Friday, May 24, 2013

May the 4th: The Phantom Menace

(Originall Written for Jedi News)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…


Episode I

Turmoil has engulfed the
Galactic Republic. The taxation
of trade routes to outlying star
systems is in dispute.

Hoping to resolve the matter
with a blockade of deadly
battleships, the greedy Trade
Federation has stopped all
shipping to the small planet
of Naboo.

While the congress of the
Republic endlessly debates
this alarming chain of events,
the Supreme Chancellor has
secretly dispatched two  Jedi
Knights, the guardians of
peace and justice in the
galaxy, to settle the conflict...

George Lucas had finished Star Wars, and it nearly killed him. He wanted to move on, devote his time to other projects. His company, Lucasfilm, and its various branches devoted their time to creating new moviemaking tools. Lucas worked mainly as a producer, while helping his buddy Steven Spielberg with the Indiana Jones films.

But, soon enough, that galaxy far, far away kept on calling. Lucas had come up with even more stories during the filming of a New Hope, and his creative brain was beginning to work on these again.

Testing the waters, he allowed the Star Wars universe to be licensed into a series of novels. Though the quality of these stories were as varied as the authors working on them, the Expanded Universe as it was to be known was quickly proving that many people were still starving for Star Wars, and a theatrical return seemed a good idea, if a good story could be had.

As it happened, Lucas had one in mind. While Return of the Jedi had a pretty definitive ending, Lucas was interested now more than ever to go back to the beginning. Tell the backstory of how we got to where we came in. After all, A New Hope was Episode IV. What happens in I, II, and III? Hell, it might even fill in some of those minor plot holes created by the various twists in Empire and Jedi. 

There was a problem, however. The world of the Old Republic, before the Empire, was on such a grand scale that it was virtually impossible to do right in the late 1980s. Lucas already had to compromise his vision due to the technical limitations of 1977, 1980, and 1983, and he wanted to give these new stories everything he felt they deserved. So, it was put on ice again, but Lucas already knew it was only a matter of time.

Sure enough, one day Lucas decided to check up and see what his company Industrial Light and Magic was working on, and it was a little film by his buddy Steven called Jurassic Park. The photorealistic computer-generated dinosaurs wowed Lucas as much as they would later wow their 1993 audiences. Lucas knew the time had come, and began work turning his treatments and notes into a full-on screenplay.

Years went by. There were whispers, rumors that old George was going back to the world of lightsabers and starships. Effects were created, refined, and eventually tested out on the older films! The Special Edition releases, while polarizing, proved even more that the world was ready for another dose of Star Wars.

Then came the trailer.

The two-minute and seven-second teaser trailer for The Phantom Menace was a cultural moment in its own right, and everyone lost their minds over it. Pretty soon, everyone was looking everywhere they could for information on this new era of Star Wars. Fortunately, we didn’t have far to look. Soon enough, Episode I was everywhere! Gracing magazine racks, six packs of sodas, billboards upon billboards, and toy aisles as far as the eye could see. The hype threatened to collapse the film itself and very nearly did. Then, on May 19th 1999, The Phantom Menace premiered in theatres. After sixteen long years, a never-before-seen Star Wars was on the big screen. Did it live up to the almost ungodly expectations?

Well, at least for one 12-going-on-13-year-old Star Wars fanatic who was able to catch a then unthinkable 6:00 a.m. showing on opening day, you bet your sweet bippy it did. I fell truly, madly, and deeply in love with every inch of this film from frame 1. To this day, it is not only my favorite Star Wars film, but my absolute favorite motion picture of all time.

However, nothing is perfect, certainly not a movie, and my job here is to be objective. This film does have a few objective flaws and they are…umm…

This is going to be harder than I thought…

Seriously, while it is my favorite, on a scale of how well the films are made I put it a semi-close third, right after Empire. Like all of the movies, there are a couple of mistakes. However, again like most of the movies, they’re easily forgivable ones in the grand scheme of things. For example, there are a number of child actors in this movie and each and every one of them could have benefitted from a few more retakes. But on the bright side, most of them aren’t in it for that long and Jake Lloyd, starring as a young Anakin Skywalker, absolutely nails like five readings for each one he misses, so it’s all good.

Something else that’s pretty noticeable is the new Yoda puppet. Lucas and his team were so gung-ho about the fact that this film takes place 30 years before A New Hope, and they were having so much fun making everything look younger. Unfortunately, nobody bothered to consider the fact that 30 years isn’t going to make much of a difference to a centuries-old being, and he ended up looking kind of wonky. On the other hand, it’s still Yoda. It’ still Frank Oz and he still gets some great lines. So, while it is a flaw, I can usually ignore it (plus, with the Blu-Ray and 3-D rerelease replacing it with the better-looking digital Yoda, I no longer really have to).

Almost everything else is really good. Our new cast of characters are more than worthy additions. The film is incredibly quotable, just like its predecessors. The pacing is, in my eyes at least, the absolute best pacing in the Saga. It moves along at an insane clip, but somehow never feels too fast or two slow. John Williams tops himself with one of the best scores in the Saga (and that’s saying something).

The special effects are some of the most groundbreaking in the series since New Hope, and while certain shots show their age more than most it largely holds up well today; I fully believe Watto is the best actor in the Saga. There was even some primitive motion capture work before that was really even a thing. Of course, there’s still plenty of great model-work, set-work, and animatronic work to bring the full world to life. Add in the production design and the costume design, and this movie is just absolutely beautiful to look at.

So why don’t I think it’s objectively the best? Well, it’s because I think its greatest strength can also be its greatest weakness: the story.

This film should be called “Duality: The Movie.” How people and events can be multiple things at once is a major theme of the picture, so much so that the piece itself becomes a paradox. It’s simultaneously light-hearted and sinister, simplistic and incredibly complex. More unabashedly kiddie than any other in the Saga, yet more subtly and painfully adult than most. While the other films have these elements to an extent and balances them relatively well, this film manages to be all these things at the exact same time.

