THREE GUYS AND… MOVIES
series created by Marvin Mercer and Nick Stephenson
“RETOOLING THE PHANTOM MENACE, ACT 1”
written by Dominick Cappello
Okay, so we have a film without a protagonist and villains without a clearly defined motivation. Thanks to Mr. Plinkett for explaining why this is a problem. In my review of “The Phantom Menace” which I posted in 2015 around the release of “The Force Awakens” I mentioned YouTube channels “Belated Media” and “Banditincorporated”. Both those channels had posted Episode I fan fiction which inspired me to jot down a few ideas of my own for a hypothetical rewrite. My ideas at the time mostly revolved around pod racing because I’ve heard George Lucas is a big fan of racing and he probably wouldn’t want that sequence to be nixed. I even suggested that George Lucas should have instead produced a standalone pod racing movie. I’ve given it some more thought recently and did my best to reshape elements from “The Phantom Menace” into a film that audiences would find more rousing than the taxation of trade routes.
Naboo is still surrounded by a blockade, but it has nothing to do with the taxation of trade routes. The Trade Federation will be replaced by a criminal syndicate. We’ll say that it’s Black Sun from Star Wars Legends (formerly the Expanded Universe) who have pledged their allegiance to Darth Sidious with him promising them riches. Happily, Black Sun won’t have stereotypical Asian accents like the Neimodians did. I was thinking that Naboo should be changed to Alderaan, but I don’t think it’s 100% necessary. Black Sun is after the glowing orb that Queen Amidala presents to Boss Nass at the end of the film. That will be our MacGuffin. According to Wookieepedia, this was the Globe of Peace, but we’ll change its name to the Orb of the Whills. An homage to an early working title for “Star Wars” which was “Adventures of the Starkiller as taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga 1: The Star Wars”.
The opening text crawl will explain how the orb is in two halves. One half guarded by the Naboo in Theed Palace and the other half by the Gungans in their underwater city. The Jedi Council knows that only a Dark Lord of the Sith would try to wield the power of the orb once the two halves are reunited, so that is why Qui Gon Jinn and Obi Wan Kenobi are dispatched to Naboo. Not to negotiate. I questioned whether the Qui Gon character was even necessary. I deliberated and eventually decided to include him, but to kill him early.
But what of the bane of our existence, Jar Jar Binks? There’s a popular fan theory floating around that Jar Jar is a Sith Lord. I don’t know about making him a Sith per se, but I love the idea of making him a nefarious character. I started thinking of Zam, the shapeshifting bounty hunter from “Attack of the Clones”. According to Wookieepedia, she is a Clawdite. So, I’m envisioning a reptilian shapeshifter who spots the Jedi when they arrive on Naboo and morphs into a comic relief sidekick so to tag along on their adventure. A bit like a character from “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” called Martia, a shapeshifter who helps Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy escape a penal colony, but really, is leading them into a trap. I’m also thinking of Benny from “Total Recall”. A comic relief sidekick who was secretly a villain the whole time. The difference being that I would show the audience that Jar Jar is not to be trusted from the start, so they will be on edge wondering when he will betray our heroes.
As in the film, Qui Gon, Obi Wan, and Jar Jar will travel to the underwater city and be met with hostility. Obi Wan, being young and imprudent, wants Qui Gon to use the Force to manipulate Boss Nass to surrendering the Gungan’s half of the orb for safe keeping. Qui Gon, being older and wiser, invokes logic to explain why that would be a mistake.
We’ll still have Queen Amidala switch with her double. Natalie Portman and Kiera Knightley look enough alike that you could pull the wool over people’s eyes. Qui Gon and Obi Wan catch Padmé escaping Theed Palace with the Naboo’s half of the orb and mistake her for a looter since the city is under occupation. A big action sequence follows as our heroes fend off Battle Droids controlled by Black Sun. I don’t want to use the design of the Battle Droids from “The Phantom Menace”. I prefer something along the lines of the Super Battle Droids from “Attack of the Clones”. If I was a kid, I’d rather have an action figure of the powerful looking Episode II Super Battle Droid than the puny Episode I standard Battle Droid. Darth Maul will make his first appearance during this sequence. You knew I wasn’t going to omit Darth Maul. He’s awesome. As a writer, I wouldn’t oversee marketing, but I’d hope they wouldn’t spoil his double-edged lightsaber in the trailers, so its reveal would be a total “holy shit!” moment. Even two against one, Qui Gon and Obi Wan are no match for Darth Maul, so Qui Gon sacrifices himself so the others can escape. Obi Wan won’t see Qui Gon fall, but he’ll feel the disturbance in the Force.
To conclude Act 1, Obi Wan, Padmé, and Jar Jar escape Naboo in a starship with the half of the orb that Padmé swiped. As in the film, their starship is damaged, and they make an emergency landing on Tatooine only more suspenseful. Almost a crash landing like what happened to Finn and Poe Dameron in “The Force Awakens”. Though not necessary, perhaps Tusken Raiders could confront them after they land. Obi Wan whips out his lightsaber and scares them off. You’ll notice how there’s been no mention of R2-D2. That’s because R2 can’t be in the prequels because Obi Wan doesn’t know who R2 is in “A New Hope”. I really feel that R2-D2 and C-3PO are extraneous to story.
Stayed tuned for Act 2.
*Black Sun will think that the plan is to ransom the orb, unaware of Darth Sidious’ true intentions.
**Anakin Skywalker and his brother Owen will be introduced in Act 2 along with a droid that Anakin has built himself out of spare parts. It’s not going to be C-3PO and it’s not going to look like a protocol droid off an assembly line. Anakin’s droid will be a Frankenstein Monster with mismatched parts.
– Dominick Cappello