The opinions of Fantha Trackers on The Phantom Menace vary greatly. However, all of us agree that with some changes it could have been an even better movie. Here we explain what one change we would have suggested to George – if only he’d asked us!
I thoroughly enjoyed The Phantom Menace as I first watched it in the cinema in my early 20’s. I was taken aback by the criticism I read online and the intense hatred for many plot points and characters. Some of the actor performances were vilified online and the repercussions are still coming to light. I never understood any of that at all. However, I do accept that there are flaws with the movie and if I could change one thing about The Phantom Menace it would have been a major plot line that was not appropriate for the intended audience, that being children. The taxation of Trade Federation routes.
There were so many other reasons for the planet to be invaded that could have been explained to kids – war, water reserves, treasure… anything but taxation! I really don’t understand it and I still see comments to this day as parents are sitting down with their children to watch The Phantom Menace for the first time and struggle with a way to explain the opening crawl. How many children are still put off Star Wars to this day from the opening crawl of the first chronological movie?
Not that I’d ever want to disagree with my esteemed colleague, but the taxation issue was never a problem for me. Think back to that scene around the Death Star table in A New Hope, where the Imperials are discussing the dissolution of the Imperial senate. It’s not exactly kid friendly (admittedly it’s not in the opening crawl at the very top of the movie either) but as kids we managed to get through it (and yes, taxation is a pretty dry excuse to take over a planet, but then Palpatine’s machinations were as much based in mundanity as anything else). No, the change I’d like to have made in Phantom was to see Darth Maul survive his battle with Obi-Wan (yes, I KNOW he did survive it in the long run) and be a functioning element of the other two episodes.
Of course, the death of Maul brought Dooku into the frame, but despite the rule of two I think Palpatine could have easily made good use of the two sith lords. Maul was the blunt instrument, Dooku the sophisticate, all elements that he would have wished to see in his ultimate apprentice Anakin. To have Maul carrying out Palpatine’s will on the Rim, while Dooku politicked in the Core Worlds and Grievous caused havoc in the Invisible Hand across the galaxy could have been fascinating to see. And the thought of Anakin avenging Qui-Gon, succeeding where Obi-Wan would have failed in Phantom had Maul survived could have added an interesting wrinkle to their relationship.
So this is where I put my hand up and I confess that The Phantom Menace is my least favourite Star Wars film. (imagine a grinning teeth emoji). It’s hard to pinpoint why. I think it came at the wrong point in my life, and I wasn’t that interested.
I was lucky to get to see the press screening in Leicester Square! As I sat down in anticipation I had that fanboy moment you know the one right at the end of the film…
“What if it’s C**p?”
I can relate to that, I turned to Marcus who was then my boyfriend (and at this point was blissfully unaware of my Star Wars obsession and asked him that very question!), to which he answered “Well what can you do about it if it is!” I watched it and my hopes were dashed… I really did not like it so if you were to ask me the question then what would I change and my answer would simply have been all of it. The plot, the effects and some of the characters ! I know that that’s more than one.
Fast forward to now were it has grown on me (it’s only taken 20 years) and the one thing I would change is probably still the same. I will sit and watch it but for me it’s just a bit meh. I love the next 2 in the prequels but for me I struggled to connect with the characters and the plot was weak. For me it just didn’t happen at the right time for me !
If I could change one thing about The Phantom Menace it would be more Brian Blessed. Having just met the legend recently and heard him swear through 75 minutes of a Q&A, I wanted more of this national treasure in the film. I highly recommend if he is at a convention or in your area doing a book tour to attend. Boss Nass is meesa friend.
If I am being honest there is not much I would change. I remember finding The Phantom Menace hard work when it first came out. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, but it was more a case of with all the hype my expectation were sky-high and first viewing(s) lead to disappointment.
Time however is a leveler and on refection The Phantom Menace does what it needs to do. It starts the ball rolling and lays down the crumbs as to how things play out over the 6 more films (at least). Actually, there is one thing I would change. I wouldn’t have Anakin building C-3PO. I would have prefered to have had him introduced in a more credible way.
I’m another one who actually quite likes The Phantom Menace, although I do accept that it has it’s flaws. For me I’ve always seen it for what it is, chronologically speaking, the first chapter. So whilst some people criticise it for being a bit slow-paced, I think it sets out the characters and events that shape the whole of the rest of Star Wars. If I could change one thing I’d have probably toned down the merchandise side (odd for a Star Wars collector I know). For me the prequels started the over-saturation of Star Wars branded merchandise and toys, and that has continued to the point that we have now where discount retailers are enjoying the fruits of too much product versus demand and therefore are able to snap up these surplus stocks. Although this has a benefit to fans and collectors, for me it also devalues the whole brand in the eyes of the less fanatical public.
Like every film there is lots you can change to make it it better. Lower expectations would have helped The Phantom Menace no end, no film could have met the fan self created hype that it generated. Those expectations crushed the film. It was so roundly criticised, yet ask any fan to name their favourite Star Wars moments you will hear the Lightsaber Duel, and the Podrace. Name your favourite character and you will hear Maul, favourite music and Duel of the Fates will appear. There is SO much good in that movie.
But if there was one fundamental change I would make, it would be to age the character of Anakin from nine to age fourteen in line with Padmé. It would remove a lot of the cheesiness of the film that flows from having young child actors in roles, remove an element of creepiness in the Padmé / Anakin relationship. “Are you an angel?” is still one of the worst lines in the franchise. It would have brought a nicer balance between the generations of fans as its probably easier to relate to and recall your teen years than your early youth. It would have also brought more belief to the podrace, and droid control ship attack – whilst also allowing the removal of lines like “let’s try spinning, that’s a cool trick.”
The final change I would make would allow Maul to live (yes, I know he did live in canon) and remain the “big bad” throughout the trilogy. There would be more ammunition in an ageing and learning Anakin getting “revenge” upon Maul in a later movie, perhaps have Maul being the slayer of his mother. But generally the character of Maul was so fantastic he needed more screen time, and could have helped and elevated the trilogy.