It’s this multi-faceted nature and depth that make it a great movie, but it can be too easy for an audience member to go in looking for one side of the story and only be able to see the other side. It does face-value so well that the undercurrent and themes are easy to miss, but its undercurrent and themes are also done so well that the face-value can lose its impact. Granted, this is more in the hands of whoever is watching it, but the film doesn’t make it as easy as it could have. Which, really, once again, can be both a flaw and a strength, depending on how you look at. As Qui-Gon said, “Your focus determines your reality.”

The Phantom Menace continued the Star Wars tradition in one more way. It made a metric poop-ton of money at the box office while critical views remained straight down the middle. However, all was not right in the galaxy far, far away. While the negative review side of the other films, even Jedi, tapered off after a while, it was starting to stick more with this one. While a time span of even a year was kinder to its predecessors, The Phantom Menace’s criticisms became more and more exaggerated, and these exaggerations became more and more commonplace until, sadly, its mainstream memory is little more than a punchline. How could this have happened? If what I’m saying is true, and the quality of this film at least matches its fellows, why is there so much hate that follows even the mere mention of this film even today?

Honestly, it’s the internet’s fault.

If you were to go door to door and ask everyone who had seen the film what they thought of it, chances are you’d get a 50-50 split. However, the internet, at that time just showing the signs of being the juggernaut it is today, was finally allowing everyone with a strong opinion to voice it in a public forum without being considered crazy. Sadly, the loudest and most passionate of those opinions were negative. Add that to a nostalgia factor – many fans of Star Wars were children when the first three were released and never really noticed the intentional cheesiness, causing Phantom’s cheese explosion to induce some serious lactose intolerance – and the fact that there was an increase of peer pressure to look cool and intelligent to fellow geeks, and you’ve got one of the most ridiculous over-reactions and underrating in cinema history since Hearst buried Citizen Kane.

For an example of how this works, let’s take Jar Jar Binks. Yeah, you didn’t think I’d go through an entire review of this movie without giving him more than a vague reference, did you? As a purely comedic character, Jar Jar was always going to be a polarizing figure in the fandom, but really no more than C-3PO or Wicket the Ewok before him. As much as I love him, I recognize not everyone is going to. I know fans who don’t like C-3PO, but they tolerate him enough to enjoy the rest of the movie. That should have been the worst case scenario for Jar Jar, but we have the internet. Dozens and dozens of comments, articles, chatrooms, newsgroups, and forums pointing out every little thing that’s wrong with him, real or imagined. And since he’s considered so bad, everything associated with him becomes bad. His lines (the writing), his performance (the acting), his design (the special effects and production design), his role (the story), and his environment (the movie). This is just a small microcosm of any number of different elements that people took issue with.

Or, put another way, there was a fear. A fear that many long-time Star Wars fans might not be the target audience anymore, and therefore it didn’t speak to them as well as it once did. A fear that Star Wars may not be as flawless as they remember. This fear lead to anger at George Lucas and everyone involved with the film, and that anger lead to hate of everything Star Wars had “become,” which was ironically everything it always was. Finally, as the net helped facilitate its spread, that hate lead to the suffering on the part of everyone who worked tirelessly to give us the best movie they could, as well as those of us who see everything good in that outcome.

And trust me, there is so much good to see.

If George Lucas wanted to prove the haters wrong, he’d need to do something spectacular with the next film. Did he succeed? Well, meet me next week…

