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PT Perspectives on The Phantom Menace

Discussion in 'Prequel Trilogy' started by Darth_Zandalor, Mar 11, 2013.

  1. Darth_Pevra

    Darth_Pevra Force Ghost star 6

    May 21, 2008
    My view on the movie: It is sorta like fireworks. It is fun to watch and you get all these exciting visuals and nice music. The pace is starwars-y fast.

    But there's no connection to characters or plot. I don't care what happens.

    I think if it were not for the OT, I had simply forgotten about TPM.
  2. bstnsx704

    bstnsx704 Jedi Master star 3

    Mar 11, 2013

    Heh, I was in a similar boat. I knew Palpatine would eventually become the Emperor, but from 1999 up until May 2005 my younger self always insisted that Palpatine and Sidious were two different people, no matter how many times my dad told me otherwise.

    That belief on my part would up making Revenge of the Sith quite fun to watch :)
  3. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Sep 2, 2012
    In TPM I couldn't find any logic behind why Palpatine would blockade his own planet. I was 7 at the time.
    KilroyMcFadden and sinkie like this.
  4. Alexrd

    Alexrd Force Ghost star 5

    Jul 7, 2009
    Although I'm one of the lucky people who happened to buy the soundtrack months later after watching the movie, that reminds me of Darth Maul's double bladed lightsaber, which was spoiled on the movie trailer. Fortunately, the TPM was such an immersive experience that I mostly forgot about it.
    Andy Wylde and Jarren_Lee-Saber like this.
  5. ShaneP

    ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Mar 26, 2001
    Yeah it would have been cool to see that moment preserved. Imagine the theater. People went crazy with the duel anyway but that would have been =P~
    Andy Wylde and Jarren_Lee-Saber like this.
  6. themetresgained

    themetresgained Jedi Knight star 4

    Feb 23, 2013
    Oh you adorable people.

    I can't remember how I worked it out. I must have always known? We know the Emperor is a Dark side Force user, we know Palpatine is the Emperor, therefore it makes sense that he is also Sidious - was there going to be an extremely clever Sith Lord running around who dropped off the face of the galaxy when Palpatine came to power?
    KilroyMcFadden and Jcuk like this.
  7. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Sep 2, 2012
    Sidious was the apprentice who tried to take out Palpatine but failed.
  8. Bale

    Bale Jedi Master star 4

    May 9, 2005
    Perhaps he had multiple personality syndrome. Maybe they were just different manifestations of the same person?
  9. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Sep 2, 2012
    I know I didn't think that one.
  10. Jcuk

    Jcuk Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Mar 16, 2013
    What? You never thought Palpatine and the Emperor were one and the same??!! Emperor Palpatine wasn't a big clue? The Emperor is by definition the head of an Empire. His Sith name was Darth Sidious before he appointed himself Emperor. Did you even watch the OT before the PT? Vader called him master and he had Sith Powers. My head hurts.
    kubricklynch and KilroyMcFadden like this.
  11. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Sep 2, 2012
    Of course I knew Palpatine was the Emperor. I didn't think Palpatine and Sidious were the same person however. I thought they must be different people. I couldn't understand at the time why Palpatine would want to blockade his own planet. I was 7 so the whole politics thing went over my head. Ex Sidious was Palpatine's apprentice. Bale came up with the idea that Palpatine might multiply personality syndrome as another explanation.
  12. Jcuk

    Jcuk Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Mar 16, 2013
    Sidious was Palpatines apprentice? And Maul was Sidious's apprentice and once he was gone Dooku became his apprentice but all the while Palpatine sat back watching Sidious go through these apprentices and when the time was right killed Sidious and decided he wanted Anakin as his new apprentice but it turns out in the end he had multiple personality disorder all along? My head really hurts.
  13. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Sep 2, 2012
    Yes to all of the apprentice questions. The apprentice thing was my idea. The multiple personalities thing is someone else's idea. Completely separate from my idea. You are over thinking this way too much.
  14. Jcuk

