Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Part II)
Welcome back, readers, and thank you for your patience during my short end-of-summer hiatus. I’m glad to be back! Today on Snark Wars, we head back to the saga, a place where, unlike the EU, everything is always super normal and always makes total sense hahahahahaHA.
Last time, in the episode that depressingly won’t even turn out to be remotely the most upsetting part of Obi-Wan’s life, Obi-Wan and his space dad Qui-Gon Jinn were sent to Naboo on what sounded like an incredibly boring mission to stop a trade route blockade, which turned out to almost conclude 35 seconds later with both of them getting poisoned. As we all know, though, killing a Jedi –especially these two — often proves a lot harder than it looks, so they had eventually escaped and managed to cross paths with one Jar Jar Binks, about whom no one in the Star Wars fandom has ever had an opinion. At the conclusion of our last entry, Qui-Gon had swindled his way into getting access to a submarine using Wacky Jedi Mind Powers, and the three of them had just narrowly escaped getting eaten by underwater space monsters. Just another day at the office!
Tangled up in all of this is the Queen of Naboo, Padme Amidala, who is running a planet for some reason at an age when I was largely preoccupied with blowing all my money on CDs at the mall. She’s very worried about keeping her planet from dissolving into war with the Trade Federation (who, we learn, have some sort of Shadowy Alliance with a Mystery Sith.) Not to worry, though — our girl Padme’s got all sorts of solid allies in her corner, like kindly old man/Naboo Senator Sheev Palpatine, who totally has no idea why the negotiations with the Trade Federation aren’t going so well.
Sure seems like our friends have a lot on their plates! They couldn’t possibly have more thrown at them! They certainly do not have time to contend with, say, a supernaturally-gifted child who is going to add 150% more chaos into their lives! But I’m getting ahead of myself, clearly. Have a seat; let’s get started.
Recurring Theme: …Nope!
After Padme finishes treating us all to the latest in the seemingly endless series of scenes I’ve recapped where someone stares dramatically out a gigantic window while having Feelings, we see the Trade Federation dudes getting off a ship nearby. They’ve captured the Queen! Everything’s going so well! Clearly this means…
LOL. Sure. Victory! Things just sort of fall into place like that in this universe! It’s totally a good idea to count your chickens before they’ve hatched!
Back with the Jedi Duo I Am Now Realizing I Should Come Up With a Dumb Nickname For (Team…Space Nerd? Team…Also Handsome, But Kinda In a Different Way? Team SOMEONE PLEASE KNIGHT OBI-WAN ALREADY SO HE CAN HAVE A REAL HAIRCUT? So many options to consider…), the boys and Jar Jar have made their way through the Sea of Monsters to the surface of Naboo, and things are looking fan-cy!:
Qui-Gon pops up and looks around, and please let me take a moment to just…really SAVOR Obi-Wan’s facial expression here, which he makes like 17 additional times in this movie:
HE IS ALREADY SO DONE WITH LIFE, AND NOTHING ESPECIALLY BAD HAS EVEN CANONICALLY HAPPENED TO HIM YET EXCEPT FOR HIS HAIR. I am having yet another one of those moments where I feel SO sad for Obi-Wan and yet I AM LAUGHING OUT LOUD. His life. Is just. A nightmare. WHY IS IT LIKE THIS. Is there a subgroup within the Lucasfilm Story Group now tasked with upholding George Lucas’ staunch policy that Absolutely Nothing 100% Good Can Ever Happen to Obi-Wan? I would not even be surprised if it was was something Lucas specified in the terms and conditions of the sale to Disney. (If so, brief shout-out to Claudia Gray to just…maybe keep her forthcoming Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon novel. Also anybody who may or may not be working on a Kenobi movie script somewhere. I’ve been through enough with this character and I’m not sure if I can handle more pain.)
…let’s move on, since I’m doing that thing again where I have written over 700 words already in this entry and have covered exactly one minute of actual content.
