Fixing the Prequels: The Phantom Menace (part nine)

part one
part two
part three
part four
part five
part six
part seven
part eight

(The entire series can be read by clicking the Post Label at the bottom of each individual post in the series.)

And now at last we return to our repairs on The Phantom Menace. When last we left our heroes, we had just finished discussing the Midichlorians while our heroes are en route back to Naboo for…whatever it is the Queen is planning.

At this point I’d have a quick little bit with Darth Sidious and Darth Maul:


Darth Maul is kneeling in meditation in his personal chambers on his ship when a hologram of DARTH SIDIOUS appears before him.

SIDIOUS: Lord Maul.

Maul opens his eyes and bows before his master.

SIDIOUS: You are aware of the situation, then. The political situation on Coruscant has surprisingly changed to our benefit, but the Queen cannot be allowed to claim a victory on Naboo that might yet alter the way things are proceeding here. I have signaled the Viceroy that you will soon be joining him. With your guidance, they cannot be defeated. The Naboo will fall under the armies of the Trade Federation, and you will be free to do what you must. Confront the Jedi, and destroy them.

Maul bows again. Sidious fades from view.


Maul’s ship is now approaching Naboo.

After that, I’d cut back to the Queen’s ship, pretty much as it happens in the movie (it’s yet another well-directed scene), only with a couple of extra little bits tossed in:


SABE and EIRTAE stand behind QUEEN AMIDALA as she talks with QUI-GON and Capt. Panaka. OBI-WAN and JAR JAR watch.

PANAKA: The moment we land the Federation will arrest you and force you to sign the treaty.

QUI GON: I agree. I’m not sure what you hope to accomplish by this.

Amidala glances at Padme, who holds her gaze.

AMIDALA: I am going to take back what is ours.

PANAKA: Your Highness, we have no army! There are only twelve of us on this ship, and perhaps we can contact any resistance that has arisen, but we will still be too few.

QUI GON: Obi Wan and I can protect you, but we cannot fight a war for you.

AMIDALA: And your protection will be valued, Master Jedi. Jar Jar Binks!

A puzzled Jar Jar steps forward.

JAR JAR: Mesa, your highness?

AMIDALA: Yes. I have need of a race of warriors, and you will help me.

Next the Naboo ship lands on the planet surface, after they note the Droid Control Ship orbiting. There’s a line in the original script, not in the movie, about the blockade being gone because the Naboo have surrendered. It’s a simple and plausible explanation; I don’t know why Uncle George cut that line out. Maybe he figured everyone else would figure that out? Anyway, I’d leave it in.

The ship lands in the forests of Naboo, and then we have this between Qui Gon and Obi Wan:


The Naboo spacecraft has landed in the Gungan swamp. TROOPS unload the ships in the background as OBI-WAN approaches QUI-GON.

OBI WAN: Jar Jar is on his way to the Gungan city, master.

Qui Gon’s thoughts are elsewhere.

QUI GON: Good.

OBI WAN: What if the Queen cannot convince the Gungans to join her?

QUI GON: Then she is going to fail. But we cannot use our power to help her, when she meets with Boss Nass. We cannot coerce an entire people to war.

There is a brief silence.

OBI WAN: Master, I am sorry for my behavior on Coruscant. It is not my place to question your judgment about the boy. And I am grateful you think I am ready for the Trials.

Qui Gon smiles at his apprentice.

QUI GON: What I said was true, Obi Wan: you have little more to learn from me. I foresee you will become a great Jedi Knight.

When I first saw the movie I was confused when Qui Gon says “We cannot use our power to help her”; I didn’t realize he meant using the Jedi Mind Trick to force Boss Nass to take the Gungans to war. So I clear that up above.

