Fun with Franchises: Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Part IV — “Shut the Fuck Up, Jar Jar”
Today we continue with another entry in our Fun with Franchises series, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Part IV.
In case you don’t know how this works — a while back, I decided to rank my favorite Disney movies and rank my favorite James Bond movies. And the Disney ones were mostly straight synopses and not too much fun, but when I got to Bond, I enlisted the help of my friend Colin (whose blog is TokyoRemix.com. Fuck yeah, promotion!), who knows everything about the Bond franchise that I do not, for those articles, and along the way, learned how to have fun with it. And, by the end of the Bond articles, we were having so much fun that I said, “Man, we have to do this again with other stuff.” Because I spent about a straight month and a half putting together those articles. That’s how much time and effort actually goes into something like that. And not once did it feel like work. It was so much fun that I knew, as long as we were doing it for comedy purposes and able to riff off of each other — we could do pretty much any film and it would work.
And very quickly, the first ones you come up with are the major franchises, because those are not only the most fun, but also the most universally known. Everyone’s gonna understand all the jokes we make (well… most of them. Some of them might be limited to three people) about them. So that’s what we’re doing. And if you’re gonna have fun with franchises, it wouldn’t be right if you didn’t franchise it. Also, just so we’re clear, this is all for parody. We’re just messing with them because we love them.
And that’s Fun with Franchises. Right now, we’re doing the Star Wars franchise, and today is the fourth part of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
We begin Part IV outside…
Is this their Staples Center?
Looks like it, right?
Ah… the Imperial Senate.
“The chair recognizes…. Senator Smith!”
This is awesome. They float on down when they have the floor and it’s just like a regular Senate hearing.
Palpatine pretends to be not evil and shit.
The Chinamen object.
“Motherfucker, who said you could talk?”
And they just slink back. That’s awesome.
Then Padme says the planet’s been invaded and the Chinamen object again (and somehow are not shut down).
“If this body is not capable of leadership, I suggest new leadership is needed.”
The Wookiees are upset.
E.T. is down there.
I’m going to say this as someone who has often watched C-SPAN with genuine interest: this scene blows. There’s no parliamentary procedure, and nothing goes down as discussed. If Valorum was such an ally (and if he trusted the Jedi at all), he’d do something here. What’s the downside to going against the bureaucrats? He might lose his job later on? Oh, you mean like he just did? Also, how does this happen so quickly? You can just call for a referendum on the Supreme Chancellorship at ANY time if you don’t like a decision that was handed down? Wouldn’t it happen like every day? For that matter, how does Padme get to call this vote? She’s not even a member of the senate!
Why would everyone want to vote Valorum out? The ruling bureaucrats would want to keep him in ‘power’ so they could continue manipulating him. And if they were that enthusiastic about getting rid of them, wouldn’t someone else have proposed it before now? This is like a bunch of people smoking pot, and all of a sudden, one of them remembers that they could be eating pizza and aren’t. And the rest of them are like, “HOLY FUCK! PIZZA! YES! RIGHT NOW!” as if something had been stopping them from ordering any until it was suggested.
How many scenes in these prequels take place out on a balcony?
Anakin passes the Forceshach test.
But his feelings betray him. He has fear about his mother. Fear is the path to the Dark Side.
“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Fear leads to anger? I don’t see that. The only one that I can see working here is anger leading to hate. You make me angry, and I might begin to hate you. But I hate a LOT of people and don’t suffer at all. And I’m not necessarily angry at the things I fear…I’m afraid of them. I’m not sure George really gets which words mean what. I bet he’s one of those people who think ‘irritate’ and ‘aggravate’ are synonyms. You know what I mean?
And if you thought they were synonyms, I’m guessing you probably also loved The Phantom Menace. And Jack and Jill.
Clearly New York.
Jesus. Now there’s a conversation.
Palpatine has been nominated for Supreme Chancellor.
So that’s how it starts. Padme is responsible for it all. And Qui-Gon gets the assist.
The nominee from Alderaan is Bail Antilles – this character exists because of a mistake in a script way back when. He was renamed Bail Organa in time for the original trilogy, but both names were in existence at the time, so they have him as the senator from Alderaan here. He loses the vote to Palpatine, retires and is replaced by Bail Organa, who ends up adopting Leia.
This is how Lucas writes scripts. Shit is just assumed before it’s even happened. There’s a lot of un-hatched chicken counting. There are three guys nominated for this position, and the other two are the leaders of their respective factions. It would be no surprise if any of them won, but this dialogue just accepts that Palpatine has it already. For a storyline that’s supposed to be deep and mysterious, it doesn’t really build the suspense, does it?
