Though there were plenty of issues that plagued Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, the character Jar Jar Binks became the punching bag for longtime fans upset with the way George Lucas started the Skywalker family saga. The reaction to the clumsy Gungan (intended to be the prequel trilogy’s comic relief) was so overwhelming negative, Lucas was left with little choice but to reduce Jar Jar’s role in the final two films, giving him the smallest of cameos in Revenge of the Sith. Years later, he remains a black mark on the Star Wars legacy for many, and the Lucasfilm story group has been reluctant to feature Jar Jar in any of the new content.
However, that changed recently. The novel Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig includes an interlude set on Naboo, which reveals Jar Jar’s heartbreaking fate as a lonely street clown performing for refugee children. It seemed to be the perfect way to bring Binks back to the fold, as it was a short section of a 423-page book. Given the vitriol Jar Jar caused back in 1999, the odds of him being a main character in any story are slim, so Empire’s End reads as a tragic closing of the book for one of the galaxy’s most maligned figures. In several people’s eyes, he remains toxic.
The same could actually be said for Hayden Christensen’s version of Anakin Skywalker, which stripped away the mystique of Darth Vader with ramblings about sand and a volatile, whiny temper. While moviegoers would rather forget the actor’s portrayal, that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from suggesting Anakin could appear in one of the modern films as a Force ghost. Christensen himself has indicated he’d rather look elsewhere for work, but Force Awakens concept art of an Anakin spirit exists, meaning it’s something on the filmmakers’ minds. If they’re considering a comeback for Anakin, would they ever put Jar Jar back on the big screen?
At first glance, the answer to that question would be a resounding “no.” Lucasfilm hasn’t been averse to including prequel connections in the Disney era (Kylo Ren mentions a clone army in Episode VII), but those ties have often been minimal. Some of this is expected, as many of the stories Lucasfilm is telling take place years (or decades) after Revenge of the Sith. While some members of the Star Wars fan base have turned to the Light and recognized the merits of the prequels, the films still do not have the most sterling reputation with casual viewers. If one of the modern movies had a more overt link back to Lucas’ latter works, it could be off-putting. Disney has done a great job reigniting the public’s interest in Star Wars and wouldn’t want to spoil that goodwill.
Still, the prequels are a part of the canon. The Force Awakens can stray away from midichlorians all it likes, but the events of those three movies still happened and played a role in the larger narrative. To pretend that they don’t exist at all could be considered disingenuous, especially since there are a number of prequel supporters who have emerged over the years. For all the faults that trilogy may have, it would still be nice to see the story group fully embrace that era of galactic history, in a way “validating” Episodes I – III. There could very well be a future spinoff set during this time period, as it remains to be seen what Disney green lights following the young Han Solo movie. But even then, any callbacks to the prequel movies themselves could be largely incidental, since the anthology films are separate from the Skywalker saga. If the prequels are to be fully redeemed, the sequel trilogy will likely be the source.
Whether fans want to admit it or not, Jar Jar is (somehow) one of the most important figures in the franchise. His proposition that Supreme Chancellor Palpatine receive emergency powers from the Senate is what led to the rise of the Galactic Empire, and eventually the First Order (which formed from the ashes of the Empire). Per the Aftermath interlude, this causes Jar Jar to feel tremendous personal guilt, since many hold him responsible for the years for the tyranny that clenched the galaxy in an iron fist. If Jar Jar could take his actions back he would, but it’s a heavy cross he bears that leaves him with nobody to talk to. The passage in the book certainly made fans feel sympathetic to Jar Jar’s plight, but what if the story group took things a step further?
If Jar Jar ever showed up in a film again, it would almost definitely be a cameo, minimizing any potential blowback should things not go as planned. His days of being a centerpiece are over. But, there is potential here for something that gives the Gungan a significantly happier ending. Speculation late last year implied Episode IX could be the final installment of the famed Skywalker saga, meaning it would have to feature the ultimate destruction of the First Order. It’s already been established that Jar Jar is haunted by personal demons, and there’s something undeniably appealing about the infamous clown exorcising them by proving his worth once more. Perhaps, with the First Order on its heels before a desperate fight, Jar Jar could act as an informant to supply the Resistance with critical information they need. After all, both sides have spies everywhere, including Maz Kanata’s castle on Takodana.
Of course, this would assume that Jar Jar is even alive during the time of the sequel trilogy. Empire’s End is set a year after Return of the Jedi, so Binks definitely survived the Galactic Civil War, but the following 30 years are a mystery. Also, since Jar Jar is friendless outside of the children he amuses, Episode IX would have to be partially set on Naboo. From the sound of it, the Gungan doesn’t know any pilots that can get him off the world. Depending on where the story group wants to take things, this may or may not be possible. Naboo is so far removed from the current narrative, going back there could be an instance of shoehorning in previous elements. That said, the planet was the home of Palpatine, so there could be something there of interest that draws Supreme Leader Snoke and the Knights of Ren. Jar Jar would obviously be sympathetic to the Resistance’s cause and willing to aid them any way he could.
It’s worth keeping in mind The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has offered his defense of the prequels, so he wouldn’t necessarily be against this. Granted, the odds of Jar Jar coming back in the films are low, but for the franchise that’s all about poetry, it could be tantalizing to see the lone thread dating back to the prequels return at the end of all things to make a final contribution to the struggle against evil and make up for a past transgression. Wendig showed it’s possible to make Jar Jar feel human and sympathetic, so he may not be beyond hope yet if placed in the right hands.
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