    Jcuk Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Mar 16, 2013
    No just trying to make sense of some of the posts on this thread. Kids were this confused when they watched it? And here's me thinking it was made as a kids film.
  15. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Sep 2, 2012
    Jar Jar, action, lightsabers, starfighter battles, young Anakin were some of the reasons it was a kids movie. The politics and stuff were for the older people. It was a movie for all ages but younger people like different things and might not understand everything that an older person might like or understand.
    Andy Wylde and Jarren_Lee-Saber like this.
  16. Jcuk

    Jcuk Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Mar 16, 2013
    I was young when I 1st saw ESB at the cinema and ROTJ after that and it was just the sheer wonder of it all. Spaceships were cool, Vader was scary, Yoda was loveable, 3PO and R2 were funny and Luke was the hero. Light sabres weren't used that much in the OT it was more about shooting lasers. Even at a young age I knew light sabres were special and they weren't over emphasised too much. But when you did see them you knew they meant business.
    Force Smuggler likes this.
  17. Darth_Pevra

    Darth_Pevra Force Ghost star 6

    May 21, 2008
    I don't understand the politics either. I mus be a very young person.
  18. Slicer87

    Slicer87 Jedi Master star 4

    Mar 18, 2013
    I understood that Palpatine was creating a crisis to use to gain power and become chancellor. He was using both the Naboo and the TF to do this, he really isn't loyal to either and willing to throw both under the bus to get what he wants. Of course I was 14 in 1999 and I liked Episode 1 and I still do.
    Andy Wylde likes this.

    DARTHVENGERDARTHSEAR Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Jun 8, 2002
    It was no different for me when I first saw ANH in the theater back in the '70s. There were politics that I didn't understand, among other things. This is nothing new when it concerns Star Wars. As some fail to see, these films are made for all ages, not just adults. Hence the Jawas, the Ugnaughts, the Ewoks, and now the Gungans.
  20. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Sep 2, 2012
    I understand te politics now. Back then, I didn't. It was easier to get into the OT for me. The TF were protesting higher taxes, so they blockaded Palpatine's planet. Did they ever discuss why in the movie? I know in the EU they did. Palpatine used the crisis to gain more power. I knew both Sidious and Palpatine were bad people but Palpatine was acting good so his being good and bad was above me. I love politics now but if if I was showing a young kid this I might wait until they can understand everything or just go OT then PT. OR I should just tell them about the political situation if they care about it.
  21. Darth_Pevra

    Darth_Pevra Force Ghost star 6

    May 21, 2008
    Why did the all-powerful bureaucrats remove their sock-puppet (Valorum) from power?
    Why didn't Valorum fight back?
    Why was a Naboo politician voted chancellor when Malastare, the TF and the bureaucrats should be interested that he doesn't win?
    Why was a guy who was incapable to protect his own planet from invasion be voted Chancellor of the Republic?

    The politics only work if you totally turn your brain off. Babylon 5 this is not.
    Jcuk likes this.
  22. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Sep 2, 2012
    Without going into the EU those questions are hard to answer but I'll do my best.
    They must have gotten sick of his ineffectiveness or heard about the Jedi being sent when he shouldn't have sent them without the Senate's approval.
    He must have realized how hopeless his position was.
    The Sympathy vote though how did that many people believe it going off that scene? Didn't seem like it to me.
    Again the sympathy vote.
  23. Darth_Pevra

    Darth_Pevra Force Ghost star 6

    May 21, 2008
    "Gotten sick"? I thought the senate was controlled by the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy loves weak leaders. That's the information we've been given in the movie.

    If Valorum is so pathetic, how did he ever stay in office for an entire week? What kind of professional politician is this?

    He lost his planet to the TF and that should make him appear weak, unfit to be Chancellor. Chancellor is the highest position. It is a big deal. The compassion of fellow senators will only get you so far.

