The Inarguable Joy of Babu Frik

     March 26, 2020

star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-babu-frik-sliceThe dead speak! Sorry, that has nothing to do with that we’re talking about here, I just wanted to see what it’s like to start something like that. (Didn’t love it. Did not feel great.) But it’s going to be almost exclusively positivity from this point on, promise. I need it. We need it, quite frankly. Star Wars discussions have been straight-up fraught since the release of director J.J. AbramsThe Rise of Skywalker, a massive franchise-capper that certainly shot for the moon but only landed on like, Coruscant. (A perfectly fun planet, but the logistics don’t make a lick of goddamn sense.) Since then, it’s mostly been debates about what a Star Wars movie really *is*, who gets to define it, whether winning a soccer bet is an acceptable way to win a role in the biggest sci-fi franchise of all time, how many fun ways Chris Terrio can contradict his own script, and, finally, in the ultimate act of modern online clownery, the decision that there must be a #JJCut out there somewhere. The Discourse, my friends, is exhausting, and a little pocket of air would be refreshing.

So let’s talk about this guy, Babu Frik.

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Image via Disney/Lucasfilm

Babu Frik, voiced by the wonderful Shirley Henderson, is the Anzellan droidsmith who provides his expert tech skills to an entire crew of Kijimi spice-runners, talents he uses to excavate the location of a Sith Waverider from C-3PO’s circuits. Babu Frik is also the only Anzellan we’ve ever met in the Star Wars universe, so you just have to accept that there’s an entire planet made up of things that look like that. God, their transportation is probably so tiny. Look at this dude Babu Frik. He looks like a baked potato accidentally brought to life in a science experiment who decided to make the best of the situation. I love him.

And ever since my two viewings of The Rise of Skywalker, I’ve wondered why, exactly, I feel such affection for this diminutive sock puppet who does I.T. work for an outer-space drug cartel. For one, it’s the fact that the movie does fuck-all to contextualize Babu Frik. He just is, and in a movie as hell-bent on explaining everything as Rise of Skywalker, that rules. Dating back to A New Hope, one of the best parts of any Star Wars movie were the unexplained background aliens, the scenes where we’d move through a dive bar and see some eight-foot-tall sofa-looking thing casually getting drinks with like, the Devil. It suggested the vastness of an entire galaxy, filled with billions of untold stories. Similarly, you just gotta’ accept Babu Frik’s whole deal. “Babu only works for the crew,” Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell) tells Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), suggesting that not only did an alien roughly the same size as a child’s tennis shoe establish himself into a dangerous crew of criminals, he also established a code of respect. What did Babu Frik see on his rise to the top? What did he do? We may never know. Babu Frik is an enigma.

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Image via Disney/Lucasfilm

Mostly, though, the character is just objectively a source of joy. He’s just hyped to help out, whether that means rewiring a droid’s memories or assaulting the secret homeworld of the Sith. He’s the less-infuriating side of the “just turn your brain off and enjoy it” argument. Babu Frik doesn’t care that he’s a plot point on an endless series of video game side quests. Babu Frik won’t comment on Zorii Bliss handing over her life’s work to a man she was about to murder like ten minutes ago. Babu Frik, with all his technological knowledge, probably won’t even suggest that Emperor Palpatine should stop building super-weapons that contain one fatal flaw. He’s just joyfully along for the ride, weaving through the color and noise with an enthusiastic “heyheyyyyyy.” Babu Frik embodies the enthusiasm I wish I felt during Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and in that way, I admire him.

“Seems like you’re putting a lot of stock in a non-human character who has like four lines and 90 seconds of screentime total,” you might be saying right now, perhaps following that up with “It’s really okay to just not like a Star Wars movie”, and maybe even concluding with “Plus, in the end, isn’t the love you feel for Babu Frik just the manufactured variety that Disney and Lucasfilm create so well to sell merch, much like Ewoks, and Porgs, and most recently, Baby Yoda?”

To all that, I’d say…fair. Harsh, but extremely fair. But I do love Star Wars, and thanks to Disney+ and the studio’s tendency to think lightyears ahead in terms of the most profitable franchise possible, it’s not going away any time soon. I don’t entirely agree that the future is bleak, but it does feel like “discussing” Star Wars has become synonymous with “debating” Star Wars, an endless jostle for the high ground in which everyone ends up in the lava pit. So, for now, you shoot for something, anything, to agree on, and thank the maker for the inarguable joy of Babu Frik.

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