Favorite Lines:
·         “Yes, of course. As you know, our blockade is perfectly legal, and we’d be happy to receive ambassadors.”
·         “I have a bad feeling about this.” “I don’t sense anything.” “It’s not about the mission, master, it’s something elsewhere…elusive…” “Don’t center on your anxieties, Obi-Wan. Keep your concentration here and now where it belongs.” “But Master Yoda said I should be mindful of the future.” “But not at the expense of the moment. Be mindful of the Living Force, young padawan.” “Yes, master. How do you think this Trade Viceroy will deal with the Chancellor’s demands?” “These Federation types are cowards. The negotiations will be short.”
·         “Are you brain-dead?! I’m not going in there with two Jedi! Send the droid!”
·         “This scheme of yours has failed, Lord Sidious! The blockade is finished! We dare not go against the Jedi!” “Viceroy, I don’t want this stunted slime in my sight again.”
·         “My Lord, is that legal?” “I will make it legal.” “And the Jedi?” “The Chancellor should never have brought them into this. Kill them immediately.”
·         “Check it out, Corporal, we’ll cover you.” “Roger Roger.”
·         “Have you ever encountered a Jedi Knight before, sir?” “Well…no…but I don’t…seal off the bridge!”
·         “They’re still coming through!” “This is impossible!” “Where are those Droidekas?!”
·         “Sir! They’ve gone up the ventilation shaft!”
·         “You were right about one thing, Master: the negotiations were short.”
·         “I was not aware of such failure.”
·         “We would never do anything without the approval of the Senate. You assume too much.”
·         “I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war.”
·         “Oh muy muy, I LOVE you!” “You almost got us killed, are you brainless?!” “I spek…” “The ability to speak does not make you intelligent, now get out of here.”
·         “What’s this?” “A local. Let’s get out of here before more droids show up.”
·         “Uhh…on second thought…ah, no, no, not really, no…no.”
·         “You hear that?” “Yeah?” “That is the sound of a thousand terrible things heading this way.” “If they find us, they will crush us, grind us into tiny pieces and blast us into oblivion.” “Ah…yousa point is well-seen. This way, hurry!”
·         “Wesa goin’ underwater, okeeday? And my warnin’ you; Gungans no liken outsiders, so don’t ‘spect a warm welcome.” “Oh, don’t worry. This hasn’t been our day for warm welcomes.”
·         “Heydeyole…ah…Captain Tarples. Mesa back!” “No again, Jar Jar. Yousa goin’ to da bosses. Yousa in BIG doodoo dis time.”
·         “How wude!”
·         “Wesa no like da Naboo. Da Naboo tink dey so smartey. Dey tink dey brains so big.”
·         “Then speed us on our way.” “Wesa gonna speed yousa way…” “We...could use a transport?” “Wesa give you una Bongo. Da speediest way to da Naboo is going through…the planet core. Now…go.”
·         “Binkssss…..yousa have the lifeplay with thissen hissen?” “Uh…uh-huh…” “*GARGLEGROWLGARGLE*! Be gone wit him!” “Count me outta dis one! Better dead here, den dead at the core…Ye GODS! What am mesa saying?!”
·         “Dissen nutsen…ohh, gooberfish!” “Why were you banished, Jar Jar?” “Itsa longo tello but..ah…small part of it would be mesa…clumsy…” “You were banished because you were clumsy?” “Ah…yousa mighten be sayin’ dat. Mesa cause mebbe one or twoey little-bitty accidents, hmm? You’d say…boom de gasser…den crashin’ the boss’ heyblibber…den banished.”
·         “There’s always a bigger fish.”
·         “You didn’t tell him about the missing Jedi…” “No need to report that to him until we have something to report…”
·         “Wesa DYIN’ here! Ohho….” “Relax, we’re not in trouble yet.” “What ‘yet’?! Monsters out dere, leakin’ in here, all sinkin’ and no power? When are yousa TINKIN’ wesa in trouble?!?!”
·         “Process them…”
·         “Woah! Yousa guys bombad!”
·         “Your negotiations seem to have failed, ambassador.” “The negotiations never took place.”
·         “Halt!” “I am ambassador to the Supreme Chancellor, and I’m taking these people to Coruscant.” “Where are you taking them?” “To Coruscant.” “Coruscant…erm…that doesn’t compute…uhh wait uhh…you’re under arrest!”
·         “Hello, boyos!”
·         “There’s not enough power to get us to Coruscant. The hyperdrive is leaking.” “We’ll have to land somewhere to refuel and repair the ship…” “Here, master, Tatooine. It’s small, out-of-the-way, poor. The Trade Federation have no presence there.” “How can you be sure?” “It’s controlled by the Hutts.” “You can’t take her Royal Highness there, the Hutts are gangsters! If they discover her…” “It’ll be no different than if we landed on a system controlled by the Federation. Except that the Hutts aren’t looking for her, which gives us the advantage.”
·         “This is getting out of hand! Now there are two of them!” “We should not have made this bargain…”
·         “How’d you end up here with us?” “My no know. Mesa day starten pretty okeeday with da brisky mornin’ munchin’, den BOOM! Getting’ berry scared, and grabbin’ dat Jedi, and POW! Mesa here. Huh…mesa getting’ berry, berry scared.”
·         “The hyperdrive is gone, Master. We’ll need a new one.” “That’ll complicate things…”
·         “Dis sun doin’ murder to mesa skin…”
·         “So…leta me take thee out back, eh? We’ll find whatta ya need, hehehehe…”
·         “Are you an angel?” “What?” “An angel. I heard the deep space pilots talk about them. They’re the most beautiful creatures in the universe. They live on the moons of Iego, I think…”
·         “I’m a person, and my name is Anakin!”
·         “Hey! Hit the nose!”
·         “A T-14 hyperdrive generator? Ye in luck! I’m the only one hereabouts who has one. But, uh, you may as well buy a new ship. It would be cheaper I think, hehe…saying which, ah, howsn’ you gonna pay for all this, huh?” “I have 20,000 Republic Dactaries.” “Republic credits? Republic credits are no good out here. I need something more real.” “I don’t have anything else, but credits will do fine.” “No, they won’t.” “Credits will do fine.” “No, they won’t! What, you think you’re some kinda Jedi wavin’ your hand around like that? I’m a Toydarian! Minds tricks donna work on me, only money. No money, no parts, no deal! And no one ELSE has a T-14 hyperdrive, I promise ya THAT!”
·         “We’re leaving. Jar Jar…” “Wo-WAHH! *CLANG!*”
·         “[Outlanders. They think we know nothing.]” “[They seemed nice to me.]” “[Clean the racks. then you can go home.]” “YIPPIE!”
·         “No again! No again! The beings hereabouts? Cawazy! Wesa be robbed and crunched!” “Not likely. We have nothing of value. That’s our problem.”
·         “[Careful, Sebulba. He’s a big-time outlander. I’d hate to see you diced before we race again.]” “[Next time we race, boy, it’ll be the end of you. If you weren’t a slave, I’d squash you now.]” “[Yeah, it’d be a pity if you had to pay for me.]”
·         “Your buddy here was about to be turned into orange goo. He picked a fight with a Dug. An especially dangerous Dug called Sebulba.” “Mesa haten’ crunching! Dat’s the LAST ting mesa want!”
·         “I’m not sure this floor is entirely stable. Oh! I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.” “*beedleboop*” “R2-D2? A pleasure to meet you! I am C-3PO, Human-Cyborg relations.” “*beedleboop*” “I beg your pardon, but what do you mean ‘naked’?” “*beedleboop*” “MY PARTS ARE SHOWING?! My goodness!”
·         “At last, we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge.”
·         “Has anybody ever seen a podrace?” “They have podracing on Malastare. Very fast. Very dangerous.” “…I’m the only human who can do it.” “You must have Jedi reflexes if you race pods…don’t do that again.”
·         “You’re a Jedi Knight, aren’t you?” “What makes you think that?” “I saw your laser sword. Only Jedis carry that kind of weapon.” “Perhaps I killed a Jedi and took it from him?” “I don’t think so. No one can kill a Jedi.” “I wish that were so.”
