It’s worth noting that “The Phantom Menace” has undergone an intense re-litigation in recent years. It went from being one of the biggest films of 1999 to one of the most reviled films in blockbuster history pretty quickly. Thanks to a string of fan-made video essays — specifically the “Mr. Plinkett” review put out by Red Letter Media in 2009 — “The Phantom Menace” became held up as the prime example of how to foul up a successful media franchise and winnow away the goodwill of the public.
When “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opened in 2015, however, essays began appearing online describing “The Phantom Menace” as “Not bad, really” and “Good, actually.” /Film’s own Caroline Cao admitted that “Menace” was “deeply flawed,” but still managed to get its hooks into her.
The attitude toward “The Phantom Menace” in 2024 seems to be one of smiling, warm acceptance. The film is still bad, but it has accrued many affectionate fans who appreciate its look, its tone, some of its action, and John Williams’ “Duel of the Fates” theme. The hate for Jar Jar, especially, has been reconsidered, especially given how rough Best had it for years after the film’s release. Lucas felt he wrote a funny character, Best felt he was providing excellent physical support for his digital avatar, and Neeson felt that he was working with a talented comedian. Neeson went on record saying:
“Ahmed was so funny and inventive. Myself and Ewan [McGregor] were personally hurt and offended by the critical reaction to the character.”
Neeson has been beating this drum for years, defending Best at every opportunity. He’s also previously talked about expecting great things from Best when they were making the film.