Tag Archives: Star Wars The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: A Review

In honor of Kenobi’s release and May being dubbed Star Wars Month, I wanted to do a review of the movies. Starting off with the first chronologically, but fourth released, The Phantom Menace. While not the most popular of the Prequel Trilogy, heck, not even the most popular in the franchise, The Phantom Menace is one movie that can be looked back on with either fondness and/or a keen eye for constructive criticism.

Funnily enough, this is my second favorite of the Prequel Trilogy. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure these days, as I can see how it is a flawed movie, but there was enough for me to enjoy it a bit more than the next installment (more on that movie later). But considering I was only six when The Phantom Menace came out, I am a bit nostalgic for the Prequel Trilogy.

The Phantom Flaws

Starting off with the flaws feels like a perfect start. Because out of the three prequel movies, this one probably has the most. In my experience I was able to narrow it down to a few factors: the effects, some of the designs, dialogue, and the political aspects of it.

Starting off with the more visually glaring aspect, are the designs for some of the characters. Now, some viewers will mention how certain characters and races, mainly the Neimoidians, Watto, and Jar Jar and the Gungans.

Six year old me didn’t know that these characters were racial caricatures. Even less so with Watto or the Neimoidians. It wasn’t until years later, and the rise of the internet, that I found out that they were. Whether not it was intentional, I could not tell you. I’m not defending it either way, I just haven’t found anything outright confirming if Lucasfilm and George Lucas made an intentional choice with it at this time. If there was one positive to come from the backlash it’s that Watto only had a brief appearance in Attack of the Clones while the Toydarian species, the Niemoidians, and the Gungans weren’t as prevalent, save for a few episodes of The Clone Wars and having very little screen time in the following Prequel movies. Though in the case of the Gungans, Jar Jar’s lack of screen time could have also been due to him missing the mark as the comic relief in The Phantom Menace.

Politics have been a part of Star Wars in some fashion. Whether it be in the form of the Rebellion vs the Empire or the governing system of certain planets. That said, the political aspect of Star Wars, at least in the original trilogy, wasn’t a huge focal point. It existed, but the focus was more on the fight between good and evil, battles in space, and the mysticism of the Force.

One of the bigger criticisms of The Phantom Menace, and by extent the prequel trilogy, is the attentiveness to the political side. It does feel a bit boring at times admittedly. Because while the political side could help build and diversify the planets (ex. Tatooine having a more Hutt dominated practically lawless state, not Republic abiding system, Ewoks having a more tribe based system with a chief, and Lothal having an Empire supporting leaders) in theory, the execution comes off as dull and prolonged. While a story doesn’t need constant action to keep intrigue, and political aspects not being inherently bad, there is a fine line between engaging and boring. The Phantom Menace falls into the latter as a lot of the communication and debate comes off as dull. Much like the previously mentioned characters, the political aspect is a bit more sparse, allowing it to have moments where it’s important and the not as engaging side being discussed in a conversation or two.

Speaking of dialogue, it is hit or miss. I’m not blaming the actors, some of the delivery does fall flat. A few examples can include how Anakin calls Padme an angel or how he says he’s a person and his name is Anakin. I don’t mean to jab at Jake Lloyd, as he was only ten years old, but those are examples of awkward dialogue.

And it’s not just a few lines from Anakin that seem to feel awkward. Jar Jar, who was supposed to be the comic relief of the movie, doesn’t have a lot of dialogue or actions that made me laugh. Granted, he does have less humor based dialogue, but I don’t recall his humored lines sticking. Not even when I was younger. For example, the ‘yousa point well seen’ quote when Obi Wan mentions what’ll happen to them if Jar Jar doesn’t take them to the Gungan city. While it is meant to be funny, I don’t think I so much as chuckled at it.

This is probably the least bothersome flaw, mostly because of the year it was released. With CGI being in its infancy when The Phantom Menace came out, it was going to age in some way. Whether something aged good or bad depends.

In the case of The Phantom Menace, while the practical effects work really well with some of the special effects, it has shown its age. On the one hand, while the more alien characters look passible enough, considering how far CGI has come, they aren’t as refined as some (though given what some of the special editions did, quite a bit of the CGI there doesn’t blend well). Things like the Trade Federation ships might be another point of how the CGI were a bit lack luster. All in all, the CGI hasn’t aged all that well.

In conclusion, it’s easy to see why this is considered one of the worst Star Wars films. And despite it being a guilty pleasure of mine, I do see its flaws. How certain characters look is questionable to say the least and the CGI has shown its age. The politics, while having the potential to have an air of intrigue, felt prolonged and dull. And certain dialogue didn’t stick the landing. With my flaws and critiques laid out, allow me to get into what I think this movie did well.

The Positive Menace

If there are a few things I can give The Phantom Menace credit for, it’s for casting, music, Darth Maul, and action. All of these are areas that, for the most part were well done. And these are reasons I enjoy it. One a little more than the rest.

When it comes to casting, there was a lot of good choices in this movie. Liam Neeson as Qui Gon, Natalie Portman as PadmĂ©, Kiera Knightly as Padme’s decoy SabĂ©, and Samuel L Jackson, though maybe not his best, would become a staple in the series. We also have the return of Frank Oz as R2D2 and Yoda, Anthony Daniels as C3PO, and Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine/Sidious.

And while characters like young Anakin, the Gungans, and Jar Jar may be considered weak, I can appreciate that the actors did the best they could with the dialogue they were given. Basically, separating the dialogue and writing of the weaker characters, I would say that the actors themselves were fine.

That said, Ewan McGregor was (and is) one of the best casting choices out of the returning actors. The Prequel Trilogy is as much Anakin’s story as it is Obi Wan’s, and as such, we get to see how both of these characters grow. Ewan is one of the overarching positives that the Prequel Trilogy has. SO much so that Ewan will be returning to reprise the role in the Disney+ Obi Wan Kenobi mini series.

If there is one character that The Phantom Menace is praised for, it’s Darth Maul. For an antagonist who had very few scenes and only three lines of dialogue, he became one of the prequel trilogy’s popular characters. He looked cool, sounded cool, and had a double bladed lightsaber. As well as his fight with Qui Gon and Obi Wan being one of the best scenes in the movie.

People wanted more of him, his short screen time being a possible critique. As a result, he did get several books and comics as well as being brought back from the dead in the 2008 Clone Wars animated series. And when Disney acquired Star Wars, he got a few more comics and appearances in Rebels and Solo in their canon (with the books and comics released prior to the acquisition being labeled as Legends). For a character who only had minutes of screen time, he would become one of the most refined and developed characters from the Prequel Era.

The action in the movie is one of, if not it’s best, feature. It doesn’t have a lot, but that’s okay. It didn’t feel overly congested with action.

But that’s not to say that a little more action wouldn’t have made it better. Had it toned down the political aspect and added a little more action, there could have been a bit more of a balance. What we got though, was well choreographed and paced well.

And of course where there’s Star Wars, there is John Williams. As always, his score is something wonderfully crafted.

Each setting and scene had just the right tone and it all fit into the story. Going back to the Maul fight and the climax, Duel of the Fates was this movies Imperial March. While Imperial March is the most iconic piece from Star Wars, barring maybe the title theme and Binary Sunset, Duel of the Fates is no less iconic. So much so that it makes a subtle return in one particular seen in Rebels’ season 2 finale and in some ways could be seen as Maul’s theme. Just like Imperial March is with Darth Vader.

So despite the faults of The Phantom Menace, there are some good aspects in the movie. Aspects that could have needed more time or worked out well with the spectacles provided. One other positive this movie has, that I feel I should mention, is the pod racing scene. It was a spectacle in its own right and spawned an N64 racing game.

Conclusion

I would probably give this movie a five out of ten. It may be my guilty pleasure and what created my favorite Sith (Maul), but it does have a lot of flaws thanks to age and certain decisions made. Nostalgia can only go so far after all. However, I do think it’s enjoyable in its own right. If not as a good movie, than as a guilty pleasure or an it’s so bad it’s good kind of way.

What are your thoughts on The Phantom Menace? Did you enjoy it or would you consider it a bottom tier Star Wars film? Guilty pleasure and/or meme creator, perhaps? What are things you think this movie did right? And what do you think it could have done better?

Could Maul Have PTSD: A Star Wars Speculation

Of all the things to come out of The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul and Duel of the Fates are two icons that came out of the first prequel movie. Qui Gon and Mace Windu were other interesting characters and Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan would go down in history as an example of the perfect casting choices. Yes, there is Jar Jar and yes, it may not have aged the best, but The Phantom Menace is actually one of my favorite Star Wars movies, and honestly, it wasn’t all bad.

Yet, despite having the aforementioned positives, and being one of my favorites, it is a flawed movie. Special effects were still a work in process, the political side of it would feel odd, and midichlorians added what some might consider an unnecessary explanation of the Force, just to name a few critiques.

However, I am not here to dissect The Phantom Menace. No, today, I would like to dissect the character that only had a few minutes of screen time and ending up becoming one of the most developed characters to come out of the Prequel Movies.

Darth Maul

Darth Maul. The red Dathomirian Zabrak with the black tattoos and double bladed red lightsaber. He was Darth Sidious’ first apprentice given to Sidious as a baby (Legends) or as a child (Canon) and raised to be a Sith. He would fight Qui Gon Jinn and Obi Wan, killing the former and being “slain” by the latter. However, through pure hatred it was revealed that he survived, returning in the fourth season of Clone Wars, which just so happened to come out several months before Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney. Maul would stay alive through the rest of Clone Wars and into Rebels where he died. Scattered throughout, several Canon comics were released, where as his previous novels were considered Legend when Disney bought Star Wars.

Maul is certainly a well liked character. While maybe not as popular as Darth Vader or even Sidious, he left enough of an impression to make a return. And with his revival in Clone Wars, Dave Filoni was able to expand on the character. Not only by giving him a new lease on life with his motivation to kill Obi Wan and Sidious, but a family as well. Along with Asajj Ventress, viewers would get to learn more about the Dathomirian Zabrak. Asajj was revealed to be a Nightsister, the female Dathomirians, while Mother Talzin and Savage Opress was Maul’s mother and brother respectively.

With the development he got, how he was raised, and how Clone Wars ended, I feel like there is a discussion to be had about Maul’s psychology. Namely, that he could have some form of PTSD. And while that is by no means an excuse for the actions that he’s taken, it could help explain certain reactions and how his upbringing damaged him mentally.

What is PTSD?

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be defined as “a mental condition where someone experienced something traumatic”. Reactions can be triggered when remembering what happened, which can result in things like nightmares, depression, and feeling numb to name a few symptoms. It was at one point called shell shock, combat fatigue, and battle fatigue. When it comes to people with PTSD, the most recognized group are military personnel. With everything that happens during war, it isn’t surprising that they could/would come home with trauma. With that in mind, PTSD isn’t exclusive to war. Surviving a car accident could be another reason someone has it, or violence of any kind on a person could trigger it. These are just a few examples.

Common Symptoms/Reactions

There are a few common reactions and traits when someone has PTSD. Whether it be another mental condition, a physical reaction, sleep patterns, or something else, there are a few traits that someone with PTSD might experience. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Heightened Anxiety/Panic
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Isolation
  • Easily Angered/Increased Angered Outbursts
  • Easily Startled

I will touch on what symptoms Maul exhibits that could line up with him having PTSD. But first, I’d like to take a moment to go over why he might. What kind of trauma he might have experienced that would trigger PTSD in the character. And again, while this isn’t meant to condone his actions, it could help explain it with an additional angle.

Why Would Maul Have PTSD? What Could Have Caused it?

If Maul were to have PTSD, I’ve narrowed it down to three different catalysts. Because beneath all of the Sith training and high levels of anger and vengeance, which is common for a Sith, I wouldn’t say his life was easy. Who he was raised by and connections he lost couldn’t have been easy.

Darth Sidious: Raised, Trained, as Well as Tortured by

Where it be from infancy or as a child, Maul was raised by Sidious all the way up to his twenty second year. While Jedi have certain regulations, I don’t think he would have been as harmed by someone like Dooku or Qui Gon. And while all Sith aren’t harsh or abusive, Sidious isn’t known for being a warm master.

The man was cunning, intelligent, and strong in the Force. He desired power and control, following the Rule of Two as a guideline in which the apprentice wouldn’t surpass him. He wanted his apprentice strong, sure, but not enough to defeat him. Basically a puppet.

Now, depending on if it’s Canon or Legends, what Maul went through may vary. The only content to remain Canon for Maul after Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars was The Phantom Menace and Clone Wars. He got a few comics after the acquisition, like Son of Dathomir, Darth Maul (2017) and an issue of Age of the Republic as well as reappearing in Rebels. While storied lie Wrath of Darth Maul, Darth Maul (2000), Shadow Hunter, Saboteur, the Clone Wars tie in graphic novels, Maul Lockdown, and Darth Plagueis are all considered Legends.

Either way, it can be, at the very least implied that Darth Sidious was not a great guy to Maul. In Legends he was very stern with Maul due to his pride, which on it’s own wouldn’t seem problematic, but what really would make it problematic would be things like leaving him alone in Wrath of Darth Maul for extended periods as a means to hide him from Plagueis. In Canon, we don’t get to see too much of his childhood with Plagueis, but one could imagine he wasn’t much better.

Torture

Then you get into what viewers do know happened to him in Clone Wars and Son of Dathomir. Maul would be subjected to torture not around the dame time as two loses, which I will get into in a moment. He was electrocuted, imprisoned, and treated harshly.

And while Maul may hate Sidious, if seasons five and seven of Clone Wars were anything to go off of, he was terrified of Sidious. Begging for mercy even. But he never got it.

All an all, I would say that Sidious is Maul’s biggest source of trauma, outside of maybe the deaths of those close to him. Also how he survived The Phantom Menace.

Mental Instability After The Phantom Menace

Whether him surviving after being sliced in half was pure luck, a show of true will/hate, or plot armor, he did survive. He spent years on a trash planet where his sanity flew away. Going temporarily insane doesn’t really result in PTSD, and when I say ‘insane’ I mean he fell into madness while alone on Lotho Minor. I also believe it didn’t help. If being cut and half and surviving didn’t scar his psyche, the eventual break from being alone sure did.

This isn’t a super big cause, but I believe it could have been partially responsible. Being alone without a lower half on a trash planet for years doesn’t sound like an ideal situation. And the solitude less than ideal, even if he was more of a solitary character. Think solitary confinement, but a planet sized solitary confinement. Socially and mentally that doesn’t sound reasonable.

The Deaths of Savage Opress and Mother Talzin

This would be another big cause. Having witnessed both, it would have been traumatizing. Despite treating Savage like an apprentice like Sidious did with him, and not being able to show affection in a conventional way, Maul did care for him. In Rebels, when he tells Ezra how they could defeat the Empire as brothers, it is clear to see that he is still hurt by it.

The death of Mother Talzin wouldn’t be much better. She was the only family he had left and after escaping torture from Sidious, she would be killed by Grievous. He witnessed it, and while he has seen and caused his fair share of death, Talzin and Savage were the only people he had left.

It would also become a piece of his revenge puzzle. While coaxing Ezra into helping him, he relates to him by stating how the Sith (and by by extent the Empire) took everything from him.

In conclusion, Sidious, the loss of his family, and the time spent on Lotho Minor are all reasons that I believe Maul could have PTSD.

What Symptoms Would Maul Exhibit?

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/ has a page on PTSD. On this page, it has a section discussing symptoms. There they have them categorized into four categories, re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, arousal and reactive symptoms, and cognition and mood symptoms. For each category, someone would have to experience one ore more of the symptoms in each for at least a month. One or more for re-experience and avoidance, and two or more from arousal and reactive, and cognition and mood. Using the examples provided, I think I’ve narrowed it down a little.

Re-experience Symptoms

I would say that flashbacks, recurring memories or dreams of the event, and/or distressing thoughts. I feel flashbacks would be a given, but since it’s never really confirmed whether or not he has had flashbacks to his trauma, I do have a few alternatives. Recurring memories feels like the more accurate symptom in this category since at multiple times, he seems to dwell and recall Savage’s death and what Sidious is capable of. The former is more of a sad one since whenever he mentioned Savage (and Talzin) in Rebels it seems to be with a slightly more sorrowful tone, or an angered one when he remembers how the Sith did it to him.

Distressing thoughts could allude to how in season seven, when he is captured by Ahsoka, there is a moment of what could be perceived as disturbed or terrified. He would rather die than be captured and he’s vocal about it and how Ahsoka didn’t know what she had done. He sounded distressed. Not only because he was captured, but because he knew what was coming (Order 66) and that alarmed him.

Another disturbing thoughts, that might not have to do with his Sith upbringing, would be with how he felt abandoned by the Sith, namely Sidious. After surviving Phantom Menace and learning that his former master took on Dooku, he wanted revenge. However, there also seems to be an underlining feeling of abandonment. He was supposed to be there to help set up the Clone Wars, he was raised to be apart of that. So when he returned, he felt like he was abandoned. That everyone left him behind.

These are all potential ways that Maul could fit into the re-experience symptoms category. He could have had flashbacks that viewers never got to see. Feelings of abandonment or fear of the impending future could be signs of distressed thinking. Though the most likely is reoccurring memories, since it is shown that he does dwell on the losses of Savage and knowing what Sidious is capable off based on what the Sith Lord put him through.