That’s the other thing — shouldn’t there be some kind of evil opposition within the senate? Or, at least, some person in the senate who seems to be potentially the person to be Palpatine?
For example — Count Dooku.
Not Christopher Lee, naturally, since you’d never buy that he was Palpatine (he’s too awesome for that). But if they got someone who is Count Dooku, senator, who is also mysterious as shit and a big supporter for the separatists, and he was the person who was up against Palpatine, then you take the immediate suspicion off Palpatine (even if it still would be obvious they were pulling a bait and switch).
That’s my big issue with Palpatine in the movies — he works in Part III, but they don’t give him enough time in Parts I and II to make me buy all the shit he does.
Imagine this — we took out the pod race (gasp!), and replaced it with some scenes of Palpatine dealing with politics. Padme’s under fire and has to be in hiding, so he’s taking over in the senate while she makes her way to Coruscant. He becomes a much more trusted advisor. We see him in the senate, trying to fight for Naboo and hold shit together. Count Dooku is also there. He’s making speeches or whatever and seems really shady. We see him being shifty and mysterious when he’s not on the floor. He also seems to be drumming up support with his charismatic speeches. (Just like Hitler.) We think he might be the person behind this. Padme does the vote of no confidence and Dooku, Palatine and that other guy are nominated. So that way, it seems like Palpatine winning would be a coup and that Dooku might be the person to sweep in and take this. So when Palpatine wins, you’re on his side, because you don’t know he’s the evil motherfucker. And then, after Palpatine wins, Dooku resigns from the senate and goes off with his separatist army in the second movie, under orders from Sidious, who also happens to be Palpatine.
If you spend more time with Palpatine’s rise, but do it that way, it becomes organic (Bail Organic) and you don’t immediately suspect him whenever he’s on screen. (Because who trusts a politician?)
Because now, if he wins an unsuspected vote, you’re on his side. So now he’s Chancellor. Then, in the next movie, when he manages to get emergency powers and the army and all that, it’s not such an obvious moment and can actually seem like he happens into it because the senate is so for it. Then when we reveal that he’s been orchestrating this whole thing, and it’s actually quite the reveal. And you get the double whammy of, “Not only am I behind this, but I’m also a Sith lord, and I’m about to corrupt the best thing you Jedi have going for you.” So it really just puts a bow on this whole tragedy.
Also — don’t show Sidious. It’s better if we don’t. Because we immediately know he’s the Emperor and it’s only a matter of time before we connect him to Palpatine. Keep him off-screen and mysterious and have someone else say these are his orders. That way we still think he’s Dooku or someone.
That’s…much better. MUCH better. I’m actually angry that this movie can’t be immediately remade with that. Although later on, I’ll post another guy’s take on how this film could have been done much better.
She’s leaving. Going (going) back (back) to Naboo.
“The Force is strong with him.”
“He is to be trained, then?”
Orphans should never be given powers.
“He’s too old.” (Motherfucker.)
(What the fuck is that thing on the right?)
“He is the Chosen One. You must see it.” (I think we should abolish those words from movies.)
“Fine. Dicks. I’ll train him.”
You can really get the conflict between Qui-Gon and the Council. Yoda says that the boy’s future is clouded, and Qui-Gon makes a face like, “Psh, you and your visions.” And then he makes a side comment about how Obi-Wan has much left to learn about the Living Force, and of course none of them are about that life.
It would be better if Lucas was a better writer, since then I could buy everything that’s being said. To me, this all reads like empty dialogue spoken in monotone voices.
You know why that is? Because all the stuff you’ve explained to me is never explained on screen, so I have no reason to understand it or be invested in it. But, if you make it clear that there’s a philosophical divide happening, then I can become invested in this decision.
Lucas really picks weird battles in terms of what to explain and what not to explain. It’s almost always the stuff that he doesn’t explain that would make shit more interesting.
He’s not allowed more than one apprentice. But then Obi-Wan’s like, “I’m ready. Shit, I’ve been ready all my motherfuckin’ life.”
But they skip over all that shit. They tell him to go back to Naboo. (Motherfucker.)
Can we send more than just two Jedi back to do this shit? There’s hundreds of them! This is the problem with having so few people in this movie. We’re on a planet of a QUADRILLION beings and we’ve seen like seven. A BILLION BILLION! And you’re sending two guys to save an entire PLANET? What is this, Men in Black?
♫ “Naboo’s got gunplay / Keira’s on the runway…” ♫
I like how Anakin is right there and cocks his head a little while Qui Gon and Obi Wan are talking. “The boy is dangerous!” “Bitch I might be.”
