The Phantom Menace: The Emergence and Importance of Fate

When I think about The Phantom Menace, I am overwhelmingly struck by the quintessential fairy-tale nature of the entire film. The scope, the dreamy colors, the adventure, and dangers, and daring! It’s all there and so are the familiar characters we as an audience know by heart: the age-old damsel in distress (who valiantly saves herself IMHO), the Arthurian-esque knights of morality who color our perception of good and evil for better or worse, the archetypal lost prince with an uncertain destiny, and larger than life villains who seek to overthrow goodness and humanity, etc. etc. In essence, TPM truly is the “Once Upon a Time…” segment of the Star Wars saga and without it the entire series is immediately unmoored and unbalanced.

The trials and tribulations of the future don’t mean as much or pack as much of an emotional punch when you don’t know that before Vader was Vader, he was Anakin, a young slave who dreamed of setting his people free and who opened his heart and his home to people in need and risked his life to help them when no one else would. And it’s hard to care about the momentarily-mentioned broken bond between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader in A New Hope (when so much else is happening onscreen with Luke and Leia and Han) unless you’ve witnessed the two meeting for the first time and felt the ripples of fate move across the surface of the galaxy. And it’s difficult to feel pity for a man who makes ALL THE WRONG DECISIONS when it comes to his family unless you know that that entire future of that family began with a little boy innocently asking a beautiful young girl if she was an angel.

And that’s what I love so much about The Phantom Menace. More than any other prequel film, it shows the working hands of fate – or the force – and all that was required for the story that we know and love to come into existence. Padme’s world had to be invaded so she would leave it, her ship had to be damaged so it would need repairs, and Ani had to be a slave so he would be in the shop when Padme walked in looking for help. Because how else would a Queen from a lush, green planet meet a slave boy from a harsh, desert world?

In short, this movie had to happen, these events had to take place for the rest of the story to mean anything. Without TPM the story of Darth Vader is still there, but the emotional impact is stunted, and the characters only partially fleshed out. After all, a villain is only a villain at a certain time in his life, and a hero is only a hero when the story is told a certain way.


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The Phantom Menace: Judgement and Consequence

When I originally planned this post a few weeks ago I had the idea to do a running commentary of my thoughts and reactions to watching The Phantom Menace. That being said, about thirty minutes into the movie I realized two rather crucial things. First: I can’t concentrate on taking notes and watching a movie at the same time, it’s just not in me. I don’t know what I was thinking really, I’m one of those nutters that nearly drowns while drinking things because I sometimes forget to stop breathing for a second and I end up inhaling a lungful of sweet tea or something. Seriously, it’s sad, I have to give one thing my full attention and it quickly became a nightmare trying to watch and write. Second – and perhaps more important – my “revelations” and inner-thoughts were boring as hell. I mean I have my own Star Wars theories and ideas and a crap ton to talk about, but I couldn’t make a compelling list of thoughts to cover an entire two-hour movie where some things just aren’t worth talking about. It just wasn’t happening and I was losing my own interest lol.

So, I had a dilemma… what to do for this post since I have all my other ones already planned out for the month and set in the order I want them in? I couldn’t think of anything at first, I just kept swirling back to a quote in the movie that nearly smacked me across the face this time. And then it hit me. There are so many exceptional quotes from The Phantom Menace that just set up the basis for not only this singular movie, but the entire saga, yet there was something so relevant about this one in particular, something that wouldn’t let my mind rest. I had to discuss it! The quote is simple enough, it’s Qui-Gon’s defense of Anakin after Obi-Wan insists that he and the entire council can see that Anakin is dangerous.

“His fate is uncertain. He’s not dangerous.”

And it’s true, Anakin wasn’t dangerous, not at this point. Ani was a relatively happy little boy who was expressive, emotive, and unerringly kind, who had been raised to think intelligently for himself and problem-solve along the way. But the things that made him a good person in normal circumstances were the very things that turned the Jedi order against him. The Jedi would need to take everything that was Ani away and instill their own doctrines, beliefs, and ways of seeing the galaxy to make him one of them, but at advanced his age, Anakin’s personality was likely setting into place. They wouldn’t be able to fully overcome his own instincts and opinions – he wasn’t a baby or a toddler who they could teach or force to think how they chose – therefore he was dangerous, he was other, and they immediately treated him as such.

