Episode One ten years later, part 3: A long time ago…

“For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times… before the Empire.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

[[image:epone3_poster.jpg::right:0]]Seemingly every single article written on the prequels prior to their release included a variation on the theme of technology finally catching up Lucas’ imagination, and watching the movie it doesn’t seem like hyperbole. Naboo is gorgeous — the forests, the plains, the underwater cities and classical architecture are a feast for the senses. Coruscant, the capital planet named by Timothy Zahn in his Thrawn trilogy and glimpsed briefly in the Special Edition version of Return of the Jedi, is the city-planet I always imagined reading while expanded universe books.

More important than the technology employed in the filming is the fact that this prequel trilogy takes place immediately prior to the downfall of the Jedi. By the time of A New Hope, the Jedi are remembered as disciples of a hokey religion (and no match for a good blaster). The prequels were George Lucas’ opportunity to show us what the Jedi Order was really all about, and The Phantom Menace is the only film out of the six to show Jedi at the height of their powers, fulfilling their mandate as guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy. In the second film, we see a Jedi council that is both arrogant and blind. Their arrogance makes them discount the possibility of a Sith Lord controlling the senate, even after fallen Jedi Count Dooku explicitly tells them that this is precisely the state of thing; they’re blinded by self-importance to the plots and schemes swirling around them. Nothing exemplifies the arrogance of the Jedi Order more than when Obi-Wan Kenobi goes to the library at the Jedi Temple and is told by the chief librarian that if something isn’t cataloged in the Jedi Temple archives, it simply doesn’t exist.

The Jedi are not only arrogant and blind, but we see that they are no longer taking seriously the idea that they are meant to be guardians of justice. The Jedi rescue Anakin Skywalker from a life as a slave, but leave his mother behind to die. They just don’t get around to freeing the slaves on Tattooine — even the slave who gave birth to the Jedi some in their order believe will fulfill a great prophecy and bring “balance” to the Force. (Too bad they didn’t understand what that balance would be until it was too late).

In Episode Three, the Jedi are soldiers in a war (remember, “war does not make one great”) and Yoda, leader of the Jedi, is uncertain and unsure of himself. He knows that something terribly wrong is happening, but he is powerless to prevent it. Order 66’s wholesale execution of the entire order is the price the Jedi pay for forgetting their real mandate as guardians of peace, for allowing themselves to believe that they could not be manipulated so effectively, for failing to give Anakin what he needed most or even to notice his descent into the dark side.

[[image:epone3_quigon.jpg::left:0]]In contrast, Episode One sees a confident Jedi order, sees Jedi who embark as ambassadors and use negotiation in order to try and prevent conflict. The Jedi in The Phantom Menace are not yet aware of how influential the Sith have become in the galaxy, nor have they been manipulated into taking control of a slave army in order to save a Republic already rotten to the very core — a Republic that is easily led to believe that the Jedi are traitors who were planning on overthrowing the government. If the Jedi didn’t sequester themselves in Temples, didn’t lead Clones into battle, didn’t take Force-sensitive babies from their parents and then forbid “attachment” (sorry parents! Your kids are now ascetic monks who will have nothing to do with you now that they have been pledged to the Jedi order!) then maybe the people they’d sworn to protect would have protested more as a Sith Lord wiped them all out.

In Qui-gon Jinn, we see the Jedi at their very best. He is the Jedi as I imagined them in the interim between the two trilogies — not so bound my rules and traditions as he is bound to do what he feels the Force would have of him. If Qui-gon had survived, I don’t think he would be so blind to what Anakin needed in his life — not platitudes that he should “train [himself] to let go that which [he] fears to lose” — but rather guidance on how he can save his wife, and before that, his mother. The Jedi Temple might not have thought that Anakin needed his mother alive and safe, but I don’t doubt Qui-gon would have. Nor would Qui-gon have been so bound to the Jedi tradition that Anakin wouldn’t have been able to confide in him his forbidden marriage.