Recurring Theme: Not Who You Think I Am
Nute Gunray is waltzing down some fancy stairs in the palace with the Queen (…or IS SHE?!) and her posse. Now seems like as good a time as any to confess that I saw this movie multiple times in the theater when it came out, was a relatively smart kid, and loved Star Wars dearly, and it took me an EMBARRASSINGLY LONG amount of time to realize that the Queen was literally being played by different actresses throughout the film. Like, obviously I understood the whole “decoy” part of the plot, but on first watch I just assumed they were having Natalie play both parts using Movie Magic, like when they make someone play a set of twins. Clearly paying close attention was not my strong suit. This little bit of Snark Wars Author Trivia is not important, but I’m sharing it with you all anyways. You’re welcome.
Sooooo basically the Bad Guy Plan is that they’re going to force the Queen to sign a treaty that will totally prove to everyone that the Naboo absolutely WANT this occupation by a hostile power and everything’s just fine, thanks! Then the Senate will surely give it their stamp of approval, especially because we all know that, just like any Senate, the Republic Senate completely has its shit together and is not full of terribly corrupt people who would let a madman take over right under their noses.
The “Queen” is not having it, and insists that she won’t sign.
I…probably wasn’t paying attention, but am not even really sure where they’re all marching to? Is there a special Under-Duress Treaty-Signing Palace they have to go to?
Recurring Theme: A
Giant Dork Superhero Jedi Is Here to Rescue You!
As they head off to Wherever, Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Jar Jar sneak around a corner. I love the idea of Qui-Gon, who’s like 7 feet tall, trying to make himself extra tiny. He’s probably as tall as me when he’s crouching down.
Once the group gets close enough for the boys to strike, they do so in an understated manner. No, I’m joking of course, this is the Jedi we’re talking about, so obviously they leap from the building, giant robes a-swooshing, and start flinging their lightsabers all over the damn place:
Once the dust settles and the Jedi are able to get the Queen and her pals to safety, they head around a corner to discuss next steps, and I am DYING because they are SO CASUAL ABOUT IT. I get it, the Jedi kicked ass and took names, but LET’S SHOW A LITTLE HUSTLE HERE PEOPLE THE BAD GUYS COULD STILL COME BACK.
Qui-Gon explains that they’re the ambassadors the Naboo had been expecting. Sio Bibble is unimpressed:
Qui-Gon points out that the negotiations didn’t go so well largely because they never happened in the first place:
Next steps? They need to contact the Republic posthaste! But all their communications have been knocked out! Do they have…transports?
Oh good: yes, they do have a hangar — and not just any old hangar, it’s The Hangar of Destiny! Away we go!
Recurring Theme: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Just Kinda Wants to Fight Something
Before walking into the hangar they chit-chat a bit more: Qui-Gon insists that the Queen needs to come with them to Coruscant, because he’s certain they’ll kill her if she stays.
This is met with incredulity from multiple parties:
LOL. YES, PADME: SENATOR PALPATINE WILL NEED YOUR HELP! How else will he further his plans to ruin your homeworld and your life’s work and your husband and orphan your newborn children and then set into motion the course of events that will also involve your only grandson becoming a tyrannical murderous dictator?! THINK OF POOR PALPATINE HERE, AMIDALA, GEEZ.
The Queen and her, uh, handmaiden, have a brief conference:
So, off they go, then! They head into the hangar and see that a whole bunch of pilots have been taken hostage by a group of battle droids:
Panaka’s all “there’s a lot of them, however will we –” and Kenobes? THIS GUY. He’s like “Yep I’ve got it you don’t worry your pretty little head about it” and then pushes him back like HAHAHA WHERE DO YOU COME OFF HERE, PADAWAN KENOBI? Ohhhkay dude, tke it down a notch or two. We all know you’re amazing.
