Saga The Phantom Menace VS. A New Hope

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by skyrimcat9416, Dec 8, 2013.

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  1. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    That's an exceedingly good catch, PH. Implied, rather than shown. And not fully implied, either. TPM, in my view, has this running motif of fake transmissions, stalling tactics, and uncertain gestures that give dimensionality to its plot and themes. Consider how Padme twice consults a hologram of an old man which potentially conveys to her misleading or erroneous information: once as queen in the throne room (Palpatine) and once as "herself" on the queen's ship (Bibble). In a quirky contrast, Leia turns herself into a hologram and is then viewed by an old man. Oh, dear... this analysis... wading into dodgy territory, it is.

    Another great observation. I've said before that TPM's unconventional character patterning is one thing that puts it over the other movies. You have Qui-Gon, the father, taking several younger characters under his wing, the children. And he also shares a bond with the saga's pre-eminent "mother". It's essentially five mains -- Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Padme, Jar Jar, Anakin (in order of appearance) -- with Qui-Gon as the guiding patriarch. The other installments take a simpler path (three leads) that's arguably more effective (mainly, I suppose, because it's easier to create tension and energy with three rather than five lead characters in a two-hour film; and the audience can better focus on two or three leads instead of five), but not more rewarding. TPM shows the galaxy at a time when things were less coalesced. I think it's very satisfying to have that reflected on multiple levels of the diegesis.

    Me, too. Well, a little. There's a special alchemy to those characters that has become known all over the world, but on paper, they're a little thin. It's a relief, to me, that Lucas hardly chose to repeat himself in TPM. Rather, he opted to thicken the soup and open his galaxy up like never before. Some of TPM's enchanting lyricism, for me, comes from these newer characters being a little harder to define than their OT counterparts, while still fitting into a general SW mould. They're not mere clones of Han, Luke, Leia, or the older Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Padme are individually and collectively restrained and taciturn, while Anakin and Jar Jar are less guarded and somewhat spry, yet they're a little harder to immediately file into a particular drawer. Though, of course, you CAN still find archetypes they fit, quite easily, but not necessarily a "one size fits all" paradigm.

    It's also worth stressing -- I forgot, before -- that TPM isn't merely "The PT: Part One". It's also an overture, of sorts, for the entire saga: PT, OT, and the upcoming ST. That necessitates certain stylistic conventions and design elements which clearly aggravated some people back in 1999, but if they took the time to try and understand how TPM is functioning on this level, they might be a little kinder to the film. There are lots of interesting brush-strokes in TPM which can't really be understood all that well in isolation: they must be resolved into a greater whole. That goes for all the films, but triply for TPM which works as a primer for the entire tapestry. In this way, I love its rather brash, redolent, vivacious tone, and how seemingly random it can be, since so much of what's packed inside its lofty interior can be scanned over and dismissed, but you'd be missing much of the depth and beauty of both *it* and the rest of the series were you to do so.
  2. only one kenobi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 18, 2012
    star 3
    But isn't it the implied nature of the suffering on Naboo that disconnects the audience from any sense of it? Actually you highlight how it is worse than that. As you point out here, it isn't even simply implied it actually remains in doubt. There is no sense whatever from TPM that anybody on Naboo has suffered. As has been pointed out, the use of the antagonists as light relief lessesn their impact as villains; think Pontius Pilate in Monty Python's Life of Brian. (and all we really see of the TF's deeds in TPM is Sio Bibble being handled a tiny bit roughly)

    But that pattern goes on. The battle between the Gungans and the droid army is utilised as a setting for slap-stick Jar-Jar, removing any sense of sacrifice, of suffering, again. Anakin's accidental flight into the final battle on Naboo is once more played for laughs. Contrast that battle with the Death Star finale in ANH - there every x-wing that goes down takes a person and a hope with them.


    So...an over-elaborate and cumbersome character set-up that is less effective (ie there is little engagement with, or between, the characters) but in some way more rewarding? How so? The reward, surely, from a movie is in the movie working to engage the audience?

    This is the bit that I really don't get. There's a reason that the characters are...well, relatively simplistic archetypes in ANH (but these simplistic outlines are in some way nuanced and that is expanded upon in the later OT movies) and that is to do with the format of the film. The sort of film that Lucas was making uses pretty simplistic story-telling 'shortcuts', its how you tell a story like Star Wars in a relatively short period of time and have it engage an audience. Here's the thing. Lucas introduces all these 'deeper layers' and more convoluted expositions in the PT but does not have the time to properly explicate those strands within the structure of the movies as he has demanded. I don't understand the notion of his trying to be more ambitious when all the limitations (in terms of how the films will be structured and how many films and how long the films are going to be) have been set by himself. Its not like he tried to be ambitious but was stymied by 'the studio'; no. He entered into the project knowing beforehand how long he would have and just....crammed more in than he could ever tell. Completely the opposite of what he did with ANH.

    Does anybody really know what Naboo was 'saved' from by the end of TPM?
    Last edited by only one kenobi, Dec 14, 2013
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  3. Bacon164 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 22, 2005
    star 7
  4. Han Burgundy Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 28, 2013
    star 3
    First of all, I think the comparison between the handling ofAlderaan and Naboo is an unfair one, as the story of Naboo's oppression is the main storyline of its film, whereas the attack on Alderaan exists as a single scene, mostly to establish the Empire as a formidable and ruthless threat.

    And I think ANH succeeds in doing that far better than TPM does at showing the oppression of a planet. I just watched TPM this morning, and although I think the Tatooine section of the film us well done on its own, I nevertheless kept finding myself wanting to go back to Naboo during that time to see what was happening to its people. The movie never capitalizes on the underlying emotions of its premise, and that's a huge missed opportunity. There's a few moments of Padme looking distressed and passing references to "people dying" but not enough to make me believe the threat is as bad as they say it is. I've said this I other threads, there are other movies that have done a terrific job of showing a peaceful society being oppressed by an outside source. In all of them they dedicate some time to showing individual humans impacted by the conflict. Given the broad canvas with wich Lucas told the story of TPM, it wouldn't have been out of place to show Naboo citizens actually bring oppressed.

    Film is a visual medium. George Lucas, more than anyone else, knows this. That's why I'm still surprised he was content to let the main villainous act of the film be something that we only hear people talk about, but never see (yeah yeah, I know, "phantom menace", but that's not my point).
    Last edited by Han Burgundy, Dec 15, 2013
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  5. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

    Manager
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    Apr 26, 2009
    star 4
    Regarding the 'oppression' of Naboo - I'd be all in favour of digitally altering the scene with Gunray & Sio Bibble walking through the palace ("Yoh quin is lost, yoh pipple ah stahvving, and you, guvvunna, ah going to die much soona than yoh pipple um afrad" "Tuck him away!") to have them walking past a concentration camp of some sort. It'd show something, at least.

    (I don't think it was shot against a blue or green screen, though, so no chance)
  6. Samnz Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2012
    star 2
    Disappointment with TPM in 1999 was very unfortunate, yet absolutely unavoidable imo. @Han Burgundy recently wrote a nice post I can't find right now where he explained his feelings after seeing TPM back then (and how different it felt compared to former Star Wars). I would think that was a very adequate description of the feelings of many, many people in 1999. TPM was just so different to what Star Wars used to be. It was not just different, it was very different (at least on the surface, but that's the key to enjoying a film on a deeper level).

    Think of The Hobbit right now. Contrary to TPM, it was produced by almost exactly the same crew. They used the same locations, the same worlds, in many cases identical actors playing the same characters .... and still, many fans and moviegoers complain that it's not "the same" and something "is missing". Yesterday I read a long article lamenting why Peter Jackson couldn't give us "another Lord of the Rings" (a "What Went Wrong" approach so frequently used when the PT is discussed).

    The only familiar characters in TPM were the droids (and even here: 3PO was naked!) and the world of Tatooine (still: a different city!).
    Who would expect people to not be disappointed? In case of fans of the original trilogy, I think most of their enjoyment of the prequel trilogy depends on their ability to "unlearn what they had learnt".
    Last edited by Samnz, Dec 15, 2013
  7. only one kenobi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 18, 2012
    star 3

    Or perhaps unthink what we are told to think. I enjoy the PT because I dissociate it from the OT. Different stories with the same names thrown in.
  8. PiettsHat Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 1, 2011
    star 4
    I disagree that showing the suffering on Naboo necessarily would have been better for the film. For one, I think it would be rather tonally jarring. Padmé's concern, when we don't explicitly see anything, is very appropriate and it allows for the development of other, important plot lines (such as Anakin's discovery) without making them seem utterly superfluous to the matter at hand. I think it's also important that TPM be the lightest of the films -- there's a gradual progression in the level of darkness depicted that's always felt very naturalistic throughout the PT. Showing a concentration camp would really destroy that.

    As it stands, we get some hints --> Sio Bibble's messages (although the audience is left in doubt as to whether they are faked). However, there is one point where Nute Gunray mentions to Sio Bibble in a private conversation that his people are starving, which is in and of itself pretty telling.

    And I think the light-hearted tone is also meant to reflect the very nature of the film -- the phantom menace. Almost everything about TPM suggests a returning evil that can't fully be seen, that's hidden underneath the surface. For me, TPM works particularly well because (upon rewatching after ROTS and realizing exactly who/what Palpatine is) you realize that this man starved his own people in order to ascend to the Chancellorship. And that gives it a level of Fridge Horror that I don't feel ANH ever quite matches, in part because there's very little emotional fallout from Leia whereas Padmé's anger and distress over the situation is palpable.

    Who said it's over-elaborate and cumbersome? You, but not me. I think I perhaps might have found it more rewarding than the average movie-goer given that I watched AOTC right after TPM -- so there's one explanation if you like. Another is that I really liked Qui-Gon as a character and I liked using him as a kind of pivot point and lens through which to see the other characters. His tender moments with Shmi, his fatherly guidance of Anakin, his frustration but esteem of Obi-Wan, his respect for but playfulness with Padmé, his value (but dismissal) of Jar Jar all really added to the emotional core of the story in that it felt as though something was truly lost when he died. Qui-Gon's death hit me much harder than Obi-Wan's for instance. And not just because Obi-Wan's voice returns in a ghostly form five second later. It felt like these characters still needed him and a key component was lost, which, plot-wise, I think is really the case.

    For all that I love ANH, the "two guys and a girl" set-up is one that I'd seen a million times (notably in Harry Potter) and while it does work well, it wasn't as interesting to me initially simply because I was already very familiar with the set-up and had seen examples that were more fleshed out (again, the aforementioned Harry Potter).

    Also, I wouldn't say there was little engagement between the characters -- Padmé and Anakin, Padmé and Jar Jar, Anakin and Jar Jar, Shmi and Anakin, etc. all had great moments together. Anakin and Obi-Wan didn't, but I've always felt that this was a great way of showing how Anakin immediately formed a connection with someone like Padmé while his relationship with Obi-Wan was strained and fraught with tension on both sides.

    You don't understand because you think Lucas wasn't successful -- that's going to color your view a lot, no? I think he largely was. I'm not saying that ANH's set-up was bad, merely that it's very familiar and thus less interesting to me. I felt that TPM's set-up did work and, because it was less conventional, it had the added bonus of being more surprising and intriguing. A lot of what Lucas does with the PT depends on visual symbolism and paralleling. He doesn't always make things explicit. For example, Qui-Gon as a father -figure for Anakin is never given a line of dialogue indicating this (such as Anakin saying to his mother that "Master Qui-Gon is like the dad I never had!) nor is this done with Palpatine. Anakin's desire for a father-figure is, however, indicated by him attaching the label to Obi-Wan. But the fallout of that relationship shows that it never really worked -- Obi-Wan always saw them more as brothers. The fatherly implications, between Palpatine and Anakin are still there, though -- such as Palpatine taking Anakin by the shoulder or deliberately preying on Anakin's emotions by saying "I need your help, son" right before he asks him to be his representative on the Council. You see Qui-Gon make similar (though benign) gestures with Obi-Wan and Anakin, the hand on the should being a big one. And it works well for me.

    Now, I will readily say that I didn't catch all of this on my first viewing, but where the PT succeeds is that it's so interesting to me that I enjoy re-watching it and I feel I get more out of it the more times I watch it. I don't get that feeling nearly as much with ANH, for instance. That's not necessarily terrible -- there's something to be said for ANH's approach as I think it beguiled more moviegoers. But it isn't my personal preference is all.

    As for Naboo, it was explicitly saved from:

    --its democratically, elected government being overrun by corporate interests
    --the forced relocation of its populace from their homes
    --martial law and rule by the Sith, who show no compunction about ordering citizen deaths

    It was implicitly saved from:
    --mass starvation
  9. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    I think TPM does a fine job in withholding actual scenes of desperate suffering by internalizing much of the angst and regret over the situation through Padme. Moreover, we are shown the TF's invading army decimating trees and driving wildlife away, and having much of the planet, or at least its capital city, under lock and key. We also see Padme and her entourage being ordered away by Nute himself for "processing" and we later hear Panaka telling Padme that "almost everyone's in camps". Obviously, in all this, Naboo does retain a picturesque, idyllic beauty, but it's hard for me to believe that something isn't at stake.

    Padme is essentially staring cultural genocide in the eye and must plan her moves accordingly. As she tells Palpatine, "By the time you have control of the bureaucrats, Senator, I fear there will be nothing left of our people, our way of life", indicating anguish and indignation at the erosion of cultural mores and the potential eradication of traditions and ideas possibly stretching back centuries. Naboo's ecology and artisan beauty is seriously under threat by the TF's invasion, I think, and that is more than enough at illustrating what Padme is up against. As I said recently, it's a key theme: art (and tradition) under attack.

    Why would there be a concentration camp situated just outside the palace? Unless it was shown off to the horizon, it would probably still constitute being in the grounds of the palace! I'm sympathetic as to why you might suggest such a change, but it doesn't really fit the parameters of the story GL is telling in Episode I -- indeed, all through SW -- in my opinion.

    So much is being painted or suggested about the world of SW through that scene, in my opinion, even though it's one of the shorter (and dimly-lit) ones in the movie. It touches on tyranny, regency, linguistic platitudes, domination by aristocracy and power-mad elites, height differentials, and a million other things, some very subtle and tangential. As a brief respite from the Tatooine-Coruscant "A" plot, and functioning as gentle lull into night-time, dream-like surreality (it also effortlessly cues up the following scene back on the queen's ship), the scene between Sio and Nute is also very welcome at this point in the narrative at marking a steady chance of pace and welcoming a fresh wave of story-driven aesthetics: a new template and mood. In fact, with the end wipe included, it's one of my favourite scenes.


    And finally...


    Great post throughout, but to that in particular...

    Yes. A thousand times, yes.

    Excellent points.

    People do seem to forget that it was the Sith running the show, calling the shots: y'know, Satanic Force users, with the clothing to match.

    Like a billion other things in SW, though, it's debatable how much worse rule under the Sith would have been, or put the other way, how much better pampered, naive fourteen-year-old queens with stuffy, conservative advisors adhering to strict traditions and governing practices may have ran the planet in comparison. "Saved" is quite a deadly word in SW. Nonetheless, well summarized.
    Last edited by Cryogenic, Dec 15, 2013
  10. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2009
    star 4
    I meant changing the location altogether. As for the parameters of the story - 'concentration camp' is more a harsh description of some sort of prison where the suffering of the people of Naboo could be shown, rather than an actual real-world concentration camp.
    Exactly what Gunray is saying would certainly match such a visual, and I don't think it would be too much information to have both.
    Last edited by Darth_Nub, Dec 15, 2013
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  11. Han Burgundy Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 28, 2013
    star 3
    But what you consider a boon is what points directly to what I take issue with (From a certain point of view/your focus determines your reality [for the record, I JUST picked up on the connection between those lines :p ]): We are repeatedly told there are bad things happening on Naboo, that their culture is under attack, that people are starving. But we are never shown. "Showing, not telling" is fiction writing 101, it's the earliest lesson I learned about how to write a story, and I think it's even more applicable to film than it is to literature. Want to convey the idea that art and culture are dying under the shadow of an approaching evil? Show that, don't just tell us. Use the camera. Use the visual elements. "Actions speak louder than words" applies to fiction as well. The scenes in which the oppression of Naboo is being "discussed" are engaging, and I find that plot interesting, but how much more poignant would it have been, how much more immediately (immediacy is something Star Wars has historicaly been a master of) invested would the audience have been in Padme's plight would we have been if we had been shown just a few brief moments of Naboo citizens being herded around by droids, architecture being defaced and art being destroyed?

    Then we get to corusant. Once again, we are "told" that the republic is failing, corrupt. That's a highly important concept to emphasize in order to fully appreciate the story of the prequels. The scenes in which we are told about this are great, especially as a way to build up Palpatine as a character, but they aren't enough when the senate visually seems, frankly, not that corrupt. I always think of Coruscant in TPM as a parallel to the cantina sequence in ANH, as they're both moments where the universe of the film becomes significantly bigger. How great would it have been for our introduction to the senate to be close-ups of pompous senators schmoozing eachother, gluttonous, greedy politicians shaking hands and making deals. This would have visually given us a stronger gut reaction to the corruption of the senate and, along with showing the oppression of the Naboo, made the oft-complained about political scenes something that audiences would be on the edge of their seat to watch, because they've seen the things that led to that senate meeting, they've seen the desparate situation Padme is in, and they see the gross corruption that is within the bureaucracy she comes to face.

    One of the best creative forces today that have mastered the art of showing rather than telling is actually a George Lucas spinoff: Pixar. In Toy Story 2 (an explicit "kids film" with an unarguably lighter tone than TPM) there is a new character introduced, Jesse the Cowgirl. Jesse has a tragic backstory that relates to the theme of the movie and is crucial to understanding her as a character. In a piece of storytelling brilliance, we aren't just told what happened to Jesse, why she is the way she is. We are shown, in a wordless scene that takes us through the emotions of joy and friendship to the depth of abandonment and loss. The result? Jesse became one of the most-loved characters in the franchise, and the film itself is currently remembered as one of the finest animated films ever made. Pixar has also done similar things in films like Up, Toy Story 3, Wall-E, and, actually, pretty much all of their films have a great reliance on storytelling through visual communication that hammers in the underlying emotions of their narrative. The next two PT films have great moments of this as well. The sunset-lit clone troopers taking off into Star Destoyers as politicians watch from above, Palpatine literally tossing the senate pods during his fight with Yoda, those are both moments that take the grand ideas George Lucas is playing with and distll them into tangible feelings that the audience can see and feel in their gut.

    My point of the above paragraph is not to tell you that TPM should have featured a sad, 5 minute long flashback set to Sarah McLachlan. What I'm saying is that, although TPM is a film I actually find myself loving more every time I watch it, I still find myself frustrated with its refusal to fully tap into the emotion and relatability that resides at the core of the story it tells. You can say that it's because the prequels are more of a "mosaic" than it's focused predecesors, or because George Lucas is simply using a different "language" to communicate his ideas than he was when he made the other films, but to me, it's simply that TPM is less effective at telling its story than it could have been. Like I said, it's a film I've grown to adore, but that hint of missed opportunity still resides in the back of my mind.
    Last edited by Han Burgundy, Dec 15, 2013
  12. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    Oh, right. I read back and see that's what you meant, now. Your proposal is interesting, but still incongruous, in my view.