Instead of welcoming him with acceptance and understanding or even compassion, the council immediately set themselves apart from Anakin and make it clear – to a child who had just escaped enslavement and had helped two of their own order – that he was not welcome in their company because he was going down the darkside path simply because he admitted to feeling fear. Yeah… let that sink in for a moment because I’m getting mad just typing this. In an entirely new place with strangers who are testing him left, right, and center, far away from the only source of love and security he’s ever know, it’s no wonder Ani is afraid. The Jedi use a little boy’s love of his mother to make him unworthy of their time and consideration, they twist love into a weakness and call themselves the better for it.

Needless to say, I have A LOT MORE to write regarding the council and that’s already planned for later, so I’ll stop myself here. But I will say this: Qui-Gon was right. Anakin wasn’t dangerous until the Jedi made him so. The Jedi created their own destruction and it eventually cost them everything. I think this is a theme that often goes overlooked because it’s the “good-guys” doing the wrong things and we like to turn a blind eye to that sort of thing, but it bears noting that the same thing happens again in the sequel trilogy. Lessons are not being learned here. Ben Solo struggled with the darkness inside himself all his life, but it was Luke –a Jedi – who sealed his fate and the galaxy’s by deciding for everyone that his nephew was dangerous and needed to be dealt with. Another great evil is born because of the judgement of the peace-keeping righteous. And it’s just as Rey says, Luke created Kylo Ren, the same way the council created Darth Vader, and it began here in The Phantom Menace.

Today’s post ended up being a little darker and heavier than I wanted to start out with but hey, that’s Star Wars for ya! There is always darkness at the heart of fairy-tales and if you don’t see it then you’re missing the entire point of the story itself. But what about you guys, what quotes stand out to you when you watch The Phantom Menace? Are there any moments that you just can’t let go of? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll see you guys next time!

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The Journey Begins: The Phantom Menace

The year was 1999 when the biggest Star Wars event of my young life exploded into existence, changing everything I thought I knew about that galaxy far, far away and the people there who had captured my youthful attention. The Phantom Menace hit theaters in mid-May, a few months shy of my tenth birthday and it was like a gift from George Lucas himself. Fifth-grade was looming at the end of the summer, I was a year into my Pokémon craze and a year out from discovering my next great love – Harry Potter – and I had been a die-hard Star Wars fan my WHOLE life. Simply put…life was good.

It’s funny, because I don’t remember actually being in the theater watching the movie with my mom and little brother, but I do remember coming home and repeating Every. Single. Jar-Jar line to my dad and basically reenacting the entire movie. I was a storyteller even then, and Star Wars was the most dramatic, earth-shattering, mind-blowing story I had ever come across and this new installment was everything I never knew I needed, both as a viewer and a writer myself. To see the greatest villain of my childhood portrayed onscreen as a kid almost my age was astounding, add to that the fact that he was an absolute sweetheart was mystifying. How had this eager, helpful, little optimistic Ani become one of the darkest forces in the galaxy, someone capable of destroying entire worlds and torturing his own family?

And Padme! She was only a few years older than me, but she was already a stalwart queen and a determined, powerful woman I envied and respected equally. I saw her up there, in both her handmaiden and her queenly guise, living out the adventure and I wanted so badly to be her. Leia was always, always, amazing but with her ferocity and quick wit, she seemed so far above me, so completely unreachable to a nine-year-old, but Padme felt like she could be me. She was young, scared, intelligent, and determined, she didn’t know what to do but she was brave enough to try. She made me realize that we all start somewhere, that people aren’t just born Leia’s, but that they can become women like her and that that pathway started now. I’d known Leia my whole life but now I would grow up with Padme.

Not to mention the story itself…suffice it to say, I knew the story of Star Wars. But now there were even more stories, more pieces of the puzzle I had just blindly taken for granted before… and therein lies The Phantom Menace’s greatest gift and lesson. I already understood that there is great power in the telling of a story – A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi had already taught me that – but The Phantom Menace taught me there is always more to a story, and it’s the way you deliver it, (i.e. telling it in a certain order or a specific way) that elicits totally different responses. TPM didn’t change what happened in ANH, but it changed our entire perception of it. It forced us to ask those simple, powerful questions: how? Why? And it’s those questions that make us realize, we only know half of the story.

I never questioned Vader as the villain in the original saga, he was presented to me as such and I accepted it immediately. But after TPM I could never see Vader without picturing Ani’s face beneath the mask. The story was done, nothing could change Vader’s fate, but Ani’s was still uncertain, and I couldn’t give up on him, the kid who risked everything to help a group of strangers for no other reason than because it was the right thing to do. Ani had a story to tell and even knowing where it was going, I was determined to stay by his side until the very end, to hear the part that no one had ever heard before, the forgotten tale of that little slave-boy who loved his mother with all his heart.