Recurring Theme: Enter a Legend
So the boys kick ass AGAIN, freeing the captive pilots and allowing the group to get on a ship and escape:
Onboard, Obi-Wan admonishes Jar Jar:
Uh, OK: I get that Jar Jar’s a bit accident-prone and all, but the idea of EITHER member of the Kenobi-Skywalker Consortium being like “…now, don’t get into an insane situation fraught with danger, that would be a very bad idea indeed” to ANYBODY is always amusing to me.
As Obi-Wan leaves, Jar Jar makes note of his bunkmates here:
The ship attempts to fly through the blockade of Trade Federation ships, and naturally because this is Star Wars, its shield generator gets blown out .05 seconds later. The only thing that’d be less surprising is if it had been the hyperdrive, BUT I’M GETTING AHEAD OF MYSELF AGAIN.
The astromechs Jar Jar just met take to the outside of the ship in an attempt to repair the broken shield:
I’ve gotta be honest: I have seen all of the Star Wars movies more times than I can count over the years, but writing these recaps for them requires me to really look at them maybe closer than I ever have, and I am seriously and unironically enjoying this one. This bit is adorable! The stupid stuff where all the other droids except Artoo get blasted off? The “oh no we’ll be sitting ducks IF ONLY A HERO COULD SAVE THE DAY” tension-building? Culminating in this shot of Artoo turning and all but WINKING AT THE GODDAMN CAMERA?
Look, we all know I am a total softie about all of these movies, and I am fine with that. Someone’s gotta fill that niche. For me, especially in the prequels, I really do feel like the affection its creator has for this universe and the characters is so evident. This whole bit is so silly and improbable and childish and I unabashedly love it. OF COURSE ARTOO WAS THE HERO. AGAIN. I still maintain that it’s entirely possible that the entire saga is being told from his point of view.
Recurring Theme: The Most Faulty Piece of Equipment in the Galaxy
In the nick of time, Artoo saves the ship, of course, and whirls off back into the ship like it ain’t no thang. Everyone’s pleasantly surprised:
…buuuuut, of course, as they finally make their way past the blockade, they’ve got a Problem looming:
LOL. Of course it fucking is. No hyperdrive in Star Wars has consistently performed for more than 4 hours at a time. I’m starting to wonder if the hyperdrive manufacturers of the GFFA are conspiring to make it so that people have to constantly replace them, like smartphone batteries.
Obi-Wan Loves Anakin and He Doesn’t Even Know Him Yet
So their hyperdrive is leaking, and they won’t be able to get all the way to Coruscant without stopping. They’ll need to find somewhere — anywhere in the galaxy between Naboo and Coruscant — where they can stop and get things fixed.
Obviously, it’s the pilot who determines where they’ll land. No, wait: I meant, clearly it’s the Queen and/or Padme, because she is the imperiled ruler here and likely has many connections to friendly territories across the galaxy. No, OK, it wasn’t her — maybe it was someone else from Naboo, familiar with nearby planets that may fit their needs. Oh, no, I’m sorry — I meant that it was Qui-Gon, as an experienced Jedi Master with many decades of space exploration behind him, will make the call on where they go, ultimately putting this whole group directly in the path of one Anakin Skywalker and possibly altering the entire course of galactic history as a result.
Nope. Just kidding! It’s none of those people, IT’S OBI-WAN KENOBI who points out that Tatooine is a place they can land:
Yes, so, just so everyone knows, Obi-Wan is the reason they end up specifically on Tatooine in the first fucking place. And they’re only on this mission to begin with because of Padme. And now Anakin will proceed to suction-cup himself to both of them forever. I am FINE, thank you.
The group, at first, is not super on board with this plan to take the Queen to a poor, lawless planet controlled by Hutt gangsters:
Qui-Gon, however, backs Obi-Wan up: better the Queen be on a planet where the bad guys aren’t looking for her, than on one where they are. OK. I’m not sure why their only choices are “planets controlled by the Trade Federation” and “garbage planet controlled by criminal cabal of giant space slugs” but whatever, it’s fine. I’m probably missing something, and also I don’t really care.