How surprising it was after years of speculation about the rise of the Empire that the Jedi did as much as the Sith to ensure their fall from grace. Episode One remains our only glimpse at the Jedi tradition Obi-Wan describes to a young Luke Skywalker, one exemplified by a “maverick” Jedi Knight whose outside of the box thinking might have been able to save the order.

48 thoughts on “Episode One ten years later, part 3: A long time ago…

  1. Meesa find wi-fi hotspot in Poopu City, meesa astonished to discoverin’ that no one cares about meesa-movie on decade anniversary of releasa-date of VERRY IMPOTENT MOVIE!

  2. I’d have to agree ‘ol Georgie is being given perhaps too much credit here. I mean, if somebody wants to let the tech kid sit in the directors chair, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but when you also let him sit in the writers room, well, problems arise.

  3. Much as I complainabout/hate/don’tlikequiteasmuch/whatever the prequels, I would watch another three prequel prequels of equal or even lesser quality if they were all about Qui-gon.

  4. But, but this film was awful…shouldn’t we be discussing quality games or…anything besides this? Is the ONLY game material coming from the issue and we’re filling in the rest with weak anecdotes about crap films. Sorry for all the tard harshin’, but c’mon..Episode One ten years later, PART 3??!! Really??

  5. ^ because anything written about the Star Wars prequels that isn’t a huge scathing indictment on how George Lucas raped your childhood isn’t worth reading.

  6. All this stuff you’re talking about didn’t come across very well in the actual movies because the writing and acting were subpar. The ingredients were all there, but they weren’t properly utilized.

  7. “Is the ONLY game material coming from the issue”

    Yes, because obviously the pieces below on RE5 and FFVII and Game Boy are just your imagination.

  8. There are three parts to this because Star Wars happens to be important to this writer, and since my mandate is to write what I think is interesting… there you go. I could probably write another three pieces on this movie alone — but I’ll space you all. ;)

    If you hate exposing yourself to any material not directly related to video games, you should probably take not of my byline and avoid it in the future. I like games, sure, but that is only a small part of what I like and who I am.

  9. Yes, sambadechuchu, how dare people use their blogs to talk about topics important to them. I’ll make sure to let the rest of the internet know that they’re only allowed to post things that are of interest to you and you alone.

  10. The fact that Qui Gon died is probably the only thing that saved him. He’s only likable because he didn’t live long enough for Lucas to ruin every single thing about him.

    Like in a Lovecraft story, the lucky ones die first.

  11. Also, maybe it’s just me, but I would very much like to read three or more additional blog posts about Episode One from this point of view. It’s been enjoyable remembering how it was before we were all so disappointed by the movies.

  12. I agree 100% with alexb here. Your discussion is MUCH more interesting than watching the actual movies. I’d also read more about the movies or tertiary materials.

  13. [EDIT: Yeeargh.]

    Agreed with the fact that all the elements were in place, but Lucas couldn’t see everything through to a conclusion. Even the concepts the fans revilled – Midichlorians, etc. – wound up being pretty unimportant in the grand scheme of things, while the larger plot actually holds together quite well (even if people still miss a lot of the underlying elements, like how the bad guys actually won).

    It’s too bad Lucas just didn’t care that much about getting good performances out of his cast, because that’s the real down note. On a larger, plot level, the entire thing holds up rather well. Well, aside from the fact that everyone’s interpretation of “bring balance to the force” (the Jedi were too dumb to realise that their power had thrown off the balance) was better than Lucas’ (Vader balances the Force by eliminating Palpatine at the end of Jedi).

    And, yeah, the point that Qui-Gon probably wouldn’t have screwed up Anakin as much as Yoda and Obi-Wan did is well taken. He knew he was a special case, but he was lumped in with all the other trainees and that probably just fed his emotional issues even more.

