Archive for Phantom Menace

The One About Jar Jar

Posted in Opinion, Spotlight with tags , , , on 18 February 2018 by Megan

A long time ago, I thought I’d have to do a post about Jar Jar for the “character everyone else hates that you love” challenge. I ended up finding another character, which was good because I don’t love Jar Jar and I like to be accurate.

But for the last month or so, I’ve been thinking more and more about Jar Jar as a character and about the structure of the prequel trilogy in general. First: I like everything about Episode I except the podrace. I like Jar Jar’s character, his role, and everything else. I don’t like that he’s in 2 and 3, but in every scene, he annoys me far less than Artoo does. I will vote Jar Jar over Artoo every day of the week.

People often accuse Jar Jar of serving no purpose. Actually, he is a tremendous character, and there’s a lot going on here that has to do with the old-fashioned style of storytelling Lucas prefers combined with Ahmed Best’s own acting style.

First, complaints about Jar Jar are generally unhinged. I did the math, and he carries 9% of E1’s dialogue; he’s onscreen about 30% of the time, but that’s every moment he’s visible, not every moment he’s the focus (I didn’t calculate that). People act like every single moment is him dancing around juggling senatorial bills or something.

Second, there’s great artistry going on in his performance. People who don’t get that Lucas is following a 1930s style aren’t going to catch how Jar Jar’s a Buster Keaton homage. But Ahmed Best worked hard AND worked well. Liam Neeson himself said “this guy’s gonna be the next Eddie Murphy.” He called him hilarious. No one in the cast or crew thought there was any problem with the character.

I had this idea a couple weeks ago that Jar Jar is supposed to be the “gateway” for the younger audience, to draw them into the action. I was thinking about the poignancy of his “I was banished for being clumsy” past. You know how the droids were the gateway for the OT–the films Lucas made for 12-year-olds (his phrase)–but he made E1 for his own kids, a younger audience. Little kids are always getting shut out for clumsiness, for being silly, for not being like the adults. And here’s Jar Jar, a big character who is just like them. He’s a simple guy. He just wants to have breakfast. But he gets whisked off with these people doing things too big for him to understand. He’s exiled for clumsiness yet he saves them all.

There’s the beauty in the story of Jar Jar: Even the most annoying or incompetent individual has value. This is a message our modern world desperately needs to hear, as genocide against Down syndrome becomes increasingly the cultural norm, as teenage suicide skyrockets, as kids start to question their meaning in life at younger and younger ages.

If you hate Jar Jar, if you weren’t a young child when you first saw E1, I encourage you to just take a minute and put aside all your first impressions of the character. Sit down and watch the movie, if not with the innocence of a child, at least without the cynical assumptions of an old crank. Keep your eyes on Jar Jar as much as you can, every moment he’s on screen. I did this for the first time last week and was amazed. In the OT, Luke is the only one worth watching every second because he’s the only one who is always reacting, always doing something. Fisher and Ford both kind of check out when the scene isn’t on them. But Ahmed Best and Mark Hamill are always doing something worth seeing. I watched how he stands in the background, rocking on his feet, swaying his arms, blinking, looking at people . . . and I went, “Sweet Maker, I’ve been Jar Jar my whole life. Staring at people I don’t get doing things I don’t understand, wondering what I can possibly do to fit in or help.”

Again, I’m not some huge Jar Jar fanboy and I don’t think he should’ve been in Episodes II and III, but I have always loved this: after the whole movie of Jar Jar breaking things when he wants to help (title of my autobiography right there), he has the courage to speak to the QUEEN. Think about that. He doesn’t know that’s Padmé! It’s a stranger, the leader of the people who universally hate his people. It must’ve been the scariest moment of his life. And then his sincere attempt to make her feel better, because he has no racism and can’t stand seeing anyone sad, actually inspires her with a game plan to both rid her planet of invaders and unite it more powerfully than ever before. And get this . . . It works! He did it right! The whole final focus of the movie doesn’t so much celebrate banishing the invaders as it celebrates a world of united peoples. Because Jar Jar worked up the courage to do something. Awesome.

