In the late ’90s, the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy and especially its first installment, The Phantom Menace, were among the most anticipated events in all of entertainment. But once Episode I was released in 1999, the constant political jargon and whimsical tone of the film drew immediate backlash.
And to this day, one of the critics’ biggest targets is Jar Jar Binks, the amphibious Gungan brought to life by Ahmed Best’s motion capture performance. The instant distaste audiences felt around the world towards this film and this character was a surprise for Lucas and his team. But the actor, who’s since come out about his depression following the Jar Jar role, has had a particularly difficult time coping.
In a recent interview with StarWars.com, Best described that his anxiety around the fandom community has continued to plague him all the way up to this past April’s Star Wars Celebration.
“To be very honest, I was very afraid to go to Celebration,” Best explained. “Every time I’m in a Star Wars setting, I spend most of my time defending our work and defending Jar Jar. And I just don’t want to do that anymore. So I was very reluctant to come to Celebration because of that, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t the case at all. I just felt nothing but love and respect and admiration for the work we did. I couldn’t have been more proud and I couldn’t have been happier. I wish George [Lucas] was there because I think we’re at a time right now where we have to stand in that work. We have to say, ‘We did it,’ and step into that in a very proud way, because it stands the test of time.”
Surely, feeling like you’re the runt of one of cinema’s greatest franchises must be a tough pill to swallow. But times have recently been kinder to Best and his goofy Gungan, with fans on social media lending their support, and creator George Lucas calling Jar Jar Binks his favorite character in the series.
But according to the actor, this appreciation for the film was due, citing Lucas’ innovative visions as always being beyond the current times.
“George Lucas is a futurist,” Best declared. “That guy can see 20, 30, 50 years into the future. As an artist and as a creator and as an innovator, he’s done things that no one else has done, no one else has even thought of. I know the fan backlash of 20 years ago was loud, but that’s really all it was. It was just loud. And now we have to be louder in our pride for this thing, because we have an army behind us of people who love those movies.”
Having always been a proud supporter for The Phantom Menace, it’s refreshing to see the divisive project receive some form of appreciation. But what do you think, Star Wars fans? Is Episode I like wine, and managed to grow better with age? Let us know what you think in the comments below.