    Anyway, all those questions were not needed. It's so incredibly confusing. I don't understand. And I don't think that's my fault because I try to understand!
  24. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Sep 2, 2012
    Again all non EU reasons. Trying to keep it movie only. We could open it up with the EU. Valorum was easily controllable. Maybe the other planets feared that if they were blockaded like Naboo was, they wouldn't get help from the Republic. Movie-wise can't help you with why Palpatine got it except by sympathy vote. As much as I like politics its not needed.
  25. Cryogenic

    Cryogenic Force Ghost star 5

    Jul 20, 2005
    One thing I've noticed is that the prequel films all have horror-movie titles, while the originals -- IV and VI, anyway -- are a bit more emollient and exultant. I suppose "The Empire Strikes Back" does throw a wrench in the system (there's always something that does; always a Death Star with a vulnerable spot; always a Luke Skywalker, and a helper Solo, to blow it up), but even that is a little less flush with horror histrionics than "Attack Of The Clones"/Killer Tomatoes/Fifty Foot Woman/etc. It goes with the territory, I guess: one being a story of swift self-realization, the other being a fable about the unmaking of civilization through Machiavellian means. Neat contrast, though.

    I pretty much love all the ships and designs in the prequel trilogy, but TPM certainly gets it all off to a grand start. And I think I have some added affection for the way GL completes -- or half-completes -- a staggering array of circles here. To wit, red-hulled, somewhat-monstrous Republic ships announce the first and last passages of the film: when they touch down in the cargo bay of the TF ship, and on the concourse of Theed, each carrying Jedi diplomats, respectively.

    Now, this one is quite sly. Firstly, I remember that "Star Wars" feeling filling my head when I saw TC-14 (14 also being the in-universe age of Queen Amidala, incidentally, who Lucas sees as the central character -- at least, on the commentary track) at the cinema for the first time. It's one of many tight links between TPM and ANH. And interestingly, in this way, it means George Lucas also chose to open both trilogies with a humourous juxtaposition between robots and humans. TPM's opening scenes add aliens to this juxtaposition, though one could argue that Darth Vader is an alien proxy -- in fact, a Nu-Age Neimoidian -- at the beginning of ANH.

    Jar Jar is wittily associated with trash and poop: overtly and more subtly. For instance, when Qui-Gon defends him from that battle droid on a STAP moments after meeting him, the deflected laser bolts turn the unfortunate battle droid into scrap, and its head lands with a loud crash in a gully, which the camera emphasizes, followed by a clever match-edit to Jar Jar suddenly appearing in frame, his battle-droid-like head dominating at its centre. I've never seen this pointed out before, but there is also something Duchamp-like about those troop carriers that almost mow Qui-Gon and Jar Jar down in the forest (they have a toilet-seat front), and in Anakin's hovel during dinner (there's a white container/gizmo on the wall behind and between Qui-Gon and Jar Jar that kinda evokes Duchamp's infamous "Fountain" submission of 1917).

    And then there are the fart/poop gags. In a brilliant essay on Jar Jar from 2010, Paul McDonald argues for the excremental associations by citing, amongst others, Joseph Campbell, whose anthropological studies led him to state that "clown figures in certain early cultures actually symbolically digested excrement". Amusingly, if you draw a connection between Jar Jar and Amidala on Coruscant -- which Lucas himself does after Amidala has addressed the Senate the next time we see her -- then Amidala, who, from a distance, looks quite jester-like in the circus setting of the Senate, is portrayed as having swallowed the crap that Palpatine has fed her. In wake of this development, the Senate likewise basically eats itself; or with ROTJ as our guide, this iteration of the Republic -- "which has stood for a thousand years" (according to an uncontested remark by Palpatine in the next movie) -- parallels the painfully-slow digestion of the Sarlacc, whom C-3PO tells us, at the other end of the saga, takes a thousand years to absorb its victims (note the striking visual similarities between the Senate interior and the Sarlacc beast).

