End Of The Month Review: The Phantom Menace

I can’t believe the first month of our year-long countdown to Star Wars Episode IX has come and gone my fellow SW fans and we’re already gearing up for round two! We’ve happily spent the past few weeks together exploring the fandom and breaking down the themes, characters, and meaning behind the first film in the Skywalker saga: The Phantom Menace – and I don’t know about you, but I feel like we covered some hella fun topics along the way!

Before we jump headlong into Attack of the Clones and all its epic Anidala glory, I figured it’s only fitting to tie up our experience with TPM with a little end of the month review! So, if you’ve missed any of January’s posts or are new to Whimsical Mutterings in general, now’s the perfect time to explore the site and get all caught up before Episode II begins! Thanks for coming on this Star Wars journey with me – thank you for every view, like, comment, and share. You guys are amazing, and you make SW and the fandom amazing too!

May the Force be with you ❤

January’s TPM Posts:

The Journey Begins: The Phantom Menace

TPM: Judgement and Consequence

TPM: The Emergence and Importance of Fate

TPM: A Light in the Darkness

TPM: Enter The Gray Jedi

TPM: Shadows In The Force

TPM: The Reign Of A Queen

TPM: A Queen’s Victory

TPM: A Mother’s Love And Legacy

TPM: The True Phantom Menace

Bonus Posts:

Star Wars Episode IX: The Beginning of the End

Epic Fun In The Fandom: #ReyloNight

 

Media Via:

en.wikipedia.org

giphy.com

giphy.com

Advertisements

The Phantom Menace: Shadows In The Force

When I started today’s post (yesterday) I actually thought it was going to be a relatively easy one to write. It was one of the first ones I jotted down when I decided I wanted to do the one-film a month theme, and I just felt so passionately about it. Then when I started writing, the words flowed so effortlessly and with a humor I don’t often achieve, so suffice it to say, I was thrilled.


Until about 8:30 pm last night when I’m about halfway through writing and it hits me, and dammit if it didn’t hit me with my own Star Wars logic that I was using at that very moment to prove my point: I was wrong. I was very, very wrong, and the entire half a blog post I’d already written was going to have to be scrapped because although I could finish it and it would make sense to most everyone else, I knew it was flawed and would make my arguments inconsistent. So…I panicked. I shelved the unfinished post and created a Whimsical Mutterings tumblr account to give myself something to do while I calmed down and figured out what to write instead. Needless to say, it was a long night.

Originally this post was going to be all about how Qui-Gon stole from Fate (the Force) by manipulating the dice-roll to obtain Anakin’s freedom and in retaliation, Fate fought back in the finale and claimed his life. I mean the song playing as he, Obi-Wan, and Darth Maul are fighting is even called Duel of the Fates! It was so epically perfect!

Until it wasn’t…

“All is as the Force wills it.”  — Chirrut Imwe   Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Ironically my notion of Karma being a bitch ultimately bit me in the ass. My argument was predicated on the fact that Qui-Gon acted outside of the will of the Force, to obtain what he wanted. And in my defense, it truly does seem that way. He wants Anakin freed, there is a 50/50 chance this will happen on its own or that the Force will choose Anakin on its own, but Qui-Gon uses the Force to ensure that it does. He took away the possibility of Shmi being liberated and in doing so set Anakin on a path that led directly to the Jedi Council and their own deadly neuroses. It made perfect sense then that since he interfered and essentially tipped the scales, there would be resulting consequences. He dueled with fate and ultimately fate claimed victory. Thank you, the end, put a nice bow on it and we’ll call it a day.

Except that I believe (and have said so before) that Anakin’s destiny was predetermined. He was the one foretold to bring balance to the Force and that meant he had to walk a certain path in life, no matter how difficult or painful. So how could I then say that Qui-Gon acted outside of the will and desire of the Force by essentially ensuring that Anakin goes where he needs to, to fulfill his ultimate destiny?! I can’t. It doesn’t work. Yes, Qui-Gon interfered because he wanted to, but also because the Force knew he would want to and placed him there to do just that. He didn’t steal from fate… he helped it.

