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(Credit: Juan Bendana)

Film

Mark Hamill criticises 'Star Wars' fans for unfair prequel backlash

@SamWKemp

Of all the fandoms, few have been as unforgiving as Star Wars fans. The original trilogy made a monumental impact on the children of the 1970s. George Lucas’s world teemed with life. It was an alternative reality as rich in detail as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, featuring alien races, hyper-specific spaceships and a creed of supernaturally gifted warriors with their own philosophy. It revolutionised cinema, so when the inevitable prequels came along decades later, those original fans were bound to have high expectations.

When Mark Hamill reprised the role of Luke Skywalker for 2017’s The Last Jedi, he was asked how he felt about returning to one of the most iconic fictional characters of the 1970s. He made no attempt to hide his terror, recalling Star Wars fan’s vitriolic response to 1999’s The Phantom Menace. Talking to Vulture, Hammill said: “I couldn’t believe some of the things they wrote about the prequels, you know? I mean but really beyond ‘I didn’t like it’. Stuff like: ‘You ruined my childhood’.

The Phantom Menace was one of the most highly-anticipated films of 1999. Fans flocked to screenings in their thousands, many dressed in costumes from the original trilogy. The crowds cheered when the opening title sequence began, but enthusiasm quickly dwindled. While many reviews were positive, praising Lucas for making a movie that was up to snuff, some fans were less impressed. Rolling Stone went especially far, writing: “The actors are wallpaper, the jokes are juvenile, there’s no romance, and the dialogue lands with the thud of a computer-instruction manual.”

Fair enough, you might say. But according to Mark Hammill, some fans took things too far: “I’m still angry about the way they treated Jake Lloyd (young Anikan) He was only ten years old that boy, and he did exactly what George wanted him to do.” That’s not to say Hammill didn’t recognise Lucas’s failings: “Believe me,” he continued. “I understand clunky dialogue.” Lloyd’s portrayal of Anikan was one of the most panned aspects of The Phantom Menace. the young Lloyd retired from acting in 2001 and would later claim that his decision was a direct result of the intense bullying he recieved both inside and outside of school.

Trashing The Phantom Menace became so normalised that Hamill was once approached to take part in a documentary depicting George Lucas as some sort of pop culture anti-christ. “I almost got hornswoggled into that documentary,” Hamill added.

“They weren’t calling it The People Vs George Lucas at that time, but I could tell from the questions they were asking it was an open invitation to trash George. And I had issues with George, but I love that man. I would never, you know? And I don’t talk outside of the family. It’s just brutal. It’s one of the reasons I would never let my kids be part of showbiz. Wait until you’re 18 because it’s gonna be an endless life of rejection, ridicule and unemployment.”

Blimey. Star Wars clearly left a pretty significant mark on Hamill too.