181st Imperial Discussion Group: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace!

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Grey1, Feb 2, 2012.

  1. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2000
    star 4
    Happy February everyone. With the slightest of delays, I give you this month's discussion. The Phantom Menace returns to the big screen in glorious 3D, and its novelization by Terry Brooks returns to our reading schedules. Wizard! Has it been more than eleven years already?

    I couldn't find any TFN staff reviews for this. Correct me if I'm wrong, please.

    As we won't be able to discuss newly added three dimensional thrills or digital changes made to the original theatrical version (and most likely already included in the BluRay version), how about this?

    - That Prequel Movie: Obviously, TPM is a movie, and this is "only" its novelization. But how do you see this? Is it equal to the movie, does it surpass the movie for you, whether in part or in total? TPM notoriously got and still gets lots of abuse, but is the book better or worse? Does Brooks elevate parts above "wooden dialogue and bad acting"?

    - More than meets the eye: How about the parts that were specifically added to the novel, and about those that were left out of the movie but were lifted from the script?

    - Always two there are: If I'm not mistaken (and I'm too lazy to doublecheck), this is the first time we hear of Darth Bane and his legacy. How much does EU owe this novel for including that bit? I actually never checked whether that came directly from Lucas' input or to which degree Brooks shaped this part of Sith background. Especially seeing how it created the question how Yoda could have known about secret Sith philosophy, a question that hasn't yet been answered inside the pages of the fiction books (but in the background material).

    - Travel with us, see the galaxy: I always wondered if some people enjoyed the movie less than I did because they weren't fans of the EU. Because for me, seeing lots of additional stuff onscreen really expanded the universe, and that's what I had enjoyed for years before that. Cool places, cool designs, cool (if simple, but hey, it's SW) characters. Does anybody feel the same? Hasn't it been great seeing stuff like Coruscant in glorious detail? In that regard, how well does the novel mesh with existing EU? Do the places and characters read like something out of your average Bantam book?

    - Sword of what? Terry Brooks is a rather well-known Fantasy author. If anyone would like to comment on whether or not he adds something to SW EU, and whether or not his style can really shine in this novelization, please do.

    - What's this? Thinking about this novel, I had the strangest of ideas. How does Jar Jar translate to the page? Is he the same as in the movie, is he worse, is he more enjoyable for those who really really hate Jar Jar? Based on this novelization, do you think Jar Jar would work as a main character in a novel (and yeah, we all know that's not gonna happen)? Seeing how Chewie got some good and some bad plots before being ignored in Zahn's last Bantam novels and finally proving his worth just in time for his death in Vector Prime, where could an expanded universe and open minds take this computer generated avatar of slapstick antics?

    In addition, please feel free to add any other thoughts, including details on whether you read the novel before watching the movie and which variant cover you chose (Ewan McGregor all the way!).

    As detailled in the HQ thread, I'm in the aftermath of a move right now and would only be able to monitor and join the discussion by leeching internet off my friends or being more sneaky than usual at work. Basically, I'll probably not log in again until Feb 10th, but who knows. Sorry for the inconvenience.

    Next month, by popular vote and/or suggestion, we'll discuss three Young Jedi Knights books: Shards of Alderaan, Diversity Alliance, and Delusions of Grandeur (the first three books of the second arc).
  2. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    From James Luceno on Facebook:
    ( Also, for whatever it's worth, the Darth Plagueis book mentions Kibh Jeen. )

  3. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    Mr. Plinkett points out in the Red Letter Media review of The Phantom Menace how utterly the film fails at having a protagonist or a hero's journey. Anakin shows up forty minutes into the film, and everything after the Podrace goes completely over his head. In the novelization, the early scenes with Anakin on Tatooine help present Anakin as a bit more credible of a protagonist. Plus, this guy is cool.
  4. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Uh, right. No protagonist. I guess the Jedi guys at the start were invisible or something? And the book's beginning utterly disrupts the flow of the entire story, given that Anakin does not make another appearance until the Jedi & company arrive on Tattooine and we don't even get told why the story abruptly shifts from Tattooine to Naboo. (the AOTC novel has this problem too, but that's another thread.)