    Gunray is clearly lording it up, shuttered away from the suffering masses, in the extant scene. It's not unlike how Hitler was fine to sign off on "the final solution", but refused to visit any of the concentration camps himself. One can more easily maintain a cognitive dissonance toward something if one takes certain measures to ensure one never has a visceral encounter with what one is keen to deny exists. Gunray wasn't shy of telling Bibble that his people were starving, but more as a generic threat. He appears relatively not-keen, let's say, to see what is actually going on in any of the camps. Gunray, it seems, would rather play at being sovereign in a clean, safe environment, removed from the products of his own depredations, than face an uncomfortable truth. And that, in fact, is an ongoing procedural thread I pick up about the TF elites: they don't mind doing violence, when they have to, but they'd rather it normally be done under the guise of civility, policy, and legality. A cautionary parable, I might add, about our own world, and the way we live our own lives.

    I also have an affection for the palace scene because it's happening inside the palace. Or, indeed, *a* palace: a REAL palace. It lends a deeper photorealism and gleaming opulence to the prequel trilogy. Large corridors, tall windows, immense pillars, marble floors -- it's stunningly baroque, but all the more so because it's a real location, sucked into the mechanism of a Flash Gordon fantasy. Further, while I don't wish to give too much away right now, this scene is cleverly partnered up with a slightly later scene in the movie, and it's important, in my opinion, that it be a real palace interior we're seeing here, lit a particular way. The lighting also suggests something of an organic "brain" for Naboo. With the palace illuminated in a solemn manner, we're getting a mood piece about the downturn in Naboo's fortunes as it suffers through an illegal or para-legal occupation, orchestrated by the Sith. Naboo undergoes an expressive, quasi-existential gloom, mirrored in the soul of its despondent, fragile queen. Seeing that same palace from earlier, but now darker, to me, lends the film tremendous atmosphere. But, fittingly, it's melancholic, not violent or pornographically depressing: a subtle, implacable foreboding.

    I think TPM is tremendously balanced because of scenes and moments like this. Yes, we get hyper-manic chariot racing, underwater voyages with ravenous sea monsters, Jedi sweeping stick-like robots away with a flick of their wrist, Middle American slave kids that randomly go "yippie!", and then, yes, quieter scenes and moments, calming little interludes, even if they're still quite extraordinary, like this one-time scene between a lizard-like alien being carted around by a spider-like robot carrying a high-backed chair, trading pleasantries with a human that is reminiscent of Merlin or Prospero in a dark castle, while more of these stick-like robots prowl carefully behind them. It definitely lends a new edge to this otherwise, you might argue, dismal and silly little space romp: a tatty mash-up of cinema's best and worst genres, all the more epic and engaging, the stranger and wilder it gets.

    Welcome to my world -- circa 2005. :p

    Lucas DOES use the camera and the visual elements.

    How else to explain a stampede initiated by invading vehicles mercilessly crushing vegetation in their wake?

    Or, as above, the gleaming palace, lit moodily -- forlornly -- in the queen's symbolic absence from her own realm?

    Who says the TF are into defacing architecture to begin with? They're corporate mercenaries, not political revolutionaries or religious bigots. The destruction is more of an oblique, implied, sinister thing: a gradual, malign erosion of civic unity and cultural cohesion as the back of Naboo is slowly broken amid insult, confusion, segregation, exploitation, starvation, and death. We do see droids marching the queen's entourage to a local camp. And that is the queen's entourage. Imagine some of the treatment potentially meted out to anyone not immediately or obviously connected to its royal, ruling minority.

    The Republic is plenty corrupt in TPM, if you're inclined to notice its morbid inability to do anything about the invasion of Naboo and how easily the TF railroads the political process when Amidala herself comes to plead her case. Visually, the design of the senate interior suggests a centralized government in gridlock, spiraling toward an abyss. The corruption is all the more palpable if you realize that its figureheads speak English, that a white-faced, old male human is Chancellor, and that two of the three nominees for his position are also human, male, while the other represents another system with obvious political clout, and in agreement with the TF over the invasion of Naboo to boot. I'd call that a pretty grim, powerful depiction of corruption, at the highest levels of government, myself.

    "Feel in their gut" is a highly subjective statement. As a thirty-year-old adult, I, personally, find the "Toy Story" films -- especially 2 and 3 -- quite cloying and aggressive in their (it seems to me) wanton manipulation of base sentiment. I don't mind, therefore, TPM being less cut-and-dry about certain "emotional" issues, leaving the viewer to have whatever reaction they will. In addition, it is worth remembering that George Lucas is more of an experimental filmmaker, whose first feature film, the white-walled "THX-1138", is almost the polar opposite of a Pixar movie. If he was returning more to this style of filmmaking in TPM and the PT, I say, all the better. I like my cinema to grip and engage me, but I don't want everything in it to be flat and obvious. Flat and non-obvious will do fine! No, but seriously, proper dimensionality and intrigue, to me, comes from not inundating a viewer with audio-visual elements that are designed to elicit a certain reaction; it comes from respecting a viewer's ability to put their attention where they may and, in a sense, piece together a complete story by drawing on the reserves of their own mind.

    Okay, well, fine. There's no true right or wrong. I do most assuredly believe that the prequels are more of a "mosaic", or a living tapestry, in fact, as I've sometimes described them (or the six-film saga, which they form an inestimably major part of). Woe is me, perhaps, but I've managed to get plenty out of them, and I expect that to continue. I don't think much was "missed" in TPM, myself, and neither does George Lucas. That latter point is not intended as an argument from authority, by the way, but to clarify that there's little hand-wringing from the main artist, despite years of nay-saying (and, at times, quite animated protestation). He goes a different way with his conception of cinema and so do I. I do respect what you're saying, and you've expressed it well, which seems to come naturally, but TPM is plenty effective, for me, because I enjoy so much of the world design, and so many of its characters, visuals, and themes. But especially the visual construction, however, which I find extraordinary and endlessly subtle. To me, it's a particularly deep and coherent work of art. Yet to each, their own.
    Last edited by Cryogenic, Dec 15, 2013
  13. darklordoftech Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 30, 2012
    star 5
    TPM. TPM has more politics and depth. ANH is a cliche fantasy movie.
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  14. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    Well, as much as I talk up TPM, I don't agree with what you just said about ANH.

