Prequel Trilogy,  The Phantom Menace

/Film: “There’s a new wave of Star Wars fans who appreciate the prequels for what they are”


From /Film:

“The last big panel at Star Wars Celebration was a 20th anniversary retrospective of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The maligned prequel that kicked off a new era of Star Wars after a 16-year hiatus from the big screen hasn’t ever been considered a bright spot in the saga’s history. But 20 years later, fans who grew up on Episode I seem to have a special place in their heart for the movie.

The crowd at Star Wars Celebration gave The Phantom Menace anniversary panel a warm reception. It probably didn’t hurt that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and Darth Maul (Ray Park) were in attendance, not to mention some of the key crew members who have made the modern era of Star Wars what it is today. But George Lucas also sent in a personal message talking about his love for The Phantom Menace, and doubling down on his love for Jar Jar Binks. Plus, some interesting cameos you might not have known about were revealed and much more.

The Phantom Menace 20th anniversary panel started off with a retrospective look back at the development and making of the film. Hosted by Warwick Davis, the discussion featured visual effects supervisor John Knoll, viewpaint supervisor Jean Bolte, design director Doug Chiang and supervising sound editor Matthew Wood talking about how much George Lucas pushed them beyond their limits with what he wanted to accomplish with The Phantom Menace.

Regardless of how you think about Episode I with regards to its quality as a film, you can’t deny the important place this movie has in Star Wars history. The first prequel is what gave way to Star Wars Celebration itself and the revival of the classic saga in a much bigger way. It helped bring Star Wars to a new generation, and it advanced film technology at large, ushering in a new wave of blockbuster filmmaking.

Furthermore, even though George Lucas may not be the shepherd of Star Wars any longer, his influence and style is still present through those he mentored while working on the prequels. Everything that John Knoll, Doug Chiang, and Matthew Wood bring to Star Wars today comes from what they learned from Lucas giving them an opportunity to rise to the challenge of his vision for The Phantom Menace, and they all echoed those sentiments when referring to the Star Wars projects they’re working on today, from Rogue One to The Last Jedi. And even though Jean Bolte doesn’t work on Star Wars movies anymore, her talents are still firmly in place at ILM with work on movies like Iron Man, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. […]

And in case you think George Lucas is still crazy for proclaiming Jar Jar Binks as one of his favorite characters, when Ahmed Best came to the stage during this panel, the crowd gave him some of the biggest cheers of the day. That might be because he’s had a rough go from the more vicious fans who hated The Phantom Menace, but it honestly seems like it’s because there’s a new wave of Star Wars fans who have come to appreciate the prequels for what they are. These are Star Wars fans who just love Star Wars. […]”


  • Cryogenic

    Given that I was sixteen years-of-age when I saw TPM in theaters in 1999, here in the UK, and I am now rapidly approaching ROTS-Obi-Wan levels of aging and cynicism, I probably can’t be considered “new wave”, but I’ve long admired TPM, all the same.

    And in accordance with my old-man status, I’ll admit: It took some time for the film settle in my head; where I stood with it and how I truly felt about it. To echo one long-after-the-fact Internet review: “[The Phantom Menace is] a many tentacled beast of a movie, so all-encompassing as to be indigestible, a movie that sits in one’s psyche like a tricycle in a snake’s belly.”

    In fact, I’m really still on that journey, both with regard to TPM and the prequels as a whole. And that’s fine. I think the prequels, in particular, counsel us to examine our prejudices and biases, urging us to pay close attention to the more Protean aspects of our own consciousness. Or as Qui-Gon says enigmatically at the start of the prequel journey, rebutting Obi-Wan (the “avatar” of the OT) like some old radio announcer reading out an epigraph at the start of a book: “But not at expense of the moment. Be mindful of the Living Force, young Padawan.”

