At the conclusion of REVENGE OF THE SITH, as Padmé’s painted corpse is given state burial on Naboo, Gungan dignitary Jar Jar Binks walks behind, looking sadly down, as best as his digital features can allow. It is one of two brief moments he has in the film (the other being a half-second shot in Galactic Senate), a somewhat understated finish to character arc for the amphibious star of the first prequel. Any mention of the Ahmed Best-voiced and motion-captured character brings out disgusted sighs and groans from the most passionate fanboys, and, admittedly, almost anyone who loves the original trilogy (remember when the movie was just called STARS WARS and not the clunkily awful title of A NEW HOPE?) Now that we have a new trilogy to complain about, it’s time to reassess the much-reviled Jar Jar, who, when it comes down to it, may just be the most important character to the plot of the entire film series (yes, all nine of them). Watch out, dissen gonna be bery messy!
Jar Jar Binks begins his journey like most of the great characters in the Star Wars Universe, as an outsider. Cast off by his own people, Jar Jar winds up on the front line of the Trade Federation’s invasion of Naboo. When the Gungan leader Boss Nass (who lives in the “mostest safest” place) learns of the life debt Jar Jar owes Qui-Gon Jinn, the sashaying salamander joins the heroes and ends up on the far corner of the galaxy where his comic hijinks can be best appreciated by his own description: “me-sa clumsy.”
After moments like being in R2-D2’s way (“How Wude!”), explaining why “me-sa here” to Padmé, and feeling the sand dry out his slick, moist, water-permeable skin as he jive-walks his way around Mos Espa, Jar Jar Binks irreparably changes the fortunes of the entire Galaxy when he tongue-fetches a chicken-like snack from a street vendor. Because nothing ever goes Jar Jar’s way, the gorg goes flying across the marketplace into the face of a bad-tempered dug named Sebulba (aren’t they all pretty terrible? These foot-masturbators always seem to be on the side of the baddies). Anyway, after coming to Jar Jar’s rescue, little Anakin Skywalker reveals the tremendously important plot point that Sebulba is basically the Mario Andretti of pod-racing and that he is in fact is a pod-racing savant, aka the Doogie Howser of pod-racing.
Stop the universe from expanding! With one tongue-flick (Tatooine currency value, 7 wupiupi), Jar Jar essentially starts Jake Lloyd down the path that can only end with an eyebrowless Sebastian Shaw and the ghost Hayden Christensen at an Ewok after-party. Without this pod-racing plot, Qui-Gon would never achieve the means to fix his ship and get Padmé off the planet, nor would he have likely tested the boy for his midi-chlorians and had him trained as a Jedi. Had he never been a Jedi, Anakin’s love for Padmé would never have been forbidden (just plain weird considering their initial age difference), and he might never have been driven to the dark side in order to save her. So basically, Jar Jar Binks’ ballistic tongue-snatching creates Darth Vader.
But that’s just a side point.
No, the truly crucial Jar Jar contribution to the Star Wars Universe comes in his role as junior representative of Naboo in the Galactic Senate. On one hand, this appointment makes perfect sense. Naboo being a world where two species live in symbiosis, it seems fair to have a Gungan weigh in on the political issues that affect his species's home. Never mind the Gungans were historically isolationist with an independent economic system. Also, Jar Jar had never proven himself to be diplomatically astute (“yousa thinking yousa people gonna die”). Still, the appointment would be largely ceremonial, as Jar Jar was a (questionably) decorated hero of the Battle of Naboo and Padmé (the human) would be casting the planet’s vote.
All of this changes when Padmé goes into hiding after numerous assassination attempts and Jar Jar Binks becomes Naboo’s sole voice on the Galactic Senate. Maybe Jar Jar’s slick amphibious face had some prescience of the wrinkled mess Palpatine would become and pitied him, but as the Naboo representative, he allows Chancellor Papatine to manipulate him into supporting the creation of the Grand Army of the Republic, something Padmé had spoken out against publicly on several occasions. In fact, Jar Jar puts forth the proposal himself (“Dellow feligates, me-sa propose”) to grant Palpatine emergency powers allowing for the creation of this army.
In a sense, the political lightweight CGI-salamander delivers the Republic up to the future Emperor on a vaguely-Caribbean sounding platter. Emergency powers in tow, Palpatine pulls the Republic into a back-breaking several-years' war that creates a power vacuum and leaves the Jedi overextended. He kills Jedi and proclaims himself Emperor blah blah blah, all due to Jar Jar Binks. Well, that smells stinkerwhiff.
So as Padmé’s body is paraded through Naboo and Jar Jar Binks casts his eye-stalks droopily downward, all I can do is raise my voice in anger – “it’s all your fault, Jar Jar! You ended democracy, you killed all the Jedi, you gave us Darth Vader, and you knocked over the Gonk Power Droid in Watto’s shop. You you you, it’s all YOU Jar Jar!” Thank you, Jar Jar. Jar Jar Binks, the most important character in the Star Wars Universe.
If you can't tell yet, OWA really loves STAR WARS - so much so that this May the 4th marks our third annual Star Wars Day Fan Film Screening! We take the best (and goofiest) Star Wars fan films out there and give them a night of big screen glory. This year's free event take place at 4th Tap, starting at 6pm. They even brewed some beer just for us (Light or Dark Side, take your pick...) so we'll see you there!