    I find the TPM novel to be the weakest of the prequel novels; Brooks totally failed, IMO, at creating an exciting expansion of the film. He didn't really come up with any new characterization or interesting tangents so much as just wrote down stuff that's plainly evident in the film-IMO, at least. The ROTJ novel, it's immediate predecessor, manages to weave a vastly better story with far fewer pages, and the AOTC novel just completely trumps it. Even the hardcover covers were bad; just stock photos of the main characters.
  5. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    Nah. The novel improves upon a simply awful film. It just barely kinda gives Anakin a hero's journey, which is something sorely lacking from the movie. That's why Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan aren't protagonists, by the way. They're not fish-out-of-water characters, they don't undergo any sort of arc or growth, and their stoic disinterest makes it difficult to root for them in any way. If anything, their roles are akin to those of C-3PO and R2-D2 in Episode IV --- the narrators who tie the various characters and situations together.
  6. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    Protagonists don't have to be "fish-out-of-water". At some point the alleged "hero's journey" argument becomes insistence that everything must be just like ANH. These aren't rules of filmmaking, they're desperate inventions.

    Nah. Maybe you just hate the Jedi.

    31:58.

    So who's the protagonist of The Hidden Fortress? We've ruled out the C-3PO and R2 equivalents, so that leaves only the Qui-Gon and Padme equivalents, so by the parroted RLM fallacies suggested as standards for TPM, we've uncovered another "simply awful" film. This shows the danger of letting someone else do your thinking for you.
  7. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    Oh, a filmmaker can by all means do something different than the typical fish-out-of-water hero's journey. Avantgarde is great. The thing is, it has to work. The Phantom Menace does not. It just meanders along with uninteresting characters and a plot that isn't explained very well. The characters aren't developed, they don't grow, and they seem pretty disinterested with everything. Which I also said in my last post, but you chose to ignore that when you picked a fragment of a sentence to quote and argue with. [face_peace]

    The Phantom Menace might have made a slight bit of sense if there had been a fish-out-of-water character learning everything along with the viewer. There were so many key plot points that were just flat-out left unexplained. The taxation, the blockade, why the Trade Federation has such a huge military --- it was all just puzzling. That's why Terry Brooks's novelization is a treat --- it has the advantage of narration that makes sense of nonsense.
  8. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    Haha, way off. And, last time I checked, protagonists are indeed someone you're supposed to root for. ;)

    So agreeing with someone who makes salient points is letting them do your thinking for you? Heh, that's funny. You are joking, right?
  9. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    So what's the point of pretending it fails because it violates imaginary rules which are also broken by films considered successful?

    There's nothing particularly puzzling about any of that. But it definitely sounds familiar...

    Yeah, I'm sure you came to the same conclusions yourself and the one-to-one correspondence is just an amazing coincidence. Parroting someone else's fallacies, mistakes and misdirection, while labeling them "salient points" and avoiding really thinking them through, is indeed a case of letting them do your thinking for you.
  10. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    No, it's not. It's based off of my own experiences as a puzzled twelve-year old sitting in the theater wondering what the hell was going on, and not really figuring it out until I read the novelization and Cloak of Deception. A film should intrinsically make sense; it shouldn't require novels written by other people to provide it with coherence and logic. I'm not at all "pretending" that The Phantom Menace fails at storytelling, nor am I mindlessly regurgitating someone else's arguments. Yes, I agree with the opinions that Red Letter Media posits in his reviews. They're brilliant reviews of crappy films. That doesn't mean that I'm incapable of forming my own opinion, and you don't need to react so defensively and harshly because I don't like a film that you apparently do. Your opinion will not be shared by everyone, and there are ways to disagree with someone without insulting them.

