Recollections: The Phantom Menace


It was recently sometime this year the 20th anniversary of The Phantom Menace, which seems like a great time to rewatch and write about MY FAVOURITE STAR WARS MOVIE. Gasps, I hear. Ya, guess what middle-aged white men. I will defend The Phantom Menace for the same reason you will pretend these prequels don’t even exist: IT WAS MY CHILDHOOD! 😩 (that’s what you look like, you grown ass man babies)

Maybe even more than I remember the movie I remember... McDonald’s had these little POG-like things with the characters on them to collect and trade. They also had giant cups (or maybe it was the movie theatres?) with character toppers and we had Amidala (for me) and R2-D2 (for my brother). My Queen Amidala pencil tin (still have it). My droid watch “Hit the nose!” (Still have it). The Phantom Menace PC game. I know the first scene of that game (because I suck at computer games and would die and have to restart a lot) better than any scene in the movie. The podracing PC game demo that came with an issue of my brothers PC magazine, whatever it was called (possibly just PC Magazine?). I always raced as Sebulba because I liked the look of his podracer the most and also thought it was cool to play as the bad guy. And Episode 1 Monopoly (still have it).

THIS WAS MY CHILDHOOD. And you can’t take that away from me. But let’s see what rewatching the movie for the first time in nearly a decade does to my childhood memories. 

Will I ever understand galactic politics?
I never understood what was going on in Star Wars. Princess Leia needs help because bad guys blow up her planet, but, like, rebels and alliance? No, Alliance is Firefly… the Republic? This movie is about the Trade Federation… I don’t know what invading Naboo with droids and killing people has to do with interplanetary trade laws… I know Amidala is a Queen (and a kween, gurl). There are Senators and Chancellors and a Supreme Chancellor. The system works too slow for Amidala’s liking and yet election for the new Supreme Chancellor takes only a few days? With all this technology, they can’t send some evidence of millions of droids on a planet? I’ll never understand any of this; I’ll stop trying.

Are we not supposed to notice the difference between the CG and practical effects?

It is jarring. It is like watching the original trilogy and you get the cantina scene and suddenly the band is CG instead of puppets and you’re like- Damnit, this is the terrible remastered version! I just need consistency within a movie so I can suspend my disbelieve evenly throughout. The practical stuff looks great! It’s real! The CG stuff makes me remember this is a movie because that is obviously FAKE. And I don’t mean Jar Jar, or like a whole CG sequence like when they’re underwater. Some scenes have the same thing practical one shot and then totally CG next time you see it and, like, what is real? What is a movie? What is happening?

Did the editor think that swipe transitions would save the disjointed scenes?

This movie jumps around between so many story lines I have no idea what is going on in any of them, or how time is passing. We’re on Naboo, we’re on a space station, here’s this evil guy, here’s the jedis, here’s some droids. There’s no flow; only swipes. Even within scenes, actors’ lines are delivered as if they’re each cut from a separate scene, as if no one is acting with anyone, and everything feels like ADR. “I have exposition.” “I also have exposition” *side swipe* “I have exposition about the trade federation.” “Fact about the trade federation.” *swipey swipe* “Me sa Jar Jar! Me sa make no blipblop googly ding dong sense! Oopsie swoopsie!” “Serious jedi wisdom in complete opposition in tone from the rest of the scene.” THIS IS THE MOVIE, FOLKS! What are the stakes at any given moment? A scene starts out implying great peril, but they escape without any conflict so I’m not sure what the point of anything is. I don’t want to blame the editors completely as this is what they had to work with but surely something smoother could have been put together?

Can I make Darth Maul a bisexual icon?
Look; we know from his lightsaber that he swings both ways. And aside from the teeth, Darth Maul can GET IT. He’s got a deep sexy voice, sick dance/fight moves, and an exclusively black wardrobe. Darth Maul > Kylo Ren. Maul isn’t a whiny emo kid. He’s grown-ass goth man. I have to question his reflexes, though. There’s one part of the fight with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan when they jump over to join him on another walkway and he just lets them jump over within a foot of him and doesn’t, say, slice em up as they somersault toward him. Missed opportunity, man. 

Who is Amidala’s personal stylist?
Both Natalie Portman and her identical twin Kiera Knightly are killing it. This is the only part of this movie that should live on forever.

Were we not supposed to know Palpatine is evil?

I didn’t rewatch Episodes 4-6 before this, but he’s in those right? So, watching this we know he’s the hooded hologram? I mean, he’s clearly evil. He’s an old white man telling a young woman what to do. I’m a firm believer that a movie has to exist on its own. Even a sequel or part of a series or franchise. I shouldn’t have to watch something else to be able to watch a movie. Or read a comic or book. Or watch interviews wherein the filmmakers explain the movie. The movie speaks for itself. So I shouldn’t know who Palpatine is and be surprised that it’s him in the end. Or is that not revealed in this movie? I forget already. See- it’s confusing when movies rely on outside source material! What order should I watch these in? What am I supposed to know or not know to watch this film?!

Is Anakin Jesus?
This isn’t a question, really, but I have created a format for this post that I will stick to, because of course Anakin is Jesus. “There was no father…” When I was young, I thought she was just being like “I didn’t need no man to raise a kid! I did this on my own!” But now the immaculate conception explanation is just so obvious. And then later when Qui-Gon says the midichlorians just got together inside her and created him… So then mom is the one that’s pretty amazing, she must have had a lot of midichlorians and stupid Anakin stole them. Also- she’s a slave… no one wants to say it but… rape? And then traumatic denial of it? Just saying...

Final Question: Is it worth the rewatch?
I’d say, ya, if you’re a Star Wars fan and want to relive the whole saga, it would include this movie, but apparently Star Wars “fans” like to pretend these prequels don’t exist so they wouldn’t watch them anyway. So… no? I don’t think I ever need to watch it again. It just made me miss my old Phantom Menace computer games… Life was simpler then… 

Oh, I get it… Darth Maul is the titular menace.