Now think about being a little kid seeing this for the first time, a little kid who gets pushed around at school, pushed aside at home, who’s always being told he’s too clumsy, the wrong shape, or not smart enough to do things. “Nobody talks like that,” “Nobody looks like that,” stuff every victim of bullying hears. And then this kid sees Jar Jar, nonthreatening, funny Jar Jar. This character who goes through all the same stuff this little kid does–but Jar Jar never loses his good attitude, he never gives up, and then he saves everybody.

Adults get too cynical about the PT. But I guarantee you Jar Jar changed some little kid’s life when they realized that no matter what people yelled at them, they could save the world. We’re still watching the people grow up who grew up with the PT, they’re only just now beginning to find their voice and move into the public square where the folks who grew up on the OT have dominated. I think once these full-saga kids are adults who start speaking for themselves, we’re going to hear a lot about this whole different perspective on the much-maligned Jar Jar.

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Really Is the Best

Posted in Spotlight with tags , , , on 9 November 2017 by Megan

In a day and age that makes it easy to take cheap shots at George Lucas, even while glorying in his imaginative creation, Ahmed Best tells it like it is in a refreshing change of pace.

Quotes to note:

“George Lucas really does things that he believes. He has an incredible conviction behind every decision that he makes. That’s not the way Disney does movies. Disney does movies in a way that has to please stockholders, and that has to please a wide swath of people, a huge general audience”;

and,

“I appreciate filmmakers who have that type of vision, I appreciate filmmakers who really go out on a limb and take a risk. With these new movies, these filmmakers are different. They’re not George Lucas.”

via Ahmed Best ‘wouldn’t change anything’ about The Phantom Menace

Phantom Menace Day

Posted in Fun, Spotlight with tags , , , on 19 June 2017 by Megan
Or, “A Hypothetical Baby Born On the Day I First Saw The Phantom Menace Is Now Old Enough to Buy Cigarettes in the United States.”
Or, “I Feel Really Old, Oh, My Gosh, How Am I This Old.”
On May 19, 1999, t̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶l̶d̶ the US exploded with the sensation of “The Phantom Menace.” (The UK didn’t get E1 until July 14, which makes me feel better about the story I’m about to relate.) I only exploded with impatience, however, because I was 14 and my parents had declared I was “too interested” in Star Wars and therefore would have to wait to see it until it came to our small-town movie theater which typically got new releases five or six months after the general release.
The story of why June 19 is “Phantom Menace Day” in my mind can be traced through a series of increasingly frantic diary entries, which I thought would be entertaining to share with you, since 2017 is apparently the year of me sharing my decades-old diaries with the internet at large.
First, a few entries to set the mood:
“Tuesday, May 18, 1999. The thought of the day: IT’S COMING OUT TOMMOROW!!!! AGGGGGGGG! UNO DAY UNTIL ITS OUT IN THEATRES!! AGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!”
“Wednesday, May 19, 1999. The thought of the day: Guess. SW: E1: PM IS OUT. I am SOO Psyched! It opened at midnight this morning. I am SOO dying to see it. M thinks it will be the same movie in June or July, but I don’t agree. It will be different and is liable to disappear if I don’t go see it NOW!”

“Thursday, May 20, 1999. It’s (SW:E1:PM) been out for a day. Nobody’s talking about it yet. I’m going to check the Urbana weekender this week to see when it hits Urbana or Bellefontaine or something. It isn’t fair I’ve got to wait 2 months for it to come to Urbana’s ‘small’ theatre. I want to see it NOW!”

“Wednesday, May 26, 1999. It’s been 1 wk since SW:E1:PM came.”

Offsetting the intense agony of the “no Star Wars until it comes to Urbana” announcement, my mom did buy me the Episode I Visual dictionary on June 16. It was a surprise because I hadn’t even known such a book existed, let alone asked for it, but it became my favorite possession and I spent the rest of 1999 taking it with me everywhere. (Well, not the bathroom. Books do not belong in the bathroom.)