    What I like about Brooks's novelization is that it works well as a followup to Cloak of Deception. In the hypothetical scenario of somebody reading through the SW saga for the first time, and doing it chronologically, Brooks's novel would be a good followup to Cloak. Standing alone, the film doesn't make a lot of sense, but the depth given by the novelization is kiiiind of interesting, especially as a companion piece to Cloak. The novel duo isn't on the same page as Labyrinth of Evil - Revenge of the Sith, by any means, but it's certainly better than The Approaching Storm - Attack of the Clones.
  11. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    Dude, take a chill pill. Seriously. I don't like The Phantom Menace, and I like Red Letter Media. Get over it. You're assuming that I mindlessly regurgitate his opinions without giving them my own critique and analysis, and you're utterly and fantastically wrong. If you disagree with someone's opinions, that's fine, but there's no need to insult them and accuse them of not thinking for themself. Now take a deep breath, and take a friendlier and more relaxed approach to this discussion. Cheers.
  12. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    It does. That's why no one claimed otherwise until RLM came along. Merely repeating "it does not make sense" does not prove that something does not make sense. You've so far produced no argument that lends validity to this claim on a specific level, because it's a vacuous complaint. There is only the insistence that the film must spell out every last detail and not ask the audience to think. This is not "brilliant" commentary by any stretch of the imagination, and to portray it as such is telling. It indicates only that the validity of a review is being judged by whether or not its underlying sentiment feels right on an emotional basis as opposed to a factual one.

    It's a coincidence, then. You're mistaking a shared sentiment for an intelligent and reasoned argument. Beneath the surface of popular sentiment, there are significant problems with these arguments which you either fail or refuse to see. Thus is created the impression of unexamined regurgitation, and this impression isn't exactly helped by refusing to back up "your" claims and instead resorting to typically pointless and unconvincing hyperbole.

    The novelization doesn't actually add any depth to the topics in question, not in the way of a Luceno book such as COD. That aside, the film making sense and gaining extra depth from COD are not mutually exclusive propositions.
  13. aeods Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 3, 2004
    star 1
    This was one of the first SW novels I owned, and I have sitting on my shelf signed by Anthony Daniels no less! Oh and I had the Anakin cover, all the way!

    Any one know why this was the only movie to have alternate covers? Seemed an interesting idea that was never really used again.
  14. Shepherd492 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2011
    star 1
    It wasn't the only movie to have alternate covers. Episode II had two different covers, one with Anakin and Padme, another with Yoda and Jango. Episode III only has one that I know of, however. Obviously the OT novelizations have had a ton of different covers but I don't think thats what you are refering to here.

    As to why they scaled down (4 for EP 1 to 2 for EP 2 and only the one with Vader for EP 3) I'm guessing it was because of negative fan reaction. Alot of people (hardcore collectors) were mad about having to pay so much money to collect all of them. We are seeing it again with the variant covers for hardcovers and paperbacks (Choices of One, Red Harvest) so hopefully they will stick with it this time.

    FWIW I like the alternate covers, also, Darth Maul cover FTW!

  15. Alexrd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 7, 2009
    star 5
    The film was great to begin with, and I quite liked some of the expanded background from the novel.

    The Sith backstory, including Darth Bane, came from Lucas himself. It was actually a very interesting story, which the Darth Plagueis novel (in my opinion) unnecessarily contradicted.
  16. JediAlly Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 31, 2000
    star 4
    The novelizaiton of this movie told us about those scenes that were deleted from the movie. In addition, the novel provided us with a little more information about Anakin's personality before he left Tatooine.

    This was where the Rule of Two was first introduced. At first, it might have been only a background plot device. But it soon became an integral part of the prequel movies, and the novels, games, and TV shows that have been made to cover this time period. The Banite Sith were working in the background unhindered for nearly a millenium, and have been extremely careful in keeping their activities secret. This fact proved to be an integral role in how the Jedi were caught completely unprepared for the Sith's return at Naboo. Yoda more or less acknowledged this in the ROTS novelization.

    The movies help us get a better idea of what people, places, animals, and objects looked like. That's one advantage comics have over novels - you get visual aid in understanding the story.

    I can't make any comments about Terry Brooks, since I haven't read any of his other works.

    Jar Jar being the main character in a novel... If you mean a novel centered on him, like Shatterpoint centered on Mace Windu, then to use Jar Jar's words, "Yousa must be nutsen!" I don't mind him being one of several main characters, like he was in the novel and the movie. Besides, there has been a few episodes of TCW where he was a main character, and he managed to shine big time in those episodes. And his humor helped him.

