Sunday, April 11, 2010

Episode I: What I would do differently.

As I've stated many times in the past, my 'relationship' to the Star Wars prequels is one of ups and downs. There are times I have hated them. There are other times where I think they're not so bad. But no matter what 'mode' I am currently in, there is always the question of: what would I have done differently. Being the huge geek I am, I have actually gone to the trouble to put some of my thoughts down on paper. In essence, I am re-writing Episode I (at least in outline form). And why not share it with all the dozen- with all the .. with the one or two people who actually read this blog.

Before we get started, just a few things on my process. There are some scenes in the movie (quite a few, actually) that are fine just the way they are. These I will leave in normal type. There are other scenes I would alter or add. These are done in bold type, usually prefaced with the word CHANGE. I have also divided the movie up into manageable 'scenes' to help break it into bite-sized chunks.

The main challenges I see in 'my' version of Episode I are almost all character related. First of all, I want to make the characters a bit more relatable and fun. Maybe introduce some of that banter the original movies were known form. Secondly, Jar Jar is getting a major overhaul. I don't mind a comic-relief character. Not at all, but the annoying voice needs to be toned down and he needs to have SOME redeeming characteristics and perhaps even a few moments to shine. Thirdly, I am going to do what they should have done with Anakin in the first place: make him an angsty teenager rather than an angelic little boy.

Thus far, I have only gotten through the first act of the movie—the Jedi's arrival on Naboo and rescue of the queen. I will cover the rest of the movie in further installments. So, without further ado...


…A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…


[Opening Crawl]

Episode I

The Phantom Menace

CHANGE: Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. Economic disputes in the outlying systems have spurred the greedy Trade Federation to send its warships to blockade its chief rival in the region, the peaceful planet of Naboo.

While the Senate of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict…


A consular ship approaches the imposing Trade Federation blockade. The Jedi Ambassadors get permission to land from the smug Neimoidian, Nute Gunray, Viceroy of the Trade Federation.

CHANGE: Give Trade Federation Nemoidians a more sly (and less goofy) accent

Get first glimpse of droid troopers as the consular ship sets down in the Trade Federation hangar bay.

CHANGE: Droid troopers are skeletal and threatening in appearance (rather than goofy). They stand in rigid formation, eying the arriving ship ‘balefully’. Show the cockpit crew of the ship exchange nervous glances after peering out the window.


The ambassadors are met by a protocol droid and escorted into the ship. As the droid leaves, Obi-Wan states he has a ‘bad feeling about this’, prompting a Qui Gon to tell him to keep his mind on the ‘here and now’. They then discuss the current situation and Qui-Gon states that “the negotiations will be short”.

Meanwhile, Nute Gunray and his aides are informed that the Ambassadors are Jedi. They are concerned (to say the least) and send their droid to stall while they contact someone known as ‘Lord Sidious.’ As the Jedi wait, they sense ‘an unusual amount of fear’ for such a routine situation. Meanwhile, Gunray contacts the mysterious lord sidious, who menacingly orders him to launch the attack—and to kill the Jedi.


In the Hangar bay, the Consular ship is suddenly destroyed by a laser cannon turret dropping from the ceiling. In the conference room, the Jedi suddenly find themselves locked in—with poison gas quickly filling the air.

Battle droids gather in hall outside chamber, prepare to enter in formation. Poison gas rolls out as doors slide open, then sabers ignite and battle erupts.

CHANGE: Droids do not speak. And most certainly do not say ‘Roger Roger’

Nemoidians freak out about Jedi escape, call in reinforcements as they watch the Jedi via security cameras, battling their way towards the bridge. Nute Gunray’s aide laments their fate “We will not survive this”, even as the nemoidians call for more droids and seal themselves in.

The Jedi ttempt to break through door until droidekas arrive and chase them off. Both escape into ventilation system. CHANGE: Gunray, out of fear and bravado, orders droids into the shafts after them.

Later, slipping out of the vents, the Jedi stumble across invasion force loading up. After observing for a while, they decide to stow away onboard ships and meet back up on the planet. Obi-Wan observed wryly: “You were right about one thing, master. The negotiations /were/ short.”

Meanwhile, Queen Amidala calls the Nemoidians. The Viceroy bluffs about ambassadors ‘never having arrived’. Once the transmission ends, the nervous Gunray orders a communications blackout on Naboo.


Queen Amidalas council meets with static-filled holo-image of Palpatine, who protests ignorance as to why the Jedi haven’t yet arrived when his transmission is cut off. Federation is now jamming. Could be a prelude to a full-scale attack. Queen Amidala refuses to take military steps, believing in the peace process. “I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war.”


Droid army descends on planet in huge fleet of landing ships. Scenes of war droids deploying, scout STAPs, landing ships disgorging troops.