By the way, that’s what eventually happens to a Star Wars visual dictionary that you carry with you everywhere for a year. The cover comes off and half the pages fall come apart.

I tried not to read any of the text so nothing would be “given away,” and the movie I came up with in my head based on the pictures is pretty amusing. Let’s just say that I thought Jar Jar was going to be a lot more “bad cop” than Buster Keaton.

So, maybe my parents had a point and I was “too interested” in Star Wars, because after a month of not seeing the movie, and only about thirty hours after getting the visual dictionary, my diary records an amusing descent into hysteria.

  • June 13, “Got my SW books (SWE1PM).”
  • June 14, “Jamie gave me a COOEL poster.”

To clarify, Jamie was a friend of my sister’s who was always giving me stuff for no discernible reason. Since she always took all my sister’s money, I suppose I could make a better argument that all the random Star Wars junk Jamie gave me actually came from my sister instead ;)

Anyway, this was the poster, the catalyst of the next few days:

Tuesday, June 15, 1999. I WANT TO SEE SWE1PM!!! This sucks. Put my poster up. I am so. . . something. I’m going to DIE if I don’t see E1PM this weekend. I feel ill.

Wednesday, June 16, 1999. I SOO have to see E1:PM this SATURDAY w/ Corey (Heather & Racheal have already seen it.) Racheal accidentally confirmed my suspicions that Qui-Gon Jinn gets killed. I DON’T KNOW HOW IN THE — I”LL BE ABLE TO WAIT UNTIL THIS WEEKEND TO SEE IT! IF I HAVE TO WAIT ONE — MORE WEEK, I AM GOING TO A) DIE, B) KILL SOMETHING. AGHWEWAK:HABSFPIUASFPIUADSFUJOQFQEGEFNEEOEGNO!!!!!!*

 *This particular diary was kept in a text file on the computer so these kinds of outbursts were made just slamming the keyboard…also you can tell I was just holding Shift down because of double quotes for apostrophes…

Friday, June 18, 1999. The thought of the day: It’s Friday. Like DUH. But tomorrow is Saturday, and I’m going to see E1 on Saturday, no matter what. So today I have to be agreeable, and do what I’m told so mom won’t have a reason to keep me home.

Several hours later…

Today was bad. M threw a fit over my poster. Really stressed out. Seeing E1PM tomorrow. I will NEVER get rid of my SW things, not ever. I just LIKE IT.

Ah, teenagers.

No suspense necessary. The very subdued next entry for June 19 was “Saw E1PM.” I must have begged, bribed, and/or cajoled my sister into taking me to the movie theater in Bellefontaine (a mere 3 miles further than the one in Urbana). I remember I wore a yellow tank top and a bead necklace; she sat with her arms crossed for most of it and I cried my eyes out when Qui-Gon died. For some reason, I didn’t write anything about it until June 24, “Its one of the MOST AWESOME movies I’ve ever seen.”

What else can I say? That’s June 19 for me. The day I saw The Phantom Menace for the first time. And it was 18 years ago. Oh my lord. We all got very, very old somehow, didn’t we…

Favorite E1 Moment

Posted in Challenges with tags , , , , , , , on 1 May 2014 by Megan

I know people hate Jar Jar Binks. If it’s one thing practically everyone in the universe knows, it’s that practically everyone in the universe hates Jar Jar Binks.

Why so much hate?

Why so much hate?

He’s not my favorite character, by any means whatsoever, but I think it’s unfair that he’s been made the entire scapegoat of why “everyone” hates a movie they were going to hate from the word go for the same reason they were going to hate ROTJ no matter what — the delivery did not live up to the expectation. Should George Lucas have bought into the idiotic notion that Star Wars was a kids movie and therefore construct a film for 7-year-olds? No. He should have understood that his primary demographic was far closer to 27 than 7 and given us a buddy Jedi (in the buddy cop vein) of Anakin and Obi-Wan kicking ass and taking names.

