Prequel Trilogy,  The Phantom Menace

The line “There’s always a bigger fish” in The Phantom Menace was reportedly added by Liam Neeson




  • Cryogenic

    Ewan also improvised Obi-Wan’s seven-syllable quip of “Another happy landing” for the similarly-allegorical crash-landing of a bewildered transport vessel at the end of ROTS’s opening sequence. The bongo gets chewed up and saved by the proverbial “bigger fish” with three passengers inside, while the Invisible Hand splits in two and is saved by some deft piloting by Anakin, sparing another three passengers from imminent destruction.

    Perhaps it’s just fortuitous, or something Lucas and Ben Burtt later exploited, but I have slight cause to doubt Liam came up with the line on his own, if only because the film then transitions to Nute and Rune communicating with Sidious via hologram: another “bigger fish”. So it’s a pretty smooth quip. As Gilroy notes, the line perfectly adds to the mystery of the Sith plot, not least because of that transition.

    Well, anyway… Liam sells the line very well. It’s said with such assurance and a wry hint of smugness that you can easily believe the actor came up with it by himself. And it certainly suggests how much Liam was into the part; adding lines and delivering them with cunning authority. Great moment.

    • Keith Palmer

      A person I follow online has been analyzing lines from the Star Wars saga for a while now (having recently finished off “the prequels” and moved on to “the original trilogy.”) One of her first posts looked at this very line, making her own comment about the more elusive “bigger fish” in the movie…

      • Cryogenic

        @ Keith:

        Nice one, Keith. I love Matril’s blog.

        “Pithy” is the word. I like that word and have used it a number of times myself when talking about Lucas’ humour and the dialogue in Star Wars.

        Great micro analysis she has there. I have said similar things about Qui-Gon’s nonchalant restraint in the bongo. Well, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, who seem almost comically oblivious to dangerous, versus Jar Jar, the shrieking occupant — who, let’s face it, has the more “realistic” (non-Jedi) response, and most of us would probably be responding to the situation in a similar manner.

        “In this situation, the bigger fish ended up being a positive factor for them. But what if the bigger fish comes after the bongo next? Is a bigger fish really something to rejoice over?”

        This is actually a very wise question. I remember someone getting extremely angry over Qui-Gon’s casual regard for the well-being of the sea creatures on IMDb. They even suggested that Qui-Gon somehow summoned them with the Force — thereby causing one to eat the other. So much for his love of all lifeforms and his great affinity for the Living Force. Lemme tell you: This person was *seriously* upset!!!

        Of course, in reality, the scene is meant to illustrate the destructive interference of the Sith in the delicate ecological balance of the Star Wars universe (Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan wouldn’t be there, plumbing the depths of the planet core, otherwise, for all intents and purposes, and by extension, causing this tragic happenstance to unfold), as well as functioning as a callback to the asteroid creature from TESB, which nearly eats the Falcon, and then, more generally, an allegory for the vicious “fish eat fish” calculus of the Sith: overt, animalistic embodiments (Maul especially) of fear and greed and an appetite for power run amok.

        But yes — is it? Qui-Gon almost seems to rejoice in the fact that one creature is painfully losing its life so that they may live. That’s actually a bit dark. Perhaps a subtle flaw in his thinking that suggests a disconnect between himself and some of the other lifeforms out there. Notably, the bongo later finds retreat in a cave as it loses power. When power is restored, yet another creature gives pursuit and is eaten by the same “saviour” monster; courtesy, again, of the intruding bongo. But this second victim, if you watch carefully, is actually a mother protecting her eggs. Interesting rhyme with Shmi sending Anakin away with Qui-Gon and her own fate in the next movie.

        And quoting Matril’s final remarks:

        “I wonder if Qui-Gon, with all his outside-the-box wisdom, could have spotted the true bigger fish if he had survived. We can only wonder.”

        Reminds me of the time I quipped, if you turn the volume up loud enough, you might just hear Ric Olie at the celebration proclaiming, “Look over there! It’s Chancellor Palpatine! And Chancellor Palpatine is also Darth Sidious!” Of course, he was drowned out by the din of trumpets and children cheering, and nobody heard his proclamation, and thus, The Wisdom of Olie was lost, and the galaxy would hurtle to its doom.

      • Moose

        Cryogenic: Great comment (as usual) especially pointing out the mother fish. Your insight (and Matril’s) help to illuminate Star Wars for me. Until I read Matril’s essay on this a few months(?) ago, I thought this was just a throw-away line.

        You see this idea of life surviving upon death in many of Joseph Campbell’s writings on mythology. In my mind, I put Lucas, Campbell and Qui-Gon together so maybe Qui-Gon’s comment is meant to be in-line with the living force.

      • Slicer87

        The big fish saving Qui Gon and crew in the Bongo may also be a allegory for the symbiosis that is a running theme in TPM. By killing and eating the Opee, both the big fish gets food and the crew of the Bongo are spared, a mutual benefit between the two.

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