At this point Jar Jar returns and reports that Otoh Gunga is deserted. The original script has Jar Jar arriving there and finding the place completely empty; I wouldn’t mind having that back, since the visuals of the abandoned Otoh Gunga would be markedly different from the vibrant city we saw early in the film. He offers to take the group to the ‘sacred place’ where the Gungans may have escaped to; and sure enough, there they all are. In the movie, this doesn’t look like a giant collection of Gungans, so I’d have the visuals somehow convey the idea of an entire civilization on the run with thousands of Gungans standing around as the talk proceeds. And in this scene, the shoe drops as far as all those meaningful glances between the Queen and Padme. I actually like the way this proceeds in the movie, with one exception: I’d have it seem as though Boss Nass is really on the verge of refusing to help the Naboo before having Padme step forward and announce her identity as the actual Queen. The feeling of hope when Boss Nass agrees to help the Naboo after all would be more real that way.

In the film, there’s yet another scene between Darth Sidious and the Trade Federation guys here. I’d cut it out; we don’t really need to know what it is they’re up to, since we already know what they’re up to, and I have a little problem with Sidious micromanaging things to this extent.

So, I’d cut to the final planning scene before the Battle of Naboo, which starts with Boss Nass expressing his approval of Jar Jar’s conduct while on his various exploits. I’d play this up a bit:

As the others plan for war, Boss Nass steps in beside Jar Jar and drapes an arm over his shoulder.

BOSS NASS: Yousa doin’ well, Binks.

JAR JAR: Oh no, Boss Nass. Mesa doin’ mostly nothing.

BOSS NASS: No! Mesa heard you fought de mechanics. Mesa heard you befriend de Naboo. Wesa here because of yousa. So, I maken yousa bombad General.

JAR JAR: What?

Boss Nass hands Jar Jar a long knife whose hilt is carved in the shape of a fish.

BOSS NASS: Takin’ de Gunga-knife. Yousa a warrior now, Binks.

With that Boss Nass walks off, leaving behind a very stunned Jar Jar. Captain Tarpals comes up from behind.

TARPALS: Yousa finally gettin’ yousa Gunga weapon?

JAR JAR: Uh huh!

TARPALS: Yousa still owin’ mesa fifty goldshells for breakin’ mine.

Jar Jar’s eyes fall, and he hands his new knife to Tarpals, who takes it and walks off, chuckling.

My re-envisioning of Jar Jar’s character arc, you remember, began with him being despondent that he would never be a warrior, and now he’s been made a warrior.

Next there’s all the planning stuff, which goes by pretty quickly and works pretty well for what it is: scene setting for what’s about to come. I like this scene as well, and I’ve always appreciated the way Natalie Portman imbued Padme with the confidence of a Queen in these latter scenes in the movie. Her mask is down, and she is finding her way as the leader of her people. Just after this, I’d make my first major alteration to the final act of the film. We need a scene between Anakin and Padme here, just after the planning scene is done:

As preparations continue in the background, Padme comes over to Anakin, who is sitting with his back to a tree. Artoo stands nearby.

PADME: Are you all right, Annie?

ANAKIN: I’m fine.

PADME: You’re angry with me.

ANAKIN: No I’m not.

PADME: Then why aren’t you looking at me?

Anakin lifts his eyes, and sure enough, he looks angry.

ANAKIN: You could have told me who you are.

PADME: I wanted to. I almost did, several times. But this has been very dangerous for us all, and I couldn’t risk your safety.

ANAKIN: I can take care of myself.

PADME: I’m sure you can, if you’re to be a Jedi.

Now Anakin looks even sadder.

ANAKIN: I’m not sure if I’m going to be a Jedi. They said I was too old. Master Windu kept looking at me like I’d done something wrong just by being there.

PADME: Well, I imagine you are something new to them.

ANAKIN: They said that, too. (beat) So which is your real name then? Padme, or Amidala?

PADME: Padme is my birth name, Padme Naberrie. But I had to take a ceremonial name when I was elected Queen, and I chose Amidala, after the main character in one of my favorite stories from when I was a child. Amidala is my formal name. For you, I hope I am always Padme. (beat) Annie, I should have told you, and I’m sorry I didn’t. But this has all been very hard for me. I am the first Queen to have to deal with something like this since before Naboo joined the Republic. If I haven’t handled parts of this very well, I hope you’ll forgive me.