But all of that aside, Jar Jar Binks is neither the worst nor the best character in the prequels, and certainly not the most embarrassing. Ahmed Best didn’t deserve what he got from the movie at all. And my favorite moment in Episode I (not to be confused with the funniest) also happens to be the first clip I ever saw.

obi40-f

Oh, hey guys.

I was 14 and I watched all the news religiously in order to hear reports on Episode I and see bits. And one morning (May 13, 1999), George Lucas was interviewed on NBC and they showed this clip from Episode I — Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Jar Jar meeting in the swamp on Naboo.

If they find us, they will crush us, grind us into tiny pieces, and blast us into oblivion.

Honestly I love this scene from the moment Qui-Gon snaps, “You almost got us killed! Are you brainless?” all the way up to where Jar Jar spins around, forcing Obi-Wan to duck his flying ears. I’ve been charmed by this scene since day one, and it never ceases to be funny.

Neither Obi-Wan nor Qui-Gon behave in a very appropriate manor for a couple of monks. They are short-tempered, demanding, and bully a stranger — clearly some kind of mentally handicapped young person — into taking them to his people’s hidden underwater city, knowing full well that he faces execution for doing so. It’s only after Qui-Gon’s conscience smites him that he asks about Jar Jar’s fate and, with much protest from Obi-Wan, brings him along to save his life. They take what they want until they get to the capital city. All of this actually falls in line very neatly with how Jedi are known to behave — ends justifying the means, absolute selfishness, etc. etc. — and even the two best Jedi the Order has ever known fall into that trap.

And, come on, Obi-Wan has to duck so Jar Jar’s ears don’t hit him! He has to duck! Ah, ha ha ha, I can’t get over that. He ducks! Oh, I love it. I have to go watch this movie. Bye.

Flashback! Why?

Posted in Questions with tags , , , , , , on 1 April 2013 by Megan

I feel like I’ve been quoting old AIM convos kind of a lot this year, and it made me want to go back and do another flashback question, courtesy of one of those AIM convos.

If Qui-Gon knew that Jar-Jar was going to be a pain while he went looking for a hyper drive why did he take him? — Krisco F.

Qui-Gon Jinn with Jar Jar

No one ever asks that question about Anakin…

My answer at the time was quite accurate and fully sourced by a Lucas-approved canonical source, that is, the novelization of Episode I — this included a scene never filmed for the movie, in which Obi-Wan dismisses Jar Jar’s concerns about going. (Jar Jar in fact did not want to go). The argument is a small group would be less noticeable than a single undercover Jedi in a place like Mos Epsa.

What I actually quoted, in the fall of 2000, to answer the question, though, was the following excerpt from an Episode I journal I myself had actually written — Obi-Wan’s Padawan journal. (I wrote it because, as a massive oversight, no one else had.) I’m going to quote it for  you, just to get some length to this post, but be patient and keep in mind that the person who wrote this was fourteen years old at the time.

A moment later, holding a scanner in one hand, I was checking the artfully designed Naboo hyperdrive. I frowned at the readouts, just as Jar Jar burst into the hold, looking around as if seeking salvation from a fate worse then death. For a moment, I wondered just what kind of trouble he’d gotten himself into now, and then he threw himself at my feet, moaning. “Obi-Wan, sire!” he wailed, “Pleeze–me not go wid Quiggon!”

It only took a moment to realize what the terrified Gungan was talking about–Qui-Gon had decided to take Jar Jar with him into the spaceport. “Sorry,” I said, detaching myself from him. I told the Gungan he would make Qui-Gon appear less obvious by going along. I silently added, I hope.

Funniest Moment

Posted in Challenges with tags , , , , on 28 February 2013 by Megan

I can’t believe I can’t find a video or a GIF or something showcasing my very favorite funny scene from Star Wars. In fact, I tried to pick a back-up funny moment . . . but I can’t find anything of that, either!