·         “No, there is no other way. I may not like it, but…he can help you. He was meant to help you.”
·         “Are you sure about this? Trusting our fate to a boy we hardly know? The Queen will not approve.” “The Queen doesn’t need to know.” “…well, I don’t approve…”
·         “What will the boy ride? He smashed up my pod in the last race? Too, takes him long time to fix, eh?” “It wasn’t my fault, really! Sebulba flashed me with his vents. I actually saved the pod…mostly…” “Mmm, That you did. The boy’s good, no doubts there!” “Well, I have acquired a pod in a game of chance. The fastest ever built.” “I hope you didn’t kill anyone I know for it, huh? Hehehe...”
·         “[Your friend is a foolish one, methinks.]”
·         “Hey, Jar Jar, keep away from those energy binders. If your hand gets caught in the beam, it’s gonna go numb for hours.”
·         “My tonglue…is fll…my tonglue…wrelnch…whelre’s the wrelcnh…”
·         “You know, I find that Jar Jar creature to be a little…odd…”
·         “It’s working! It’s working!”
·         “I need a midichlorian count.” “The reading’s off the chart! Over 20,000. Even master Yoda doesn’t have a midichlorians count that high…” “No Jedi has…”
·         “Don’t getta me wrongo. I have great faith in the boy. He’s a credit to your race. But…ah…Sebulba there is going to win, I think.”
·         “Why do you think that?” “He always wins! I’m betting heavily on Sebulba!”
·         “You may have won this small toss, outlander, but you won’t winna the race, so it makes little difference!”
·         “[Better stop your friend’s betting, or I’ll end up owning him too.]”
·         “You’ve never won a race?” “Well…not exactly…” “Not even finished?!” “Kitster’s right, I will this time.”
·         “That’s absolutely right, and a BIG turnout here from all corners of the Outer-Rim Territories…”
·         “And back again it’s the mighty Dud Bolt with that incredible racing machine, the Vulptereen 327!”
·         “And a late entry, young Anakin Skywalker – a local boy!”
·         “[You won’t walk away from this one…you slave scum.]” “[Don’t count on it, slime ball.]” “[You’re bantha fodder!] Hehehehe…”
·         “Feel, don’t think. Use your instincts.”
·         “You Jedi are far too reckless. The Queen is not – “ “The Queen trusts my judgment, young handmaiden. You should too.” “…you assume too much…”
·         “Looks like a few Tusken Raiders are camped out on the canyon dune turn!”
·         “Ooh, there goes Quadrinaros’ power coupling!”
·         “He has to complete two more circles?! Oh dear…”
·         “Oh, I don’t care what universe you’re from, that’s gotta hurt!”
·         “It’s SKYWALKER! Amazing! A quick control thrust, and he’s back on course!” “…did he crashed?”
·         “Chuba d’annoya!”
·         “That little human being is out of his mind!”
·         “AAAahhhhhhh!....POODOO!”
·         “You…you swindled me…you know the boy was going to do it, somehow you knew it! I lost everything…” “Whenever you gamble, my friend, eventually you lose.”
·         “Why do I sense we’ve picked up another pathetic life form?”
·         “Anakin Skywalker, meet Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
·         “My troops are in position to begin searching for these rumored underwater villages. They will not stay hidden for long.”
·         “I made this for you…so you’d remember me. I carved it out of a Japor snippet. It’ll bring you good fortune.”
·         “There is no civility, only politics. The Republic is not what it once was. The Senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates. There is no interest in the common good.”
·         “His cells have the highest concentration of midichlorians I have seen in a life form. It is possible he was conceived by the midichlorians.” “You refer to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the Force. You believe it’s this…boy?”
·         “Enter the bureaucrat. The true rulers of the Republic. And on the payroll of the Trade Federation, I might add. This is where Chancellor Valorum’s strength will disappear.”
·         “ I will not defer. I’ve come before you to resolve this attack on our sovereignty now! I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee! If this body is not capable of action, I suggest new leadership is needed…I move for a Vote of No Confidence in Chancellor Valorum’s leadership.”
·         “Do not defy the council, Master. Not again.” “I shall do what I must, Obi-Wan.”
·         “How feel you?” “Cold, sir.” “Afraid are you?” “No.” “See through you, we can.” “Be mindful of your feelings.” “Your thoughts dwell on your mother.” “I miss her.” “Afraid to lose her, I think, hmm?” “What’s that got to do with anything?” “Everything! Fear is a path to the dark side! Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate…leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you…”
·         “Yousa thinkin’, yousa people gonna die?” “I don’t know.” “Gungans get pasted too, eh?” “I hope not.” “Gungans not dyin’ without a fight. Wesa warriors. Wesa got a grand army. That’s why you no liken us, mesa tinks…”
·         “He is headstrong, and has much to learn of the Living Force, but he is capable. There is little more he can learn from me.”
·         “Always remember: your focus determines your reality.”
·         “Master, sir, I heard Yoda talking about ‘midichlorians’. I’ve been wondering…what are midichlorians?” “Midichlorians are microscopic life forms that reside in all living cells.” “They live inside me?” “Inside your cells, yes, and we are symbionts with them.” “Symbionts?” “Life forms living together for mutual advantage. Without the midichlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to us, telling us the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you’ll hear them speaking to you.” “I…don’t understand…” “With time and training, Ani, you will.”
·         “HA! HAHAHAHAHAhahahaha! Yousa no tinkin’ yousa great than the Gungans?! Meeeeesa like dis! Maybe wesa…being friends. *GARGLEGROWLGARGLE*!”
·         “This is an unexpected move for her…it’s too aggressive…Lord Maul, be mindful. Let them make the first move.”
·         “Wipe them out…all of them.”
·         “I thought the battle was going to take place far from here. This is too close…”
·         “Ouch time…”
·         “Stay in that Cockpit!”
·         “Go back?! Qui-Gon told me to stay in this cockpit, so that’s what I’m gonna do…I’ll try spinning, that’s a good trick…”
·         “Jar Jar! Usen the boomer!” “What? Mesa no has a boomer!” “Here! Takum this one!”
·         “No giving up, General Jar Jar. Wesa tink of something!” “Hands up!” “My give up, my give up!” “*facepalm*”
·         “After her! This one’s a decoy!”
·         “Now, Viceroy, we will discuss a new treaty!”
·         “Now THIS is podracing!”
·         “It’s…it’s too late…” “No…” “Obi-Wan…promise…promise me you will train the boy…” “Yes master…” “He…is the chosen one…he…will bring balance…train him…”
·         “We are indebted to you for your bravery, Obi-Wan Kenobi. And you, young Skywalker…we will watch your career with great interest…”
·         “Confer on you the level of Jedi Knight, the Council does. But…agree with your taking this boy as your padawan learner, I do not!” “Qui-Gon believed in him.” “The Chosen One the boy may be. Nevertheless, grave danger I fear in his training.” “Master Yoda, I gave Qui-Gon my word. I will train Anakin…” “Feh!” “…without the approval of the Council if I must…” “Qui-Gon’s defiance I sense in you. Need that, you do not…agree with you the Council does. Your apprentice, Skywalker will be.”
·         “There’s no doubt the mysterious warrior was a Sith.” “Always two there are. No more, no less. A master, and an apprentice.” “But which was destroyed? The master, or the apprentice?”