Like I said, in the end you can’t change Vader’s story. Redeemed or not he goes down the darkest path possible and becomes one of the most powerful, terrifying villains the world has ever seen – whether you start his story from the beginning or from the middle. But by beginning in the middle and circling back once the tale is done, we aren’t left with just Vader, we are left with Anakin and that’s the whole point of Star Wars. There is always more to the story, always more to the people we see on screen, whether we want to admit that or not. We can accept Vader as bad simply because he is, or we can understand that he was once a person who made the choice to help people, and that choice led to more choices and those choices led to a path he never expected. We can ignore Anakin’s story if all we want to see is Vader, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. And this is something I use in my writing even now. Readers see the world as the writers choose to display it, I give you the side of a character I want you to see and you judge in an instant whether they’re good or bad or a million shades in between. You judge an entire lifetime with a moment, deciding a person’s fate and worth with my perception of the story as well as the main character’s coloring the entire thing in our favor. And I know you’re going to do it. There is unlimited power in that, and The Phantom Menace taught me to see it.

Now, back to 1999, flash forward three months and school had started again, and I was finally ten years old. Fifth grade was the epitome of my elementary school journey and conclusion of the first part of my young life. Just like in the galaxy far, far away, things were changing, I was gearing up to strike out on a new adventure, with new places and people and situations I could never dream of. It was exciting but hella scary. But for the time being, Star Wars was all anyone was talking about, Jar-Jar was everyone’s absolute favorite character, and I had pod-racer Ani plastered all over my new school supplies. Simply put, life was good.

*Starting this month, I will be focusing on one Star Wars film each month as we countdown to the final episodic film release in December. And if you couldn’t tell already, we will be starting at the beginning of the story as we know it: The Phantom Menace. I have some awesome posts already planned and I can’t wait to see what others emerge as inspiration strikes and my muse goes into SW overdrive. I hope you join me on this Star Wars adventure and make it the most fun it can possibly be so we can share this year together waiting and reminiscing about all those characters we love to love. This Monday I’ll be watching TPM (again) and doing a running commentary of my inner thoughts and opinions and all that fun stuff and I hope to see you there… I’ll bring the popcorn! – Tara

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Fandom Favorites: Who Talks First

Hello again my fellow fandom fans! I figured after Monday’s revelatory post (ya know…where we discussed Kylo Ren being a Hufflepuff and all) we’d take it a little easier today and I could think of no better way to chill out and celebrate the middle of the week than to share one of my all-time favorite groups from the Star Wars community with you… so welcome to the first installment of Fandom Favorites! This will be an ongoing installment because there are seriously SO many amazing members of the SW fandom and they deserve to be celebrated for being so awesome! Each new Fandom Favorite post will feature at least one of my favorite artists/podcasters/YouTubers, writers etc. etc. that make up this epic Star Wars Fandom. So, without further ado, let’s get to it shall we!

Up first is my all-time favorite Star Wars peoples: CT and Solo from Who Talks First: A Mostly Star Wars Podcast (aka The Knights of Rant)!

Now I’ve been a Star Wars fan since birth but when I first started delving into the sequel trilogy and the Reylo fandom, it was a YouTube video by CT that really caught my attention and made me question everything I thought I knew about Rey from Nowhere and the mysterious, brooding Kylo Ren. The way she explained their bond after TFA and the then-possible reasons behind it, made perfect sense and because I was new to the whole “Reylo” thing and unsure of how I felt about it myself, she really set the tone for an intelligent and intriguing intro into the sequel/Reylo aspect of the Star Wars fandom. I was so grateful that she was brave enough to post these things that I was quietly wondering about myself, especially since this was well before The Last Jedi and all the canon Rey/Kylo force connections.

What started out as a smattering of Star Wars videos then became the Knights of Rant channel, followed quickly by the Who Talks First podcast, and with each new video and podcast their content just kept getting better and better. I was instantly hooked! CT knows her SW lore and has such a great grasp of what Star Wars really means and what it encompasses, and Solo has some of the best observations and opinions on literally everything. It’s so refreshing and insightful to hear the opinions of someone who is relatively new to the Star Wars game because she sees things that the rest of us miss when we can’t step far enough away from the picture as a whole. And did I mention how hilarious they are?! Seriously, there is never a time I don’t end up smiling or literally laughing out loud (as my co-workers can attest) just listening to their stories and ideas. From piecing together the intricacies of canon lore to crazy mad-dash Force Friday shopping sessions, they take you on one wickedly wild and fun Star Wars ride after another!