So naturally you can see my dilemma, I couldn’t publish something that I no-longer believed in myself, but there was still something about the idea of fate and Qui-Gon that wouldn’t stop nagging me. And the title of the song – Duel of the Fates – it, it was basically taunting me, I mean it couldn’t be for nothing right? There was something there, I just had to find it. And after many hours of pondering and some verbal sparring, I hit upon something: Qui-Gon didn’t steal from fate/the Force, but at the very end he did unlock a new aspect of it.

His role in the Chosen One’s life was always meant to be short. He had to die to ensure Anakin turned out the way he did under Obi-Wan and the council’s guidance and tutelage because eventually Anakin would have to turn on the Jedi to bring balance to the Force, but he never would have if Qui-Gon had lived. It was Anakin’s anger, resentment, insecurity, and need for secrecy that was necessary to make him break from the Jedi, but they would be non-existent had he grown up with a more tolerant Gray Jedi like Qui-Gon who would have tailored his training to fit Ani’s unique situation and personality. He would have taught Ani hand’s on and with a calm passion and determination, instead of spouting off never-ending rhetoric and sarcastic witticisms. Therefore Qui-Gon had to die. He had to pass the torch on to his morally-upright padawan, Obi-Wan for Anakin to become the conflagration that the Force needed to cleanse itself. And he did.

But that was only the beginning.

Qui-Gon is the first Force Ghost we get any mention of it the Star Wars saga (not the first to appear onscreen, but in the timeline of the episodic story I mean). He is the first to transcend death and still remain himself after the passing of his mortal body at the end of The Phantom Menace, which seems to come as quite a shock to others – even the great master Yoda himself. So it stands to reason that this occurrence is outside the norm, even in this fantastical galaxy far, far away. Unseen and mostly unheard, Qui-Gon can no longer affect the outcome of the prophecy of the Force, but that doesn’t stop him from at least being present when Anakin needs him most. We hear Qui-Gon call out to Anakin in The Attack of the Clones when Ani takes his vengeance upon those who killed his mother. He reaches out, desperate to reach that little boy he’d found so long ago who has grown up to know such desolation and pain. Even in death, he never gives up on Anakin. Instead he stays with him, trying to guide him even when no one can hear him. Until Yoda does.

Just as Anakin’s resentment, anger, and insecurity were necessary for him to become the balance of the Force, so to were Qui-Gon’s skepticism, determination, and his absolute belief in Anakin, in allowing him to accomplish what no other Force-user had done before: to open a doorway to immortality, and perhaps time itself. I know they’ve delved into the shadowy realm of time in the Rebels show so it would not surprise me if the subject came up again in Episode IX. There is something there in the space beyond death, in the web of fate and time itself that Star Wars wants us to see and comprehend. And when we finally reach that moment of clarity and understanding it will be with the knowledge that Qui-Gon, a Gray Jedi, led the way for us.

 

Media Via:

en.wikipedia.org

giphy.com

thecantina.starwarsnewnet.com

makeagif.com

starwars.com

starwars.com

starwars.fandom.com

starwars.com

The Phantom Menace: Enter The Gray Jedi


Hello again my fellow Star Wars fans, thanks for joining me once more on this Epic Star Wars adventure! Now, by this point my distaste for the Jedi and their manipulative practices has probably become apparent, but for those just joining us, let me basically sum it up: I don’t dislike every Jedi simply for being what they are, as individuals they are either descent or not, but as a collective group and power I think they are as morally corrupt as their dark counterparts, the Sith. I think Kylo Ren pretty much had the right idea: the Jedi, the Sith, all the constructs of the past that separated people into opposing groups needs to end. People are not made to be all good or all bad, and to say otherwise is setting people up for discontentment, failure, or in Anakin’s case total and complete destruction. That being said, I didn’t always feel this way. It wasn’t until I got old enough to read between the lines and dissect what was actually happening in the story that my opinion of these lightside heroes began to shift.

