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Star Wars: The Phantom Menace - Plot Oversights!
Matt - 09/11/00

I don't really want to review The Phantom Menace, as I'd bet 95% of you who are reading this have seen the movie and already have an opinion on it. Personally, I liked it. I liked it enough to go see five times, but then again, I also managed to see In The Line Of Fire seven times, and I can't remember a single thing about that movie aside from the fact that Rene Russo is simply too young for Clint Eastwood. Anyway...

I can't sit here as a guy who's lived the Star Wars geek life his whole life and lie - it's nowhere near as epic as the original flicks. Then again, it doesn't have decades of lore surrounding it yet. Seems like fans worst fears were met to a degree - Lucas forsaked storyline and acting in favor of effects and imagery. It's kind of amazing, but to sit here from the fan's perspective...with all the time, effort, and money that went into this movie, there were some pretty goofy plot oversights going on. Let's take a look..

#1.- Shmi - The Slave Money Can't Buy

This is the big one. I can't possibly overlook this, and I don't think anyone could 100% successfully defend the movie's direction with this. Anakin's mother, Shmi, is the slave who can't be bought.

To refresh your memory - Qui-Gon makes a bet with Watto the junk dealer - if Qui-Gon wins, Anakin becomes a free boy. If Watto wins, he gets Qui-Gon's neat silver ship. Qui-Gon bargains to get both slaves - but to no avail. So Anakin and Qui-Gon are off, presumably never to see Shmi again. Which is interesting, for a few reasons:

* Qui-Gon is part of the Jedi Council. The Jedi Council who has probably the second most prominent building on Coruscant, the ultimate world of the universe. At this point, their power and resources are virtually limitless. Yet, nobody could possibly fork up the cash to free Shmi. What the fuck? What kind of skills could Shmi possibly have to come with that high of a pricetag? Was she one of the rumored super-slaves set to debut in Episode II?

* Since Qui-Gon only has money that for whatever reason Watto won't accept, he isn't left with much to buy Shmi with. Course, since he and Watto SPLIT the money won from the pod race, wouldn't that be close enough to get Shmi with a little clever bargaining? After all, these pod races were all the rage in those days. Hell, even Willow showed up to cheer on Sebulba. Point is, unless Shmi cost more than a planet, there's no way Qui-Gon couldn't save her.

* For all the technology in the Star Wars universe, it's real surprising that a money exchange doesn't exist. Shmi wasn't some inbred hooker Qui-Gon felt sorry for - she was Anakin's fucking mom! Couldn't he just go exchange his cash for whatever kind of funds they use on Tatooine and go back to get her?

* Fine. Okay. They can't get the money that day, can't convince Watto, whatever. So you're telling me that for the entire rest of the movie, there wasn't a spare moment to go back or have someone sent to go buy Shmi? I understand that this was a busy time - but let's face it. They could've sent a frigging Droid to do the job.

* Kill Watto. I understand that Qui-Gon's a 'good guy', and deadly murderous acts really aren't his thing. But couldn't he just threaten Watto into freeing Shmi? After all, this is the same guy who was able to jump 30' in the air to escape Darth Maul's initial attack, not to mention swim for about a half hour with literally no signs of fatigue or wet clothes. I hardly think Watto, a junk dealer who's about 2' tall, has the kind of invulnerability to thwart off a Jedi master.

That's just one of the reasons The Phantom Menace seemed a little lacking. From what we know, Shmi's gonna die, and her death is gonna be a pretty big factor in making Anakin into such a bad motherfucker. So somebody must've tipped off Yoda and the gang that killing her off was crucial to the script, otherwise there's no excuse for turning her into the slave so expensive and sought that even the most powerful people in the universe can't get her.

#2 - Times Change, And So Do Standards!

I always found it interesting that Yoda and Sammy J refused to allow Anakin to be trained. Why go through all the tests with him if you're only going to say that he's too old in the end? If it's that simple, someone should really look over the order of the questions on the Jedi trainee questionaire. 'How old are you?' shouldn't follow the six hours of guessing what picture Yoda's holding up. A whole lot of time could've been saved if they just put a little more effort into their scheduling.

Seriously...this is how it went:

Yoda: Mhmmm! Anakin, what do you see?
Anakin: A ship!
Yoda: Mhmmm! That's very good, young one. Indeed very, young good one. Mhmmmmm!

Five Hours Later...

Yoda: Anakin, one train is going south 90 miles per hour. Another one is going north, on the same track, 120 miles per hour. Now, what color is the shirt on the conductor of the southbound train?
Anakin: Green.
Yoda: Mhmmmmhmmmm!!!

Twelve Hours Later...

Yoda: Well Anakin, it's obvious you're a Jedi master. Hell, you've got more midichlorines or whatever the fuck ya call them than I do! Just got one final question for you - what is your age?
Anakin: 11.
Yoda: Fuck. Oh well, no can do.

See? If someone would've just found out how old the fucking kid was first, none of this would've ever happened! Stupid Yoda.