Avoidance Symptoms

Of the two symptoms mentioned in this category, I would think that staying away from places/events/objects would be the more accurate symptom. He doesn’t try to hide his feelings and does dwell on certain thoughts pertaining to his life and potential trauma.

Of the two symptoms mentioned in this category, I would think that staying away from places/events/objects would be the more accurate symptom. He doesn’t try to hide his feelings and does dwell on certain thoughts pertaining to his life and potential trauma. Along with avoiding places, I would also add avoiding people.

While it was also a smart move on his part, going into hiding until the events of Rebels season 2 could have been his way of avoiding things. On Malachor, he didn’t have to worry about running into Sidious or any planet that could turn him over to him. He might have had to deal with an Inquisitor or two, but fore the most part, he was on his own to reflect and plan his eventual return. Which he would later get to some degree by the time Rebels came along.

Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms

The first of the two categories that need two or more symptoms, I think I know the perfect two. Irritability with angry or aggressive outbursts and engaging in reckless, risky, or destructive behaviors. Both fall may fall into what makes a Sith a Sith, but I think they would be amplified.

Angry or aggressive outbursts could be explained by how explosive his anger was when he found out about. He was angry that he was abandoned and even more so when his brother was killed. Another example of an aggressive outburst was when he killed the Seventh Sister. When Ezra refused to kill the Inquisitor, Maul took it the matter into his own hands. And while this could be seen as a logical choice from one aspect, to Ezra, who at that point was taught not to be as lethal, it would have been a pretty aggressive move.

Engaging in reckless, risky, or destructive behaviors could appear in the form of getting revenge against Sidous and Obi Wan and trying to manipulate Ezra into becoming his apprentice. Revenge can be a risky business, but in Maul’s mind, it’s justified. People did him wrong and he wanted to make them pay. It never really ended the way he wanted, but it wouldn’t stop him from trying. Manipulation can be destructive. Not only to the person doing it, but to the person being manipulated.

Those are the arousal and reactivity symptoms that Maul fits into. These symptoms would have been amplified because he was a Sith, but all the same, they are symptoms that fit. Aggressive/Angered outbursts and partaking in risky/reckless/destructive behavior are the symptoms that I feel Maul fits best into.

Cognitive and Mood Symptoms

For the final category, the two symptoms that Maul would have include negative thoughts about oneself or the world, in this case the world and distorted thoughts about the event resulting in feelings of blame. I also feel like ongoing negative emotions would also be another symptom of his, if merely amplified thanks to his Sith teachings.

In regards to negative emotions to the world, Maul sees the world as doing him wrong. He lost the life he had after Phantom Menace, he lost family during the Clone Wars, and bitterly notes how he was abandoned in Rebels. These events lead to negative thoughts, but not on himself. Rather, towards the world. Life and people had been cruel to him and it wasn’t something he personally internalized.

Which leads into the distorted thoughts and blame. One could argue that some of what life dealt him was self inflicted. His pride being his biggest weakness in a lot of fights. However, he never put the blame on himself, whether he was partially or whole heartedly to blame, if at all. Instead, he blames others, most notably Sidious and Obi Wan. Both did him wrong on the most significant level. Obi Wan beat him and Maul wishes to get back at him for it. Sidious, he caused Maul to be where he was at throughout the series. The fact that Maul was so easily “replaced” and abandoned left two scars.

One being in the form of the only person he had a connection to in some way leaving Maul behind and cutting those ties. Part of that does have to do with Maul being presumed dead until Clone Wars, which was a good decade or so after Phantom Menace. Yet, when Sidious knew, he didn’t take Maul back, which could have dug that feeling of abandonment deeper. The second being how Sidious, in Maul’s mind, would be the source of all his problems. He trained him, tortured him, and killed his family. Had Maul not been taken in by Sidious, his life could have been better. Not by much considering Dathomir’s hierarchy looked down on the male Zabrak and treated them as lower class/slaves, but somewhat better.

In those ways, Maul has hit at least two cognative and mood symptoms. They do overlap, but are distinct in their own way. Two are layered yet separate symptoms.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Maul could very well have PTSD, implied or diagnosed. It isn’t outright confirmed or canon, what he went through, coupled with his Sith upbringing would play a role in his mental state. The loss of family and torture at the hands of Sidious, alongside how Sidious treated him on a personal level is grounds for unresolved trauma. When inspecting the character and his story, he can fit into each category of symptoms, re-experience, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and cognitive and mood, in his own way.

Source

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd#part_6127