    All that said, it’s remarkable how good the current Clone Wars series got after the horrible episodes that kicked it off. I guess it says a lot that the only TV show he watches is Family Guy, because the man’s developed a WEIRD sense of humour over the years.

  14. Great article. Jar Jar and Anakin make that movie so unwatchable that I rarely even think of Qui-gon anymore. He’s one of the most interesting characters in that universe and he’s trapped in an awful kiddie movie.

  15. Keep up the great posts on Star Wars, Levi! I’ll keep reading them. I’d comment more but I have to go to work. :(

  16. I am enjoying the write ups. Minus Jar Jar I thought Ep One had promise… it’s Ep 2 that is the low point for me, since it is half a good movie.

  17. Levi offers fresh perspective on a plot that, due to distractions from technological wizardry and poor acting, I never deeply considered. He’s obviously passionate about the topic, and I’m baffled as to why anyone would complain about free access to quality writing (regardless of topic). Haters need sensitivity and a clue.

  18. You know, Lucas might’ve taken a lesson from Bill Watterson who resisted the temptation ever to reveal the details of “The Noodle Incident” — the Jedi in their glory are only interesting as a memory (I think the E.U. is just as dumb as the prequels, sorry), and there was really nothing to be gained by actually being there. That’s really only one of the myriad problems with the prequels, and I have to say, talking about what’s wrong with those movies is the only thing even remotely interesting about them (to me).

  19. As far as I’m concerned, Levi can write about anything he damn well pleases (at least as long as “anything he damn well pleases” involves an in-depth write-up on the new Children of Men Blu-Ray in next week’s “Add to Queue” feature.)

  20. Ack, I just looked up the specs on that Children of Men disc and it looks like it’s just a strangely arbitrary double-dip with a few “meh” bells and whistles added. Never mind!

  21. Thanks for the support guys! I was honestly expecting a lot more haterade in the comments here. It’s really gratifying to know that there are folks who appreciate the work I put into writing stuff up for you guys.

    *Sniff* I love you, man.

  22. Great article, Levi.^_^ You pointed out a lot of things I had never noticed before.

  23. What’s interesting also is that the end of the original trilogy sees the establishment of a new kind of Jedi — Luke, a man who has lived in the world. The books have explored that even more, but it’s not a hard leap to see the Luke of movies’ universe starting a new, more integrated class of Jedi or even just continuing on alone until he dies, leaving the galaxy free of the Sith AND the Jedi forever.

  24. Levi – excellent article. I truly appreciate this interesting take on the dynamics of the Jedi order across the movies. Honestly, Episode 1 hate has gotten old, and it’s nice to see an article about the movie that reflects its strengths.

    Complacency is what killed the Jedi order – they were too stubborn and inflexible to adapt to the changing environment, actively blinding themselves to the growing threat around them. It was a shame that Qui Gon (who I guess you could call a Jedi progressive) had to fight the stagnant order on nearly every decision he made.

    As a side note – I don’t understand comments complaining about articles like this not being about games. These sort of discussions are what separate this site from its peers, game related or not. We are all part of a culture that celebrates imagination, innovation, and most fundamentally, fun. If Star Wars does not fit in that category, I don’t know what does.

    Keep on keeping on, I say. I’d read fifteen of these articles if you feel like writing them.

  25. “They just don’t get around to freeing the slaves on Tattooine — even the slave who gave birth to the Jedi some in their order believe will fulfill a great prophecy and bring “balance” to the Force. (Too bad they didn’t understand what that balance would be until it was too late)”

    What’s so bad about Anakin redeeming himself by killing Palpatine and restoring balance to the force?

  26. This series of articles has made for great reading, Levi. So much of the Prequel experience has been doused in fan-anger and disappointment, it’s good to know that some people still remember the excitement of those days a decade past, and can separate the impact of the film–and its larger implications for Star Wars as a whole–from the “raped childhood” nonsense. Good on you.

