George Lucas Never Cared About Appeasing Star Wars Critics

There has been a lot of discussion about the Star Wars character Jar Jar Binks from the prequel trilogy lately. Especially with Jar Jar actor Ahmed Best returning to the universe as Jedi Kelleran Beq, who saved Grogu from Order 66 in "The Mandalorian." Jar Jar was an unpopular character, and cruel Star Wars viewers who made fun of the role — and Best for playing him — almost drove the actor to take his own life. It was wonderful to see his return. Some people are reexamining that role, as well as the increasingly toxic nature of fandom in general.

Critique is something filmmakers have to deal with as part of the job. It's always a risk when you put yourself out there as an actor, a writer, a creator, or a director. Your work will be reviewed, and not everyone is going to love what you made. Still, even before the days of social media, Star Wars fans have had loud voices. Those words of complaint reached the father of Star Wars himself, George Lucas. 

Back in September 1999, a few months after the release of "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace," Lucas spoke to Empire Magazine for issue #123 (the interview also ran on the publication's website in 2019). He talked about what was coming with the next two films, revisiting his classic creation, and why the backlash against his comedic sidekick characters wasn't going to change what he does.

Jar Jar Binks wasn't the first sidekick to get complaints

Empire asked Lucas if the "stinging American reviews hurt." He said: 

"The critics pretty much hated the first three movies; they said the dialogue is bad, the acting's wooden, no story, too many special effects, it's a children's film. That same review got moved to 'Empire Strikes Back,' that same review got moved to 'Return Of The Jedi,' and that is the review that is getting reprinted now. You'd think that after a while, they'd figure out that's what these things are. It's always gonna be like that because I see it as one movie, not six."

As someone who loves these films ... even the prequels, despite the extreme messiness of them all ... I get it. Love them or not, I can see their flaws. Some of the acting is a little off, sure. Some of the dialogue is messy. Still, this franchise has captured the imagination of the movie-going public in a way that few other trilogies have. Sci-fi is a genre that people love or hate, and if a film that cannot happen in reality doesn't work in your brain, there's a lot of stuff in there that's going to seem silly. 

One thing that has been a sticking point, even for people who like the films, is the comic sidekicks. Lucas said the critiques of Jar Jar were ironic because, for the first trilogy, he heard that people considered C-3P0 "the most irritating character ever created on film." Then Jar Jar moved into the same position. 

'There's a group of fans who don't like comic sidekicks'

Lucas said that this has always been the case in terms of "comic sidekicks." He said that the "same group of fans absolutely hated R2 and C-3P0 in the first film; in the second film they hated Yoda ... 'we can't understand what he's talking about, he's green, he's a muppet.'" He then mentioned the backlash against the adorable Ewoks because fans said it made the third film "beyond a children's film." 

Look, I know that was a big thing because I was little then. I was exactly the right age for murder-y little teddy bears who must be eating their prisoners (which makes one question where the dress they give Princess Leia came from). Yes, the planned Wookies might have been cooler, but I didn't create this world. Lucas did. I loved the Ewoks, as did my little friends at the time. 

Lucas defended comic sidekicks and said they'd continue to be in every film. It would be hard to blame him for that. He might not have control of the universe these days, but Disney has kept this trend going. Obviously, one can point to Grogu from "The Mandalorian," who often serves as comic relief with his snacky adventures. There are the Anzellans, the comic characters who first appeared in "Episode IX" and have the cutest voices. BB-8, B2EM0 from "Andor" despite the show's darker tone ... it's just a part of this world, and one I personally love. 

' ... when you get a small group of fans who hate something, it becomes compounded by the internet'

One thing Lucas hasn't done is bow down to the critiques and change what he does because of them. He told Empire that comic sidekicks would continue and joked that if audiences didn't like it, they "should go back and see 'The Matrix' or something" and that these are PG movies. He continued: 

"I'm not gonna take those kinds of characters out. Obviously, when you get a small group of fans who hate something, it becomes compounded by the internet. The press picks up the internet like it's a source. They don't realize it is just one person typing out their opinion. It's been my experience, and the experience of 20th Century Fox, that most of the people who go to the movie, at least 95 percent, love Jar Jar."

He said the character was popular with kids and women, and while I don't know why gender would matter, apparently, that was a thing. Lucas did defend Jar Jar's ability to sell toys and said that it was just the "five percent" of audiences who didn't like him that were the ones getting written about. Perhaps it would be a higher number if social media had existed at the time, but either way, he also mentions that some people said these things because they were "embarrassed" to like a movie that kids do. 

Whatever your thoughts are on why people did or didn't like Jar Jar, C-3P0, Yoda, or Ewoks, Lucas is a creator with a vision, and critics couldn't change what he created.