Whatever your opinion of The Phantom Menace it cannot be argued against the fact that there is a plethora of wonderful characters. The prequel trilogy broke the mould for gender specific sci-fi movies,m introducing many new female characters. Although some original trilogy characters, droids and species were re-introduced, there were many new ones included to flesh out the galaxy.
In this article, Fantha Trackers were asked to choose their favourite character from The Phantom Menace, and why.
I could have chosen one of many but I am going to go with Obi-Wan Kenobi. I’m not a huge fan of Ben Kenobi from the original trilogy but Obi-Wan, helped by an amazing performance from Ewan McGregor, gave the whole Kenobi life span a new meaning.
We meet him as a Padawan learner which I think is important as the development into a Jedi Knight and then Master helps to clarify the process. He’s a character with flaws, a little head strong and most importantly relatable.
Obi-Wan is the type of character I would have liked to act out in the school yard when we were children, bringing our imaginations to life.
One of the treats of The Phantom Menace is the vast cast of new characters that we met for the first time when Episode 1 arrived. Not only did we greet returning heroes like R2-D2 and C-3PO (albeit in in an unfamiliar guise), Yoda looking decidedly different and younger incarnations of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Emperor in his pre-sith lightning scarred phase but we were introduced to a list of new characters as long as a Kaminoans arm. Of those new characters, my personal favourite is Qui-Gon Jinn.
He’s not the wise old Ben we first met in A New Hope, nor is he the I’m Going Slightly Mad Yoda we first meet in Empire. Qui-Gon is a hands-on teacher, who we first meet on mission with his padawan Obi-Wan. With the benefit of hindsight we can see that their relationship is at a similar stage to where Ben and Anakin were by the end of Attack of the Clones. Still master and apprentice, but far closer to being equals – brothers – than simply teacher and student. Qui-Gon has trained Kenobi well, for many years, and hearing Qui-Gon impart wise words to young Anakin can only make one wonder what lessons he taught a pre-teen Obi-Wan when he first became his padawan.
Not scared to stand up to the council, or take matters into his own hands, he is a keen observer – of course he knew Padme was using her handmaidens as decoys, he knew it when he had a little dig at her before the podrace “The Queen trusts my judgement, young handmaiden. You should too.” – and a diligent tactician, willing to trust the decision of the Queen when she makes her play and brings the gungans into the wider battle to free Naboo.
Played with disarming charm by Liam Neeson, you have to wonder where the galaxy would have headed had he not fallen at the blade of Darth Maul, and while Maul was the characters most fans of the time lamented losing the most, his fate would never have altered the course of galactic history. With Qui-Gon steering Anakin, sensing the ups and downs of the Force as itself adjusted to a new balance, maybe that fateful fall would have been avoided. We will never know, but whatever the outcome, my choice is Qui-Gon Jinn.
Ok, so you know my feelings about this film and how I found it hard to connect with some of the characters, but there are a couple that redeemed the movie.
I thought that it was clear from the film where Obi-Wan Kenobi’s path would lead, his motivation and devotion to the Force and his master was obvious. I felt that his trajectory was clear, and this helped me better understand the choices he made in A New Hope.
Qui-Gon Jinn. Again, a great character who influences the future. His strength to stand up for what is right, defending those who are not able to makes him in my eyes a worthy Jedi.
My favourite though is (and it’s an obvious choice) is Queen Amidala. It’s no surprise where Leia gets her personality from. I know that she was brought up by Bria and Bail Organa, however the nature not nurture element for me is clear. It’s obvious she is Leia and Luke’s mother and that her determination to fight for what is right is clear.
For me she was what I wanted from the twins parents – strong, opinionated and loving. Again this makes sense for Leia’s pathway, in particular and the nod to it in Claudia Gray’s Queen’s Shadow has now 20 years later cemented it for me.
It’s tricky to pick one character who is my favourite from The Phantom Menace and my gut says to pick Obi Wan or Darth Maul, but my heart says someone else…..Watto. Yes, I said Watto. From the initial teaser trailer when we first saw Watto fluttering his little wings, I was hooked. What an incredible achievement in CGI, we’d really seen nothing like it at this point and I wanted to know everything about him.
When Midnight Madness came around, Watto was my priority purchase. The film was released and although he was only a small role in the film, he stood out for me, so much I wrote a little song based on this legend. “Mind tricks don’t work on me, only money.”
This one was simple for me. I loved Palpatine. I think the way he is portrayed in The Phantom Menace is really strong and as the other films came out you could go back and spot greater references. The way in which you have him emerging from Naboo and seemingly reluctantly being pushed into power whilst in his sith guise he clearly knew this was part of the plan is excellent but, as I said, not really apparent until the prequel trilogy plays out. Do you remember all the discussions that were taking place at that time asking if the Sith Lord was actually Palpatine of was he a clone or a doppelgänger? The fact that even though we knew what would happen to him we were doubting if Senator Palpatine was the same character is testament to how strong his portrayal is in The Phantom Menace.
I am going to throw my considerable weight behind my favourite Dug, Sebulba.
His bullying of Jar Jar, cavorting with the Twi’lek girls, his tricks and nastiness in the podrace. THAT evil laugh. Every appearance he owned the scene, and was a type of character both emotionally and physically we had not seen before. Every Sebulba moment in the movie is a moment of such fun. I don’t think a CGI character has been done better, and as aliens go he is amongst the best in the franchise.
A lot of talk of the CGI work around The Phantom Menace centred on Jar Jar, but Sebulba walked away scot free from the criticism – perhaps because we liked that character so much more. Sebulba also has a closeness to my heart as it was the first professionally published Star Wars interview I ever did. I interviewed Lewis McLeod for The Sun before the films release. You may recall the interview as it was considered a major spoiler piece for a while, as Lewis said he was playing Sebulba The Hutt. At that point he had not seen the design of the character. Ah, spoilers, how easy it was for them to grow legs…