It’s been twenty-one years since Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace released in theatres worldwide, and the world has been talking about George Lucas and his vision ever since.
Prior to its release, it was the most hyped movie during that time. Due to the huge success and cultural phenomenon of the original Star Wars trilogy, fans wanted more. When the third film (sixth chronically) Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi was released in 1983, fans were wondering if franchise creator George Lucas would make more movies. After a long hiatus that lasted twenty-one years, Lucas was able to give fans another Star Wars film.
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However, the hype and excitement turned into disappointment. After Phantom Menace released in theatres, the fan reaction and critical reception were both very negative. Many Star Wars fans were so disappointed that they turned on Lucas and even accused him of “ruining their childhood”. Even casual audiences were not pleased with the film, with some seeing it bland despite its great action scenes and modern special effects. Critics were not impressed with the film either, disparaging the dull and wooden acting.
Unfortunately, the negative reaction to Phantom Menace hugely affected the reaction to and production of the following two films, and the Star Wars prequel trilogy has been seen negatively among fans and critics. However, over the years, some fans began to slowly appreciate them.
George Lucas Recalls Old Warnings
One of the main reasons why George Lucas’ original series was so successful both critically and commercially was because he had help. Lucas had experienced directors, scriptwriters, and producers that guided him while he was making his original Star Wars trilogy. But during the prequels, he didn’t have the same level of trusted people beside him, nor did he follow the warning and advice of the studio that would produce his film.
Anakin Skywalker is the central character of the first six Star Wars films, introduced as the villain Darth Vader in the original trilogy before his Skywalker background was explored in the prequels. However, the character of Anakin Skywalker had mixed to negative reviews.
In Lucas’ new book, The Star Wars Archives: 1999-2005, he reveals that executives told him adding a young Anakin Skywalker would “ruin” the Star Wars franchise. Studio executives warned Lucas that “you’re going to destroy the franchise; you’re going to destroy everything”. The executives also added that Lucas was “making a movie that nobody wants to see”.
Lucas, however, did not follow their advice and followed through with his vision. After the debacle with studio executives, Lucas cast child actor Jake Lloyd as the young Anakin Skywalker. Let’s just say that in the end, this gamble did not work out for Lucas and Lloyd. In fact, Lloyd’s performance as Anakin was so negatively and harshly received that it caused his acting career to take a downhill turn from which he never recovered.
However, we must give credit to George Lucas for following his vision. Lucas is one of the greatest storytellers of all time, even if his prequel movies fell short of the story they meant to tell. But the prequels still entertained fans due to the interesting mythology, fascinating new worlds, and amazing lightsaber duels.
If Lucas had the same writing, directing, and scriptwriting talent he had for his original trilogy, the outcome could have been different. In recent years, the prequel trilogy has been getting more love and appreciation some fans – mainly due to the successful Clone Wars animated show, which fixed many problems the prequels had. The biggest example of this is how it made Anakin Skywalker a more well-liked and revered character.
Yes, the prequels left a negative impression on the Star Wars franchise. But we can’t forget the level of storytelling, modern technology, interesting characters, and fascinating worlds they gave us. Say what you will about Mr. Lucas, but he is still a creative genius and a legend. George Lucas is a legendary pioneer that forever changed the landscape of modern cinema and pop culture. May The Force Be With Him.
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