Friday, July 18, 2014

At the Sound of the Tone

(Originally Written for Jedi News)

There are many reasons why The Phantom Menace is my favorite Star Wars film, but it boils down to the fact that every single thing about the film gives me the warm fuzzies and butterflies. Even the marketing.

The marketing campaign for the film was amazing. Even though the glut of it was surely a contributing factor to the hype backlash, what we got was fairly unique even for Star Wars films. To me, the best pieces from the campaign – and I didn’t even see these until I watched them on the DVD – were the Tone Poems.

The Tone Poems were, I believe, TV spots for the film. They centered around a single character each, and each one read by the actor or actress. Each one gave a taste of the personality of these new characters and a hint at the story, and their titles all centered around the theme of “One” (as in Episode I).

Now, Tone Poems are nothing new to George Lucas, in fact much of his student work has been exactly described as such over the years. It’s a mindset he’s in even today, if his comments about I-III “Rhyming” with IV-VI is any indication. To that end (and another that will become apparent towards the end of the article), I wish to share these poems with you. Now, I can and will provide YouTube Links, but for those of you who can’t watch right now I want to transcribe the poems here as well. Again, there’s a specific reason I’m doing this.

We’ll start with Shmi Skywalker: “One Love” 

Don’t look back
Before you go
Eyes forward
Choices to make
Dreams to realize

Don’t look back
Before you go
Know the truth
Learn to let go

Don’t look back
Before you go
Before you leave

Wonderfully recited by Pernilla August, this actually perfectly sums up Anakin’s entire character arc during the Saga, the one lesson he can’t learn.

Speaking of Anakin Skywalker: “One Dream

What if dreams came true?
And you could be
Who you wanted to be
You could do
What you wanted to do
And you could help
Who you wanted to help

What if dreams came true?
And the world opened up
And you were never

What if dreams came true?
But dreams do come true
Don’t they?

While Jake Lloyd once again perfectly captures Anakin’s innocence at this time period, the real coup de grace is the fact that Anakin’s Theme is playing during the whole poem, and the “Don’t They?” is underscored by the part where Anakin’s Theme turns into The Imperial March.

Here’s Qui-Gon Jinn: “One Destiny

It will be a hard life
One without reward
Without remorse
Without regret

A path will be placed before you
The choice is yours alone
Do what you think you cannot do

It will be a hard life
But you will find out
Who you are

You can just imagine Liam Neeson’s comforting voice saying this to Obi-Wan, Anakin, indeed anyone joining the Jedi Order. It really emphasizes how Qui-Gon is the perfect father-figure (at times almost too perfect, but that’s a different discussion).

Here’s Amidala: “One Will

There are things I cannot do
I cannot watch while people suffer
I cannot sit when something must be done
I cannot judge those who are different

There are things I cannot do

There are things I cannot do
But there are certainly things I will do

What’s interesting about this is that Natalie Portman is clearly using her “Amidala” voice, but it was not digitally deepened like it was in the film. More to the point, it perfectly captures Padmé’s strength in the face of being underestimated for her age (and possibly gender). I think it sends a good message.

Finally, Darth Maul: “One Truth

Fear attracts the fearful
The strong
The weak
The Innocent
The corrupt

Fear is my ally

First of all, that’s Peter Serafinowicz as the voice of Maul, saying more than he says in the entire movie. But it tells you all you need to know about Maul and the Sith in general. It also kind of spoils the show by showing Palpatine over “The Corrupt.”

So there’s another reason I wanted to share these with you all. As you may have noticed, there are two very important characters that didn’t get one. As a matter of fact, Obi-Wan and Jar Jar were supposed to get Tone Poems, and were given “Web Exclusive” ones that were barely a sentence and read not by the actors but by some woman. They weren’t in the same league as the ones above.

So I’m going to put my creative writing skills to the test and try to come up with some for them. I did after all get a piece of poetry published in fifth grade. It was about a bee that turned its nose up at several flowers before being duped by a Venus Flytrap. My teachers probably thought I was working through deep and intense pain where in reality my only thought was “Haha! Stupid bee!”

Let’s begin with Obi-Wan Kenobi. I will call this one: “One Learner”

I have much to learn
I must learn patience
I must learn respect

I must learn to trust
To see what others cannot
Even in themselves

I have much to learn
And my first lesson
Must be how to teach

Kind of spoilery, I know, but I wanted to really capture where Obi-Wan is at this point in his life, and emphasize just how unprepared he was to take on Anakin as a pupil. Try and imagine it in Ewan McGregor’s voice.

So here’s the one that Jar Jar Binks deserves: “One Friend”

Mesa here
Mesa not always knowin’ why
But mesa here

Mesa mebbie makin’ mistakes
Mesa mebbie clumsy
But mesa here

Mesa here
Because yousa friend
And mesa tinkin’
If yousa havin’ just one friend
Yousa never alone

Gungan syntax is kind of ad hoc, but I hope I was accurate enough to Ahmed Best’s performance. I also hope that I conveyed both Jar Jar’s looseness as well as his loyalty.

Now, I’ll admit, I don’t think my poems are quite as good as the official ones, but I hope you guys like them and at least agree they’re better than what Obi and JJ got from the campaign.

Before I go, I want to open up the floor to my readers. If you have a question for me that I haven’t really covered yet, please e-mail me at If I get enough, then the next article will be a Q & A (if I don’t, I have other topics as backups, though feel free to e-mail me suggestions for those as well).


  1. Good Obi-Wan and Jar Jar Tone Poems.

  2. Yeah, even as someone who's not big on TPM the marketing was *brilliant*. Both these and the initial trailer ("Every saga has a beginning...") were absolutely excellent at building up the proper mood and excitement for the film to come.

    1. That initial trailer is one of the best teasers I've ever seen.

    2. It really is- it's funny 'cause Star Wars on the whole doesn't have a lot of good trailers, but both the teaser for the original film and Phantom Menace are *extraordinarily* good. Really just phenomenal in how well they hype the film to come.