The Phantom Menace : Origins
It’s not the greatest-made movie in existence. We will now pause awkwardly for a moment of silence over Padme’s stiff everything. “I’ll try spinning, that’s a good trick.” And Jar Jar’s near attempt to get everyone he supposedly likes killed.
Despite all of it’s flaws, The Phantom Menace still shines out as an important chapter in the Star Wars story because of the origins it creates for multiple story points, characters, expectations, and future possibilities.
Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor’s performances are the shining stars of this movie, along with the un-tapped (at the time) potential for Darth Maul.
Duel Of The Fates is one of the most iconic and exciting moments in Star Wars, and its one of the most gorgeous bits of soundtrack. It’s in my top 3 favorite lightsaber battles, probably because I am an Obi-Wan Kenobi fangirl through and through.
The gift that was The Phantom Menace to me is 3 things in particular. And no, Darth Vader’s origins don’t even make the list.
The birth of the character Obi-Wan Kenobi and all that he represents – The High Ground.
The birth of the now well-traveled villain Darth Maul and all that he represents – Despair And Chaos.
The Phantom Menace himself, Sheev Palpatine – Patient Deception and Longstanding Evil.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is such a pivotal character in the Star Wars storyline. It can be argued that he is responsible for some if not THE best of the entire Prequel Era, and his hand in raising the next generation of Jedi Skywalkers even after his devastating losses with the first are incredible. He crosses paths with and influences some of the finest characters in the Prequel and Rebel Era (even the Sequel Era).
We are given a complete set-up and expectation of that beautiful depth of character in the scene where we see him overcome the pit he has fallen into after the death of his beloved master, Qui-Gon Jinn. Obi-Wan is the young and untried warrior in this scenario. He proves his deeper wisdom and life mentality in just a few moments.
He uses his losses such as supposedly vulnerable low ground, dead master = extra lightsaber, and his grief to his advantage. He literally slices his enemy in half when he retakes the high ground. It’s a position he will maintain for the rest of his life and beyond his death, Obi-Wan NEVER gives up the high ground, even when those around him fall. And because he makes those choices, he creates a foundation for the future generations to succeed.
Obi-Wan is represents the best of Star Wars and its heroes, aka The High Ground.
Darth Maul was not much more than a pretty face when he was introduced. I can remember being a tiny child and seeing him plastered all over posters at Walmart. To me, HIS face was what represented Star Wars, not Darth Vader’s well known figure. #90skid
For a long time Maul was a well of untapped potential, but in more recent years Star Wars creators such as Dave Filoni have made use of this character to show a very complex side of this galaxy caught in conflict.
Without releasing to many spoilers, I will say Maul has risen to the level of my favorite Star Wars villain. He’s utterly despicable in every way, and you feel a hatred for him, but somehow that is balanced out with an acknowledgement that he is yet another broken person who has been misused, abused, and thrown into the blender that is Sheev Palpatine’s thirst for power.
The consistent interaction between him and his oldest foe, Obi-Wan creates a parallel and a contrast all at once. They are two characters who have both been lied to and caught up in a war they did not create.
But with those circumstances they made their own choices of their own free will. One chose the high ground and compassion, and one descended into madness and desperate chaos that caused even more pain. It’s a brilliant bit of character work.
Sheev Palpatine has had his dirty fingers in this mess from the beginning, and here we see that beginning. It’s even more startling now that we know he is responsible for using the Force to impregnate Shmi Skywalker and create Anakin Skywalker, his future apprentice. I appreciate the role we see Palpatine in during this film, he’s all flattery, benevolence, and supposed humility. Often evil takes the appearance of good in order to work its deception, Palpatine is a warning to us all. And shadowy threats are often scarier than known ones. He wears the shadows well.
Also, he deserves this much, R2D2 is given his proper introduction in that we are shown his first insertion into this story when he! Surprise surprise! Saves everyone. This darling droid will not get a moment’s rest until almost 3 generations later because he will be saving people and literally keeping this galaxy running for multiple movies and series.
Attack Of The Clones : Escalation
This is my favorite “bad” movie, bad as in the writing is often cheesy, some characters make questionable choices, and we all find ourselves wondering just how Padme fell for this so-unstable Anakin in the first place. And yet, it’s a good time. #obiwanmakeseverythingbetter
The purpose of this movie shows us the escalation that takes place for multiple plot points and characters. Some of this is done knowingly, some just happens.
The Clone Army is revealed. And a host of questions, stories, triumphs and tragedies is begun.
The Jedi become entangled in a war that contributes to their eventual destruction.