CHANGE: The Nemoidians on the ship are informed there is no sign of Jedi. They must have stowed aboard landing craft. Gunray order droids on the surface to eliminate them with all possible force. On Naboo, battle droid STAP patrols wheel around in eerie, precise unison, fanning out into the swamps.

The progress of droid army causes stampede of swamp animals. Pick up with Qui-Gon fleeing.

CHANGE: Qui-gon about to be overrun by Droid war machines when Jar-Jar (already hiding) pulls him into a shallow muck-pool to hide. Jar-Jar gives Qui-Gon a keep silent gesture, then sneaks off through the underbrush, bidding the jedi to follow as Droid patrols zoom in to sweep where they were just hiding.

CHANGE: Qui-gon and Jar-Jar talk. Jar-Jar’s accent is ‘toned down’, less annoying. Qui-gon is quietly thankful. Jar-Jar is quietly accepting—tells story, he is an outcast from his people, who live further in the swamp. Qui Gon asks why he is an outcast and Jar-Jar explains that he… how do you say it..has bad luck. To prove his point, a random fruit falls from a tree and hits Jar-jar on the head, splattering both him and Qui gon. Jar Jar sighs and gestures, as if to say “see?”. Qui-Gon will smile wryly and reply, “Well, I still consider myself lucky to have found you.”

The conversation is interrupted by Kenobi’s arrival, pursued by droid patrol. Qui-gon destroys the droids, then makes introductions.

CHANGE: Jedi discuss what to do next, have to keep moving. Qui-gon brings up Jar-jar’s people. Jar-Jar is reluctant, but agrees to lead the Jedi there for the sake of their safety—and to worn his own people of the invasion.


Arrive at lake in midst of swamp, Jar-jar tells of his people’s dislike of outsiders. Don’t expect a warm welcome. Kenobi replies wryly. “Don’t worry, this hasn’t been our day for warm welcomes.”

Swim after Jar-Jar. Slow reveal of gungan city. Make way into bubble-domes to seek audience with Boss Nass. Nobody is given a very warm welcome.

CHANGE: Jar-Jar is confronted by Captain Tarpals, who wearily reminds him of his outcast status. Qui-Gon asks what it is that Jar Jar is guilty of. Tarpals begins to list things on his fingers, as he lists each one, Jar-Jar tries to explain what really happened. A stern and serious Qui-Gon listens, while Obi-Wan is more sympathetic, nodding animatedly (and a bit amusedly) in agreement with Jar Jars explanations:

Tarpals: (listing) depressurizing the city market bubble…

Jar Jar: It was a faulty power-coupling! And I barely touched it…

Tarpals: …starting a Fambaa stampede…

Jar Jar: How could I know that Kloo-horn would sound like a mating call!

Obi-Wan: How could he?

Tarpals: …crashing a bongo into the Boss’ favorite yobcrab patch…

Jar Jar: Another faulty power coupling!

Obi-Wan: (nods) happens all the time.

Tarpals: …twice…

Jar Jar: …okay, now second time WAS my fault, but—

Obi-Wan: Everyone makes mistakes..

Qui-Gon: (gives Obi-Wan a stern look)

Tarpals: …and now you bring outsiders to Otoh Gunga, you know how the bosses feel about that…

Jar Jar: Yes, but—

Tarpals: No more—you all go see Boss Nass now.


Taken to the throne room/council chamber of Boss Nass. Nass says they don’t like outsiders. Qui-Gon tells them about the invasion going on—and the danger to the Naboo. Nass is indifferent—his people do not like the Naboo (“they think their brains so big!”).

CHANGE: Meanwhile, Jar Jar tries to shrink into the background, edging away from the Jedi until he runs into a stern Captain Tarpals.

Obi-Wan explains that the fates of the Gungan and Naboo are intertwined, but Nass remains unconvinced. Seeing that the conversation is going nowhere, Qui-Gon urges Nass to “Speed us on our way” (perhaps giving him a slight mental nudge with the force). Nass agrees to let them go- giving them a Bongo for transport and directions to go through the ‘planet core’.

CHANGE: It is then that Nass notices Jar Jar and gets irate. What is this one doing here!? What did he crash into this time!? Jar Jar tries to stammer a response, but Qui Gon cuts him off, explaining. “Jar Jar helped us escape the droids in the swamp—and led us here at our request…I understand that he has had some… trouble in this city, so perhaps it would be best if he came with us…we could use a guide afterall?” Jar Jar blinks, seemingly grateful until the guide thing is mentioned. “Wait…Guide?! But.. I don’t know anything about-“ Nass is quite pleased with the suggestion. “Yes! Jar Jar! Guide! Go…with our blessings.” He leans forward to stage-whisper to the Jedi. “I would not let him drive…” