Hello Friends! This will be my first post on the Star Wars saga, and I am super excited, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, Queen Amidala, Little Anakin and una of mesa favorite character Jar Jar Binks; me will explainen myself more late (yes that was in Gungan 😉). Things couldn’t be better!
However, the amazing storylines and rich character arcs in the prequel era can sometimes can be shrouded by politics, politics, and more politics, and an occasional segment of unrealistic dialogue (I’m looking at you Anakin), but what can I say? I love them all the same! My aim is to unveil the treasure that is the prequel trilogy before jumping to the historic landmark that is the original trilogy.
However, before we jump right in, I must give my disclaimer that this post will contain spoilers for Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, so if you want general review information, kid caution, foul language count, and my rating, just skip down to the end.
Therefore, without further ado, let’s get right into it! Allons-y!
Long ago, in a galaxy far far away, there were, politics, tax regulations, and senators. The Phantom Menace begins in the era long before the First Order and the Empire but in the days of the Galactic Republic.
The movie centers around the small planet of Naboo where the evil Trade Federation has cut off all supplies to the planet with a blockade. Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi are sent there by the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic to negotiate terms. Nevertheless, things do not go as planned, and they both end up on the planet in the middle of the Federation’s invasion.
This is when they meet Jar Jar Binks: a young Gungan, who helps them both sneak into Naboo’s capital city, Theed, where Queen Amidala is now being held captive by Viceroy Gunray, head of the Trade Federation.
Jar Jar was actually banished from his home, Otoh Gunga, for being…well…clumsy. In actuality he is considered one of the most annoying characters in Star Wars, and yet Jar Jar is one of my favorite characters in the prequel era, but I will have to save the explanation for a later post, perhaps a character spotlight… 😁
Ahem…as I was saying. The Jedi sneak into the Theed Royal Palace, rescue the Queen, and attempt to safely transport her to the Republic’s headquarters, the planet city of Coruscant. However, when trying to pass the federation’s blockade, their ship is damaged, and they are forced to land on a planet in the outer rim, the planet of Tatooine.
It is on this planet that about half of the movie takes place, and it is where we meet the main protagonist and future antagonist of the prequel and original Star Wars trilogy, Anakin Skywalker. Surprisingly, both Anakin and his mother, Shmi Skywalker, are slaves to the junk dealer Watto. It is to this very trader that Qui-Gon, Jar Jar, and Queen Amidala’s handmaid, Padmé, go to find the part they need to fix their ship.
Anakin (he is a little boy right now) works in Watto’s shop and meets Qui-Gon; thus, Anakin’s path with the Jedi begins…
At Watto’s shop is also where Anakin first meets Padmé, to whom he asks if she is an angel, like the ones he’s has heard about in stories. This sets up some things for their relationship in Attack of the Clones, but that is getting ahead…
Immediately following this, Jar Jar gets into a scuffle with a creature called, Sebulba. It is now that we learn of Anakin’s pod racing skills.
“Careful, Sebulba…he’s [Jar Jar] a big time outlander. I’d hate to see you diced before we race again.”
“Next time we race, boy, it will be the end of you.”Anakin Skywalker and Sebulba – Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
Pod racing is a dangerous sport that no human can participate because of its lethality, yet somehow Anakin is able to race a pod and is an excellent racer…
*strokes chin suspiciously*
As a sandstorm rolls into Mos Eisley, Qui-Gon and the others begin to head for the ship, but Anakin claims that they will never make it there before the storm; thus, he offers them shelter for the night. This is when we meet Anakin’s mother, Shmi, whom welcomes them into her home graciously.
Over dinner, the five of them devise a plan to win the money needed to buy the parts needed to fix their ship. This is when Qui-Gon first learns of Anakin’s pod racing skills, which piques his interest tremendously.
They all agree to the plan to enter Anakin into the pod race and use the prize money to buy the parts they need to fix their ship. By the end of this scene, we can sense that Qui-Gon senses something about Anakin.
The next day Qui-Gon proposes his plan to Watto in the form of a risky deal, but Watto agrees and the deal is made: Anakin will race.
Anakin begins to prepare his pod racer, and this is when we get one of the most important scenes in the movie. I can’t even begin to summarize it so here is the dialogue between Shmi and Qui-Gon below, but let me just say how much they look good together…😄
Anyway, sorry, friends…back to the task at hand:
“You should very proud of your son. He gives without any thought of reward.”
“Well, he knows nothing of greed. He has a…”
“He has special powers.”
“He can see things before they happen. That’s why he appears to have such quick reflexes…It’s a Jedi trait.”
“He deserves better than a slave’s life.”
“Why, certainly…Had he been born in the Republic, we would have identified him early. The Force is strong with him that much is clear. Who was his father?”
“There was no father…I carried him. I gave birth. I raised him. I can’t explain what happened…Can you help him?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t actually come here to free slaves…”Qui-Gon Jinn and Shmi Skywalker – Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
Ahem…I’m sorry…what? 😳
Now, those of you who are hearing Christmas bells ringing in their ears please silence them, for as far as I can tell, this is not an allegory for Jesus.
Yes, I know that this is a virgin (Force) birth, but Anakin is in no way Jesus or ever comes close to being Jesus. Yes, he brings balance to the Force as the Chosen One, but that does not make him anymore than a regular human being, and because of his humanity and his calling of “The Chosen One”, it makes his fall (spoilers…) all the more tragic, which I think is something that the Prequel trilogy portrays masterfully.
However, that is just a touch on a much larger subject that I can not fully discuss until The Revenge of the Sith, which is personally my second-favorite (Empire Strikes Back is still number 1) Star Wars movie and is, in fact, the only Star Wars film that I have cried for. Why? Well, that is getting way too far ahead, back to Episode 1.
That night Qui-Gon takes a blood sample from Anakin and sends it to Obi-Wan for analysis and finds his “midi-chlorian” count to be extremely high.
“I need a midi-chlorian count.”
“The reading is off the chart…over 20,000.”
“Even Master Yoda doesn’t have a midi-chlorian count that high. No Jedi has”
“What does that mean?”
“I not sure…”Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn – Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
A midi-chlorian count higher than Master Yoda the Jedi Grandmaster…Yikes! What are midi-chlorians you ask? Well, don’t worry that will be explained later.
Of course, we now get another glance of the phantom or Sith apprentice, Darth Maul, who did appear earlier in the movie, but this is when he first arrives on Tatooine in pursuit of the Jedi. What we don’t know at this time that he is the apprentice to the Sith Lord, Darth Sidious, who stays hidden to the Jedi until the end of The Attack of the Clones.
After hearing of Anakin’s parentage and seeing his midi-chlorian count, right before the pod race starts the following day Qui-Gon proposes to Watto that if Anakin wins the race then both him and his mother can be set free. They play a quick game of chance, and it is decided that Anakin will be released if he wins but not Shmi (poor Qui-Gon 😉).
Anakin prepares his pod, and I can not begin to say how much I love his bravery. It is clear that he can see into the future, but he is nine years old, and yet his bravery is phenomenal. I love this kid!
Any who…to make a long scene short, Anakin wins the pod race, and Watto reluctantly gives them their parts and Anakin his freedom.
Qui-Gon tells Shmi of her son’s freedom to Anakin’s great delight. He comforts her that Anakin will be very well taken care of with the Jedi.
Nonetheless, when the realization hits Anakin that he will be separated from Shmi for who knows how long, they share in a sorrowful goodbye. However, when his bags are packed and he turns for one last tearful farewell, she almost commands him not to come back to Tatooine.
“Will I ever see you again?”
“What does your heart tell you?”
“I hope so…yes…I guess.”
“Then we will see each other again.”
“I will come back and free you, Mom. I promise.”
“Now be brave…and don’t look back. Don’t look back…Anakin and Shmi Skywalker – Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
Once again we are shown the humanity and emotion in Anakin. One of the key components that intrigues me about him, is his struggle between the Force, himself as the Chosen one, and himself, his humanity and emotions, which defines him as a human being. However, once again, I cannot fully divulge this topic until Episode III.
As Qui-Gon and Anakin head back to the, now repaired, ship, Darth Maul attacks and a short epic lightsaber battle between him and Qui-Gon ensues. Even so, they managed to escape off world, and after a sweet scene between Padmé and Anakin, they safely arrive on Coruscant.
Waiting for them, is Senator Palpatine…hmm…most interesting and strangely familiar name…sounds like Emperor Palpatine from the original trilogy (hint hint 😊).
*Suspiciously glances at George Lucas*
Well, this is when matters become very political, and to be honest, even coming from a die hard prequel fan, it is a bit much. Basically, to sum it up, Senator Palps (yes, that is my nickname for him) doesn’t think that the senate will do anything about the invasion, but instead he proposes that they elect a new Supreme Chancellor.
Meanwhile, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan inform the Jedi High Council about their encounter with Darth Maul and with Anakin. After a bit of negotiation, Qui-Gon is requested to bring Anakin to the council to be tested. Here we are also shown Qui-Gon’s faith in the Force.
Then we get more politics, which are simply to show us that a new Chancellor is to be elected, and conveniently Palps is nominated to succeed as Chancellor.
In the meantime, Anakin is taken to the Jedi Council to be tested and is seen to be strong in the Force; however, his emotions for his mother show through to the haughty suspicion of the council.
“Afraid to lose her [Shmi], I think, hmm?”
“What does that got to do with anything?”
“Everything…fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering…I sense much fear in you.”Jedi Grandmaster Yoda and Anakin Skywalker – Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
Wise words, Master Yoda…I will visit this again in Episode III when these words come into fruition.
It is now that the Queen Amidala decides, to the great protestation of Palps, to return to her people where she feels her place is.
However, the movie once again cuts back to the Jedi council where they have decided not to train Anakin, to now the great protestation of Qui-Gon.
However, when Qui-Gon claims that Obi-Wan is ready to become a Knight and that he will take on Anakin as his new apprentice, Master Windu, the most annoying Jedi in history, states that this is not the time, for they are once again needed by Queen Amidala as she returns to Naboo. The Jedi hope that Darth Maul will show his horns once again, and the mystery of the Sith will be revealed.
I have much to say on the Jedi Council, but we only get a glimpse into it in Episode I, so I will have to save my attacks for a different post.
As they prepare to leave, we see Obi-Wan side with the council and disagree heartily with his Master about the training of Anakin. I love Obi-Wan to pieces, but sometime he seriously needs to consider ditching the council. Qui-Gon reprimands him, but then turns to Anakin, who insists to “Qui-Gon, sir” that he does not want to be a problem. Qui-Gon assures him that he is no problem, and then proceeds to answer Anakin’s question about the midi-chlorians.
“Midi-chlorians are microscopic life form that resides within all living cells.”
“They live inside me?”
“Inside your cells, yes…without the midi-chlorians, 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.”Qui-Gon Jinn and Anakin Skywalker – Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
Oh, and let me say how much I love when Qui-Gon is in “dad mode” with Anakin. Excellent, such a soft boy! 😉
I digress, back to episode one. They all set off back to Naboo while on the planet Gunray assures Darth Sidious that the planet is completely under their control. Sidious is pleased, and states that as he controls the senate, his apprentice Darth Maul will join them on Naboo.
Now on Naboo, Queen Amidala decides to try and employ the help of the Gungans and sends Jar Jar to go and find them. Obi-Wan reports this to Qui-Gon and apologizes for his behavior (such a good boy! 😁). Qui-Gon assures him that all is forgiven, and that he foresees that Obi-Wan will become a great Jedi Knight.
It is now that we get some more Jar Jar Binks character development. He leads them all to where the Gungans are hiding in the “sacred place.” Here they find Boss Nass, and with a little negotiation from Queen Padmé Amidala (Yes, Padmé the handmaid was the queen all along…surprise!), they agree, and an alliance is formed between the Naboo and the Gungans.
Because he helped unite the Gungans and the Naboo, Jar Jar is made a general to led the Gungan army to victory against the Trade Federation.
Padmé, Captain Panaka, and the Jedi lead an assault on the palace and successful infiltrate while Jar Jar and the Gungans make a distraction in the Naboo plains to lead the droid army out of the main city.
After freeing the pilots, whose goal is to destroy the main droid control ship in the blockade, they are met by Darth Maul, and Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon jump into action into what I think is one of the best lightsaber battles in Star Wars.
As Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon engage with Maul, Anakin and R2-D2 decided to activate a star fighter and help with the destruction of the droid control ship while Padmé and her forces successful capture the Viceroy with a cunning plan.
The Gungans are still holding off the droids, and I am purposefully not talking too much about Jar Jar because I will be writing a character spotlight on him very soon, thus, I want to save all content on him till that post.
In space, Anakin manages to learn how to pilot a starfighter with great accuracy with help from R2 and blows up the droid ship, deactivating all the battle droids on Naboo.
Here we cut back to Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon’s duel, and I am sorry to say it, but Qui-Gon does not survive this fight. Maul cleverly parries an attack and runs him through with his lightsaber, much to the horror of poor Obi-Wan, who avenges his master with a vengeance.
In the end, Obi-Wan prevails and slices Maul in half, who then proceeds to fall down a trash shaft, and should have stayed dead! How?! In any case, please watch this scene if you haven’t already because it will keep you on the edge of your seat.
As Qui-Gon dies in Obi-Wan’s arms, he makes him promise that he will train Anakin “the chosen one.” Obi-Wan is grief stricken, and he takes Anakin as his padawan despite the skepticism of the council, mainly Yoda and Master Windu.
As the film closes, we see the new Chancellor Palps return to Naboo and take interest in young Anakin, the council strokes their chins at the prospect that the Sith may have returned, and the whole city of Theed is in celebration at their liberation from the Trade Federation. Happy ever after…for now…😉
*Star Wars credits music playing*
Phew…that was a long movie!
The Phantom Menace is really a set up for the next two films. We are introduced to Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Padmé Amidala, and Yoda, who are all the main characters of the next two films. We are also introduced to some new planets, such as Coruscant and Naboo, as well as, new enemies, such as Darth Maul and the Trade Federation.
However, we also are shown a glimpse of Anakin’s humanity and emotion for those who he cares about, which greatly progresses as the films continue. As Darth Vader in the original trilogy, we really do not see Anakin at all but simply a sinister, evil overlord, who just happens to be related to the main character (Luke Skywalker).
An another aspect about this movie that I love is how both Anakin and Padmé in this film are children, and yet, the things they accomplish are extraordinary. At this point, Anakin is nine years old and Padmé is fourteen years old and is the Queen of Naboo. Never underestimate the youth, friends!
One last point, I love how Qui-Gon is such a father figure in this movie and his immense faith in the Force. Throughout the duration of the film, he never wavers in his dedication to the task at hand and always trusts that the Force will guide even when people oppose him on all sides, even his own Padawan. It is because of him that Anakin was found on Tatooine and that he was trained. I think a lot can be learned from Qui-Gon and his dedication against all odds.
Thus, friends, after reading this post, I hope that the next time you watch the Phantom Menace you will view it in a new light. Not as a movie that is overly political or slow-paced and boring, but as the perfect setup and opening to a whole new era of Star Wars: the prequel era. Here’s my rating of this movie:
6.5 out of 10.0
Kid Caution: Medium/10+ Parental Guidance for Darth Maul’s face
Foul Language: None
Well, that is all of now, friends. I hope that you enjoyed reading this post and will now go and watch Episode 1 with new eyes. Please stay tuned, for I will be posting on Episode 2, the Attack of the Clones sometime in the near future.
Until next time,
Time Lady of Coruscant 😉