As mentioned, “The Phantom Menace” was eventually pilloried. Toxic fans were particularly cruel to actors Jake Lloyd and Ahmed Best, who played the young Anakin and the Gungan Jar Jar Binks, respectively. Both actors had their mental health severely impacted. Eventually, both “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” and “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” opened to enormous numbers, but fan reception was notoriously unenthused. They weren’t the least successful “Star Wars” movies, but they were among the most lambasted.
What happened is George Lucas seems to have had a different view as to what “Star Wars” was than the film’s many fans. Lucas wanted to tell stories reminiscent of the corny, melodramatic adventure serials of his youth, not realizing his own movies supplanted said serials as the new standard of the genre. Fans seemingly wanted more typical adventures, and didn’t care for romances, clunky dialogue, or tales of trade route taxation. The rise of the Empire was via strange, dull politicking, not military force or shows of evil. For many, the films merely weren’t exciting. It also didn’t help that the revolutionary CGI effects were unappealing to look at.
But then, maybe Lucas was right to stick to his guns. By 2015, and the release of “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens,” many came out in defense of “The Phantom Menace,” with /Film’s own Caroline Cao declaring it the catalyst for her own “Star Wars” fandom.
Lucas knew that disappointment was part of “Star Wars” DNA, so he followed his whims. Eventually, he came out on top.
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