George Lucas,  Prequel Trilogy,  The Phantom Menace

George Lucas: “The Phantom Menace is one of my favorite movies. Jar Jar is my favorite character.”


Here is George Lucas’ message for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 20th Anniversary panel at Celebration Chicago.


  • PrinceOfNaboo

    It’s not surprising how The Phantom Menace would bei one of George’s favourite films. If you think about: THX 1138, American Graffiti, the first Star Wars (A New Hope) and The Phantom Menace all tell the same basic story in very different ways. Just as Lawrance Kasdan once observed, everything is in those movies that George seemed to be obsessed with.

    Given that shooting The Phantom Menace was probably the most pleasant experience, I could believe this movie might even be George’s secret favourite overall. I’m very glad both The Phantom Menace and George Lucas are slowly receiving the respect from fans and public that they deserved from the very beginning.

    • archdukeofnaboo

      I completely agree, it’s heartening to see the Prequels so strong, and its fans so passionate at this year’s Celebration. Such a contrast to the 2015 affair!

      I’m sure many of us hardcore prequelists who traversed the internet with great caution in the bad days may still have to pinch ourselves.

  • Stefan K

    I think that GL once stated that he did not have a favorite among his movies – but that Indiana Jones was the one he had most fun making it, so he would pick that one as his favorite. Anyway, the man obviously does not regret his earlier choices.

  • Cryogenic

    @ Prince, @ Arch Duke, @ Stefan:

    I also think, for the reason(s) given by Prince Of Naboo, that TPM is probably Lucas’ secret favourite.

    Maybe, of the prequels, ROTS was more satisfying to make (the final and highly-dramatic piece with imagery that Lucas had been thinking of for a while; especially the imagery of the final act where the tragedy of the entire saga storyline reaches its apogee), and AOTC was Lucas’ love letter to other works of cinema (not to mention being a full-blown love story) and a deep-dish homage to Star Wars itself, and the place where Lucas truly discovered what a full-blown digital workflow could do…

    But TPM is where Lucas laid out an enormous foundation and also had tremendous fun conceiving of all these “jazz riffs” (to use his terminology), got to direct a great actor like Liam Neeson in the ideal role of a Jedi Master (Lucas himself described Neeson as perfect for the role), got to debut Jar Jar to the world (“Jar Jar is the key to all this”), got to direct Natalie Portman and clothe her in ornate costumes alien to Star Wars and all of blockbuster cinema, and was, for the first time, able to do with digital technology whatever he wanted (again: his own words). There was even an interview where Lucas said, with the originals, he maybe got 70% of what he wanted, and TPM was the first movie where he felt he achieved 90% of his vision. Numerically, that may be as close to a “seal of approval” as we’ll ever hear Lucas give; a mild-mannered genius who normally understates his true feelings and avoids effusiveness.

    Then, to echo Prince, it seems Lucas simply had the most fun directing TPM, not least because he probably went into the job with repressed memories of the nightmare of making the first film resurfacing, but then discovered how much fun directing could be (at least: relatively speaking). Once again, there are quotes from Lucas to this effect. After the much-smoother experience of Episode I, Lucas was ready to tackle the remaining episodes himself, and no longer saw directing as the enormous burden, where other directors needed to be brought in, as much as it killed him to lose a degree of creative control, on the OT sequels (and, in any case, he stepped in and part-directed ROTJ himself).

    Furthermore, given how much of a sand-blasting TPM took in the media, how fans dogged it and voiced their disapproval with unremitting hostility for twenty years, and how Disney themselves hijacked the disdain and gamed prequel-hatred to their commercial advantage, one can perhaps understand some defensiveness on Lucas’ part — as well as him seizing an opportunity, in classic George Lucas fashion, to (sincerely) troll the lions in the lions’ den. He has done it before, in fact. In a Vanity Fair recording from 2015, which is up on YouTube character, Lucas is asked who his favourite character is, and he responds, looking away: “Oh, I dunno. I like all the characters.” Then he looks right at the camera: “Jar Jar Binks.”

    In any case, more than once, Lucas has spoken of the SW films being like his children (see, for example, his 2015 interview with Charlie Rose): He conceived them, he raised them, he’s proud of them all, and they’ll always be with him (giving added bite, in the same interview, to Lucas conceding that he sold them to the “white slavers” of the entertainment world). So it’s impossible for him to rank them. And even in the Celebration clip, he calls TPM “one” of his favourites. Nonetheless, we do have the previous factors to go on, and it’s hard not to think TPM may have imprinted a little more on his consciousness (especially as he also spent the longest time realising TPM of any movie he has ever made).


    Lucas has said that “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” was the first film he ever made (which, of course, Spielberg actually directed) that he began working on, strongly believing it would be a hit. He never had that optimism for “THX”, “American Graffiti”, or “Star Wars”. In some sense, that film might be an important piece of connective tissue, and the “Indiana Jones” mythos as a whole (consider the impact of the “Young Indy” series on the prequels), between the original trilogy and TPM. Lucas delegated directing duties on TESB and ROTJ and didn’t have a great deal of fun. He delegated on “Raiders” and had lots of fun/was convinced they were working on a hit film. With TPM, he returned to directing, had more fun than he thought he would, and was obviously confident TPM would perform handsomely at the box office, just on hype alone. Sort of bringing him into the next chapter of his professional/creative life.


    I like how TPM reprises “The Hidden Fortress” in the Amidala decoy subplot; the Kurosawa movie that was so critical to the plot skeleton of the original movie. And yes, you don’t have to look too hard (although, for some fanboys, it’s apparently impossible) to see many resonances with Lucas’ earlier films in TPM. The wonderful thing about TPM, as Kasdan rightly recognised, is that it’s a George Lucas film, through and through.

    Arch Duke:

    Things are coming along. Kind of as Lucas predicted they would. He suggested a serious shift in opinion could take twenty years: a generation. Young people are now taking over. And for others: Perhaps some are beginning to see and delight in “the madness of King George”. Especially now that Disney has given them several years to reconsider what lazy, play-it-safe, commercial filmmaking actually looks and smells like.

    • jppiper

      some idiots think the prequels would have been better if there were problems behind the scenes like in the original trilogy

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