    Beyond these arcane ideas, I do feel for Jar Jar, fictional though he may be. One subtle feature I've noticed is how he occasionally shrinks away or cowers when someone gets a little sharp with him. For instance, when he and the Jedi are sneaking on Naboo, just before jumping down and freeing the queen and her entourage from those battle droids, we see Obi-Wan turning to him in shadow, right before they round that corner, and JJ flinches/cringes a little. His reaction lasts barely a second. Then, on Tatooine, he obviously (accidentally) gets into a scrape with Sebulba, and freaks out when he next sees him. In the same scene in which he freaks out, he also flinches again when Watto reacts negatively to the roll of the chance cube, as Watto flies up close and Jar Jar apparently thinks he's gonna suffer his wrath. Poor Jar Jar. He's just an overgrown kid in a scary adult world he barely understands. Or he knows more than he lets on (a lot of body language and comments suggest this also), but lives in constant fear of rejection and reprisal. And it would make sense, given the fate that has befallen him at the start of the movie. I really appreciate these little details.

    Lethal. And it really shows you that robots and their masters actually mean business in prequel-land -- especially when compared to the blundering stormtrooper antagonists of the OT. And ironically, Jar Jar is the only one to defeat a battle droid so easily (a slight parallel with Anakin also blasting them away with childish ease in the N-1 starfighter).

    "Don't look back". This is some of GL's most poignant and haunting writing. These THREE WORDS -- three: it's EVERYWHERE in Star Wars; and it's THREE TIMES as EVERYWHERE in T-H-E PHANTOM MENACE! -- are the words that sow a galactic tragedy.

    One thinks of doomed figures in other myths, like the story of Orpheus, who went to the underworld to rescue his doomed wife, Eurydice, and was warned not to look back as he took her back (?) to the realm of the living, only to -- you've guessed it -- look back (prematurely), resulting in her vanishing forever. "We don't know why, but she has lost the will to live." GREEK MYTHS ARE HARSH! It's all that Mediterranean heat, isn't it? "You come from a warm planet, Ani. A little too warm for my tastes."

    But there are clearly all sorts of ironies at work here. I mean, on the most basic of levels, Star Wars represents Lucas "looking back", greedily roving over tens of years of cinematic history, hundreds of years of literary history, and thousands of years of human history, as both nostalgic tribute to the past, and a teaching aid for the present, to make us better scribes, one could say, in an unwritten future.

    And the whole way the scene is conveyed is just fabulous. I always feel that Star Wars is being recast as epic myth at this very moment. There are numerous "aha!" moments in this vein, but this scene is particularly special, since it infuses the film with a rich emotional subtext, raising a melancholic landscape that's Himalayan in scope, yet as contained and intimate as a drop of water; or, indeed, a grain of sand. With the understated direction, the measured cinematography and editing, the chemistry between the actors, the haiku-like scripting, and John Williams' plaintive, romantic score, this scene makes its mark.

    What a choice, too, to have Anakin walk away at first, as if breaking this tie will be easy, only to have him reconsider, as if pricked by sensing the emotions that Shmi has tried to hold in, tuning to her wavelength over the stolid Jedi Master he has only just met, drawn back by her quiet anguish, accentuating his own. It's mesmerically sad and conveys a sophistication rarely seen in blockbuster cinema: any cinema that dares to be this big, this operatic. Next to Vader saving his son, the natural end-point for the journey begun here, I think it's the most moving moment in the saga. If someone is going to be flippant enough to dismiss the prequel trilogy and this film, citing fart jokes and slapstick irrelevance, or daring to claim there's no story worth telling or experiencing here, nothing for a worldly mind to savour, then we're not especially likely to agree on, well... anything.

    It's packed with great notes greatly arranged. That's about all I can say. It fills the film out in a remarkably elegiac -- and, plainly, an intense, exciting, visceral -- fashion. Everyone seems to have some kind of theme or motif or moment. The tapestry is so much richer, in its individual moments, than anything in the OT, I think. This is not so much a comment on the quality of the other scores; just a statement of difference. You know... how even, like, the music for when Threepio is switched on by Anakin is sorta Disney-ish: the sort of accompaniment you might hear for a bird fluttering its wings. TPM has these wonderful shades of light and dark (mostly light) that makes it a joy simply to listen to.