ANAKIN: I forgive you. I just hope nothing bad happens to you.

PADME: I don’t think it will. I have your gift.

She shows him that she is wearing the pendant he carved for her, and he smiles.

PADME: For luck.

ANAKIN: For luck.

Captain Panaka approaches from behind.

PANAKA: My Lady, it is time.

Padme touches Anakin’s arm.

PADME: Until later?

ANAKIN: Until later.

With that she leaves, heading off for war.

ANAKIN: I guess we’re stuck here, Artoo.

Artoo beeps.

ANAKIN: We have nothing to do.

Artoo beeps again.

ANAKIN: Those speeders sure have large cargo compartments, don’t they?

Now we cut back to the Palace, where the Trade Federation guys are getting a bit antsy:


NUTE and RUNE are pacing nervously when Darth Sidious’s hologram appears before them.

SIDIOUS: You keep summoning me, Viceroy. Can you not wipe out a tiny band of Naboo without my input on the matter?

NUTE: But Lord Sidious, she has more than a tiny band of Naboo. The underwater dwellers of this world have joined her and are massing an army in the swamps to the east of the city.

SIDIOUS: You summoned me because you are threatened by Gungans? They play at war, but they are no more warriors than you. This is an unexpected move for Queen Amidala, but it will prove foolish nonetheless.

NUTE: Then we have your approval for full reprisal?

SIDIOUS: Wipe them out. All of them.

I always loved the way Ian McDiarmid growled out that last line.

The next thing is the march of the Gungan army. I love the visuals of this brief scene, the first Gungan emerging from the mist and then the army moving onto the plains. The only change I’d make here is that the army would stop and wait, but the Trade Federation droid army wouldn’t arrive…just yet:

CAPTAIN TARPALS: Deysa comin’ soon, then.

JAR JAR: Wesa warriors.

TARPALS: Deysa warriors too.

Jar Jar swallows nervously as he looks at the lines of Gungans arrayed behind him.

And then I would cut to a place on the outskirts of Theed, below the waterfalls, where a series of tunnels cut into the rockface:


Six Naboo speeders approach one of the waterfalls, and then slip around the back of the waterfall and into a giant cavern hidden from view by the cascading water.


The speeders stop here, and the people inside disembark: Queen Padme Amidala, her actual handmaiden who is still dressed as Queen, Qui Gon, Obi Wan, and thirty Naboo troopers. Directly across from them a passage disappears into the rock.

PADME: These passages are never used anymore, but they will take us up to the main level of the city.

OBI WAN: I only hope Captain Panaka is able to get into position without being seen.

PADME: Panaka is very good, Master Jedi. He will be there. But we must move!

The group vanishes into the passage, leaving the six speeders alone. Suddenly one of the cargo compartments pops open, and out drops Artoo with a metallic THUD, followed by Anakin.

ANAKIN: Sorry, Artoo. I didn’t think the hatch would open that fast.

Artoo whines.

ANAKIN: Well, this is your planet, Artoo. Where do we go now?

Artoo shines a light at the passage into which Padme led her people.

ANAKIN: All right, let’s go.

He grabs a blaster from the compartment. Artoo beeps in concern.

ANAKIN: Don’t worry, I’m a good shot. You have to be on Tatooine, with all those womp rats around. Let’s go!

The point of a lot of this is to address some of the emotional stuff that should have been there in the movie but somehow wasn’t, and to set up Anakin more as a character. Here he already feels a bit of disappointment in Padme in that she didn’t trust him implicitly with her secret, and then we have him acting impulsively by deciding on his own to go to war. And how about that reference to bulls-eyeing womp rats on Tatooine! Am I a geek or what?

Anyhow, that’s where I’ll stop for now. Next time, we’ll tweak the Battle of Naboo a bit, and then we’ll finish the entire movie and have some final thoughts. Tune in again, Star Warriors!

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