The last few years have been embroiled with controversy surrounding Disney and Lucasfilm's Star Wars Sequel Trilogy. Discourse regarding the films has the potential to turn ugly very quickly, as people seem to either love or loath the movies. Recent comments from the actors have stoked the flames of divide, leaving the fandom in a rough place.
With all of this going on, it's become easy to lose sight of the fact that the Prequel Trilogy received similar treatment, though for drastically different reasons. George Lucas was blasted for the execution of the trilogy as a whole, and particularly for some of the choices he made for The Phantom Menace. A Star Wars veteran has recently offered his thoughts on how Episode I went, as well as his feelings regarding a co-star who took the brunt of the fan backlash...
In an interview with Andy Cohen on Radio Andy, via The Hollywood Reporter, actor Liam Neeson shared his thoughts on The Phantom Menace and the opportunity to play Qui-Gon Jinn:
"I like the film. I'm proud of it and proud to have been a part of it. I got to be a Jedi. I got to play with those wonderful lightsabers and stuff. It was terrific, Andy, it really was."
Neeson also addressed the criticism his co-star Ahmed Best faced in the wake of his performance as Jar Jar Binks:
"He came into a lot of criticism, I mean to the point where it really hurt his career. And I have to say when I was making that film ... he was probably one of the funniest guys and talented guys I have ever worked with."
The actor even said he once told his manager he believed Best would be the next Eddie Murphy, which he still believes can be the case.
WHAT THIS MEANS
This was a nice interview from Neeson. Nothing Earth-shattering, no groundbreaking reveals, but a nice a take on a film once despised by many that fans are seemingly coming around to. Perhaps the reception of the latest trilogy helped alter the legacy of the prequels, but it's more than fair to say that there was always a great story beneath some of the rougher execution.
One of the aspects of The Phantom Menace that hasn't received a lick of criticism is Neeson's portrayal of Qui-Gon Jinn, and rightfully so. For all intents and purposes, Jinn is essentially the perfect Jedi, and Neeson brilliantly captured the essence of how a compassionate and wise member of the ancient religion was supposed to be. While it was sad to see Qui-Gon go so soon, the demise of the character plays a pivotal role in the fate of the galaxy at large, and without Neeson's performance, the importance of the character could have gone unappreciated.
Neeson's evaluation of Ahmed Best seems to go in line with what the rest of his co-stars have said about the actor, and the impression that the man behind Jar Jar Binks has left on fans publicly. Best has always come across as funny and an all-around decent guy, and it's a shame that his career took such a hit from the backlash to his character.
The Phantom Menace isn't perfect, but it has heart. That's why we love it, and why it's so representative of George Lucas' Star Wars. The kids of the Prequel Trilogy generation have all grown up, and with them the legacy of that story has risen. It's hard to imagine anyone other than Liam Neeson playing Qui-Gon Jinn, and the actor has a great deal to be proud of.