    Oh, that's all terrific. I really dig the way Anakin is just stood there, defiant yet feeble-looking, as if freezing on the spot ("Cold, sir" -- look at this link, too, with Han being put into carbonite -->, when up against the coldly-indifferent Jedi Council. It sorta puts me in mind of Luke stopped dead in his tracks, looking similarly helpless, when he comes upon the charred remains of his aunt and uncle. Child and young adult arrested in their motion. They have such a care-free innocence about them for so long, then they meet the harshness of the world dead-on. And just as this ugly sight strengthens Luke's resolve to "learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like [his] father", sowing an eternal hatred of the Empire, so Yoda's rebuke puts this child-father in deep distrust of the Jedi for forever and a day; here, clearly, are laid the roots of an animosity for a decaying authority -- pointedly represented as a stagnant circle of engulfing critics ("Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic") -- the saga's would-be protagonist never quite shakes. He can conquer a multitude of high-reflex alien podracers, one of which actively tries to wreck his pod, but not these static, sententious, chair-ridden monks.

    Someone on YouTube recently came up with a good observation about this part, stating that the battle droid we see surveying the field of battle with binoculars, uses them because the TF are too cheap to have droids fitted with better eyes to begin with, or to upgrade all their existing stock, or to give them improved sensors or whatever. Maybe they also fear a droid uprising. Which is a curious thing when it comes to slavery: the slave owners credit their slaves with enough intelligence to inwardly want to break their chains and wrap them round the necks of their masters, while rationalizing them as not intelligent enough to be worthy of true personhood (cognitive dissonance). Obi-Wan expresses this line of reasoning to Dex: "Well, if droids could think, there'd be none of us here, would there?" In summary, droids are rendered ineffectual and chatty, forced to verbalize their commands, in a grand collusion to keep them docile and discernible in their motives: a balancing act between making them too powerful (which also works for the basic dramatic and logistical ends of the story) and too feeble to be of any use to anyone. Artoo -- as much an aberration as Yoda, or Jar Jar, or Anakin, or Han, or Padme, or the Emperor -- shows us what a droid with marginally-better moxie can do. Quite a lot. And now we understand the logical (if still specious) underpinnings of fear.

    Anyway, what a battle! Lucas, in my opinion, pulled the "War And Peace" aspect off perfectly. It's even how the movie closes: "PEACE!" ... "Star Wars, Nothing But Star Wars..." The Gungans and the droids is sort of like the PT and the OT fighting each other, if they were absurdly made to go to war.

    It's probably just my imagination -- but hey, what else could it be? -- but Darth Maul sort of looks like a painted lightbulb. His head, I swear... it's in the shape of an incandescent lightbulb. The dark powers of ILM (its logo is a lightbulb). Maul's acrobatics, where he becomes a free-wheelin' black mass, augmented by stroboscopic light, are kinda like a portent for the second and third movies: the "impossible" kinetic storm to come. He's the first to "dance" in this way, and then, creepily, it will be Yoda's turn.

    Maul just has to be one of the most memorable character designs, purely from a visual standpoint, in the past twenty years: another essential contribution to mainstream cinema the prequels -- or TPM -- have made. His kabuki-like painted face is something different for the SW universe, or was for the films up to that point, and it deepens and enriches the "Masks Of God" motif firmly embedded within the larger saga. This same motif is also being added to in TPM by the Neimoidians, whose own elaborate headpieces, when seen from behind, make it look like they are actors in stage masks, as if this whole escapade is some epic piece of ancient Greek theatre, where the cycles of life and death are communicated as a series of ornate masked dances or religious processions set to choral-based music (the antecedent of Greek tragedy and drama as we know it).

    I was always fascinated by this aspect. In TPM, Lucas seems to be exploring the child within us all; the child-like nature of humanity itself. Up against the vast grandeur of the cosmos, we are nothing but children.

    It's a more open, optimistic time. That's what Jar Jar embodies. I also love how the end credits place the names of Ahmed Best, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker next to each other on the same card. These are our main comedy performers: the original duo is augmented by a newcomer, making them into a trinity or a triune god. Yet again, we have a configuration of THREE. This number dominates in TPM.