    It all depends on HOW you watch it, in my opinion. It can be cliched. It can also be extraordinary.

    In terms of the assemblage of sights, sounds, characters, visuals, etc., it was, is, and will forever remain, in my view, an incredible work of cinema. It's the kind of movie almost every one has an opinion of, yet it's also quite unlike any other, particularly when you study the other episodes and see how its weirdness blooms out on multiple planes.

    It's so easy to sit at one's computer, or at one's phone, and deride ANH -- or, for that matter, any of the Star Wars movies -- in a handful of sharp words, without ever really stopping to consider what a remarkable thing it is that one might be denigrating, or how, without the first installment, we wouldn't have any of the rest of it.

    That's just my little interjection on the matter of ANH being "a cliche fantasy movie". I mean, yes, it can be looked at that way, but I'd hate for that to be the only way one chooses to look at it. Still, once again: to each, their own.
  15. Darth Eddie Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 14, 2013
    star 3
    A New Hope and The Phantom Menace occupy the 3rd and 4th positions on my ranking of the 6 films. So I guess that means I gotta go with ANH by the skin o' the teeth. Although TPM is strong though, but in terms of a dispassionate critical view considering all films and not just Star Wars films, ANH beats TPM by a far bigger margin. I do enjoy seeing so much love for TPM though. After all the less-than-warranted bashing of that movie, it's nice to see the the PT generation grow up and begin to be heard.
  16. Han Burgundy Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 28, 2013
    star 3
    Those are instances of visual storytelling, absolutely- but a little too understated as to their greater significance to qualify for what I'm talking about (In my opinion, of course).

    I was actually more referencing your previous suggestion that the TF oppression of Naboo symbolizes an attack on art and culture- a suggestion I perhaps took too literally when offering my own ideas. You're right, it would be uncharacteristic of the TF to run around destroying art like the Joker from 1989 Batman. The broader point behind my idea stands, though, that some actual oppression of human beings should have been seen. At least, we should have been given a human face to put with the suffering of the Naboo- a child, or a parent, perhaps, seen huddling in fear behind watchful droids.

    You've listed a number of really great nuances that, personally, are too understated to be appreciated unless closely examined or viewed repeatedly, rather than something that conveys meaning in an immediate, emotional way. I think I'm noticing a pattern in our disagreements, which leads me to...

    There it is, the fundamental place where our viewpoints split. I have always been someone who marvels at the art of arranging elements for the purpose of eliciting emotion. I think there is absolutely a way to do that tastefully and with genuine maturity (there's also a way to do it horribly and stupidly, as there is with all things), and the ones that do it well are, for me, some of my most treasured films. Lord of the Rings (which I believe we've discussed before), It's a Wonderful Life, Requiem for a Dream, Forrest Gump, and yes, Toy Story, among others. And the funny thing is, although I'd agree that the less obvious tactics of THX are where George's heart is as an artist, he's no stranger to the type of purposeful manipulation I'm talking about. Certainly the more bombastic elements of Anakin's fall (killing the kids, the hyperemotional three-way confrontation on Mustafar) can be placed into this territory, as can the trench run in ANH, which is basically an exercise in tension.

    I think, and please don't misinterpret this as "bragging" as I think that your viewpoint is perfectly valid, that the vast majority of audiences crave the type of storytelling I'm talking about. I think that's a large reason why TPM's general public reputation didn't improve after the initial wave of "this isn't what we were expecting!" rage. The emotional heart of TPM is not an obvious thing, it's not baked into every frame or every line of dialogue. It's, in many ways, a phantom (pun intended), appearing at key moments, but perhaps not enough to satisfy broader audiences.


    Absolutely. If there's anything, above anything else I like about TPM, it's that it's possibly the most artistically pure blockbuster ever made. Film is a collaborative medium where multiple voices are bound to inform the final product, but TPM more than any other large-scale film tips the balance towards artistic singularity. It's George's vision, and he jumps into it with a confidence that is to be admired. I might "miss" certain things that aren't in the film, but I respect the fact that George doesn't.

    Isn't it great that a series of pulp fantasy flicks can be made with enough nuance and depth to spur conversations on the nature of art? That's fascinating.
    Last edited by Han Burgundy, Dec 15, 2013
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  17. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    Fair enough. I think they're weighty enough to serve as powerful illustration of the theme of art under attack from the caprice of the Sith. I mean, that, in itself, is not necessarily an "emotional" theme; more a symbolic one. From my point-of-view, the imagery doesn't have to be hard-hitting -- just clear and rich enough to leave its mark.

    I don't think human suffering is needed. None was shown of Alderaan in ANH. We had to rely purely on Obi-Wan's reaction. And in the podrace in TPM, nobody in the crowd is shown reacting to the grizzly fates of any of the drivers. By and large, it's just not the "done" thing in Star Wars. Reactions are normally very personal and only involve a handful of characters, like that Ewok weeping over his downed friend in ROTJ right as it happens. I hate to sound belittling, but Lucas isn't Peter Jackson. Were he to direct a SW movie -- and who knows, right, he might do one of the remaining ST movies? -- I'd expect material like the sort you're talking about, but Lucas isn't so big on it. The human face we put with the suffering of Naboo is really Padme. I think it bites with her all the more, or our reflection of her, because we don't actually know what's going on, precisely, and neither does she.

    Well, that TF representative shoots Padme's claims down right away, and we see Valorum folding not more than a moment later, so I don't think what I've identified about the film's approach is all that understated, personally. All those aspects, to me, are quite blatant, and work in tandem to convey a larger theme. It's true, perhaps, that they don't have great dramatic import -- that is, not much of the plot is taken up by those specific details (the immediate, visceral, rolling plot: the narrative) -- but that doesn't irk me. We are somewhat outsiders looking in when watching TPM, which seems like a deliberate choice on the part of the artist. We're not privy to all the details. We, instead, get a series of sequential snapshots. I like that approach, but others may differ.