“They won’t let me train you, Annie.”
He tells Anakin that he isn’t allowed to teach him shit, and then begins his next sentence with, “Always remember…” Yeah. Cause fuck what I just said.
“I’ve heard Yoda talking about Midichlorians. I’ve been wondering… what are midichlorians?”
Hang on a second. *cracks knuckles, cracks neck, stretches* I gotta get loose for this.
“Midichlorians are a microscopic life form that resides within all living cells… and we are symbionts with them…. Without the midichlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to us, telling us the will of the Force.” (So… like sickle cell?)
This midichlorians explanation hurts.
“Weesa going home!” (What is this, Dunkirk?)
Shut the fuck up, Jar Jar.
Palpatine is sending Darth Maul.
I was going to say something about that scene between Gunray and Sidious, but my bullshit filter is clogged. I need a beer.
This motherfucker is teaching Anakin about the controls. (This will be annoying in like, 30 minutes.)
Look, I tried as long as I could, but come on, now. Fuck you if you’re telling me George wasn’t clearly influenced by it.
Oh my god. I’m only now noticing Jar Jar’s shape. That’s fucked up.
The Gungan city is deserted.
Best reaction goes to Natalie.
The Gungans went to Eiwa.
Okay, so the Gungans have
made for the refuge of Helm’s Deepgone somewhere above the water so we don’t need to get Padme wet.
He’s being a real Boss Nasshole right now.
Doesn’t R2 get leaves and shit caught in his… whatever the bottom of him is called?
I’m going to go with ‘undercarriage.’ It appears that he has wheels, but that seems like the safest term.
Jesus, look at those EARS, son.
But oh shit… here we go…
Spartacus Queen Amidala.”
That’s her bodyguard.
(Why would you have a 14-year old girl as your bodyguard?)
(Is she Hit Girl? Because if she’s not Hit Girl, you probably shouldn’t do that.)
“Motherfucker, I thought we were her bodyguards.”
(Also – did the Force not tell you that?)
(Also – why the fuck would you give yourself up for that? That meeting wasn’t going so badly.)
“My dear Gungan… you bow for no one.”
Oh, wait… wrong franchise.
Boss Nass approves. He likes it when bitches kneel.
This whole scene is ludicrous. Lucas likes to think that this is how race relations are fixed. “We may have always considered ourselves to be better than you, but we need your help now!” “Your desperation has led you to find humility! We will throw down our lives for you!”
Well damn… he got there fast.
I think he’s stroking out.
STOP MAKING HIM TALK! YOU’RE RUINING HIM!
I want to build a statue mostly underground. That’s awesome.
(Also, what is this, Wutai?)
(Because, as we all know, the Wutai Clan ain’t nuthing to fuck wit.)
They’re old friends now.
Yes. Make the clumsy oaf a general. And he faints. Always the sign of strong leadership ability.
I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that this vehicle is a callback to the 1954 Ford FX-Atmos concept car. Lucas is a car guy and that was his formative era. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was intentional. That was a very popular futuristic concept car from the golden age of concept cars. I love looking at old concept cars. Most of them are so fucking wild.
George seems to like concept cars. Him and Coppola. Coppola made that movie about the Tucker car and I remember reading that him and Lucas were two of the only whatever number of people to own that car. So it’s probably a safe bet that he did design it like that.
This looks familiar.
How many times now has a character outlined a potential threat and then stated that it ‘won’t be a problem’ before even facing it? I don’t understand what purpose is served by spiking your own suspense plot devices before they get to work.
(If only this ended like that did…)
♫ “From the day we arrive on the planet…” ♫
Actually, this looks a lot like Dinosaur. Mixed with Two Towers.
Not a single piece of this frame wasn’t made by a computer.
Am I the only one watching this expecting the Teletubbies sun to pop up?
Are those Digletts?
Swan. Black Swan.
Ah, the old laser pointer in the eye trick. The Costanza.
I’d ask how no one notices that, but let’s be serious now.
“Once we get inside, you find a safe place to hide and stay there.”
I love that. “Sure.” He keeps going to, as if he was expecting him to put up a resistance. Nope. “Sure.” I also love how people always say that, but… if he doesn’t tell you where he’s hiding, doesn’t that defeat the purpose? If he stays there, how the fuck are you gonna find him when it’s all over?
How funny would it be if they won his freedom, took him from his mother and then he just got shot in the fucking face in a battle he has nothing to do with?
Oh, it’s on.
Why are these pilots wearing outfits that would look more appropriate on a Tibetan monk?
Are those headless people?
I want screens like that in my house.
What the fuck are those things in the background?