Fine, this screen-cap will have to do. Qui-Gon, thinking he’s playing it so cool, casually remarks on how Anakin must have Jedi reflexes if he races Pods. Maybe he’s trying to get a reaction from Shmi, to try to figure out what this kid’s deal is, but he’s distracted by Jar Jar’s incessant slurping plums out of the common bowl. SNAP! He grabs his tongue. And then is confused when he gets pegged for a Jedi.

grabtongue

Jedi so far undercover, you don’t even know what covers are

Look, this scene does it for me. It cracks me up. Sometimes I rewind and watch it a couple of times in a row. This is really funny.

I also absolutely love the scene in ROTJ when Han starts issuing instructions to Threepio, interrupting him every second before Threepio can translate his demands to the Ewoks. He concludes, “And hurry up, will ya? I haven’t got all day.” Threepio actually does a double take. That scene has always been incredibly amusing to me.

3D Experience

Posted in Fun with tags , , , , , , on 15 February 2013 by Megan

My much, long, absolutely delayed review of my time at the E3 3D this time last year.

I know, I said for a year I was going to post about this. And you may well wonder what is proved by doing an entry about an experience that you can’t run out and share anymore because it’s way over. Well, that’s why I made this a Fun Friday and not a Spotlight Sunday post!

DSCN8425

Me and Trilogy, kicking it 3D

Here’s a picture of me with Trilogy the Bear, whom I introduced last week, kicking our three-d glasses with my metal ROTJ poster over my shoulder. This was right after I got back from the first showing.

So, Episode I came out in 3D on February 10, 2012. I thought this date was wildly random, but I’d been looking forward to it for a long time . . . as this post from Hundredaire Socialite (from my 80 Day Facebook challenge) will demonstrate:

Episode I in 3D

A Photo that Makes Me Happy

I have been hanging onto this picture for like a month now. This makes me happy because Star Wars is coming back to the theaters!! I can finally see all six of them in the theater! And lightsaber duels in 3D! There is NO downside here. Plus this poster makes me smile. So the whole thing is happiness.

E1’s release date is February 10, 2012.

On Saturday, February 11, my roommate and I abruptly decided to simply go over and watch without really planning it. That put us a the 1 o’clock showing. We got the awesome Darth Maul glasses and those adorable minifigs. We snuck out after the podrace because, hello, boring. It was so amazing, so awesome to get to see E1 in the theater again.

As far as 3D was concerned, it largely didn’t look any different — instead of coming out of the screen, the way regular 3D movies do, it was like looking in. Not only did I not get a headache, but it looked sweet. The parts that looked different were epic cool. I can’t wait for the Coruscant speeder chase next year — and the opening scene to E3!!! (More here at Hundredaire Socialite)

My little pod trooper from the first showing

My little pod trooper from the first showing

The second time was great; seriously would’ve gone again if I could afford it. However, they were out of proper glasses and out of Pods when we went back the second time, so that and being broke reduced the desire for a third. Totally ruined some kid’s life crawling over him to get out during the Podrace scene. I know that people leaving the film in the middle is a huge pet peeve of people’s. Tell Lucas to stop putting sucky crap in and I won’t have to stand in the lobby for 15 minutes waiting for the scene to end! (Due warning: I’m going to hide outside in the lobby during Yoda’s “fight scene” too.)

Mini-trooper with R2-D2 and R2-D2 Jr.

Mini-trooper with R2-D2 and R2-D2 Jr.

Anyway, for some more size perspective, there’s my pod clone trooper with a Heroes Artoo and a regular size Artoo. (He came with the Dex action figure I bought for the SW party. OMG, I should really post about that party.)

Trilogy rocking it with two lightsabers and 3D glasses

Trilogy rocking it with two lightsabers and 3D glasses

In conclusion, here’s Trilogy with his lightsabers and 3D glasses. I will say that Episode I in 3D was everything I hoped for. I don’t even like 3D movies, but just seeing it on the big screen is worth it . . . and 3D lightsabers did not disappoint.

Just for fun, how I made my candy lightsaber work even after eating the candy.

Just for fun, how I made my candy lightsaber work even after eating the candy.