“Remember: Your focus determines your reality.” — Qui-Gon Jinn

As a child, my heart was set on being a Jedi. Dear God, did I want to be a Jedi, and I was partially convinced I was one until I discovered Harry Potter on my eleventh birthday and then I just knew I was a Jedi/Witch hybrid the likes of which the world had never seen. I mean I used to walk around grocery store with my eyes (mostly) shut and pretend the Force was guiding me – I was that kid. I LIVED by Yoda’s fear leads to anger leads to hate leads to suffering speech, like hardcore. I refused to hate anything, even in jest as a preteen because my ass was not walking down that path. Dramatic much yes, but I was a writer even then and we tend to be a rather emotive people. Suffice it to say, I was enamored with the Jedi-code…which is why I think it’s funny because even then, when I all-out believed in the Jedi way of life, my absolute favorite Jedi was the one who called them out on their bullsh*t and questioned the council every step of the way: Qui-Gon Jinn.

As soon as he appeared onscreen in The Phantom Menace, calm, cool, and collected, Qui-Gon had my attention. I know most people were thrilled to see his apprentice Obi-Wan and I was too, but there was something about Qui-Gon that just captured my interest. Looking back on it now, I recognize him as being the closest representation to a Gray Jedi that we ever get onscreen – a Force-user who embodies the middle-ground between the light side and the dark side of the Force, neither completely good or bad but capable of using both sides at will. Gray Jedi’s believe in balance: light and dark, love and hate, compassion and passion. They are what I hope the sequel trilogy is leading us towards: more all-rounded individuals who don’t suppress aspects of their personality, but instead use moderation.

“Keep you concentration here and now, where it belongs.”

Qui-Gon espouses some of the most meaningful wisdom in the prequel trilogy, reminding us all to live in the moment while it’s here and now and that what we focus on determines what we get in life. He sees the injustice of the council purposefully shutting Anakin out and resolves to teach him anyway. Yet he’s also a masterful user of subterfuge and is definitely not above cheating, using misdirection, or threats to get what he wants. He’s unafraid to walk that hazy middle-ground of Jedi morality to ensure that things happen as they should and even back then I noticed and appreciated Qui-Gon’s uniqueness. He chose to defend the galaxy, uphold goodness and order, but he didn’t do it blindly. Qui-Gon questioned everything every step of the way, and when those in power turned their backs on a child for their own security and ease, he called them on it.

In the end, Qui-Gon Jinn is not perfect. He makes assumptions and mistakes that cost the galaxy greatly, but he does so with the best of intentions. He acts with what I would call societal morality, or common morality, not the limited concept permitted by the Jedi teachings, and though it is flawed, it is the most like our own human morality. I think what Qui-Gon represents in The Phantom Menace is the beginning of the shift towards true balance – which is what the Force itself desires. With this in mind, I also think Kylo Ren is a composite character of Qui-Gon, Anakin, and to a certain extent Luke, much like Tolkien used the best aspects of Bard and Thorin from The Hobbit to later create Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings. For any kind of major change, the groundwork needs to be laid in the beginning, and Qui-Gon, unperfect as he is, set the foundation for what I hope to see as the story progresses, a shift from uncompromising and restrictive dogma, to the acceptance of people just as they are. Good and bad, light and dark, compassionate and passionate, individuals striving for the betterment of the universe but with the option to pick their path as they go. We have that opportunity with Rey and Kylo in the final upcoming film, to see a dark-sider find the light inside himself, and a light-sider embrace the darkness that fuels her. Together with both halves of their personality present and accepted by themselves and each other, they could do what Qui-Gon tried to do in The Phantom Menace: bring true balance to the Force and with it, peace to the galaxy.

