Beware The Phantom Menace
by J. A. Hitchcock
So, the critics have panned the new Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace. Some of the fans
think it's too much of a kid's movie. And there's a "Death to Jar Jar Binks" web site.
I've been a Star Wars fan since I saw the first (technically the fourth) movie in 1977. My older
brother took me - I was 18 at the time (you do the math). We went to a theatre in Manchester,
New Hampshire - there were no long lines to get in.
Just about two hours later, we walked out of the theatre in a daze. We were stunned. Star Wars
was the best I'd ever seen! The special effects were brilliant! Han Solo was a hunk! Luke
Skywalker was a hero! I wanted to be Princess Leia! (and I was for a company Halloween party
later that year)
It's funny how some people say Star Wars changed their lives and others will laugh at them.
Well, laugh all you want, but Star Wars did change my life. It made me realize that I could do
anything if I set my mind to it ("Try not - DO"), that I could be a hero ("Use the Force, Jayne")
and that dreams do come true.
I began collecting Star Wars memorabilia then - mine is an eclectic collection. I have hardly any
action figures (all of the are Han Solo-related). I have loads of magazines - from Starlog to
TIME to Star Force (from the UK) to Rolling Stone - and more I didn't even knew existed. I
have autographed photos of Harrison Ford as Han Solo, David Prowse as Darth Vader and the
guy who played Boba Fett (yes, I know his real name, it's Jeremy Bullock - I wanted to see how
many of you were still awake). I have Star Wars Walkie-Talkies, a Stormtrooper room alarm
(which drives my hubby nuts when he walks in my office and is told "Move away, move away.")
and other nifty, weird things.
So, when The Phantom Menace came out and was panned, I remembered something - the very
first Star Wars movie was also panned.
My husband and I went to see it. And we were pleasantly surprised. More than pleasantly
surprised - we loved it! Again, it was the special effects! Obi-wan Kenobi is a hunk! Anakin
Skywalker is a hero! I want to be Queen Amidala, well, not really, but I did love her costumes.
Now, I would like to pick apart the critics problems with the film:
- Jar Jar Binks is annoying, was a Caribbean stereotype and a "Steppin' Fetchit" of the future
- I found Jar Jar Binks looked and acted more like a puppy that was anxious to
- His ears reminded me more of very long dog ears, not dreadlocks (Hello! Was
anyone really watching this movie?)
- Where did the Caribbean stereotype come from? I've been to the Caribbean, I have
Caribbean friends and I've never heard a Caribbean talk like Jar Jar Binks. Since when do they
say "meesa" and "yousa"? My friends thought this idea was hilarious.
- Jar Jar Binks is a "Steppin' Fetchit" of the future? First of all, his eyes are on little
stalks on top of his head - how many African-Americans look like this? Second, the way he
walked looked nothing like an African-American, it reminded me more of a cross between John
Travolta's strut from Saturday Night Fever and a camel walking.
- Finally, although Jar Jar Binks may be annoying to most adults, we found him to
actually be kind of cute, although unintelligable and a bit too clumsy for our taste. Yes, he was a
tad annoying at times, but that was his character.
- There were all kinds of other stereotypes in the movie
- You know what, folks, this is called science fiction - do you understand that
second word - it's FICTION.
- So, the bad guys in this movie had accents that "sounded" Asian or "acted" like Jews
or Arabs, etc. Does that mean the bad guys from the first movie, who wore uniforms that looked
distinctly like Nazi uniforms and spoke with a German or British accent were stereotypes? No.
So why would it be true in this movie?
- Do you see gay activists sounding off that C3P0 is a stereotype? No. Because they
understand that C3P0 is a robot, a fictional character, and a part of the whole story.
- I think people have got to cool off on the political correctness. This is a movie, it's
fiction, it's a total fantasy - the majority of the characters are not even human. For crying out,
loud, people, you go to the movies to be entertained, not to pick them apart. If you want to pick
on movies, pick on the ones with gratuitious sex and violence.
- The story lacked a character like Han Solo
- I think Han Solo was (and is) an integral character to the series, but didn't
anyone see Obi Wan Kenobi? Or was I the only one? He's a hunk and he helped save the day.
Sure, he wasn't sarcastic like Han Solo, but he did his part.
- Frankly, I don't think there will ever be another Han Solo - there can only be one!
- Who cares about Anakin Skywalker as a kid? Let's get to the good stuff, when he becomes
the evil Darth Vader!
- Maybe it's just me, but I really enjoyed learning about Anakin Skywalker as a
child. It was heartbreaking to see his mother saying good-bye to him, it was nice seeing him do
some good before he becomes evil. It's nice to know he really was a normal kid at one
time, just like the normal father he became at the end of Return of the Jedi. It made him
- Anakin was immaculately conceived!
- Who says so? The media? Speculators?
- Remember, this story is set in the future; they would have cloning capabilities and
surrogate mothers (it'd be easy to knock her out, implant sperm in her and wallah! She's pregnant
and thinks there's no father - now wouldn't that be a plot twist? Just who would the
father really be?).
- Or maybe she is the next "Virgin Mary" and Anakin is "the one." Nah.
I think I pretty much covered all the criticism.
But now I have a list of questions for George Lucas, questions I haven't seen or heard
anyone else ask:
- Just who or what is The Phantom Menace? Is it Anakin? Emperor Palpatine? The Force?
- Queen Amidala has a "decoy" - is she a twin? A clone? A cyborg/robot? This totally
- Jabba The Hutt has another Hutt standing next to him at the pod races - I've heard that this is
supposed to be a female Hutt, but they're "just friends." Come on - give us a real answer here.
And on that note, why is it that the Hutts rule Tatooine, but in the mid-quels, they don't? What
- What is the big red "ball" that is given to the leader of the Gungans at the end of the movie?
Can someone please explain this to me?
All in all, what it really comes down to is personal taste. I loved The Phantom Menace. I
thought Darth Maul was one of the cooler characters - so cool, in fact, I've now got an
autographed photo of Ray Parks as Darth Maul hanging under Han Solo. I also have some Darth
Maul action figures. My hubby thinks I'm still nuts.
Star Wars nuts.
J.A. Hitchcock is a regular
contributor to Compute Me. Visit her web site at
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