Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Phantom Menace

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
© 1999 Terry Brooks

The Phantom Menace was the first movie in the new 'prequel' trilogy of the Star Wars saga, which told the story of a promising young Jedi who was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force, even as the Republic which he served was corrupted by the master of the dark inside into the Galactic Empire. It is easily the least-liked of the Star Wars movies, featuring a young boy who is far too precocious ("Are you an angel?") and the majestic silliness of Jar-Jar Binks.   Terry Brooks' challenge in creating a novelization of this story was thus considerable, and he tries valiantly. He cleans up parts of Jar-Jar's language; while much the psuedo-ebonics remains ("Dat", "dis", and so on),  his unique turns of phrase ("Dat's baaaad bombin'!")  are sterilized, with mixed effect.  The dialogue is fleshed out to make some of the characters' decisions more understandable; Qui-Gonn Jinn only takes a fourteen year old girl with him into a wretched hive of scum, villainy, and obnoxious aliens only after she reveals her extensive self-defense training. Anakin, too, gets a little development, demonstrating his awareness of how he can manipulate his own mental state; he tells Jar-Jar that the bumbling Gungan's fear attracts abuse to him.  There's also a scene with the Sand People that becomes more interesting when the plot of Attack of the Clones is taken into consideration, though I don't know if Brooks knew what Lucas had planned for Anakin's poor mother.  While Brooks doesn't improve the original nearly as much as Matthew Stover did with Revenge of the Sith,   it's a step in the right direction, making a previously juvenile story a bit more sensible.  Books in the EU universe like Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter and Cloak of Deception do the lion's work in that department, however.

Revenge of the Sith, Matthew Stover. For my money, the gold standard of movie novelizations.
Darth Maul. Shadow Hunter; Michael Reaves
Cloak of Deception, James Luceno


  1. I remember when this movie came out being sooooo excited. Then I as like.... umm... WHA!!! I am excited about the new direction Disney is taking Star Wars though. They have a Tumblr and Instagram now too.

  2. It was one of the few movies I almost walked out on. I would have too if I hadn't been with other people.

  3. I figure with Disney in charge the next movie will be nothing more than a licensing platform (introducing characters and vehicles just to make toys out of them), but we'll see. The biggest issue there is how badly they'll ruin fan-canon; since everyone assumed Episode VI was it, the end of the line, the book's continuation has been seen as the legitimate aftermath.

    @Cyberkitten: At what point did you want to leave? As soon as Jar-Jar introduced himself? I used to skip the podracing scene because the racket of the engines annoyed me.

  4. Jar-Jar was indeed terrible and I might have left just for him. I do remember an underwater travel scene where they are 'attacked' be increasingly larger fish creatures - whilst the two Jedi are supremely unconcerned. I think it was at that point that I metaphorically lost the will to live and hoped to go immediately blind and deaf.....

  5. I've never appreciated Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan's complete apathy toward the sea monsters before now. That kind of nonreaction can't be chalked up to The Force; Luke, Yoda, and others expressed fear in the face of danger in other movies.

    But like Qui-Gonn said: There's always a bigger fish.


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