In the age of instant hyperbole and overwhelming online negativity that we live in, George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace wouldn’t have stood a chance. The long-awaited return to a galaxy far, far away was the single most anticipated blockbuster in history when it hit theaters in the summer of 1999, but despite doing massive business at the box office, the finished product left more than a few people feeling greatly disappointed.
If Midi-chlorians, Senate hearings, Jake Lloyd’s bratty Anakin Skywalker and Jar Jar Binks had arrived in the social media era, then the backlash would have been worse than anything that The Last Jedi or The Rise of Skywalker were subjected to. The Phantom Menace has yet to undergo a significant reevaluation or reappraisal from fans who will likely always regard it as one of the weakest entries in the series, and in a new book, it’s been revealed that the studio warned George Lucas that the story of a young Anakin could ruin the franchise, making the director feel as though he was creating a movie that nobody actually wanted to see.
“You’re going to destroy the franchise; you’re going to destroy everything!” Lucas recounts [the studio saying], adding that he told others at Lucasfilm that he was “making a movie that nobody wants to see.”
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Fox would have preferred Anakin to be a teenager in order to set up a marketable love story with Padme Amidala, but the brain behind Star Wars was adamant that the future Darth Vader be introduced as a nine year-old. Of course, it would have helped if he’d written a better script and found a better actor for the role, but those were just two of The Phantom Menace‘s many problems.
Obviously, despite a lacklustre critical reaction, the pic didn’t even come close to destroying the Star Wars franchise. In fact, if anything, Lucas’ contributions have become even more popular among longtime fans after the Disney era has split them right down the middle on several occasions.