…Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Jar Jar in 3D

Jar Jar Binks is a terrible character. Let’s get that out of the way first. From the way he talks to his appearance (which, even if we’re speaking just in terms of technical advances, has not aged well) to his ability to suck the life out of any given scene with his “comedy,” he makes it hard to sit through Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace as an adult. So, I use my kids as an excuse.

I recently appeared on a podcast in which much of the discussion centered around the (then) imminent release of Episode I in 3D. Memories of the original release were shared and finally, thirteen years after the fact, I was able to articulate accurately my reaction to seeing the movie for the first time after being, quite literally, a Star Wars fan my entire life (I was born the same year the original Star Wars was released): I didn’t know I was disappointed.

Only those of us who stood in line for six hours for tickets (this was before Fandango) can even begin to understand how it’s possible to be so completely out of touch with your own feelings that you return to the cinema six more times over a six month period to try to figure them out (yes, I did that). Trying to wrap my head around my own disappointment with the film was like trying to comprehend a slow leak when I desperately needed water. I didn’t want to believe what my eyes were seeing because I was so thirsty and the bowl looked full enough that I fooled myself into believing the levels weren’t really going down. But Star Wars was going down. The magic just wasn’t there in the same way anymore.

Did you see that? I didn’t say “the magic wasn’t there.” I said, “the magic wasn’t there in the same way.” Big difference. One my daughter would insist upon. She digs The Phantom Menace. Even though we already own the movie and she’d seen it several times, she wanted to see it again, in 3D.

Blame–and thank–Jar Jar. She thinks he’s hilarious. He says “doo doo” and she laughs. She’s smart–might be smarter than me one day–but she’s 9. This is how she rolls. And can I fault her for that? Of course not. When I was a kid, I coerced my dad into taking me to see the Garbage Pail Kids Movie. I deserve whatever fresh hell my kids can drag me into.

But (and this is between you and me), I didn’t completely dislike Episode One yesterday. It was kind of cool seeing the pod race on the big screen again. And that lightsaber fight at the end? Man, you can’t beat it.

The 3D was well done, I can’t deny that. It didn’t have View Masteritis like the John Carter trailer that ran before it. It looked more like the 3D in the trailer for the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man–slick, rounded and consistent. Time and care was put the conversion and whatever E1 may lack in charm, I can’t deny that it’s a visual splendor and the 3D added to the experience.

Am I blinded by time and age? No, if anything I’m blinded by my kids. Seeing things fresh again through their eyes is one of the great treats of parenthood. They soften my cynicism and my criticisms. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

I’d rather enjoy things than not, on whatever level.

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6 comments

  1. I guess I stand as a major minority in this matter, but even 13 years ago watching it for my Bachelor Party, the night before I was to be wed I really enjoyed the comedic affect of Jar-Jar and I still enjoy the character today.

    I have been a Star Wars fan my entire life. I remember at 2 years old watching Episode IV at a drive in theater in Panama City, Florida. It is one of the few memories I still have from that time period. When the trilogies of Ep 1 thru 3 came out I knew there was going to be some controversy, and I went into them excited and ready to see new characters and situations and I’m still excited about it to this day.

    Now onto the 3D affect of the film. To me, and it may have been the DLP version of the 3D, but it felt very flat to me and I was really expecting more. So the question now is, will I shell out the $12 to go see Ep. 2 next year, well you bet your sweet fanny I will. There is nothing like Star Wars on the big screen and that is one experience I will always cherish. Cool thing is next year my boys will be old enough to go along with me.

    So put me in the corner if you have to, but I really enjoyed the Jar-Jar character and I still do to this day.

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    1. I’m glad that there are those who enjoy Jar Jar. I’d much rather have your experience, Todd!

      It looks like this rerelease of Ep. 1 did well. I imagine we’ll get 2 next year.

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  2. Most beautiful sentiment: “I’d rather enjoy things than not, on whatever level.” This needs to be Internet Canon. The comment sections of the internet have spawned a pseudo-world-weary shrugging, snarky attitude that everything sucks and nothing is ever good enough. How lovely to recognize that it is better to enjoy than to not enjoy. I mean, is being miserable that much fun, really?

    I love this: “Seeing things fresh again through [the eyes of my children] is one of the great treats of parenthood.” Only, the first time I read it, I read “threat”, not “treat”. heh heh. Cuz it is a hazard. I am unable to separate out my feelings for films I see with my kids. If they enjoy, I enjoy. If they don’t… well, you get the picture.

    Great post, Brock. Much enjoyment!

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    1. Agreed, Steve. I think there’s room for reactions to any given thing to go outside of the “loved it” and “hated it” territory. Extreme negativity just turns me off and makes me think there’s probably something pretty terrific going on there. That’s how I discovered one of my favorite bands, The Airborne Toxic Event. The review of their album I read was so awful that I sought it out just to find out for myself. Turned out to be brilliant.

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  3. I will cut all parents slack when it comes to this sort of thing. It’s a whole different world through the eyes of your kids. I think, as artists, we’re lucky…we generally see the world through some sort of child-like lens on some levels…but once we have kids, it happens all over again. I remember going to Disneyland about 8 years ago, prior to having our first daughter. Kim and I loved going to Disney, and had been there a number of times. But that time was…different. It has sort of lost its appeal. The lines were long, the rides OK…we looked at each other and literally said, “Well, that’s it for Disney. I guess the next time we come here, it’ll be with kids.”

    And it was. And it was magical again.

    So, as I’ve said for the past few weeks….I’m mad at my nerd friends who have railed against George Lucas and the prequels who went and plopped down $12 at his altar and saw “Phantom Menace” in 3D by themselves. But people who took their kids…that’s a different story. I certainly have my opinions on films of all sorts, but I am, at heart, a film lover, and I desperately want my kids to discover films on their own, and find the ones that speak to them. So if my six year old laughs uncontrollably at how funny Jar Jar is, good for her.

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    1. Tom, if you can reach some sort of peace on this subject and decide there are circumstances under which you could see Ep. 1, then anybody can.

      I kid, but I know your feelings on this subject. I thought you articulated them well on the podcast. And I agree–those that hate on Lucas and go anyway, they are to be disregarded.

      Hope you’ve had a chance to check out the new Star Tours. It really is pretty incredible.

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