On the 20th anniversary of The Phantom Menace, George Lucas responded to its critics, reminding them that Star Wars has always been for kids.
The Star Wars prequels (Episodes I, II, & III) received considerable backlash from many fans. Fans complained about the overuse of CGI, poor acting, and of course, Jar Jar Binks. But Lucas still has no regrets, and continues to defend the prequels. During the 2019 Star Wars Celebration, Lucas doubled down on his defense claiming that The Phantom Menace is one of his favorite movies and Jar Jar is his favorite character.
In a recent discussion on StarWars.com, Lucas made his case that the prequels are for kids.
“The films were designed for 12-year-olds. I said that right from the very, very beginning and the very first interviews I did for A New Hope. It’s just that they were so popular with everybody, that everybody forgot that.” He argued that those who were 10 when watching A New Hope had the same expectations for The Phantom Menace. But being in their 30s, they inevitably would have had a different experience.”
Threepio Was Made For Kids Too
And specifically regarding Jar Jar, Lucas compared it to the backlash he received about Threepio. “When I did A New Hope, everybody felt the same way about Threepio. They hated him. They thought he was too childish and the jokes were bad…. said the same thing. It’s just that the initial wave of Star Wars sort of overwhelmed the criticism of Threepio.”
One of the prequels’ sound designers and editors, Ben Burtt, supported Lucas’ defense. “My grandchildren, they’re all the right age for Star Wars, they’re two to 15, and they love it! I don’t get any critiques from them.” Even Ahmed Best, the actor who was ridiculed for playing Jar Jar, was able to recover from the backlash by seeing how much kids still love Jar Jar.
“I had to start looking at Jar Jar through their eyes, and that’s what made me smile again.”
I, for one, completely agree with Lucas on this one. My kids love Jar Jar, and I love him too, if only because he makes my kids want to watch Star Wars with me. My philosophy is that one must learn to separate the story from the story-telling. Certainly, the Star Wars story in its various forms can appeal to virtually any audience. Making Star Wars more accessible is a brilliant way to keep its momentum going strong, even after more than 4 decades.
What do you think about the prequels and Lucas’ defense? Tell us in the comments.