    I’m very enamoured of that quote; and various other of Qui-Gon’s gnomic sayings throughout the movie. They’re one of the special delights of TPM and the PT generally. Note that Qui-Gon both koanistically dispenses advice to the audience and also puts Obi-Wan (the OT) in his place. In effect, if you enter the PT with classical assumptions, you should recognise, according to this “Jedi legend” (story/inscription –> or inscription within a story), that you are but a learner. And not just any learner: But one cruising to understand the strange dialectic between “Padme” (the PT) and “Obi-Wan” (the OT). See it? PAD(me)-a-(obi)WAN learner.

    The prequels are not only different to what came before — the “black swan” of cinema (see Wikipedia entry on the term) — but quite different to other works of cinema, period. They are uniquely their own thing. Like Jar Jar. And we all saw the hammering he took. People don’t deal well with difference. Their main response is usually to seek to destroy it. Hence the grand struggle for rights and recognition — both legal and existential — we’re seeing in the world today. The prequels will resonate for many years beyond their making.

    • archdukeofnaboo


      There’s something really special about “Anakin’s Theme”. I don’t know, it just seems to best epitomise the story of the film. It’s at once naive and playful, becomes cautious, and eventually foreboding of the phantom menace itself.

      Or maybe I had it’s Blu-ray menu screen on too long for my own good? xD

      Man, did I feast on those films in the 2011 release. Often after watching one I’d sit back and let the menu music play out as I gathered myself for deep contemplation. The internet at that time was overflowing with PT bashers, why would I possibly want to go there and create headaches for myself? If I had the urge to write, I would simply put pen to paper instead. And so much happier I was.

      How often do you watch the prequels back?

      Then there’s the imagery. Even as a young child, when I was viewing TPM alongside the remastered OT, I knew there was something different about it. It was still Star Wars, but shots like Darth Maul’s double-sided blade and Padmé’s ornate makeup hooked me, permanently. Whatever one’s gripes about lore detail like midicloreans, there can be no denying, from any basher, that the range of new designs was out-of-this-world astonishing. It was precisely what was needed in order to sell the illusion of a living Galaxy.


      What is this Star Wars book you are writing? Are you willing to give Naboo News an exclusive?

      • Cryogenic

        @ Arch Duke:

        I love Anakin’s Theme. It was especially poignant, somehow, when I saw TPM in 3D at the cinema and stayed for the credits. If every other aspect of the film didn’t leave its mark in this regard, then I think Anakin’s Theme, all by itself, makes it abundantly clear that Lucas very much constructed an epic life chronicle here: We follow the fortunes of a single character, clothed in several forms, almost “womb to tomb” (though even TPM leaves his earliest years a mystery).

        And the films equally seem to mature in seriousness or basic threat-level. From rolling fields, bubble cities, banana-yellow starships, the innocence of Jar Jar, a boy who loves his mother, a beautiful geisha queen, and a remote string-puller in Episode I, to the murky sewer of Jabba’s Palace, brutal Jedi pirate-ship murder, espionage, not-so-cute arboreal warriors that capture and almost cook our heroes, a last-ditch attempt to bring down the oppressive Galactic Empire, and a patricidal reckoning between three void-enshrouded characters in a tense end-of-saga showdown just five movies later.

        That’s why I love George Lucas’ complete saga. It is extremely thought-out, has an extensive set of story/character/thematic/visual/musical arcs, and is basically the last word in twelve-hour cinematic documentary fantasy, starting at the mid-point, then wrapping around on itself and capturing the ephemeral history of its own origins in an immense ramscoop manoeuvre. And yet: It also has many peculiar resonances between its component pieces. For, as much as I tried to downplay Episode VI’s child-like qualities, they’re certainly there, forming a sort of bookend rhyming scheme with Episode I. Structural genius all over the place.

        And boy, for all the visual brilliance and loopy imagination of the series, Lucas really lucked out with John Williams. If not for Williams, the saga would certainly struggle to attain the same level of sustained operatic grandeur.

        I love what you said about putting pen to paper — exactly!!! It’s a very liberating thing to do. Fortunately, while I also found relief from the bashing hordes the same way, I also got a kick out of reading the musings of other prequel fans and pop culture analysts, which energised my thinking and fuelled my passion for these films all the more.