I’m a fan of Naboo’s ships. I like the aesthetic theme they’ve got going. It looks good. The chrome, and stuff. It’s unique, I’ll give them that.
That’s right, Natalie. Come out blastin’.
Some place to pick to hide, asshole.
(How’d you get R2 in there so easily?)
So who’s the guy who’s supposed to be in that plane? Are they just gonna let him sit there in it? Shouldn’t some guy run over and be like, “I need this, I gotta go fight up in space”? Even if the guy who’s ship that is died, shouldn’t another guy come over and take it? It’s weird that Anakin is left sitting in this cockpit (with R2, which makes no sense at all and is jus something Lucas expected us to gloss over out of nostalgia) and no one does anything about it, even though all the other planes are going out to war?
Lucas loves him some fighter pilot stuff.
The funny thing about Hollywood is, you can’t easily get away with stabbings or gory gunshot wounds, but the second someone gets into a vehicle, they’re free game for exploding.
Wouldn’t you tell him to go back inside the palace or something? There has to be a safer place for him to be right now.
How about the fucking ventilation shafts? Remember those?
They’re gonna have a Star War.
Again, I’d love more than 10 seconds’ development of any of the single subplots going on right now. Space, battlefield, palace! Just wait til the Jedi break off for their fight, and we’ll have FOUR things to keep track of. This is way too much to process. And I thought Jedi was a bit cluttered.
The idea of this is pretty cool. It’s kind of like Terminators. Only better and worse at the same time.
So what is the energy behind these shields? Why can’t they just be shields?
These Gungans randomly have weapons that automatically fry droids and shields that block lasers. They seem ideally suited to fight this battle, and yet, they fail. See those big, blue balls (how appropriate in this film) that are rolling through the droids? Just set up a row of them and roll them all at once. Boom.
They look like they’re wearing those Hoth Stormtrooper helmets.
We eat those!
Fuck… if there’s one thing I love almost as much as I love trench fighting, it’s Revolutionary War fighting. I love lines marching at one another and shooting like this. This is fantastic.
(I mean, the battle sucks and all… but I like it in theory.)
Imagine if they did this live-action… how much cooler that would have been.
Right, though? Holy shit, imagine this live-action.
“Hey, I wanna come kill that guy too!”
“Motherfucker, you stay in that cockpit. Don’t make me use my ring hand.”
Oh it’s going down, now.
And just to get you in the mood – here’s the track that plays over this entrance:
The first 13 seconds are baller as shit.
There can really be no better entrance than those first thirteen seconds.
I fucking love Darth Maul. Goddamn shame they kill him so quickly.
He ain’t die.
(I know. But again… I’m focusing on the movies. I have a complicated relationship with this universe.)
“We’ll handle this.”
THAT’S RIGHT YOU WILL! BRING IT ON!
(Also, no you won’t.)
Oh that’s so badass.
Oh, let’s not pretend like this isn’t the best part of the movie by far.
Here we go… I’ve been waiting for this shit all my motherfuckin’ synopsis!
I just nutted in my pants, that’s the baddest shit I ever seen.
Now THAT’S a fucking badass. He ain’t even have to look.
By the way I will completely be cutting out everything Padme and the others do for the next couple minutes. I don’t want to ruin the beauty of this battle.
Plus all that stuff is pretty pointless anyhow.
Though I’ll show you this – some rolly polly droids come up and Anakin shoots them from the cockpit.
And he takes off into space. Now, enough with the bullshit, back to the important stuff…
Going for Leone, much, George?
This motherfucker is great. Backflips onto platforms like it’s nothing.
Why not just take the long way around? He’s not running away from you.
All right, I guess we gotta go to these fuckers now.
Is that a Golden Gun?
What’s super annoying about this is how badly it’s written. “Oh no, it’s on automatic pilot!!” Motherfucker, make R2 turn it off! And then once he’s in space he HAS R2 turn it off! What the fuck? It’s such horrible logic he uses to get him up there in battle. And the kid’s acting doesn’t help matters.
Who the fuck has ever called it “automatic pilot?”
(Also, you may only want to watch about seven seconds of that clip if you haven’t seen the movie. Kind of a spoiler alert. But it does accurately portray my feelings right now.)
Wait, THAT’S what she did? The way she took aim, I thought she was shooting at the viceroy. Why the fuck do you need to aim to take out a window?
But anyway, that’s where we’ll END PART IV, since I don’t want to fuck up the rest of the battle by putting it here.
– – – – – – – – – –
Tomorrow is Part V, and the Duel of Fates.
(See the rest of the Fun with Franchises articles here.)