    You know, when the Star Wars music rolls, at the beginning and end of the movie, before we've experienced Jar Jar and immediately after, it's kinda hard to imagine him fitting -- to "jar", after all, is to grate, or clash against. The music itself almost seems too brassy and bold for a character of his kind. It feels, to me, like he might better belong in some kinder, gentler, quieter affair. Yet here he is! Rambunctiously seated in an epic space tragedy! Every being has their place.

    I've seen someone on TFN thoughtfully muse that GL had three main -- THREE again ;) -- tonal strands in mind for Star Wars:

    - A cold, dystopian aspect.
    - Think-on-your-feet western sensibility.
    - Asian aesthetic.

    Their contention was that GL had the first and second quite strong in the OT, but compromised on the third (e.g., switching from casting Toshiro Mifune as Obi-Wan to Alec Guinness) and diminished its presence in the weave. For TPM, they contended, he finally, consciously brought this third aim forward. Maybe he was right. "Asian aesthetic", here, might be defined as very controlled, slick shapes and symmetries; the whole "geisha" aspect of Queen Amidala; the Jedi as stoic, self-sacrificing Buddhist monks; and the pronounced feel of watching something strange and impenetrable (e.g., the laser gate sequence in the latter half of the epic lightsaber duel): a seductive discombobulation -- sensual/intellectual -- which GL experienced watching Kurosawa and other "world cinema" movies for the first time. By bringing this sense of the aloof and the estranged to Star Wars, he perhaps wanted to transform the internal experience of the art into one that coruscates with a more austere, alien, meditative quality: like TESB and yet nothing like it at all. And with that, the feel of an ancient civilization, with ancient wisdom, on the brink of failure and collapse. It's at once evocative and new.

    And then there is all the rest of it, mainly around TPM's bright tone, which imbues the picture with a giddy effervescence that some seem to have found offensive all by itself. Star Wars, apparently, shouldn't be this bright and chirpy. It's never meant to have larks and butterflies and meadows and all that crap. It should be cold, callous, brusque in its humour, dark, emphatic, and masculine. But no. We were all innocent once. We all painted bright pictures, molded Play-Doh, wrote about how much we loved our mommy, cried when we fell over, and were just better connected to the lighter and sillier side of life, ultimately -- the picture's deepest and most serious point -- masking deep-seated fears and other emotions we've since become weary of or learned to cover up and attempt to reason ourselves around. The essential trap of language (you can see what a damn fine job it's done of trapping me). The real core of humanity is Jar Jar, it's Anakin. Look how much people disdain the way the two of them both blunder to victory. It's probably the highest, best depiction of humanity as metaphor; and for that, it must be eviscerated. We do things with PURPOSE, dammit (or we like to think we do), and we don't want our entertainments failing to reflect our vanity back at us (without realizing that's exactly what they're doing).

    That's true. I love how the music suddenly takes a dark turn when Qui-Gon says a similar thing -- "The situation has become much more complicated" -- to Chancellor Valorum. And the resentful look that Anakin immediately shoots back at him.

    Great observations!!! Ho, boy -- really great!! It's tough to know what to add to that, as inspiring as it is. If I was to contribute one thing at this point, then I might be keen to indicate a fresh appreciation of Anakin's qualification, "I've heard the deep space pilots talking about them". And his following line: "I listen to all the traders and star pilots who come through here". It's like he's really desperate to emphasize to Padme what a good listener he is; how much he already knows despite his low station in life; and that he's already capable of assimilating what adults say and making sense of it. This kid is fiercely determined to carve out his own place in the universe and surpass the anecdotal knowledge of those around him.

    More great observations. And good job on "ambitious balancing act". I think that's accurate. I like how even Threepio thinks Jar Jar is "odd". Interestingly, though, Anakin's friends pay him no mind -- because, presumably, he's just some gangly alien doing whatever, and there are plenty of those in provinces like Mos Espa. That's a subtle detail which clarifies a common criticism that Jar Jar would only make Qui-Gon and Padme stand out like sore thumbs on Tatooine. Wrong. Humans, on Tatooine, are the outsiders, the ones to be regarded with a cynical eye. Jar Jar actually has more power on Tatooine than his home planet (and in another subtle detail, he once seems to have been "in" with the Bosses), but he doesn't seem to realize or act on it.

