'Star Wars' features less Jar Jar Binks

Sunday, May 19, 2002

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. -- Jar Jar Binks' slapstick antics and grating singsong in 1999's "The Phantom Menace" made him one of the most reviled characters in movie history, even among admirers of the "Star Wars" franchise.

The computerized creature has a lot less screen time in the new "Attack of the Clones" -- only about three scenes -- but "Star Wars" creator George Lucas denies that was done to placate critics.

"People have the tendency to think that you just put characters in for the fun of it," Lucas said in an interview at his Skywalker Ranch in northern California. "Ultimately, their personalities have to revolve around the plot."

In "Clones," Jar Jar's gullibility does advance the plot: Now a fledgling politician, he becomes an unwitting pawn of evil galactic forces.

In the earlier movie, the duck-billed Jar Jar's bumbling made him an outcast from his water-dwelling Gungan race, which helped him unite the human inhabitants of the planet Naboo with his society in a fight against invaders.

His inadvertent help to the dark forces in "Attack of the Clones" added an edge to his character that some "Star Wars" fans actually enjoyed.

Character criticized

"I didn't care for him at all in 'The Phantom Menace,"' said Joshua Griffin, 27, a contributor to the fan site TheForce.net. "But I really, really like his later scene in 'Episode II' ... when we finally see the foolishness coming full circle and making him a bad guy, even if he doesn't want to be."

Jar Jar's high-pitched pidgin English and clumsy, shuffling walk have reminded some critics and viewers of black stereotypes in old Hollywood movies.

But Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Jedi master Mace Windu in the movies, bristled at that notion, saying it wouldn't be raised if actor Ahmed Best, who provides Jar Jar's voice, wasn't black.

"If it was a white actor or Hispanic actor or an Asian actor doing it, that wouldn't have been the connotation," Jackson said.

Best, who also stands in for Jar Jar during filming, feared that "Attack of the Clones" would make the character even less popular.

"I am going to be the object of ridicule again, I think," Best said. "But it's classic storytelling: Jar Jar is the guy who means well and thinks he's doing good but at the end of the day, he's not."

Some anti-Jar Jar Internet sites feature altered photos of the character battered and bruised or fleeing explosions. Others list ways Lucas could kill him in the upcoming "Episode III."

Jar Jar was designed to appeal to children, said Lucas. He said adult fans have always criticized lighthearted "Star Wars" characters, from fussy robot C-3PO to the teddy-bear Ewok creatures from 1983's "Return of the Jedi."

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