Mark Hamill Praises The Star Wars Prequels For Having 'Their Own Identity'

Just a few weeks before I graduated high school, "Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace" came out on May 19, 1999. While it may have struck the wrong chord in a lot of the die hard Original Trilogy fans, it indoctrinated a whole new generation of acolytes over to what has become a kind of pop culture religion. I was somewhere in the middle with my reaction, ambivalent towards the stilted acting and clunky dialogue but blown away by the baroque visuals. 

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we'd still be litigating it in the press over two decades later, but outspoken OT and Sequel Trilogy star Mark Hamill has thrown his hat into the ring with a surprising defense of the Prequel Trilogy in the late J.W. Rinzler's just-published book "Howard Kazanjian: A Producer's Life" about the "Return of the Jedi" producer. 

Here's what Hamill says in the book (via IndieWire):

"I was impressed the prequels had their own identity. They were criticized because they were exposition-heavy and more cerebral and probably, like he said back in 1976, they weren't as commercial. It's a darker story. But in the age of social media, people's voices are amplified, and I'm shocked at how brutal they can be, not just in the case of 'Star Wars' films, but across the board.

This comes a week or so after "Star Wars: A New Hope" editor (and George Lucas' ex-wife) Marcia Lucas made headlines for trashing "The Phantom Menace" in the same book, saying, "I cried because I didn't think it was very good."

Being Diplomatic?

It's widely agreed that the younger generation whose first exposure to the Star Wars galaxy was the Prequels prefers them to the OT, and the Gen X-ers who grew up with the OT are known to spew venom at the prequels as if they, you know, did something inappropriate to their childhood. "The Last Jedi" filmmaker Rian Johnson — whose had his own share of unearned vitriol directed at him – put it rather beautifully in his own defense, which I'm inclined to agree with. I would certainly be vindicated for my own love of the look of said Prequels years later, when I learned there's more practical model work in "The Phantom Menace" than the entire OT combined.

What Hamill is saying here rings powerful, especially in the wake of a Sequel Trilogy that, despite its many charms, is ultimately an unnecessary and barely-veiled rehash of the redemption arc in the Original Trilogy (Empire = First Order, Jakku = Tatooine, Pasaana = Tatooine, Snoke literally = Emperor, Maz Kanata = Orangina Yoda, etc.) that takes us back to the same place of trying to restart the Jedi order. The Prequels had their own arc, a dark and uncomfortable one, and had real stakes too. At no point in the OT or ST do you believe that Luke or Rey are ever in any real danger of going over to the Dark Side, but Anakin goes there. 

Hamill's Old Opinion

One caveat to Hamill's defense is that he is a company man still, with his recent cameo in "The Mandalorian" potentially being expanded down the line. In other words, he might be towing the company line to certain degree. If you want to know what Hamill really thinks of "The Phantom Menace," you can go back to this quote during an IGN Q&A back in 2001:

"I get very defensive because I'm not really connected with these new pictures, but people on the street will criticize it and I sort of get upset. It's like, it's okay for me to criticize Jar Jar, but I don't want to hear that from someone else... if I were to talk to George Lucas – and I will – I'd say to him, 'One of the greatest advantages that the earlier pictures had, which the new picture did not have, was a voice of skepticism.' We had someone in there going, (snorts) 'The Force, are you kidding me? I'm just here for the money.' When I heard Samuel L. Jackson was going to be in it, I said he's gonna be the guy going, 'Hey, I ain't goin' in that water.' I thought he'd be all scared and cheating people and getting chicks. Instead, he's like the Pope or something. Everybody's so serious! They're all, (rich, portentous voice) 'The trade routes must remain open.' I mean, sheesh! Lighten up!"