Biggest “What Do You Mean It’s For Kids?!” Moment:
The brutal impaling of Qui-Gon Jinn and the subsequent bisection of Darth Maul.

(On a scale of 1-6 where 1 is the best)
Personal: 1/6
As a Film: 3/6


  1. I wouldn't worry about what the hateboys think. They don't do it very often.

    1. What bothers me more is when people who are otherwise intelligent, talented, and upstanding drink the kool aid on this.

  2. I find it funny when the internet complains about the various "plot-holes" that exist in the prequel trilogy and yet almost never points any of them. I too know that "plot-holes" exist in the original trilogy too. For example; why WAS the hyper-drive even broken on the Milliuem Falcon in ESB in the first place? (just sayin')

    Most of the "plot-holes" that supposedly exist in the TPM are simply because the haters were simply not paying attention. The only "plot-hole" that really bugs me about TPM is: why did The Queen and the Jedi bring Anakin along with them for the battle? That's child endangerment right there! At least he mangaed to get a spaceship and save day like Luke in ANH.

    1. You could argue Qui-Hon felt it would be safer in the palace where there's lots of hiding places, rather than the huge firefight in an open field.

      But we all know George just wanted Anakin in that cockpit. Face it, we all did.


    2. "Now THIS is pod-racing!"

      Plus, I have this firm belief that plot holes in movies only exsist in one's imagination and really are non-exsistent if you don't over-think it. (but that's just me)

    3. That's the real beauty though. Certain things seem plot-hokey only if you over-think it, but each has a perfectly rational explanation if you over-over-think it.

      This movie is bloody freaking brilliant.

    4. I also think that plot-holes exist so we can use our imaginations and fill in the gaps ourselves.

      As Shia LaBeouf said at the end of HOLES;

      "I guess you'll have to fill in the rest of the holes yourself."

      I am glad that you agree with me though.

    5. Saying that the Millenium Falcon had the hyper-drive broken in the first place is not a plot hole. We don't know what kind of adventures Chewie and Han Solo were having with the Rebels before Empire. Something could have happened, and that's why they were trying to fix it in the first place at the beginning of the film. Plot holes are unresolved matters that don't make any logic within the story. The only plot hole I can think of that exists in the Star Wars saga is, why didn't Qui-Gon disappear after he died like Yoda and Obi-Wan and become one with the Force, if Qui-Gon was supposed to have found the shaman of the whills and learned the path to inmortality.

    6. That's a good point. Lucas had said after Phantom that this would be addressed, but I guess he forgot.

    7. I'm in the camp that says plot holes legitimately do not matter. Like, at all.

      Anyone here read Hulk Critic? He had a pretty excellent article a while back discussing plot holes and how a lot of people overemphasize their importance. It's a wonderful read- though quite lengthy.

  3. Some notes-

    - It's amazing how bad that puppet looks, isn't it? I'm inclined to believe it's because of the material they used, but man it's such a step backwards from the original. One of the few SE changes I felt were a definite improvement.

    - I've never seen any of the Star Wars films as being "intentionally cheesy"...they invoke a lot of hokiness and old-fashioned tropes (and Goddamned Campbell), but it's carried out with such fervent sincerity it's hard to really call it 'cheesy'.

    - Could you elaborate on the depth in the movie? You make some vague points about duality but it's not clear enough for me to really see it. If you could provide more on this that'd be great.

    1. - Also, it's been pointed out before, but I do love how immensely unexciting the crawl to this film is. Taxation disputes! Trade federations! Congressional debates!

      Thrilling. ;)

    2. D. Trull over at Lard Biscuit did an in-depth look at the main points of Phantom's duality, but I'll give you the reader's digest notes (plus a few instances of my own observation).

      1. Obviously, Palpatine. He's both the avuncular senator and the scheming Sith lord. The thing here is that he really is only the latter, and the former is simply a mask. He's the devil hiding in plain sight, the titular phantom menace. But he wears his mask well as he ostensibly fights nobly for his system's welfare only to secretly be using its plight for his own machinations.

      2. Padmé Neberrie Amidala is the aloof and regal Queen of Naboo, but also the spunky handmaiden. This is a ruse, a decoy, but it's also the only time Padmé can be what she feels is herself. But in the makeup, as Queen, she feels she must abide by the pomp and circumstance with the clipped, robotic tone. It is only after what she sees on Coruscant and during the audience with Boss Nass, that the brilliant political mind and the high-spirited girl who's not afraid to get her hands dirty resolve the duality split and become one full person.

      3. Anakin Skywalker is a truly innocent, if somewhat snarky, child. Interesting then, that several characters are fearful of him, something vaguely dark they sense in his future. If you're watching this after IV-VI, then the juxtiposition is clearer. You KNOW he's Vader. You KNOW he's one of the most evil people the galaxy has ever known. Yet here he is, this boy who gives without any thought of reward, whose only weakness is needing his mother.