    "Hit the nose" is funny, because it comes right before a scene with Qui-Gon and Watto. The latter is obvious, but there's a connection even with the former: Liam Neeson used to be a boxer and got his crooked nose from one or more heavy blows to his face. Anakin actually teaches Jar Jar to be violent. Or just be like, "Hey, go for it" -- a possible incentive (subtle permission) for Jar Jar to just go randomly grabbing fruit with his tongue when they all sit for dinner. Jar Jar misreads that moment, though, thinking that perhaps the problem is merely with his precise manner, rather than the act of freely gorging on fruit with his tongue to begin with. Reminds me of a few misapprehensions tucked away in my mind from when I was a kid.

    Jar Jar conferring with Amidala on Coruscant is also a rhyme with Palpatine whispering in her ear in the Senate: polar opposite characters with sinister and good intentions, one being mendacious, the other seeming to spur Amidala into action by mere happenstance. Yet Jar Jar might be being a bit shrewed with Amidala, since he seems to pick his words carefully, and he earlier felt the queen was being "grossly nice" to him and Anakin when they got to Coruscant. The scene between them also marks a rare moment of down-time for the characters of this film; and it's just enough for Jar Jar to make a difference. There's a message just in that. Oh, and... "Yousa tinkin' yousa people gonna die?" Note where this is placed in the film: right after Yoda's pregnant line about sensing much fear in Anakin. Another of Lucas' effortless juxtapositions, Jar Jar explains the "wisest" character's real objection to the audience: a projected fear in Yoda that his people, the Jedi Order, might die if Anakin is absorbed into their ranks.

    Finally, Jar Jar's reflection on that chrome lamp... very clever. Where else do we see chrome in this movie? :)

    The title has a lot of layers. I also like to modify it to "The Phantom Limb". Or "The Phantasmagoric Menace". It works in any number of ways.

    I don't know if that Coruscant scene was a reshoot, but if it was, it wasn't an "insert", per se, since it appears to have been the first thing that was actually shot. Ergo, at worst, it was revised via a reshoot, but it wasn't concocted from scratch and later stitched in there. In "The Beginning", you can see them preparing to shoot the Maul-Sidious discussion, with Lucas shaking Ray Park's hand, with Park in costume (a surrealistically funny moment), and then Rick McCallum does the first clapperboard (which he did for every prequel), wishing everyone the best of luck, as the camera is pointed (our POV) right at the balcony with bluescreen to the side of it. Also... what's up with that balcony railing? It smells of Gungan. Very art nouveau.

    The balcony scene is not superfluous to the plot, either. In raw cinematic terms, it actually gives us our first glimpse of Coruscant, which cuts into the otherwise-unmolested Tatooine segment -- a dark, nightly preview to the eventual heroes' light, daytime arrival (or shadowed touch-down) -- and is a bit reminiscent of Lucas cutting to that scene in the conference room of the Death Star after Luke discovers the corpses of his aunt and uncle. There are other tantalizing visual connections being made, like the fact that wind is clearly blowing in this city setting, then the film cuts to a desert in daytime, in the middle of a sandstorm, then it cuts once more into a calm interior: a domestic place of arresting tranquility.

    Maybe Lucas didn't put the holographic Sidious into AOTC for a reason. I'll say no more.

    I have this sneaky suspicion that Lucas may have flirted with making Episode I an overture: Episode 0. But then he realized it would entail more work on his part and that he could be bolder by bringing it forward. It would also enable him to make more transcendent connections between the movies -- intra- and inter-trilogy -- and make it harder for people to dismiss the film since it is literally one-third of a three-act (and then a six-act) story. Equally, the themes would be heightened, since they would be more proximate to the other episodes, which would, in turn, create a seismic rippling effect that would massively influence the look, feel, tone, mood -- everything -- of the other two prequel installments, finally diminishing with the transition to the OT. Shunt TPM to a prologue disconnected from the main body and it loses some of its potency, particularly with another episode hogging the "I" spot, but make it fill that slot and its various conflagrations can not be ignored. Perhaps this accounts for some of the bluster these past fourteen years. Had Lucas made it a prologue, then made three more episodes into the main trilogy, people might have been more forgiving; but that wouldn't have been nearly so interesting.