Recurring Theme: The Cockroach of Dathomir
The Trade Federation, meanwhile, is having a holo-Skype with Sidious, and BOY I wouldn’t wanna be them right now! Sids asks if Padme’s signed the treaty yet, to which Nute Gunray is like “…sooooo, funny story, she’s actually GONE”:
Sidious, ever the reasonable gentleman, responds:
Gunray insists they won’t be able to find the ship, to which the Dahhhhk Lord counters:
Gasp! A Second Sith! Named Darth Maul! Somewhere Obi-Wan just developed a powerful migraine, I am certain of it.
Sidious is like “yeah, my guy will find your lost ship, SIDIOUS OUT” and hangs up the holo-Skype without saying goodbye (rude!)
Gunray, looking nervous, is like “ohhhhkay so there’s actually two evil overlords, that’s…maybe concerning”. I wouldn’t worry about it, Gunray. I’m sure things will all work out.
Recurring Theme: Hero Droid
Back on the ship, the Queen is hearing all about Artoo’s heroics, and I am dying. WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS? Artoo is definitely telling this story and embellishing things:
You know what? Screw it: next time I churn out an especially good PowerPoint presentation or something, I’m going to ask that my laptop be commended for its outstanding service. Why the fuck not? GET MY PC A MEDAL.
Padme is asked to get Artoo spiffed up, and Qui-Gon reveals their plans to head to Sand City, Tatooine, a city that I just made up. Panaka is like BTW I HATE THIS PLAN, but evidently is overruled offscreen. Qui-Gon’s entire justification for this plan, by the way, is exhorting the Queen to “trust his judgement”. Yes, why listen to your own advisers when you can trust the judgement of a mysterious space wizard you just met 45 minutes ago?
Jar Jar introduces himself to Padme as she gives Artoo a scrub-down/poses for a Mirroring Moment:
…and, after she inquires about how he ended up with them all here, he’s basically like “…fuck if I know! I went to get breakfast and ran into those two and now I’m here and scared!” I…feel like this describes nearly everyone who’s ever crossed paths with Obi-Wan in any capacity. For example, one day you’re just a pilot who goes to get a drink and hang out with your BFF, then you run into Obi-Wan and some other dude, and the next thing you know you’re a leading member of the Rebellion somehow.
Recurring Theme: It’s Coarse, Rough and Irritating and It Gets Everywhere
Obi-Wan spots a settlement on Tatooine that they can land on, possibly because the Force is like, blasting the supernatural equivalent of a John Philip Sousa march at him all GO LAND **RIGHT** **HERE**, YOU NEED TO DO THIS JUST TRUST ME IT DEFINITELY WON’T RUIN YOUR LIFE, ba-da-da-da-daaaaa!
After they land, Obi-Wan tells Qui-Gon their hyperdrive is totally shot. Qui-Gon, who is wearing a poncho for some reason now (WHY DOES HE HAVE THIS? WHERE DID HE GET IT? Did Padme suddenly have one of the handmaidens whip something up for him quick because she was SO not about to be seen with someone in plain Jedi robes like some sort of fashion don’t?)
Qui-Gon is also like “so hey I sense a disturbance in the Force” and, because he ALWAYS does this, Obi-Wan is like “oh definitely me too absolutely I feel it”:
Don’t worry guys! It’s prrrrrooooobably nothing!
Qui-Gon leaves, and Obi-Wan stands there super nerdily and slightly awkwardly, nodding to himself as though he’s trying to pretend that he totally doesn’t feel left out by having to stay on the ship. It’s fine! He’s…got this broken hyperdrive that he doesn’t know how to fix that he can prod at for a while! And he’s got his crossword puzzles! And his Star Wars blog to work on! (Note: the author may be projecting.)
Recurring Theme: Padme Amidala, Does What She Wants
As Qui-Gon and Jar Jar set out (…why is Jar Jar coming along? Why would he even want to? He just said he was scared, so he’s going to a spaceport filled with pirates with a slightly disaster-prone Jedi? Sounds like a great plan!) Panaka re-emerges to tell them that the Queen’s insisting that they take her handmaiden with them. She’s curious about the planet!
