The Bones of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

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The Bones of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

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Next month I’m moderating a Star Wars panel for a conference. The subject is all nine of the Skywalker saga films. The love. The hate. All of the emotions!

I haven’t seen episodes 1-3 in years. And I mean years. I only saw episode two twice and episode three once, so honestly, other than remembering that they weren’t great, I didn’t recall much. We started watching from the beginning last week. It’s all coming back to me now…

For the next nine weeks, I’m going to talk about the bones of each Star Wars movie, and how I would have told the story differently for better effect.

There’s no right or wrong answers, just my ramblings. I hope you enjoy them! Also, feel free to leave your thoughts on the matter in the comments.

The Bones:

(Things that needed to happen for the rest of the franchise to work)

Introduce the Jedi Order

Introduce Anakin aka the chosen one

Introduce the Sith

Introduce Senator Palpatine and the galactic republic

The Jedi Order:

If the Jedi are the bringers of peace and harmony in the galaxy, episode one doesn’t show us very much of that. Qui Gon plays hard and fast with people’s lives, not really listening to anyone, as he lies and cheats his way to getting them off of Tatooine. Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy, but his actions don’t really endear me to the Jedi. Nor does Obi Wan’s whining.

I would have loved it if the movie would have explained more about how the Jedi’s powers were out of balance. In truth, it’s never explained, and therefore maybe not even needed. It’s a great hook and conflict that sort of dribbles through the movies and never gets to shine.

Anakin: The Chosen one

I’ve always thought that Anakin was just a little too young in this movie. What is he supposed to be, like eight? Ten? He’s a dumb kid that supposedly has great powers. Problem is, they never show us the powers. He’s supposed to be the only human who can pod race, but they tell us that. We don’t see it. He has a high concentration of the force inside of him—go-go-Lucasisms—but again, we don’t see that. We have no idea what he’s capable of, and if this is the first Star Wars movie you’re watching, you really don’t know what the force is or why it’s out of balance. (Is it out of balance? Again, we’re only told that. Maybe the Jedi are full of it.)

I think it would have been better if Anakin had been in his early teens. Make him closer to Padme in age, making the romance in episode 2 less awkward. Also, show us this great and mysterious power that he has inside of him. Impress me. Show me his anger. Not a child’s tantrum. Scare me.

The Sith:

Bad guys. They do bad things in bad ways. I do like that they’re shown manipulating things from behind the scenes, but that’s all we know. Darth Sidious is really in charge of all of the idiots. Got it.

In truth, this aspect of the movie is pretty spot on.

Senator Palpatine:

Spoiler Alert, Palaptine is important. Episode one hints that there’s more to him than meets the eye, which is very true. This was one of the  things I did like about this movie. He seems so…nice. Which is a lie.

Things I liked:

I kind of liked the big party at the end, because it’s nostalgic to the end of episode 4

Duel of the Fates, and the music in general

The cracks in the republic’s foundation start here, and the way it crumbles is brilliant.

Things in this movie that are unnecessary:

(and when I say unnecessary I mean they could have either been seriously downsized or totally cut)

The Gungans

Padme running from one side of the galaxy to the other and back

Podracing

Most of the dialogue needs to be re-filmed. It’s a directing problem. ‘Nuf said.

***

The first twenty minutes of this movie is awful. Much worse than I remember. So many of the characters, and even species, are painfully  cliché. And of course, JarJar makes most fans want to weep and die. Or wish he would have been eaten by the sea monsters. Or blown up by droids.

In general I think about ¾ of this movie could have been left on the cutting room floor.

The bones were okay, but terribly fleshed out. As I said, show us the big, scary, cool things. Don’t just tell us about it. It’s hard to care without seeing and feeling more.


4 Comments

Tery Binkerd

January 22, 2020at 11:47 am

The first rule of good story telling is show, don’t tell. Stick with that and you rarely go wrong.I enjoy your insight.

Emily Stemmons

January 25, 2020at 11:00 am

I found the treatment of the Gungans deeply disturbing. I’m not sure if it was that the first one we meet is an idiot or that he has a pidgon English that reminds me of slave speak from Civil War movies, but is somehow supposed to be funny. It felt like saying, making fun of another culture is okay because they’re different. I totally agree with the problems of telling instead of showing, especially with Anakin. It’s as is they only saw his potential because of the “metachlorian reading”(another terrible tell not show example.)

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February 5, 2020at 6:03 am

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