        You nailed it when you spoke of the imagery. I had the “Episode I: Insider’s Guide” CD-ROM, and along with the original teaser trailer and the movie itself, it gave me that same feeling: A total fantasy world brought vividly to life. Those designs practically explode out of the movie screen. Like some weird DMT experience. The striking storybook intensity of TPM is undeniable and impossible to forget or move away from. When you see how amazingly monochrome and crummy the original film seems in comparison (but I still love it), you realise Lucas had barely gotten warmed up.

        My book? It’s mostly about the prequels; or what I alluded to above. The full saga; but with a strong prequel focus. Themes, characters, neat inter- and intra-film rhymes. That sort of thing. It actually started as a response last year on Naboo News to the “midi-chlorian” revelation by Lucas concerning the sequel trilogy. I wrote out this super-ridiculous response (ridiculous, at least, from a length perspective), and then I realised I had just unconsciously written out at least a chapter’s-worth of decent book material, or even a skeleton-outline of several chapters which I could flesh out and fatten up.

        My book doesn’t yet have enough material to offer previews, but I might send one or two out later in the year. Naboo News might be a good place to promote it. I do need to concentrate on the promotion side later in the year. Promoting things, in general, is a serious weakness of mine. And this all assumes I’ll actually finish the darn thing! It’s still at something of an early stage of development. I do hope to get it done. I’ve been nudged by various souls to write a book for years. Well: Challenge accepted! 🙂

      • archdukeofnaboo


        That’s terrific to hear! Glad to know our encouragement is having some effect.

        You should still consider writing for a Geek website – seriously. Even if it’s part time, I think you’d be more than capable of it.

        Don’t be like 23 year old Anakin and let your potential swim away from you. You’ve got great prose and you should use it to effect on the greater SW zeitgeist.

      • Cryogenic

        @ Arch Duke:

        Thanks very much, AD.

        It’s tough to know where and how to break into the writing world and actually start to receive money (never received a penny for any of my writing my entire life), but your words here cut deep. And as they say in “A Bronx Tale”: There’s nothing worse in life than wasted talent.

        I hate this society. You’re expected to find and hold down a mediocre job, or a string of them, and in return, you lose almost all your freedoms and receive only a mediocre wage. Yet people are capable of exerting themselves and pursuing passions. But few of these offer any financial reward.

        And in the meantime, you have to support yourself and prop up the crooked system. You can’t be left alone; unless you have an inheritance or a hedge fund or something. So most of your time and energy is completely sapped. I’m relieved I don’t have kids.

        If we had a universal basic income, on the other hand…

        But thanks again, Seriously. I want to prosper as a writer — someway, somehow.

  • Slicer87

    I was 14 when TPM came out and I have always liked the film. Much of the hate torwards it is so overblown. I believe a big problem is the internet, which behaves much like a self selecting sample. In other words, the internet is mainly voluntary response sampling which overrepresents people with strong and usually negative opinions. It is a well known problem with TV, radio, and newspaper polls. Online sampling likely suffers similar issues. I never knew of PT hate until I started spending some time online.

    • Cryogenic

      @ Slicer:

      A Gallup poll done the summer of TPM’s release backs you up. Most people reported enjoying the movie, contra bashers/fanboys, who rapidly went on to speak of it as a deep disappointment at best, a crime against cinema at worst.

      My first, honest-to-goodness recollection of hate was maybe reading a newspaper review of AOTC that dogged the movie for being “Manichean” — basically, an attack against the whole series, disguised as some kind of limp diatribe against AOTC itself. It was probably one of the first times I had encountered the word.

      That said, I was posting to a Star Trek community at the time TPM came out (my first-ever Internet forum experience), and I think there may have been some early disdain thrown at Lucas on there, although my memory is very hazy. I probably engaged in a touch of it myself in those early years.

      If anything, today, on various topics, the “bubble mentality” of the Internet is even more of a menace (puns somewhat intended?). People are retreating ever-more-deeply into ever-smaller emotional and intellectual worlds; secondary to information-overload, algorithms that continually filter content, and ramping-up censorship/suppression, increasingly forced on populations and individuals, by various platforms and actors, big and small alike.

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