    Please don't get me wrong: I like "emotional" films as much as the next person. "Forrest Gump", yes. And the original 1978 "Superman" was one of my favourite films when I was younger; I still have tremendous affection for it (I went off it for a bit, but after "Man Of Steel" came out, which I also like, I started loving the original again). And "Lost In Translation", while a very divisive film going by IMDb and Amazon and my own personal experiences with others who've seen it, can also be seen as a very warm, funny, emotional movie. I mention that because it's also my favourite film, today, as an adult. Lucas is clearly not averse to portraying very emotional content in a charged-up way when he wants to, but there's always more going on under the surface. I don't see the cited story developments as particularly manipulative. As you say, they're "bombastic" by default, and Lucas presents them, if not exactly matter-of-factly, then with a mixture of operatic sensationalism and also with some tellingly-restrained direction and careful intercutting (in cinema, it's never just what's happening on screen, but what has happened, or is about to).

    I've bolded that last part -- I love your description! I wouldn't misinterpret your invocation of a broader audience as bragging any more than I'd expect you to misconstrue my referencing Lucas just prior. We're cool. And I totally agree that audiences generally look for and crave a more emotive kind of storytelling than things which are more austere or abstract. And that's fine, when it suits the movie the right way. I just think, in TPM's case, while Lucas could have made a more nakedly emotional film if he'd wanted to, he desired to go in a different direction with it; and he more or less achieved, in my opinion, what I think he set out to do. And even if he hadn't, I guess I'd still love it for being what it is.

    I love its idiosyncratic nature, too -- well, duh. :p Neat that you champion that aspect a little bit, too.

    I think TPM's uniqueness, and how GL obtained the means to give it such uniqueness, are things to be celebrated, not maligned.

    But that's just my take. People naturally differ. Freedom of speech 'n' all that.

    Yes. These are pretty darn fabulous films -- very memorable even to people who claim to hate them.

    GL and his fellow artists certainly laboured and created cinema packed to the gills with enough iconicity and intrigue for decades of debate, argument, and analysis.

    There's an enrichment to the Star Wars films that you don't ordinarily find in blockbuster cinema; or any cinema, I'd argue, for that matter. They're defiantly different.
    Last edited by Cryogenic, Dec 15, 2013
  18. Komodo9Joe Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 1, 2013
    star 1
    :eek:
    What?!!

    I reread that paragraph three times just to make sure I read correctly that you're stating the Republic in TPM was "not that corrupt" and that we weren't shown the corruption clearly enough. And you're serious about it, too.

    ...

    You don't need art or imagery or deep analysis or some esoteric knowledge on politics to spot the corruption in TPM. You just need to be watching the film--awarely, I might add--to see it. Children could see that the Republic is corrupt in TPM, even if they didn't know the word "corrupt" to describe what they saw. Even RedLetterMedia, who casually lies about the PT, never feigned ignorance on the corruption. After reading this, I think you're far, far from understanding the PT, as far away as the GFFA, to even state appreciation for it. Need to stop fixating on how cool Darth Maul and the pod races are, my friend.

    God, where do even I begin here? I feel like I'd be reciting the entire film here to state what should be as clear as a sunny day. And I'm not trying to be critical or harsh here: it's just that bad that you don't seem to understand something George Lucas clearly and blatantly portrayed in TPM.

    So I'm not going to point out everything; it's time to put that dusty TPM disc back into the DVD player and that's your job. Let's just roll down the long parchment that's the TPM script and go through a couple of obvious ones together:

    Corruption in The Phantom Menace 101 <<< not a bad title for a book, huh?

    Instance #1: The Trade Federation having some form of legal representation in the government.. There are many ways that the Trade Federation signifies corruption within the Republic but let's just go with the fact that they are a big business which have somehow (probably by buying their way through) acquired a seat in the Senate. That's a big problem! Furthermore, the Trade Federation have bribed top ranking bureaucrats, such as Vice Chancellor Mas Amedda (y'know, the blue, horned guy), into rendering the political system ineffective as well. Chancellor Valorum was basically dismissing the Trade Federation when Amedda interrupted him and started whispering into his ear. We don't know exactly what he said but it definitely had something to do with bribery, embezzlement, or political graft. Hence, Palpatine's lines:

    Palpatine: "Enter, the bureaucrats, the true rulers of the Republic. And on the payroll of the Trade Federation, I might add."


    Again, this itself is another huge problem of corruption right here. Commerce has now fully infiltrated government, and the bureaucrats have gained a choke hold on, at least, the legislative and executive branches of government.

    Instance #2: Chancellor Valorum's hands being constantly tied throughout the film. As soon as I read the opening scroll in TPM and the fact that the Supreme Chancellor, the head of state of government, had secretly dispatched Jedi Knights, I wondered to myself why? Why would the highest level of authority have to be reduced to clandestine operations? It became clear when the heroes arrived at Coruscant and Palpatine stated that the Chancellor holds little real power and has been mired by baseless accusations of corruption. This yet again is troubling, as the Chancellor, the sole holder of the executive branch, should be able to wield tremendous power, not seemingly shackled by accusations that are "baseless."

    Instance #3: Darth Sidious/Senator Palpatine's eerie amount of influence on political protocol. A Senator should not so readily have the capability to "bog down procedures" or overall render the Senate useless. Darth Sidious himself, in this film, is another example of the corruption that exists very vividly in the Republic of TPM.

    Instance #4: The Senate's Indifference towards one of its own systems being subjugated by external forces. The Republic should be highly concerned that one of its own worlds is under attack: this is often even considered an act of war. But the Senate in TPM is relatively apathetic towards Queen Amidala's pleas for aid to her own people. And even the one other sovereign system that spoke up, Malastare, did so in defense of the Trade Federation's obviously fraudulent "investigation."

    I'm cutting it off right here, because there is simply too much corruption, both blatant and subtle, in TPM to write about. The comments I wrote above are merely the tip of the corruption in those scenes. And frankly, corruption in TPM should be obvious to anyone, even the most casual viewer of the film. I highly suggest you pop in your TPM copy and watch the entire film again: this time, consciously.