      4. Qui-Gon Jinn is a desciple of the Living Force, and thus represents the duality life presents. Not to wax Goldblum, but life really does break all barriers and finds a way. Jinn is fundimentally a good person, and closer to the truth of the Force than any other living Jedi, but he's clearly not afraid to bend or even break the rules for the greater good. Even if that means releiving a sovereign of a transport or fixing a die roll.

      5. Speaking of the other Jedi, they're presented as the light of the galaxy, the ultimate force for good. And in this climate, they are. The problem is that, Qui-Gon excluded, they're up their own asses with dogma and too focused on the big picture that they can't see what's right in front of their faces. They know there's pain and suffering in the galaxy, but do they do anything about it, as they swore themselves to? Only if it's signed in triplicate by the Jedi Council, sent to the Senate, then sent back for final approval.

      6. Let's talk about that Senate for a minute. The Republic itself is the the last best hope civilization has, the pillar of democracy and free rule. But it's full of greedy, squabbling delegates interested in their own things rather than the plights of outer-rim worlds. Palpatine killed the Republic when he took office near the end of this film, but it was already on its deathbed before Palpy even showed up to the party.

      More to come...

    3. 7. Jar Jar Binks is fully unaware of where his is and what he's doing at any given time, and is thus a great destructive force. He's supremely annoying and one would be forgiven for thinking he should be locked up for public safety. Yet at the end of the day, he has a kind and noble heart, capable of great insight even if he isn't concious of it, and that destructiveness can easily be turned on a common enemy...

      8. C-3PO, haughty protocol droid, was built from junkyard scraps by a slave boy. R2-D2, rough-and-tumble mechanic, has a royal pedegree.

      9. Watto is a greedy slave owner who cares only about himself and his profits...yet he cares enough about his slaves to give them decent living quarters and is truly, honestly impressed by Anakin and treats him relatively benignly (aside from, you know, the fact that he still owns two sentient beings).

      10. Anakin podracing. Is it a young boy testing out his extraordinary powers in a way he finds fun and brings him acclaim, or is Watto using a young, fragile boy to race in possibly the most unsafe vehicle of all time in an underground sport with a high mortality rate, all for his own ends? Why not both?

      11. The greedy Trade Federation. Yes, they're greedy, and they have little qualms about doing whatever heinous act Sidious tells them will help. Yet, they're victims too. They just want to do their business and make their money. As much as they're probably price-gougers and monopolists, to them they're just trying to make a living, and even some of them may think Gunray and Sidious are going too far at times (even Gunray himself).

      I'm sure there are more, but that's all I can think of at the moment. Also, consider that a secondary theme in the film is symbiosis. See if you can't link some symbiotic relationships here, as well as a few I haven't mentioned.

    4. 12. Doublesaber - intimidating, but ultimately impractical.

    5. P.S. on the crawl: Yes, a blockade of DEADLY BATTLESHIPS is hardly exciting.

      I'll grant it doesn't seem some of the others, but it's not supposed to be. We're supposed to think, like the Jedi, that this is a routine mission. However, once Sidious appears, we know there's far more to this than is apparent (duality again).

    6. And another thing, shouldn't the prospect of seeing real Jedi in action be exciting enough regardless of the setting?

    7. Yes, individually Jedi and deadly battlships are exciting, but not as much when they're presented in terms of debates, taxation, and shipping routes (I should point out that I'm mostly being tongue-in-cheek here, though- it's not as if the crawl actually impacts the quality of the film at all).

      As for the duality, some of that definitely seems intentional, but I draw others into question- Qui-Gon doesn't represent a duality so much as he's just so focused on his goals that he's willing to do whatever it takes to acheive them. C-3PO and R2 aren't paired together enough for a duality to be clearly present, and Watto, the Trade Federation, and the Jedi council are all explicitly framed in one particular side- the duality exists only in their surface details rather than how they're portrayed within the film.

      But the larger question remains- how do all those connect to form a greater meaning and depth? What are all those trying to say, and how to they form together to contribute to the overall message of the film? Because at this point they seem more random and disparate than consciously planned.

    8. It's not explicit. Watto and Gunray have sympathetic moments. Also R2 and 3PO are purposefully juxtaposed. And the Jedi council are supposed to be just as out of touch as the rest of the Republic.

      I suppose the overall message is something along the lines of nothing is as it seems, or don't judge based on appearance, or some variation.

    9. There's more to it, but my time is short now. More to come...

    10. Where are their sympathetic moments, though? I certainly don't see any throughout the film. And maybe it's the intent to portray the Jedi Council as out of touch, but having Yoda and Windu on (both characters we're meant to side with through the films) kinda damages that perception.

      And that seems a bit too vague to really work as the hidden depth of the film. Especially as it doesn't really affect the characters' arcs at all or lead to any meaningful conclusion within the film.

    11. Like I said, I was writing in a hurry, and have more to say on the themes of the film. As for now...

      With the Nemoidians, the sympathy comes from the fact that they are clearly in over their heads. Palpatine is using them to get a sympathy vote in the election, and throws them under the bus once he gets it. Their greed drove them to accept Sidious' help, but they got more than they bargained for.

      As for Watto, that's a little more subtle. He's a charismatic character despite his disgusting appearance and questionable practices. You can still tell he cares for Anakin more than he'd admit, and his final shot in the film - alone and broke under the shadow of the arena box - is surprisingly poignant.

      If the Jedi council, Yoda and Mace included, weren't out of touch, then why, as guardians of peace and justice, were Qui-Hon sand Obi-Wan sent back to Naboo simply to investigate the Sith and not to help Amidala? That's the disconnect, and why things progressed as they did in the other two. Thew Jedi, save Qui-Gon, were too focused on the Unifying Force, the big picture (which Palps was using his powers to cloud, hence how they never caught wind of him), to really see the troubled road they were heading in. This point is driven home in the other two, but it's still apparent here. This is straight from the creator, by the way, so it's not just me fishing for meaning.