LOL. She’s curious about Tatooine? OK, Padme: you are officially the first person in galactic history who has felt this way. Even your own son wouldn’t back you up on this. (Yes yes, I know she just wanted to be in the mix here.)
Qui-Gon is like “sounds like a shitty idea but OK”:
I’m cackling right now because honestly: NO WONDER the galaxy is doomed. The heroes of this story at the moment are Qui-Gon, a 14-year-old, and Jar Jar. Sheev must have cried himself to sleep LAUGHING every night for YEARS when he fantasized about how easy AND hilarious it was that THESE were the kind of people standing in his way.
Entertainingly, ARTOO JUST COMES ALONG FOR KICKS. I presume Padme “brought” him along, but I love the idea that no one actually asked him to come with and they all just assumed one of the others asked him. Kind of like how at the end of Revenge of the Sith, he’s just like FUCK THIS NOISE and gets on Padme’s ship with Obi-Wan and Threepio despite the fact that he still technically belonged to Anakin and would therefore have been the property of Evil, Inc. at that point.
Recurring Theme: Enter a Doofus
The group makes its way through the marketplace, with Qui-Gon narrating from the Wookieepedia article about what’s on Tatooine: mostly moisture farmers, some native tribes and scavengers, blahblahblah sand.
They head into a junk dealer’s shop to buy the part they need, and I am delighted to note that in the closed-captioning for this scene, it’s denoted when Watto starts speaking “Basic”:
Qui-Gon asks after the part they need, and he’s like “one sec, gotta go grab another cast member”:
Aaaaaand just LOOK at this little peanut! BABY ANAKIN. He’s so cute!
The soft spot I always had for this movie got MUCH bigger once I had children. My husband and I have laughed for YEARS about how, when people try to be shitty about this movie, one of the things they often cite is how “annoying” little Anakin is. These people have not met many actual children, I presume, and do not remember being children themselves because KIDS? ARE OFTEN ANNOYING AS HELL, even when they’re generally good kids. If Anakin’s annoying in this movie, with his overall niceness and helpfulness, then every actual human child I have ever met is beyond help.
Anakin Skywalker, Somehow Gets Worse At A Lot of Things
Anakin takes one look at Padme and is like:
Awww. Awww? Awww! Y’know? Awww. Also, this is somehow the best opening line Anakin will ever have when speaking to Padme for the entire rest of his life.
Padme is charmed by this cute baby nerd, and he explains that he’s a PILOT, you know:
That “all my life” CRACKS ME ENTIRELY UP. This is such a kid thing to say, and I don’t know how else to explain it. I can hear this line in my son’s voice. Adorable. What a dweeb.
Recurring Theme: The Unbearable Sadness of Anakin
Padme asks how long he’s been here, and Anakin explains his Tragic Backstory:
- This is terrible and I am very sad for Anakin and his mom;
- I still love this bit, because it allows me to continue to believe my fake, implausible made-up backstory that Anakin is originally from Mandalore. I mean, he’s a beautiful powerhouse who’s very into tinkering with gadgets, and he’s a dramatic rageaholic, AND he both loves and hates Obi-Wan, AND he ends up with a long-standing Beef with the Jedi. THAT SOUNDS PRETTY DAMN MANDALORIAN TO ME, OK?! (Also he’d look great with the Darksaber, but then again, who wouldn’t?)
Anyways: Padme is understandably stricken by the fact that he’s a slave, because Padme somehow had no idea prior to this that slavery existed anywhere in the galaxy. Anakin is indignant:
Let’s Make a Deal
Watto has the part they need, but there’s a snag in the plans: Qui-Gon’s all set to pay, but he’s only got Republic credits in his poncho pockets or man purse or whatever:
He busts out a Mind Trick move, and Watto is like “…”:
Hilariously, Qui-Gon tries it again, like maybe he forgot to really use the Force last time or something.