  27. @Morzas — The prophecy failed to mention the murder of nearly all the Jedi, including the younglings, the fall of the Republic, the rise of the Sith, and the genocide at Alderaan. I think perhaps the Jedi Council might not have been too eager to have that prophecy fulfilled.

  28. I always thought the idea with the Jedi not recognizing the return of the Sith was more about some voodoo that Palpatine was working than anything else. There hadn’t been any Sith activity for a long time, so why should they immediately suspect Sith when Sidious started making trouble? Maybe the Jedi were a little slow to pick up on the danger, but we even had scenes with Yoda meditating really hard to try to sense Sith and still coming up short. Why did it take YODA so long to figure out what was going on?

    As far as the true meaning of “balancing the Force,” I got the feeling that Palpatine’s story to Anakin during the Blitzball game was supposed to suggest that Sidious was that old Sith’s apprentice, and that Sidious had learned how to manipulate the Force or Parasite Eve or whatever to control life and death. He made up the prophecy about balancing the Force, waited however long he waited, created Anakin, then molded him into Vader in order to wipe out the Jedi. It seemed like a kind of neat idea, buried in a really poorly-made trilogy.

  29. @aguy: They can be forgiven for being slow to awaken to the threat in the first movie, but by the end Yoda and Mace were acknowledging that the Sith had returned and there was still one more out there. But there wasn’t much of an excuse for sitting on their hands after the end of the second movie — Tyranus gave the whole “the Sith control the Senate” game away to Obi-Wan, and the Jedi just kept playing along to the same tune, fighting a years-long war at the behest of a body and administration they knew to be infiltrated.

  30. I think that part of it might have been that the Jedi were unwilling to admit just how badly they had failed. I mean, in order to acknowledge that the Republic had decayed to the point where a Sith Lord was pulling the strings and nobody noticed, they would have had to admit that they spent the last millenia or so doing absolutely nothing to prevent the death of the Republic’s ideals. That in fact, by serving as guardians of the Republic while not trying to promote any sense of morality or concern for the common good in the process, they facilitated the Republic’s slide into the corrupt and decrepit institution we see in the prequels.

    And let’s face it: the Jedi may have banned Lust, Wrath, Greed, Envy, Sloth and Gluttony, but they’ve got more than enough Pride to make up for all of them.

  31. OK. Now this is exactly the kind of thing I was bitchin about. Let me validate my argument. First, yeah we had some game “material”. An anecdote on getting a GBA color (no prob there) a question about when a game made us cry (ick. gross.) and a remark on RE5’s weak co-op (…). I’m talking about the sweet breakdowns of different classic games or interesting takes on geek culture. Miss it a bit…
    Now, as far as the argument that these SW articles seperate this site from others. I’d argue that, PREVIOUSLY what seperated this site was that it didn’t cater to the lowest common denominator of fanboy stereotypes. Building a treatise on the merits of PM? I also find it interesting that you talk about Neeson as the ideal Jedi right after praising Taken, an ugly xenophobic little film. Now, if you want FUN xenophobic action, check out Crank 2. Sublimely retarded….
    Final point. SW is garbage and there’s so much more out there that actually merits a post, much less three. Is there any anniversary coming up related to Gibson, or Card to a lesser extent? Or Satoshi Kon’s latest craziness? Or maybe I want gamers to be seen as people that can actually have an appreciation for something outside of the public’s expectations.
    3 articles on Phantom Menace….that’s like Flava Flav setting up a fried chicken convention.
    Let’s break the chains, nerds!!! Read a book!! Build discussions on things that are new and intellectually stimulating!! Fuck Qui Gon right in his ideal ear.
    Thank you.

  32. I really dug your Phantom Menace retrospective man. Its so damn refreshing to see something about a star wars prequel movie that doesn’t consist of “raped childhoods”. Episode I has it’s flaws for sure, but I can still watch this movie and enjoy it for what it is. There’s so much nostalgia tied to this movie and I dig it as a beginning piece to a much larger mosaic. So yeah, keep up the good work man.