    12. Oh, doubtlessly that's the intent, but I just think putting Windu and especially Yoda on the council weakens that considerably.

      And with the Nemoidians, that's certainly true, but they're never actually portrayed as sympathetic in the film. They're greedy, devious, and mostly contemptible- the fact they're so easily manipulated is used as a further reason to make them despicable than anything else.

      And with Watto, where are you picking up his caring for Anakin? I don't really see it myself (though I will admit he has an odd charisma to him).

    13. 1. Why do you keep harping on Windu? Even though he's second only to Yoda, he's not shown as being anything other than a classic out-of-touch Jedi. If anything, he becomes even more arrogant, and distrustful of anything different than the Jedi code.

      2. While the Nemoidians will do what they're told they can to get what they want, and they put on a good game face, they clearly wish it hadn't had to go this far. This may stem more from their cowardice than any concience on their part, but they still would never have gone along with this had Sidious not promised them riches and amnesty.

      3. It's just the subtle way Watto looks at Anakin and talks about him that tells me that there is a genuine fondness there outside of being an asset, however minimal.

      4. Okay, theme time. As I've been saying, the main theme is duality. People and events can be different than they appear. Heroes and villains can come from the most unlikely of places, so nothing can be judged for face value. All those little bits of duality and juxtiposition I mentioned revolve around the biggest bit of the film - the entire main plot is a smokescreen. The Trade Federation invasion of Naboo is a red herring. Palpatine organized the whole thing to elect himself Chancellor and begin his eventual revenge and reign. While the heroes - and the audience - are focused on this reletively minor battle, Palpatine is positioning himself.

      The biggest tragedy in the Saga happens in this film, and it happens offscreen. It's why the happy music at the end celebration is actually the Emperor's theme. Amidala's unpredictability, as well as the living Force throwing agents like Jar Jar and Anakin into the mix, may have delayed Palpatine and forced him to improvise, but he soon wraps even them into his plans: Amidala to vote out Valorum, Jar Jar to propose emergency powers ten years later, and Anakin...well, 'nuff said.

      Speaking of the Living Force, this is our secondary theme: symbiosis vs. parasitism. The film is explicit about how, since the Force flows and bonds every thiving thing, living things tend to work together for mutual advantage, whether they know it or not. It is the way of life, the way everything is connected. Contrast that to Palpatine, who is a parasite. He uses for his own ends and discards when that use dries up. Another reason why the Midichlorians were brought into the story. They represent mitochondria, the bacterium in our cells that allow life to keep going. In the Galaxy Far, Far away, these things are attuned to the Force more than anything else, and they congregate in beings with whom the Force is particularly strong. In exchange for residing in these people, the Midichlorians grant us a conduit into the will of the Force, and through which the Force can be used. It's also a fundimental difference between the Jedi and Sith, since the Jedi consider themselves avatars of the Force and doing its will, whereas the Sith try to bend the Force to do what they want for them. It's telling that Anakin, throughout the three films, refers to his Force abilities as things HE does, as opposed to what the Force allows him to do.

    14. I know one of the complants I have seen for the PT films is that unlike the OT films there is no free will, just fate, or in SW's case the will of the force. That Anain is just doomed because of fate, he has no free choice. However such statements are complete BS. While western culture views fate and free will being mutually exclusive, eastern culture views that both coexist. This is an exampole of duality in TPM alot of people miss or don't get. As Shimi states to Anakin in the film about leaving to become a Jedi, it is his choice to follow the path placed before him or stay with his mother. So the film pretty much outright states both fate and free will coexist in the SW universe. That Anakin always had a choice, but he mostly chose poorly. On the show LOST, a theme in it was fate vs free will, however in the final episode it turned out both coexist, that Jack like Anakin could choose to follow what fate placed before him.

      Trade dispues aren't that boring since they have historically lead to conflicts. Like how China banned opium imports, which lead to the East India company invading and going to war with China. The East India company also controlled India with the company's own armed forces. Much like the TF and it's droid armies to control territory.

    15. The devil doesn't make you do bad things, he just makes the wrong choice look better and lets you damn yourself.

      Well, any well-written devil, anyway. And Palpy is the best I know.

    16. Isn't the implication that Palpatine incurred Anakin's conception using the force, which drives a whole through the idea of free choice in the prequels? Or am I just misreading the Plagueis scene?

      With Windu- I mention him because he's clearly an ally in the eyes of the audience, and a very well-liked character in general. Part of it is being played by Jackson (a very popular and charismatic actor), but he's also shown almost exclusively to be on the 'right' side of the moral spectrum. If he's meant to be an indication of how out-of-touch the council is, then they didn't do a good job of making that clear.

      And I'm sorry, but I'm really not seeing that in the Nemoidians and Watto. You're gonna have to bring up specific examples to convince me otherwise, because at this point I don't see the film's interpretation of them as anything other than obstacles and enemies

      Fair enough on the duality stuff, though- that is a layer to the scripting I hadn't noticed, so props for bringing it up- though I still think the film's usage of it is rather flawed in how it pertains to character (since none of the protagonists really grow or develop through the film and aren't affected by those themes).

    17. 1. While not the point of the Plagueis scene (the point is to give Anakin the idea that the dark side might save Padme), it is meant to make you wonder whether or not Plagueis actually created him. The truth, as Lucas revealed through James Luceno's fantastic Darth Plagueis novel, is a little more nuanced (I won't spoil unless you ask).

      2. Windu isn't shown to be right, not really. He's against Anakin from the start, which fosters the mutual distrust that eventually drives Anakin away. He's an avatar of the old Jedi way that has refused to grow.

      3. If you can't sympathize with Watto or the Nemoidians, that's on you. I can't make you feel something. All I can say is that it's not just me.

