If you ever dreamed of Jar Jar Binks and Mace Windu teaming up for an adventurous “Indiana Jones” style story, then Star Wars: The Clone Wars Lost Missions’ “The Disappeared” arc is for you. If not, it’s one of the more skippable episodes of the series.
Director Steward Lee and writer Jonathan Rinzler, long-time Star Wars nonfiction guru and author of the popular The Star Wars comic series, certainly haven’t put together a bad story – there’s a large variety of humor here, with something for everybody to laugh at: Jar Jar’s slapstick, an awkward and absurd romance, and Mace Windu’s calm acceptance of it all. The Indiana Jones feel in this arc is intentional, as seen in the StarWars.com trivia gallery, here and here. The unironic damsel in distress plot becomes grating, though. I was never really concerned that Queen Julia wouldn’t be saved, not because the masked mooks weren’t threatening, but because I’ve watched this story before.
The idea of Jar Jar and Mace on a road trip seemed inherently funny – Mace’s deadpan delivery of “Do not. Touch. Anything.” was worlds more amusing than Jar Jar’s squeaky voice. Jar Jar has sometimes been used relatively well in The Clone Wars, such as in the fourth season episode “Shadow Warrior,” and here more than ever he comes off as a childish figure, a bumbling hero in over his head on a quest to save a queen. Jar Jar feels out of place in any scene, and the ones in which he works well play to that fact – even Obi-Wan in The Phantom Menace mocked him, and maybe the romance between him and the queen would have felt more natural if some of the other characters had laughed at it.
Mace Windu showed off impressive lightsaber skills, and his lengthy leaps really show both his powers and the scale of the underground chamber. The queen is the classic case of a female character said to have both political and Force power who nevertheless doesn’t save herself. Her culture is vivid and pretty, if derivative. The mix of cultural influences – Indian, Mayan, and more – was a bit jarring, and none of it coalesced into more than a pastiche, but the iridescent coloring on the Bardottans’ armor was beautiful. The flat-winged spaceship is also a unique-looking design.
Like in “Shadow Warrior” Jar Jar treads close to something a lot like Nightsister magic. The idea of the Force being an essence one can steal out of a person feels very old-school Star Wars, from back when the Force hadn’t been ratified, when it was a code word for mysticism. In the more detailed world of The Clone Wars, it’s a bit confusing, but not important enough to throw me out of the story.
“The Disappeared Pt. I” is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom lite, probably endearing and exciting for children but a bit old hat for adults.