Came across this article about the actor who play Jar Jar Binks. Gotta pity the poor guy who played Jar Jar. At least, unlike Hayden Christensen, nobody actually saw his face. In fact, until I read this article, I didn’t know the name of the actor who played Jar Jar.
In the article’s comments, there’s some discussion regarding what would have made Jar Jar a good addition to the Star Wars universe, instead of something reviled. One suggestion being that like the aliens in previous films, Jar Jar not speak English.
Maybe, but the issue goes beyond linguistics. The problem with Jar Jar, as I see it, is that he’s used for over-the-top, kiddy-friendly, comic relief and is tonally a bad fit. Star Wars was obviously geared toward a younger crowd, but young doesn’t mean preschool or elementary. In fact, I remember, as a child, finding some aspects of the Star Wars (New Hope, et al.) films rather scary. The crispy bodies of Luke’s aunt and uncle, for instance. Or the severed arm in the cantina. Nowadays, I’m a total gorehound, but back then, when I was a delicate little flower, that was some frightening shit.
Star Wars tone is lightened by the antics of C3PO and R2, and sometimes, Chewie, but the humor never (rarely?) gets infantile. Jar Jar’s idiocy, obviously geared for paste-eating demographic, drops like a ton of silly bricks on a serious story line. I mean, the prequels are the tragic downfall of Anakin Skywalker, the kind of plot that demands drama, not the SF equivalent of the Three Stooges.
Adding insult to injury, Jar Jar’s entire species is treated as a joke, rather than a living, breathing culture. Basically, you’ve got the addition of a character and his people whose sole purpose is to make the preschool set happy and distract from all the war n’ schtuff.
Could the character still have retained the funny and been a good fit? Sure, if the humor was derived from smart, snappy dialogue rather than slapstick gags.
Ultimately, George Lucas was so busy making the world of the Star Wars prequels absolutely beautiful, that he forgot to populate it with actual people. Jar Jar Binks is pretty much a feature, not a bug, of the prequels.