But more importantly - hey, it's pretty cool that Anakin, a child, is too old - but Yoda'll agree to train Luke years later even though he's at least double Anakin's age. While it's true that the situation was much more dire then, it certainly looks like Father Time has sweetened Yoda's screening process.

It's also funny that they're being so careful and worried about training him, but eventually decide to let OBI-WAN train him - a guy who's not done getting trained himself! Looks like Yoda got to the point where he just said 'oh fuck it' and wanted to stop talking about the dumb little kid. Can't say I blame him, Yoda looked mighty busy sitting in that chair for the entire length of the movie.

#3 - How old is Bib Fortuna? 6000?

Bib Fortuna appears with Jabba The Hutt during the pod race ceremony. Problem is, he's still there some 30 years later or so with Jabba in Return of the Jedi. I'll let Jabba slide because he's a Hutt and Hutts are fucking old - but c'mon, everybody knows Twi'leks age at a pretty normal rate.

Also, take a look at the two pictures. Not only does Bib exist without aging, he also exists without the need to change clothes for over three decades. While that's okay for the guy you give change to for 'coffee' on the street, Jabba's majordomo should maintain a little more style and flair than this. In fact, the only noticeable change in Bib is that he seems to have gotten a little more sun by the time Jedi rolled around.

#4 - A Story...Of Convenience

Maybe if they would've told us that blowing up the bad guys' ship would've made all the droids simply stop working, it wouldn't have seemed so lame when it happened. Droid Control Ship? What kind of bullshit is that?!

Was there a guy sitting in this alleged Droid Control Ship with a little monitor and a Nintendo controller, dictating their every move? Because really, that'd be the only way this makes sense. Droids don't have huge ships controlling their battery power. I should know. It's also highly amazing that there's no less than fifty giant ships circling the planet Naboo at the beginning of the movie, yet only one when they're trying to destroy the 'droid controls'. Did all the other ships decide to take a half hour break? Did Qui-Gon call in disguised as an Imperial travel agent suggesting they check out the hot new attractions on Dagobah? It makes no sense!

When you think about it, this whole epic tale wound down simply by turning off all the Droids. That's it, the end. And all it took to do that was some kid with beginner's luck behind the starship seat. Those people on Naboo probably felt really silly when all was said and done for being so worried. They could've sent an Ewok up there in an escape pod and still come out on top.

Course, they did all this to trap the Queen into signing the trade treaty, while it would've been a whole lot easier to kill her and fake the signature. But wait - that would be immoral! Yeah, moral virtues from the guys who are killing an entire planet to make a fast buck. It's pretty admirable that they drew the line at the sheer evil of forgery though.

#5 - Stupid Props

You're George Lucas. You're about to make probably the most important film of your career. The script calls for Qui-Gon to have a little communication gadget. Since production costs have skyrocketed, what do you do?

Yes, Qui-Gon's communicator is nothing more than a lady's leg shaver. I'm not kidding. I don't really have a problem with that, it's probably the most innovative thing in the entire movie. But I can't take the movie even semi-seriously anymore knowing that poor Qui-Gon is talking into a feminine razor.

The thing of it is, now it's impossible to watch the movie without guessing what all the other props really are. I can think of at least three things the lightsaber handle could be. And they're all extremely lude.

But it's not really that bad. I've given you five bad points, here's three good ones.

#1- Darth Maul

A true hero to short people. Darth Maul can't be over 5'5". 5'6" tops, but even then it's only because he's wearing stilettos. All the tools necessary to make a cool character are here - deafening silence, supreme evil skills, and red contact lenses.

Course, Darth Maul was cut in half. But he made Lucas a lot of money. If we see him return in the second film with a lame excuse for surviving, cybernetic legs, and a new lease on life, I'm burning every Star Wars toy I have.

#2.- This movie does not star 'Balkie' from Perfect Strangers

Fine, so I'm reaching. I need to find something of merit here. Actually, putting Balkie in might've been interesting. Picture the conversations he and Jar Jar could've had. Plus, it probably would've been the only way we'd ever see the Balkie action figure we dream of. Then again, let's face it - this is a science fiction film, and there's just a little too much realism in Balkie's happy dance to keep with that. So, leaving Balkie off the roll call was a smart move, and I guess we gotta give kudos to George on that one.

#3.- Queen Amidala

Hey, Natalie's pretty cute. And if she's gonna do it with Anakin, most of you fanboys have a shot with her. I thought she played her role real well in the flick, and I'm definitely looking foward to see how much her character and chest develop by the second installment of the prequels.

I know this post suggests otherwise, but I really did enjoy the movie. A lot of fans I know either didn't particularly like it or absolutely hated it, but I'll be honest - I'm so blind with love for anything with the SW logo on it, I'm really a lost cause. This movie could've been two hours of Samuel L. Jackson desperately trying to look convincing talking to a computer generated Yoda and I'd still give it a thumbs up.


- Matt