So, if you’re ever in the mood for a hilarious but incredibly thought-provoking look at the Star Wars universe (with an emphasis on the sequel trilogy) definitely check out Who Talks First on YouTube, SoundCloud, and iTunes (links below)! And as added bonuses, check out CT’s Esty store Squadron Goals for some of the cutest SW merch you will ever find as well as Solo’s second podcast We Could Be Heroes, an epically fun D&D channel!

And, there you have it guys, the first of many Fandom Favorites to come and I’m so happy to start this thing off with my all-time favorite Star Wars group! I’d like to say a big thank you to CT and Solo for all the fun and happiness you’ve brought my way and for all the time and energy you put into making Who Talks First as amazing as it is! You guys genuinely make the waits between films easier and the fandom an all-around nicer place to be!

What about you guys, are you Who Talks First fans? Do you laugh as loudly as I do every time you listen to them?! Who are some of your favorite members of the Star Wars fandom? Make sure to let me know in the comments below so I can check them out too!

Find Who Talks First on:

iTunes, YouTube, Patreon, SoundCloud

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Saffels Photography 

Nine Moments We Need To See In Star Wars Episode IX!!!

Alrighty Starfighters, it’s 2019 and you know what that means…Episode IX is finally nigh!

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We’ve just got a few short months before Kylo Ren, Rey, Finn, Poe, and the incomparable BB-8 return to our screens and finish out the Skywalker saga and I am just SO READY!!! Star Wars and that galaxy far, far away have been a part of my life since before I can remember and after 29 years together the Skywalker’s, the Kenobi’s, and all the rest definitely feel like family at this point — a dysfunctional, dramatic-ass family that has like zero chill but hey you know, family is family.

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Like most Star Wars fans, I have great expectations for Episode IX. 2015’s The Force Awakens was thrilling and heart-pounding, it gave us so much but also took something precious in turn. The next generation of heroes and villains breathed new life into the galaxy and seeing them fight alongside and against the original trio was just mesmerizing. The Last Jedi was sweeping, epic, and mysterious in all the best ways, revealing so much but leaving countless more questions in its wake. For the first time, hero and foe fought back to back, reaching across the cosmos and darkness to understand…to connect.

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And now it’s time to deliver on all that’s been promised over the past two films – if not the entire saga – and there are things I’m just so ready to finally see! Obviously no two fans want the same exact things, we all see the movies and characters differently, but I figured I’d go ahead and share with you guys the things I MOST want to see in this final Skywalker movie! So, without further ado…PUNCH IT CHEWIE!!!

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1) Let’s start with Finn – who is the heart and soul of this new era!!! – I would love to see this stormtrooper-turned-resistance-hero inspire his old troops to abandon the First Order and ultimately lead them to revolution Mockingjay style! We see a hint of this in the deleted scenes for The Last Jedi, but it really needs to be shown on screen. Finn is undeniable proof that these troopers are just people, people who Hux admits were trained and programed from BIRTH to follow orders, so if Finn can reject his training and strike out on his own, why can’t he help the others to follow suite? Alongside this, I’ve long had the theory that the troopers are comprised of stolen Force sensitive children, so what better way to symbolize the freedom of the galaxy and beginning anew than to have these stolen conduits of the Force be released into the cosmos to discover for themselves which path they wish to tread.

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2) I would also love to see him reconnect with his family in some way. Perhaps it’s just the dramatic writer in me, but the idea that Finn’s family have searched the galaxy over for him since he was taken by the First Order just makes my heart hurt! There are so many ways to introduce his family – they could be nameless like Rey’s parents, or could connect to some other characters we’ve already met, for instance Lando Calrissian, Mr. King of the Capes himself, is coming back into play in this film, perhaps Finn is a relative of his. I’ve also heard rumors that Lando may be accompanied by a daughter (?) so maybe they’ve come in search of a missing son/brother?! I don’t know, stranger things have certainly happened in this galactic universe. Personally, I like the idea of Finn being the son of Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell, the two leads of Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars novel, which was released before The Force Awakens. It would make his parents vague enough for non-readers to not question but throw an interesting loop in there for those who are familiar with the book! And I mean, how awesome would it be to meet a child of these two star-crossed pilots and to know that their story truly connects to the sequel trilogy!

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3) Speaking of Lando, I desperately want to see him interact with Kylo/Ben! We’ve already seen Ben and his Unca Wanwo in Daniel Jose Older’s Last Shot novel and their relationship was ADORABLE. I mean Little Starfighter…no more needs to be said. But really, could Kylo turn to his Uncle for help or advice, seeking paternal figure now that he’s finally freed himself from Snoke or maybe Lando himself can initiates the contact. Either way, putting these two together is a powerful reminder of the horrors of Kylo’s past, it would force him to confront what he’s done and what they both have lost WITHOUT causing him to panic like he does whenever Luke is present.