Palpatine maneuvers himself into an even more integral place of power and influence. Yeah, we can really see how much it hurts you to have to accept these emergency powers, bub. #tinyviolins
The First Battle of Geonosis kicks off the Trade Federation conflict into a full-scale war and launches the complex and intriguing era of The Clone Wars.
Anakin gives into his passions in two ways, his love for Padme, and his anger towards the Sand People who murdered his mother. #sandpeoplearetheworst
I’m really not someone who thinks his mistake was loving Padme, this whole Jedi emotion denial thing was a stupid idea in the first place. Plus, other Jedi characters are shown as stronger and wiser because they have engaged their emotions.
No, Anakin’s problems arose from issues that were deeper than him breaking the rules to marry Padme. He was born as a slave, and separated from his mother because stupid Jedi rules. You want to talk about grounds for fear, separation anxiety, and control issues? They practically asked for this kid to have problems! He was manipulated by someone cunning who affirmed him at just the right moments. And he also just made some really stupid choices in his low moments, personal responsibility is still a factor here.
We see the escalation of all of this mess and his emotions in this movie.
The Clone Wars : How Did We Get Here
The Clone Wars is some of the best storytelling the small screen has to offer.
The Prequels have a much-deserved reputation for sloppy character work and massive loopholes in the plot.
The Clone Wars fixes all of that. It retroactively corrects some of the greatest problems the first three movies present and answers so many of the screaming questions.
How did we end up here?
How does such a valiant warrior with so much potential turn on his dearest friends and destroy the very things/people he’s fought so hard to protect?
Do clones have rights? What do they believe?
How do you win a war you were always meant to lose?
What’s right and what’s wrong?
How in the heck did Palpatine get this far with no one noticing?
Were the Jedi right? Where did they go wrong?
The amount of time put into the relationships of characters alone makes this series a golden gift to the Star Wars storyline. Anakin and Obi-Wan are truly shown to be the brothers that you thought they were. Anakin as a character is one you come to love and admire as you see him at his best.
Padme Amidala is given a chance to shine forth as a hero who used her gifts beyond just wearing the largest headdress in the room. You see the strengths that Leia inherited as well as the energy and idealism Luke carries.
We meet the Jedi, for better or worse.
Obi-Wan is again very British and it’s beautiful.
We meet the characters and planets caught in the conflict, torn apart by other’s greedy ambitions. Sometimes those journeys bring joy, sometimes grief. But we almost always learn something.
We see the crafty hand of Palpatine weave this inescapable web that drives everyone towards this horrible climax. We watch him prey upon Anakin and feed into his insecurities like a lamb being fattened for the slaughter.
The Clones are no longer faceless beings, but real, living men. We get to know them by name. We fall in love with them, we feel their pain, their anger, their courage, and their questions.
And of course, Ahsoka Tano. One of the brightest, boldest, and most dear characters in the Star Wars universe. The creation of a young and impressionable character who would be growing into womanhood during this turbulent period was a stroke of genius. Ahsoka is allowed to be outside of the events in Revenge Of The Sith, therefore her story is able to be approached with fresh eyes.
Ahsoka is a grounding character in this time when friends will become foe, joy turns into tears, and many things that were once counted on (The Republic/Jedi) will fall into ruin. Ahsoka is an anchor who will never change being who she is, regardless of what happens.
How Did We Get Here?
Revenge Of The Sith : Death And Rebirth
“You were my brother, Anakin! I loved you!”
We got people sobbing over Jack in Titanic who wasn’t even smart enough to climb up on the end of the lifeboat, time to get over that, folks!
THIS! THIS IS A REAL TRAGEDY!
Revenge Of The Sith is a movie where Darkness wins the day. It’s awful, absolutely awful, and it’s supposed to be. Betrayal is a bitter pill to swallow. Lies and deception lead to death, and we taste it full “force” in this movie.
Watching someone we have come to love such as Anakin (if you have seen The Clone Wars, you love him) try to kill the people dearest to him is such a raw picture of just how far fear and lies can take you. It’s a dire warning and harsh consequence.
The Republic is gone.
Freedom is gone.
Trust is gone.
The Jedi as they were are gone.
Padme, bless her loving heart, is gone.
Obi-Wan’s dearest friend has betrayed him.
And yet, a glimmer of hope emerges. Two tiny children are born into the world that represent the future of the galaxy, Luke and Leia Skywalker.
Often out of great tragedy and death there is some amount of rebirth. It’s too early to see what it will become, it’s too soon to feel the joy over the grief, but it’s present. A tiny, flickering little flame of hope.
We can never go back to what once was, that much is gone forever, a permanent death has happened. But even in the ashes of that death, there is rebirth.
Death And Rebirth.
Next up, the height of The Empire and the beginning of the Rebellion.