    I don't recall whether or not I read the novel, with its Darth Maul cover before seeing the movie. You might like the Obi-Wan cover, but given the recent surge in material dealing with Darth Maul and his forthcoming return in TCH, I think he's the more popular cover at this time.
  17. Robimus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2007
    star 5
    This is a vastly overused term and in no way a rule required for story telling. The Phantom Menace is as much about Obi-Wan's journey as it is Anakin's in my opinion.

    I don't know how someone can proclaim that this doesn't work as a film based on these arguements. Go watch Pulp Fiction, an Academy Award Nominated film, and come back to me and tell me who's on the heroes journey in that.;)
  18. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    Pulp Fiction is amazing. :) As I said above, avantgarde can be good. If it's done right. The Phantom Menace was not done right, and its lack of a clearly-defined protagonist was just one of many problems. I like the novel because it makes Anakin much more of a protagonist with a character arc than the film does, which is a harmless enough opinion unless someone hates Red Letter Media enough to go ape**** over you agreeing with him. [face_peace] :p

    The advantages afforded by prose also help to explain many puzzling aspects of the film. When I first saw the film, I was very confused by the Trade Federation. Why did they have an army? Why would a planet "be under Federation control?" Aren't they just a bunch of merchants? What the hell is going on? Cloak of Deception was the real champion at explaining this, but the novelization deserves some credit as well. I stated above that these were all opinions I've held for years, but I guess the fact that Red Letter Media said the same thing means that I'm lying and I only started to feel this way after watching his review. o_O
  19. GGrievous Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2005
    star 5
    I agree with that, Menk.

    Rob, I see what you're saying, but I like a stable protagonist to follow, meaning what Menk said about a clearly-defined one.
  20. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    Criticism of TPM has gone through distinct phases. At first it was Jar Jar sucks, Anakin sucks, etc. But the RLM phase is a whole different ballgame. Now what's allegedly wrong with the film is that it violates all sorts of made-up "rules" which also happen to be violated by various successful and acclaimed films. So we see iterations of this pattern: "TPM is an objectively bad film because it didn't do X." "But this other film didn't do X, and it was great." "Yeah, but that film worked, and TPM didn't work." Thus showing that the reason has nothing to do with X. "TPM is an objectively bad film because it didn't do Y." "But this other film didn't do Y, and it was great." "Yeah, but that film worked, and TPM didn't work." Thus showing that the reason has nothing to do with Y. Lather, rinse, repeat. So what is being hailed as insightful criticism turns out to be nothing of the sort.
  21. Lord_Hydronium Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 11, 2002
    star 5
    Guys, this thread isn't about TPM the movie. We have film forums for that. If you want to discuss how the movie compares with the novel like the OP asks, that's fine, but movie-only discussion doesn't belong here.
  22. darthcaedus1138 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2007
    star 5
    Wait, how did DP contradict the Sith story? PM me, as this isn't really appropriate for the TPM novel thread.
  23. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    I think the novel was pretty close to the movie, except where there were added scenes involving Anakin and the aforementioned Darth Bane "Sith history" stuff. Some details aren't there, such as Maul bashing Qui-Gon with his saber hilt, but this likely reflects last-minute changes to the film.

    The Darth Plagueis novel was intended to be consistent with other EU including the Darth Bane trilogy and TOR. When the TPM novel was written, it seemed to ignore some earlier sources such as the TOTJ/DLOTS comics which had Sith running around thousands of years earlier. The thing is, the novel's take is no longer where things stand in the current EU. Since then, we've had the KOTOR games ( and comics ), Bane finding the holocrons of Revan and Andeddu, the book Revan, TOR, etc. TOR seems to be kind of a big deal right now, and the franchise doesn't seem to be inclined to treat current projects as though they occur in different continuities ( for example, there is something in TCW which is supposedly a reference to the TOR era ). Thus we would have been unlikely to see the Darth Plagueis book go back to the TPM novel's version of Sith history, because that would have meant contradicting all the KOTOR/TOR stuff and various other references to the ancient Sith in relatively recent material.
  24. Alexrd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 7, 2009
    star 5
    I'm talking about the Rule of Two in particular.
  25. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    Well, Plagueis believing the rule was obsolete doesn't really contradict anything.