Media Via:

en.wikipedia.org

starwars.com

starwars.com

starwars.com

starwars.fandom.com

pinterest.com

The Phantom Menace: A Light in the Darkness

“Are you an angel?” — Anakin Skywalker

Before May of 1999, it was hard to imagine Darth Vader having any sort of relationship with a woman that would lead to her having his kids – you know, back when he was a suited-up, mechanical cyborg-man bent on destroying all the good in the galaxy – but watching little Ani meet Padme for the first time was like seeing the hands of fate in motion. He’s so unflinchingly emotive, everything he feels and thinks he says, and right from the get-go he understands Padme is important to him and has no qualms about expressing that. True love, soulmates, Force-bonded, whatever you want to call it, these two are meant to be and their love is so powerful it changes the face of the entire galaxy for generations to come, and in more ways than one. But it’s the genesis of this love, its very own origin story if you will, that we finally get to see in The Phantom Menace and it’s as beautiful as it is heartbreaking.

“There was no father. I carried him, I gave birth, I raised him. I can’t explain what happened.” – Shmi Skywalker

Anakin was a child of the Force itself, made manifest to complete a destiny that was already written in the darkness of the stars. It crafted Anakin, creating every facet of his personality to be the one who bought balance to the warring sides of its supposed-practitioners. It gave him Shmi, a loving, intelligent mother to instill in him the desire and drive to act as his conscious saw fit. It made him a slave, so that he recognized and understood the slow-burning hatred of being controlled and oppressed. It made him powerful enough to attract the attention of those who might otherwise overlook him. And finally, when the time was right, the Force ensured an unbelievably strong, powerhouse of a person came into Anakin’s life at the exact right time.

Fate can be cruel, but it can also be kind.

Now personally, I believe that Anakin was always meant to destroy the Sith and the Jedi, because balance does not mean wiping out one side so the other can become more powerful and be left completely unchecked. Balance means evening out the playing field, or in more drastic cases, wiping it clean to start completely over again. I never understood how the Jedi interpreted that prophecy any other way considering the amount of time they spent meditating and seeking the will of the Force (I mean talk about narcissism am I right) but I don’t want to dwell too much on the subject because that’s another post entirely. The basis of my thought just needs to be explained for the rest to make relative sense.

The Force crafted Ani – knowing exactly what was going to happen later and what he was going to have to do – and there is great cruelty in that, creating something to purposely make it suffer for your own ends. But the Force is neither good nor evil, malicious nor kind, it’s that middle-ground in between that just is. It is the balance. So alongside that cruelty there is compassion, and it is that compassion that brought Anakin and Padme together. Despite the looming darkness of the future, they were given this time to bask in the light. Yes, they would both live incredibly harrowing, painful, and ultimately short lives, but they would also know the greatest joy and beauty that can ever be found in life: love. Deep, everlasting, pure love.

Knowing the death and despair that was to come, the Force provided a short span of years – the calm before the deadliest of storms – to know that they were absolutely loved heart and soul and it all began here in The Phantom Menace when Ani walked into the Watto’s junk shop and found Padme waiting for him. He recognized something in her immediately, and voiced it. He was brave enough to speak out, and Padme was brave enough to reciprocate. Anakin needed to know this love, needed to feel it soul-deep, because only the absolute fear of losing it would ever make him turn so far from the light and reach out instead for the darkness inside him. Even in compassion there is cruelty, and there can be no cruelty without compassion. Balance.

But for now in The Phantom Menace, the scale is tipped in our favor. And in the bright heat of desert-swept Tatooine and jubilant celebration of lush Naboo, we can revel in the triumphant light of hope and blossoming love for as long as we possibly can.

 

 

Media via:

beseh.tumblr.com

rebloggy.com

pinterest.com

pinterest.com

starwars.wikia.com

Elenatintil.blogspot.com

giphy.com

 

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.

 

Media Via:

en.wikipedia.org

starwars.wikia.com

beseh.tumblr.com

starwars.fandom.com

rebloggy.com

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

Media via:

en.wikipedia.org

gifer.com

pinterest.com

starwars.com

starwars.com

giphy.com