Liam Neeson Defends 'Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace'

It seems as if the common consensus on whether Star Wars films are good or bad shifts like the wind.

In 1980, when The Empire Strikes Back was released, fan reception of the film was actually fairly poor, with fans asserting that it was not "by any means as nice as Star Wars [A New Hope]" and criticizing many of the story and plot choices that were made. Now, however, Empire is one of the most beloved Star Wars films of all, and is now frequently hailed as one of the best, if not the best, in the series.

The Disney era of Star Wars films has been filled with strife. Those who have been around for a little while probably remember the famous petition to have The Last Jedi removed from canon because of the backlash that the film received. Plus, The Rise of Skywalker fared no better upon its release last December.

The prequel trilogy was, for the longest time, considered to be...well, not great. Many thought the films were cheesy or disjointed, and fans expressed backlash against the films, most notably against Ahmed Best, who played Jar Jar Binks. Now, however, it seems that the tide has shifted, and the prequels are fairly popular again, inspiring such explorations as Screen Rant's article, "When Did the Star Wars Prequels Become Cool?" 

For Qui-Gon Jinn actor Liam Neeson, it was a wonderful experience, and he has strong feelings about the backlash against the film and especially against co-star Ahmed Best.

In an interview with Andy Cohen on Radio Andy, via The Hollywood Reporter, Neeson talked about how proud he is of the film and how much he loved working on it. He told Cohen the following:
"I like the film. I 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."
In regards to Ahmed Best, Neeson said that the actor "came into a lot of criticism" and that the criticism "really hurt his career." Neeson talked about how sad this made him, saying that Best is "one of the funniest guys and talented guys I have ever worked with." He apparently even told his manager that he thought Best could be the next Eddie Murphy, and Neeson said that he still believes it.

You can listen to the whole segment from SiriusXM here:

When the initial fan backlash against The Phantom Menace was at its height, Best revealed that he considered suicide in the aftermath. According to Neeson, fans at conventions have been extremely welcoming recently, which is a positive turn, given the initial reception of Best's character. Best has even been able to dress as a Jedi and host the YouTube series Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge.

Liam Neeson's love for his role as Qui-Gon Jinn, Ahmed Best's struggle in the face of fan criticism, and the shifting tides of Star Wars opinions over the years are all a good reminder that, at the end of the day, these are films that we are meant to love and be entertained by. They are made by real people who love what they do, and even the most imperfect movies, like The Phantom Menace, have aspects to love and appreciate. 

Unfortunately, some of the toxicity in the Star Wars fandom has continued to negatively impact stars and fans alike, such as when Kelly Marie Tran faced online backlash over her character Rose in The Last Jedi. Neeson's love for his experience making Star Wars is a reminder of the positivity that the stories can bring, and I believe that the fandom will continue to channel that positivity in the future. 

Stay tuned for more Star Wars news, and until then, may the Force be with you.

Source(s): The Direct, The Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, RollingStone