    Yes. I would also term it the "National Geographic"/"Discovery Channel" version of Star Wars. It has that picturesque, florid boldness to it: a dramatic canvas populated by mega cities and gleaming futurism, desert locales and peasant wisdom, dome-topped palaces flanked by salty waterfalls, an underwater society occupying amber-gold baubles hidden beneath foggy swamps, starships and podracers with fantastic engines that propel modular bodies creating a symphony of sound, whirring holograms, bleeping droids, market stalls with strange fruit (or "Strange Fruit" if I wanna get all Billie Holiday on you), esoteric art pieces and statues, hooded retainers, queens masquerading as handmaidens or the reverse, queens that change their clothing from one scene to the next, Jedi that sometimes augment their own clothing with desert-dweller apparel, weird Middle Eastern sounds and the feel of a bazaar combined with all-American hot-rod-ism and New Age spiritualism, blue skies with cotton-candy clouds and rolling green hills, massive bubble shields generated from yo-yo contraptions mounted on tamed sauropod beasts, battle robots that are dispensed like prizes in an arcade game, etc., etc. You just never saw something half this rich from George Lucas -- from ANY film-maker -- before.

    EEEEEGGGGHH!!!! Thanks for playing.

    I love so many things in that video compilation:

    - "I know it's gonna work because it's impossible"
    - "Jar Jar is the key to all this"
    - "How you gonna top the podrace?"
    - "You see the echo of where it all's gonna go ... It's like poetry, they rhyme"
    - Rick talking about allowing Natalie to read the script
    - "Anakin is a little boy who lives with his mother"
    - Jake Lloyd's reading of the "Are you an angel?" scene with dialogue not included in the final cut
    - The primitive pseudo-props for the screen-tests and the funky mural in the background: pixel madness!
    - Natalie Portman's longer hair
    - Lucas worrying that he'll have to piece Jake's performance together from a "zillion" takes and deeming Jake's approach "unstudied", but that "it rises way above the others"
    - Seeing Terryl Whitlatch, designer of Jar Jar (the brunette lady with the pink top and the frizzy hair), in the background
    - The crude test with the Jar Jar puppet on a gloriously bright day with Ben Burtt filming and giving directions in the back of an open-top truck
    - Jake thinking they're gonna spend "probably over fifty-thousand dollars" on Episode I
    - Spielberg checking out "the new stormtrooper", mucking up the arm, and calling it "old dangleweed"
    - Lucas talking about the "literally, 'War And Peace'" battle between the droids and the "Goongas"
    - Teasing neophyte Chris Newman and having a joke at his own expense: "I manage 'action' and 'cut' and 'faster' and 'more intense' and then mostly I sit there looking miserable and quiet"
    - George Lucas "putting [his] producer hat on"
    - The way Rick McCallum says "Prague"
    - "The biggest trap people fall into in these kinds of movies is they go too far"
    - "The guy we got has got a great waaahlk and everything"
    - George doing the "Jar Jar" shuffle and Ahmed Best cracking into a smile
    - "Good luck everybody and now let's kick [butt]"
    - "Corooskant?"
    - Ahmed speaking French
    - "I'm hot ... but I'm cool"
    - "I did 'More American Graffiti' and it made ten cents"
    - "I may have gone too far in a few places"

    Granted, these are all things your average basher probably hates or at least smirks at, but this just shows how two people can have wildly different reactions to the same stuff.

    Rewinding the video tape of time, deconstructing Episode I, and seeing the furtive, but assured, assemblage of the disparate pieces, is tremendously exciting. We see Star Wars situated in its time and place. We understand something of the chutzpah required to bring it to life at all. But mostly, for this fan, we see a great, imaginative fantasy film in the making, and a man turning the impossible into the actual.