    I'm tired of writing more refutations/explanations at the moment, so I'll let someone else tackle this; this part above also badly needs to be addressed.
    Last edited by Komodo9Joe, Dec 15, 2013
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  19. Han Burgundy Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 28, 2013
    star 3
    I said visually. I think you jumped to far too many conclusions as to my comprehension of the film. The senate is corrupt, and the film does a well enough job of communicating that on an intellectual level. I simply think it would have been smart to introduce us to the senate in a way that immediately and visually identifies them as a slimy, corrupt bureaucracy. The scenes with Padme and Palpatine are good, but a lot of people had issues with how they were handled, and I think they could have used a stronger sense of emotional pull to keep people invested. That's my opinion, it's fine if you don't share it, but please, just as advice for your future interactions with users on this forum- dispense with the condescension.
    Last edited by Han Burgundy, Dec 15, 2013
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  20. Komodo9Joe Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 1, 2013
    star 1

    No, I comprehensively, and ardently, broke down your post in my reply. And the word "visually" is vague. Regardless, you simply used "visually" to adverbially describe the word "seems" which, in turn, focused on the bulk of your post where you argue that we are primarily "told" about the corruption and not shown it. Here is what you did post:

    The emboldened part is not an opinion: it is a statement passed off as a fact. Thus, it can be objectively refuted by things in the film. Which is why, in my reply, I stated so; in fact, my reply was intended for your edification of TPM.
    That would be gratuitous. Earlier, you fell back on the maxim of "show don't tell" which TPM did, in many scenes. Moreover, the maxim of "action speaks larger than words" also fits here, which was again utilized in correctly characterizing the corruption omnipresent in the film.

    I am not trying to be condescending. I noted your post and your subsequent ones which hinged upon the idea that TPM did not truly show corruption, or did so in sparsity. The suggestion is untrue to the point where I had to assume that your recollection of TPM was foggy, an understatement, but I'll leave it at that.

    Actually, as far as political scenes go, I found the Palpatine and Amidala scenes uniquely compelling. Rich dialogue, deep interests from the characters, and subtle imagery. Political scenes are not meant to be riveting in the same sense as action scenes, adventure scenes, etc. Taking a particular effect intended in an alternate setting and evoking it in a radically different setting is fundamentally disingenuous. But here, I am responding to your opinion on the "pull" of the aforementioned scenes, so naturally I cannot say you're wrong.
    Last edited by Komodo9Joe, Dec 15, 2013
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  21. Han Burgundy Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 28, 2013
    star 3
    Once again, you are indeed missing the point I was trying to make. The instances of corruption you listed are indeed just that- they are not things that I ever missed or went over my head upon viewing (well maybe it did when I was 6 years old seeing it in theaters for the first time, but at no point during the last decade have I ever watched the film and not picked up on the fact that the republic is corrupt.)

    But still, the things you listed, with maybe two exceptions, are things that we are told, not shown. Palpatine tells Padme that the senate is a bunch of "greedy, squabbling delegates". We are told, not shown, that Valorum is mired by baseless accusations of corruption. I'm not saying that those scenes are wrong for relying on expository dialogue, I'm just saying that the film doesn't do an adequate job of visually (through things we see, not through what we hear or read) fulfilling the promise of these statements. The best moment we get is the visual of Valorum standing to address the crowd and then being interrupted by whispering advice from Mas Amedda. That's a good visual moment that shows, very simply, a leader who is being puppeted by his inferiors. That's great. Give us more like that.

    My analogy with the cantina still stands. The senate, like the cantina, is the moment where we're truly introduced to the large scale of the SW galaxy. In ANH, we get a bit of expository dialogue from Obi Wan ("a wretched hive of scum and villainy/this place can get a little rough") and then, once inside, the film cuts to a quick but crucial succession of wordless close-ups; grimy aliens sitting at tables, drinking, discussing who-knows what. It's a moment for the audience soak in the tone, and the weirdness of it all, to show that this is a galaxy teeming with a variety of life, much of it dangerous. That's all communicated visually, not verbally. It's the "punchline" to the set up given to us by Obi-Wans expository dialogue. It's my personal opinion that TPM would have benefited from a brief parallel scene with the senate. Palpatine tells Padme of the corruption in the senate, of the inadequacy of Valorum's leadership, then film cuts to the senate building. Inside, we see wordless close ups of corrupt senators laughing empty laughs and sipping out of pristine glassware, while Padme, the stranger, who's seen the very real issues facing her planet, simply looks on in disgust. It would not have been gratuitous to see such a scene; quite the contrary, it would have driven the point home, and in a poignant and effective way.

    Don't agree with me? That's fine, I don't pretend to have "the right" opinion on any of this stuff. Just putting in my two cents. In the end, my argument here was really only meant to support my broader argument about the depiction of Naboo's oppression, as you can read in my posts above. I like TPM a lot, but, as I do with many films I admire, I watch it with a sense of what it could have been. That's my own creative inclination poking out. It's both a blessing and a curse.
    Last edited by Han Burgundy, Dec 15, 2013
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  22. Komodo9Joe Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 1, 2013
    star 1
    No, I am not missing the point in those paragraphs; I read them as they come. And I'll further illustrate this with what you have written below.

    "Two exceptions"? Out of only four instances I listed? When half of the instances are "show" instances, then they don't qualify as "exceptions." And those four instances were among an entire, far greater list of instances that I curtailed for brevity. So no, those weren't "exceptions" to the instances I listed and are merely a microcosm for the plethora of instances that are shown in TPM.

    And all four of those instances I listed were shown: the TF was shown to have a representative in the Senate, Chancellor Valorum was shown to be impeded by his own personnel through corruption, Sidious manages to deviate the issue of invasion to Chancellorship--essentially bogging down the Senate in a form of procedure, and the Senate is shown to be dead silent after listening to Amidala's pleas with only a Senator from Malatare speaking up against her, another showing of corruption. So no, you're incorrect here as well. And, as stated earlier, there are many other instances that I did not articulate which also provide "showings" of corruption within the Republic.

    Furthermore, showing every expository line a character makes is ridiculous. With Amidala's plight, the more prominent point that needed to be conveyed was that the Senate was ineffective, not greedy. They may be greedy too but that portion lies outside of the focus of the plot. Palpatine's lines give a bit more description, and a negative one at that, but each of his descriptors do not need to be shown if they detract away from the crux of the scenes. And the lines that do need to be shown in TPM are done adequately so.
    Last edited by Komodo9Joe, Dec 15, 2013
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  23. Carbon1985 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2013
    star 3
    That's really not a fair comparison, because one movie (TPM) was written as Part 1 of 6 with parts 4-6 already filmed and seen by the public. Star Wars (ANH) was written & filmed as a standalone movie in 1977 (never knowing if sequels would ever happen), and if it were written to be part 4 of 6 or part 1 of 3, then alot of stuff that scratched the surface in the movie would have been more detailed.

    It's like saying, "well there is no detailed exploration in SW (ANH) of the Skywalker family pertaining to Anakin, Luke, Leia and Padme?, so the other 5 movies give you more of a backround about their heritage and ties the movies better." As that wouldn't be fair to SW (ANH) because none of those plot points were invented yet, as they all weren't related in 1977.
  24. sharkymcshark Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 12, 2013
    star 2
    There are several levels to the Trade Federation Problem.

