Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
Quite often a movie comes out that is just bad. It loses itself completely or it’s a confusing mess. Unfortunately, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is one of those movies. It bugs so many Star Wars fans that a machete viewing order has been created that ignores the film completely. Below are the 6 things that could have been done to make the movie make a whole lot more sense. Before I start I want to say that I am in no way a director or writer. I’m just a nerd who thinks he can fix “bad” movies.
#1: The Jedi Heroes
Since Qui-Gon was called rebellious by the council’s standards, you can tie him into the universe much more and make him more useful by changing his relationship to Obi Wan. While he and Obi-Wan are chilling and waiting to get ambushed on the Trade Federation ship at the beginning, have Obi-Wan say that he has a bad feeling about this. Qui-Gon replies that Obi Wan’s focus on his feelings and willingness to leap to conclusions are why his master, Master Yoda, had asked Qui-Gon to make an assessment of him before allowing him to enter the final trials.
Since Qui-Gon seems to have just been created for Episode I with no further purpose, you can tie him in a bit more if, during Episode II, the Kaminoans state that they were hired by Qui-Gon on behalf of the council, not Sifo-Dyas. This not only ties him in more to the series, but leaves Obi Wan to question someone who he held in high regard and had died as a hero. Qui-Gon’s final words to Obi Wan can be “Train Anakin. We will need him. The Darkness is coming, but we are prepared…”
#2: Jar-Jar Binks
We’re in a day and age when darker humor is in and it was during the time of Episode I with shows like “Invader Zim”. To that end, Jar Jar could have been a much darker character while at the same time being more interesting and less irritating. First give him a voice more like Captain Tarpals so it’s not so girly and make him a bit less bumbling and goofy. You could replace this bumbling with being overly willing to rush into battle.
Instead of Qui-Gon saving him from getting run over while he’s being useless, Jar-Jar is seen threatening the tank with a spear and challenging it to battle. Qui-Gon saves him and Jar-Jar spends the next few minutes yelling at Qui-Gon for saving him because now instead of dying bravely in battle, he’s indebted to some stupid Naboo. Jar Jar can show the same hesitation towards returning to Gunga City, and the embarrassed admission that he’s been banished. When they return, whenever a Gungan addresses Jar Jar, have them do it in the Gungan language while speaking broken “basic” to Qui-Gon and Obi Wan.
From you can have Jar Jar revealing that that’s not his real first name and “Jar-Jar” means “dishonoured”. Have him actually guide them by driving during the underwater sequence and during it he can reveal that his people hide from the Naboo and go to great lengths to conceal their existence. When they have to go near Naboo settlements, they use stolen Naboo vehicles like this one to make the journey. He can reveal his backstory was that he was a former commander in the Gungan Army and had seen Naboo on the shore near one of their cities. Assuming them to be invading, he had ordered his men to attack in defense of the city. It turned out to be a farmer and his family who were just stopping for water on their way to a farmland and had armed themselves to defend against wildlife. For the dishonor of attacking unarmed innocents and risking the entire clan, he was branded Jar-Jar and banished from their cities. In an attempt to restore his honor, he’s willing to leap recklessly into battle.
#3: Darth Maul
Darth Maul exists to be killed and serve no purpose just for Tyranus to take his place out of nowhere in Episode 2. A simple merger of the characters can streamline things and make Dooku more interesting. Keep Maul robed throughout Episode 1, just add a Sith-style helmet to the outfit and a distorted voice. During the Duel of the fates when he’s fighting Qui-Gon the mask can be damaged and he removes it to reveal that he’s former Jedi Council member Dooku. He then fights and kills Qui-Gon and escapes down the ventilation shaft before the overflow shield drops and Obi Wan can reach them.
First things first, by simply changing his age back to the originally planned 15, it makes him hitting on Padme a little less creepy. As well she regards it as the advances of a teenager so would hand-wave it now, but it would make their falling in love 5 years later in Episode 2 far less odd since he’d be 20 and she’d be near 30.
This also makes Yoda’s insistence that he’s too old for the training make a lot more sense. At that point, because he’s so old, Yoda can also insist that Anakin remain at the temple for assessment and training since he’s missed so much. This leaves him out of the final fight and allows the Naboo to be responsible for their own salvation.
Just add a few lines, explaining to Anakin. “No one knows why, but in people who are strong in the force, they have a high count of small microbes called Midichlorians. While it’s not widely accepted, we can sometimes use it as a measure of a person’s force sensitivity.” This test not being widely accepted is a good reason for Yoda’s skepticism of the boy and willingness to dismiss the test results.
#6: The Droids
My biggest problem with the droids was that they would show autonomy and then suddenly they’re all disabled by destroying the ship. At the beginning, the jedi fight off a handful of droids and the Neomodians immediately call in destroyers. Inserting a line that the “Droid Core Mind” can’t work fast enough to keep up with Jedi Reflexes makes that drastic jump in force (and the ease at which they’re dispatched) make a whole lot more sense. This line also makes the destruction of the core ship disabling all the droids make more sense later in the movie.
Stay tuned for the next edition of “Changes that Could Have Fixed “Bad” Movies” when I talk about the Sylvester Stallone classic, Judge Dredd.