    Oh and I would love some great plot analysis on Episodes II and III when the time comes! I sort of feel like Revenge of the Sith is highly underrated. There’s so much drama and great classic Star Wars moments in that movie, but I always see people lump it in with the first two.

  33. Sigh….let’s drop the “raped my childhood” crutch. Saw it, it was an awful, boring film based on a trite mythology coopted by that hack Joseph Campbell. Get your mind right son…

  34. So… you’re intensely angry because someone elected to share a positive opinion of a film you really, really hate. I applaud your clearly sound mental and emotional health.

  35. I’m sure Samba could’ve taken the time he’s spent bitching about this article by finding some other piece online about something he’s interested in.

  36. Not intensely angry, just explaining my stance. The time spent on my mini-rant was approximately five minutes and I’m just trying to say I’d like to see gamer culture taken seriously and SWs movies are one of the many crutches we’ve gotta deal with. Christ, Parish I thought at least you would get my point. And jabs at my mental health…was it the F Qui Gon? Do I really come across angry? cause I’m just laughing at this sacred cow in geek culture.
    I was hoping for a frank discussion. Let’s get past the defensive sarcasm (it’s a petty little crutch, Parish). Can I hope for some mature give and take on this site? Sorry to offend again, because, quite honestly and without your precious snark, I DO applaud the excellent work you do and hope you keep it up. Save the cheap insults for the trolls. I’m simply trying to get some interesting dialogue.

  37. Oh, if I’m not too late, I always saw an interesting parallel between The Phantom Menace and Return of the Jedi. In re: Qui Gon being a “maverick” Jedi, Luke in ROTJ seemed to exhibit a lot of the same traits, especially when Yoda and Obi-Wan proved they just didn’t quite get it by urging Luke to wax his own father. The fact that they’re the only two central characters with green lightsabers may mean something, but I may be going too far in geek theorizing with that.

  38. Samba, you’re pulling a classic here. Suddenly it’s all about an interesting dialogue, right? Oh of course. You just want to open up lines of discussion! No you don’t. You came into the conversation with your nose in the air about all this Star Wars nonsense, and now you’re changing gears and doing your best to look like the sensible guy in a room full of crazies. I’m not even a fan of Star Wars myself (although I resent the knock on Joseph Campbell), but you’re just coming off as a jerk.

  39. To date, this is still the most memorable of all the prequels. Be it the awesomely awful Episode 1 Racer game for ’64, the realization/explanation of the backstory (I never read the novels), or just being able to share the excitement my Mom once felt queuing up for the series, I still kinda like Episode 1 – Jar Jar and all.

    Of course that doesn’t make it a good movie, especially when compared to the timeless nature of the original trilogy. Still, I’ll be damned if it isn’t good ol’ nostalgic fun.

  40. “I’m simply trying to get some interesting dialogue.”

    Oh, the hell you are. You didn’t enter this thread saying, “I disagree, and here’s why,” you came in, fists swinging, ranting about how this is a crap post and this site is stupid now and nerds are idiots and have terrible taste and should be ashamed of themselves. That’s not an interesting dialogue, it’s just more of the anonymous Internet dickery that you can find anywhere online.

    There’s been plenty of interesting dialogue in this thread, but none of it has been from you. All you’ve had to offer so far is the same mealy-mouthed stupidity that you’re supposedly railing against. Feel free to join in the actual discussion at any time. I’d recommend you start by dropping that flimsy pretense of wounded nobility.

  41. I don’t speak for “gamers” and I’m not an example of “gamer culture” (and if there is such a thing, count me out).

    I gave up on labels a long time ago. I’m not a “gamer”, a “punk”, or whatever. I’m just a guy who likes some stuff and doesn’t like other stuff, and sometimes I write about it. The only label I’ll self-apply these days is “geek”, which is such a broad term as to be mostly meaningless. Maybe that is why I like it.

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