Watto is not having it:
With a half-wince, half-smile, Qui-Gon nods and strides back into the store, announcing that they’re leaving. Padme signs off:
You may feel slightly inclined to eat those words someday, girl. But then again it’s Padme, so probably not.
Anakin, for his part, is pretty thrilled about having met new people!
How Dare You, Obi-Wan
Qui-Gon comms over to Obes to ask if they have anything of value on the ship they can sell, and Obi-Wan commits the cardinal sin of suggesting that they could get some cash for Padme’s clothes:
LOL. He’d better hope she never found out about this.
Qui-Gon is like “OK well I guess that’s fine and even though we have no plan or money everything will be fine”:
This right here? Is why I am not cut out to be a Jedi. EVERY TIME IS A TIME TO PANIC, JINN, YOU GUYS ARE SO SCREWED. (Incidentally, this is also at least partly why Anakin was, uh, kinda bad at it, too.)
They’re walking around in the marketplace, and Jar Jar makes the mistake of following his stomach, running afoul of a vendor and causing a ruckus at a bar where, and I am not making this up, Quinlan Vos is randomly on assignment, and this is for-real where his character came from in the first place, because they just thought he looked cool:
…don’t tell Vos that Obi-Wan’s here too! Otherwise they’ll have to go on a Hijinks-filled Adventure and/or make out. Man: this means at one point Obi-Wan was on a planet with Vos, Anakin AND Maul at the same time. He must have been popping Advil left and right and wondering why the Force was being like this.
Recurring Theme: Anakin Skywalker, Trash-Talker
Anakin, who’s been let off of work for the day by this point, arrives to, uh, sort of smooth things over, getting in Sebulba’s face and trading threats:
I’m dying that Tiny Force Baby Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Messiah, is shit-talking this guy and Quinlan Vos is right there for some random-ass reason just sitting and drinking all “…yep.”
Obi-Wan Kenobi, Better Get Used to This
Standing out in the sun and sand, Obi-Wan is awaiting the group’s return, and he looks? GROSSED OUT:
As has been pointed out elsewhere before on the internet, this man is going to eventually spend a LONG ASS TIME ON THIS CRAPPY PLANET. And LOOK HOW MUCH HE ALREADY HATES IT THERE. Goddamnit, Anakin. HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO HIM.
Recurring Theme: Anakin Skywalker, Maybe A Little Easily Attached
Anakin and co. make a pit stop at a vendor, and when Qui-Gon reaches into his belt, Anakin spots something fairly significant:
Not to worry, though! He’ll just bring them all home to meet his mom! I love that this kid lives in Lawlessville and is a slave and is still like “hello random strangers! Please join me in my home! No big!” I’m not sure if this is sweet or slightly alarming.
They enter Anakin’s house, and he announces their arrival to his mother thusly:
THESE ARE MY FRIENDS. ANAKIN YOU HAVE KNOWN THESE PEOPLE FOR 12 AND A HALF GODDAMN MINUTES. Shmi seems like a competent parent, and I find it VERY hard to believe that she did not teach him some basics of Stranger Danger, so…I guess this is just how Anakin is. THESE ARE HIS PEOPLE NOW; HE FOUND THEM AND THEY’RE HIS. By the end of the week he’ll probably have already decided he and Padme are getting married someday, and that he will never let anything happen to Obi-Wan for any reason whatsoever. (Unfortunately, this means he’ll probably also have decided that that Palpatine guy is his new cool favorite uncle by the end of the week as well.)
Aaaaaand that seems like a good stopping point for today! Thank you for joining me, as always, my dear readers! Next time, on The First But Not Last Time Darth Maul Ruins Obi-Wan’s Life, Anakin decides to aid The Cause, Qui-Gon takes a gamble, and Obi-Wan probably just sits on the ship looking disgusted with everything. A good time shall be had by all! See you then.