    The first is that we're told that bad things are happening on Naboo, and not shown. Don't get me wrong, I get the value of implying, not showing the villainy, but it isn't actually implied either. I'm not saying that we need to see scenes of executions or mass graves or similar, but from what we're shown the extent of the suffering was basically battle droids marching people in fancy costumes around, and then a garbled transmission from Sio Bibble about people dying that was written off as being a fake to get the Queen to return.

    As I said earlier in this thread the problem is compounded by the fact that the Queen and her party don't seem in that much of a rush to get to Coruscant in the second act of the film. The Jedi earlier in the film commandeered a vehicle using a mind trick (from Boss Nass), and we've seen previously that Tatooine has a trade in starship captains to ferry passengers, but instead the Queen gets involved in a local soapbox race/the space equivalent or religious door to door knocking because the Jedi, whose job it was to assess the situation and report back, have decided that recruiting Anakin is more pertinent. It entirely undermines any threat that the audience is meant to believe that the Trade Federation pose. Clearly the Queen isn't that bothered, so neither should we be.

    Compare to ANH - once Luke finds his family dead the intensity builds through their search for a pilot, escape from Tatooine, finding the remains of Alderaan and getting tractored by the Death Star, escaping from the Death Star, and then finally assaulting and blowing up the Death Star. Breaks in that buildup are natural and fit the context of what is happening - Luke selling his speeder, Obi Wan introducing Luke to the Force on the Falcon, the Rebel hangar reunion. None of the breaks undermine the conflict driving the story - unfortunately in TPM they do just that.
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  25. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    That's a fair defence, but I hope you realize it cuts both ways. ANH is the conspicuously simple middle: beginning the saga in media res where it can be most viscerally grasped. While Lucas was limited by technology and a certain pessimism as to whether his film would find an audience or not (never mind a ginormous one), he also chose to start there and structure it a certain way, in terms of what was best for presenting the story, for the first time, to the wider world. Lucas is, first and foremost, a storyteller. That's how he sees himself. That conception dictates almost everything he does. So while ANH has its limitations owed to where it is placed and how it was made, so too does TPM. Yet some fans have been persistently harsh on the latter film, forgetting or proving unwilling to observe that it's 1 of 6, with both the "1" and the "of 6" components being of vital importance. It's a prelude, an overture: a meditation piece belonging to and heralding a greater whole. I feel that this awareness should, ideally, temper criticisms of the film, especially in terms of tone and incidental story detail/nuance. These films, in large part, are each the way they are because of where they are in the broader story weave and what that positioning implies for the other installments. Realizing that, one can have affection and see tremendous value and worth in both, as long as one remembers (and appreciates) the different obligations and aesthetic principles they're intimately bound by.
    Maybe, maybe not. It's a subjective matter, of course.

    The thing is, TPM is the lightest, most innocent installment of the saga, at least in terms of its basic palette, visual and aural. Lucas tactically avoids showing much in the way of violent oppression and physical squalor to keep that surface-based innocence intact. I see it as a clever move on his part. You're broadly correct, but kind of missing the woods for the trees, in my opinion.

    With due respect, I think that shows a little bit of hasty generalizing and ignorance on your part.

    If you look at ANH for a moment, where the notion that "Tatooine has a trade in starship pilots" must originate, we see that Ben and Luke have to venture to a particularly seedy bar in order to find their man -- and it only seems to be a chance encounter with Chewbacca that brings them to Han in the first place. It would be rather risky, if not outright foolish, to expose the queen and her entourage, by proxy, to such danger, if, indeed, a safer way can be found. There's a great risk that the queen and her retainers could be exploited under disreputable pilots/smugglers and that not even the Jedi would be able to offer sufficient protection. As soon as they arrive at Tatooine, Qui-Gon orders that the ship be landed on the outskirts of Mos Espa to avoid attracting attention. It doesn't seem, to me, like seeking out alternative transport, by contacting shady underworld figures, was top of his list, and I can see why.

    Recruiting Anakin is not necessarily more pertinent, though it can't be denied that Qui-Gon's gaze is literally and metaphorically distracted by this new complication. But since there's a real chance to get off the planet in relatively short order, provided Anakin wins the race, and they can then be on their merry way to Coruscant, no questions asked, I think it's only logical that Padme bite her lip, for the most part, and knuckle down with Qui-Gon's plan. Moreover, she basically surrenders her authority to him by assuming the role of handmaiden and keeping her other identity a secret -- albeit, perhaps, a bit of an open one -- so there's little she can do to protest, though she does make a few token objections (before Qui-Gon re-enters Watto's shop to place the first bet and just before the race begins). She shows that she isn't entirely happy, but she's also ceding her authority to him and leaving the solution, for now, in his hands.

    I think Padme is quite bothered by what is happening back on Naboo, but she knows there isn't a lot she can do about it, so keeps with her training and doesn't show tremendous emotion. On the other hand, the plight of Naboo clearly pulls at her: there are various little eye gestures and head movements at pivotal moments that do much to convey Padme's inner sadness, fear, and doubt. These are quite subtle, mind you, and I can understand why they might seem trite or insufficient to a viewer wanting a more obvious depth of feeling from these characters; it's there for me, however. Padme's sadness is also countenanced by the fact that she left a seasoned governor in charge when she fled Naboo, as well as several of her handmaidens, all of whom presumably have doted on her as queen and must conceivably have solid leadership skills of their own (the whole decoy subplot sorta implies this -- in my opinion). She hasn't completely deserted Naboo. It's there, in her mind, but she can't dwell on it the entire time. There are other people doing what they can.

    I don't know why we needed a carbon copy. Yes, I get what you're saying: to you, that's a better structure, where one is more easily able to vicariously invest in the basic plot and the plight of the characters. I think TPM's structure is plenty effective, though. It's not quite as straight-forward as the rather simplistic "coming of age" storyline that ANH's plot encapsulates, but it offers greater chance for reflection, in my opinion. I find I am better able to feel that these characters are working through something in TPM, while ANH's is more of a basic "rescue" piece with decent emotional beats along the way: a fun, Occidental black comedy. One is not inherently superior to the other, but I like the controlled tones and restrained emotionalism at the core of TPM a little better. To me, it offers greater sustenance. But I can certainly fire up ANH and have a rollicking good time. The contrasts between the two are tectonic. Whatever they offer in isolation, they offer ten times more as a rhyming A-B pair. I love that about them.
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