      4. They are affected, though subtly, and some characters grow, but it's minor growth at this point. The full arc is supposed to be seen when all the movies are put together, so there's little major change in this one by itself. "Little" isn't "none", though. Amidala and Obi-Wan go through the most positive character changes, but it's later shown to not be enough (I.e. Obi loosens up enough to think outside the box, but not enough to properly train a ball of emotions like Anakin).

    18. Within the film, though, the characters should go through growth and development- using the original films as an example the characters do grow in each film as well as in the 'saga' as a whole. Obi-Wan isn't even in the film enough to undergo any substantial development, and there's nothing that really displays him as learning to 'think outside the box'.

      As for Windu, being against Anakin is actually one of the things that sides him with the moral 'right' side, since Anakin is fairly clearly never shown to have the moral highground. If the intent is for him to be representative of how decrepit the Jedi Council has become the film *really* doesn't do a good job depicting that.

      And I'm not asking you to make me feel something, just to provide specific examples of the film displaying their sympathetic side (beyond just plot functions). 'Cause I'm not really seeing any at this point.

    19. I already told you what I saw, and you didn't see it.

      Anakin is the chosen one, but the council doesn't trust him. They only accepted him in the end because of Qui-Gon's final wish.
      Obi-Wan is by-the-book and dismissive of difference through the whole movie, but at the end he respects him on John's behalf, and is ready to fight for him.

    20. Jinn. Qui-Hon Jinn's behalf. Damn autocorrect.

    21. Your examples are fairly general, which is why I'm asking for something more specific- particularly with Watto.

      Anakin may be the 'chosen one' (I really hate prophecies) but it still doesn't put him on the moral right of the films. Throughout the prequels it's Obi-Wan and Windu that are generally seen as having the moral high ground.

      And Obi-Wan only accepts Anakin at the end out of deference to Qui-Gon, not out of any personal growth or development within him. Really Qui-Gon's death is the first thing that truly affects him as a character, which I suppose speaks to how weird a first film TPM really is and how it screws up the structuring of the prequels in general.

    22. Just because you hate prophecies, doesn't mean something is bad for using it. And even though the prophecy came true, it happened in a circuitous way and was very nearly derailed by choices characters made.

      I described it as specifically as I could, and I don't blame you for not feeling it.

      The structuring is hardly screwed up. It perfect for the story that had to be told. Most of the time when people change and grow it's done gradually over a long period, and some people don't. I don't think Luke grows as a person until after Empire, and Obi and Padme and Anakin grow little in this film. Little is still something, though.

    23. Yeah, I know- just stating a preference there, not lambasting the film at all. I still like Harry Potter despite the prophecy stuff, after all. And with the Neimoidians/Watto stuff- you described the evidence of Watto's compassion as "the looks he gives towards Anakin", which is actually a bit vague- I'm just asking for a specific example in the film in which you see that so I can at least see what you're talking about.

      The main issue I have with the structuring is that TPM is largely a needless part of the trilogy- the only thing it sets up is Anakin's origins as a slave and the start of a romance between him and Padme- but both of those could've easily been folded into the next film without much loss. The story doesn't actually propel forward until the Clone Wars and spending an entire third of the story focusing on the undercurrents that eventually lead to the war is just awful structuring.

    24. Umm, it spends an entire third setting up the Old Republic, Anakin's origins, and the setting of Palpatine's big plan. If Phantom Menace wasn't made, absolutely nothing in Clones or Sith would make a lick of sense. It sets up literally everything. Characters, settings, ideas, everything.

    25. Anakin's arc doesn't work unless you establish who he is and where he comes from. How much he has to give up and how it affects him.

      Obi-Wan's arc doesn't work unless you see his influences and how his personality is shaped.

      Padme's arc doesn't work unless you actually know who she is and the various aspects of her personality.

      Even Palpatine's arc doesn't work unless you see how much his hand was in everything from the beginning.

      All that is what Phantom Menace supplies, and it does it well.

    26. A good scriptwriter can establish setting and characters within the first 15 minutes of a film- you don't need an entire movie to do it.

      Obi-Wan and Padme aren't clearly influenced throughout TPM and most of their important character beats can be shuffled to the next film- only Qui-Gon's death is a real influence on Obi-Wan, and Padme's scenes on Naboo in Ep. II elucidate her prior situation absolutely clearly. And all Palpatine does in TPM is manufacture a crisis to put himself in power. He does the exact same thing in Attack and Revenge- it's not necessary to show it a third time.

      I could see Anakin, but again, there's no reason he had to be a little kid and pulled from his family a decade before the Clone Wars even start. If you're looking at the films from a plot perspective, it makes no sense to delay the central conflict- the Clone Wars- until the third movie and would make much more sense to push it to the first and have that be what pulls Anakin away (maybe the Jedi are recruiting or something and force Anakin away from where he's comfortable- that's a strong source of conflict and easily puts the Jedi in question).

      If you're looking at films from a character perspective- ie that the central purpose of the trilogy is to show the arc and development of Anakin Skywalker, then the structuring still doesn't work because Anakin absolutely does not develop through TPM (being a little kid stunts the possibility for emotional growth and development given that it's simultaneously very hard to write strong child characters and very hard to find strong child actors)- heck, the mother thing isn't even used as a source of conflict here, which makes its recurrence in the next film actually rather contrived. If it was *absolutely neccessary* to showcase Anakin's origins and how they impact his choices, then they should've shown more development and conflict on his end.

      But even if we did need to see his childhood, I don't think it justifies a whole movie. Citizen Kane did it in the first half-hour of the film, after all, and it'd be easy to imagine TPM whittled down to a prologue showcasing Anakin and his being taken by Qui-Gon (something akin to Grace's edit, for example).

    27. Wow. There are all KINDS of things wrong with what you just said. I can't even begin to explain how that completely misses the entire point of everything. Look, I have to get ready for work right now, but it's clear that I'm going to have a lot of writing to do when I get the chance.

    28. In fact, I'm going to make it a main article. Expect it by the end of June.