andy Serkis and Doug Jones as one of the pioneering motion-capture actors. His turn in the gimp suit brought Jar Jar to life as a laid-back, somewhat cowardly amphibious clown with flapping fin ears and comic relief potential.
Without him there’d be no Gollum or Na’vi.
Jar Jar was a visual effects milestone.
Everyone bought him as a person, they just didn’t like his silly voice or slapstick farting.
When you consider it, that’s quite an achievement: a CG character so believable he made people want to punch his lights out.
The problem wasn’t Jar Jar. It was us. We’d waited 16 years for a new Star Wars movie and The Phantom Menace was pants.
Instead of blaming Lucas, we picked like bullies on the weakest, most harmless character around and turned him into the fall guy.
As Jar Jar would say: “How wude!”
Here’s the bottom line: Jar Jar Binks didn’t ruin Star Wars .
I know that for a fact because I was there when Star Wars was ruined. It was 1983, when I first laid eyes on an Ewok.
The Empire Strikes Back had been glorious, dark and adult. Hell, they even froze Han.
But Return Of The Jedi went off the rails the moment Leia changed out of her slave outfit and headed to Endor.
Damn those stunted, toy-store-friendly furballs. They shat all over my Star Wars love like a pack of rabid badgers who’d been force-fed warm milk and Lactulose for a fortnight.
Come back Jar Jar, you harmless fool and glorious VFX triumph. It wasn’t all your fault... Or is it just me?
VOICES OF REASON
Jar Jar’s a technical miracle, but then so was the atom bomb. There are worse problems with The Phantom Menace , but he’s still a grating miscalculation. You know that somewhere in the Lucas archives there are plans for a TV spin-off / board game / cookery book.
No one puts all the blame on Jar Jar’s frail shoulders, but he’s the straw that broke the CG-camel’s back: a racial stereotype, a squeaky-voiced distraction and an all-round bloody pillock.
The Ewoks had a cool song and an awesome spin-off cartoon. What’s Jar Jar got? A disturbing lollypop. Allay loo ta nuv, my friend. Allay loo ta nuv.