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4) Another reunion I’m hoping to see is Leia and Kylo/Ben’s. I think the movies kind of skip over how long it’s been since Leia has actually seen Ben, but Bloodline by Claudia Gray establishes that she was trying to get in contact with her son and Luke YEARS before the First Order officially arose. So, we’re probably talking about a good ten-year separation by the time The Force Awakens even begins…bring that boy home! Ideally, I would have loved to see them together on-screen but under the circumstances, it would still be highly emotional and cathartic to have a reunion planned offscreen perhaps with a message being received by Ben that his mother is on her way. That way we know it happens and the reunion can take place however the viewer wants it to. And as others have pointed out, the Skywalker downfall started with Anakin having to leave his mother, it should be resolved with Kylo coming home to his.

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5) And since I took it back to the prequel era for a moment, I would totally like to return to Naboo for the final act of the saga. It’s the place the story truly began, it’s the legacy and home of Ben’s ancestors, and it’s just downright gorgeous. I can picture no more beautiful or meaningful an ending than to have Ben and Rey start a life in that lush, peaceful place, surrounded by sunlight, glimmering water, and the gentle hues of healing green.

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6) For this happy ending to occur though, (and what I am most excited about and desperately hope to see!) we need the REYLO REVEAL!!! More than anything else, I want to see these two lost souls come together and fully admit their feelings for one another. The Force Awakens pitted them together as adversaries and the The Last Jedi brought them together as allies (albeit still with unresolved issues) but now it’s time to see them fully acknowledge and accept that there is something between them. These two belong together, they are the living representation of the Force and it’s need to find balance and the films have been dropping hints like crazy that this is the endgame but now I want confirmation people! (And if we’re putting it all out there, I would LOVE to see the balance of the force represented in a child of theirs, preferably a daughter!)

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7) I also want there to be a defined Reylo score in the film, I mean Across the Stars and Han Solo and the Princess (aka Han and Leia) are ICONIC. They are some of the most memorable and sweeping songs in the entire franchise, evoking so much emotion and truth each time you hear them and dammit I am ready for a Reylo equivalent!

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8) But for this great Reylo ending to be possible, we need to see Rey acknowledge that the Jedi order and its strict ass teachings were flawed and dangerous, just as much as the Sith teachings were, and have her (and Kylo) comprehend that the middle ground (or Grey Jedi) path is the one that is needed. Kylo already wants to get rid of both the Sith and the Jedi, and even though most categorize him as the “villain” I actually think it’s going to be Rey that has a hard time letting go of the Jedi teachings. Being all light or all dark is not realistic, it’s not healthy, and if the prequels taught us anything it’s that not allowing yourself to see both sides of a story is lethal. I don’t want to see a resurgence of the Jedi order, I think their time has passed, and the galaxy is all the better for it. Let Rey and Kylo find a middle ground together, let them live their lives with love and compassion and understanding and flexibility. He needs to recognize the light within himself as valid and move towards it and she needs to recognize the darkness inside and accept it.

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9) And finally, I want to see Anakin reach out to his grandson and truly connect with Kylo so that for better or worse, Kylo can understand Anakin’s truths. I think because so much was kept hidden about Vader/Anakin after the fall of the empire in this canon timeline (which Claudia Gray’s Bloodlines touches on) that Kylo has no real concept of who is grandfather actually was. Snoke uses Vader to influence Kylo and push him to be the type of person that Snoke wants him to be, but is he ever told of Anakin? What better way to demonstrate that there are always two sides to every story and to have Kylo confront and accept his past and actively move towards a more hopeful and forgiving future than to have him come face to face with Anakin Skywalker himself?! This interaction would tie the story together perfectly, merging the beginning of the story with the ending, and for those that believe that Kylo is Anakin reborn it offers up some mighty intriguing ideas!

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And there you guys have it, a breakdown of those moments that I’m most looking forward to and hoping to see on screen this December when we venture once more into that galaxy far, far away! It was surprisingly hard to narrow everything down and put into words all that I hope to see, but wow was it fun! So now, what about you, are there any moments that you’re looking forward to that I didn’t list? Are there things on my list that you’re looking forward to as well? What are you most looking forward to seeing in this final installment of the Skywalker saga? Let me know down in the comments and as always: May the Force be with you!