Star Wars fans rejoiced when George Lucas announced he was making the prequel trilogy. But the movies didn’t turn out as expected, particularly for older fans. Over the years, audiences who grew up with the prequels have come to appreciate them. But at the time, studio executives at Fox warned Lucas his approach to the prequels could destroy the Star Wars saga.
The ‘Star Wars’ prequels couldn’t possibly live up to the hype
To be fair, the Star Wars prequels were never going to please everyone. After all, 16 years had passed between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace. So fans who fell for the “galaxy far, far away” as children had grown into more cynical adults. That being said, fans called out a few specific grievances that stood out in The Phantom Menace.
One of these was the character of Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best). Lucas intended the bumbling Gungan to be the movie’s comic relief, a character designed to appeal specifically to children. But Jar Jar — and other supporting characters, such as Watto and Nute Gunray — came across like racist stereotypes. Yet, the bigger issue lies with Anakin Skywalker.
George Lucas sealed the divisive fate of the prequels with 1 decision
As played by Jake Lloyd, Anakin is a nine-year-old slave boy whose destiny leads him to become the fearsome Darth Vader. Much like the movie’s heroes place their faith in Anakin’s future, Lucas put the fate of The Phantom Menace on Lloyd’s shoulders. Studio executives cautioned Lucas that this decision could undermine the success of the movie.
According to the new book The Star Wars Archives: 1999-2005 (via Polygon), the team at Fox told Lucas “You’re going to destroy the franchise; you’re going to destroy everything!” when they learned Anakin would be a child. The filmmaker, however, said he’d prefer to make a movie “nobody wants to see” than retread the same story he told in the original trilogy.
In Lucas’ defense, the prequel trilogy did become a huge commercial hit, despite fans’ divisive response. But it’s also easy to see why the decision to put the Star Wars saga on Lloyd was a questionable one. Child stars can often be dicey as the lead of a movie. The Phantom Menace and the resulting criticism he endured did negatively affect Lloyd’s life.
Did the sequel trilogy make the prequels better in comparison?
Although some fans still choose to ignore the prequels, others arguably love them even more now. In the wake of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, perhaps the prequels’ reputation will only continue to improve. As Lucas once stated, he sought to do something new with the prequel trilogy. And despite its flaws, his story does flow fairly seamlessly from one film to the next.
In comparison, the sequel trilogy feels disconnected, with some fans claiming it frequently contradicts itself. The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker particularly rely on nostalgia and callbacks to please fans. Meanwhile, The Last Jedi divided fans with its attempt to inject some freshness into the sequel trilogy. Lucas, meanwhile, was a fan.
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