Natalie Portman recently opened up about how the backlash toward the Star Wars prequels affected her. When Star Wars: The Phantom Menace arrived back in 1999, the world had waited with bated breath for nearly two decades for more content from the franchise that had captured a generation, but its reception ranged from lukewarm to frosty, and the two films that followed didn't fare much better.
As one of the main characters in all three prequels, and the only woman with a large role, Portman became the focus of much of the audience's ire. She had a lot to live up to, having taken on the role of Padmé Amidala, who was destined to become Anakin's wife and the mother of Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa. But as understandable as it is for fans to pick apart the stories they love when new entries don't meet their expectations, it was a difficult thing for the actress to handle at the tender age of 16 and at the start of her career.
In an interview with Empire magazine, Portman shared what it was like to go up against so much backlash. “It was hard,” she admitted, though she did not place blame on either the creators or the viewers. She said:
"It was a bummer because it felt like people were so excited about new ones and then to have people feel disappointed. Also to be at an age that I didn’t really understand that’s kind of the nature of the beast. When something has that much anticipation, it can almost only disappoint."
Disappointment certainly sums up how many fans felt about the prequels, with everything from the acting to the storylines and CGI being criticized, but thankfully the anger has died down in the last several years. Not only have Disney and Lucasfilm been tinkering with the movies to improve their quality, but time itself has begin healing the original wounds. Portman added:
“With the perspective of time, it’s been re-evaluated by a lot of people who actually really love them now. There’s a very avid group of people who think they’re the best ones now! I don’t have enough perspective to weigh in.”
And there's certainly truth to that, given that rewatching and reflecting have caused the prequels to rise in many fans' estimation. Not only that, but as opinions continue to be divided over Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it has become increasingly clear that different viewers are attracted to different aspects of the film. Whether it's a generational divide born out of waiting over a decade for the next installment or based on individual taste, there's no accounting for taste - and that works in the prequels' favor as the years go by.
As for Natalie Portman herself, reactions to her romantic plot line with Hayden Christensen may have loomed large when she was younger, but her career has loomed even larger since. From her buzzed-about debut in Léon: The Professional to her Oscar-winning turn in Black Swan, Portman has left her mark on the film industry and erased any doubts that Star Wars may have once raised about her talents.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019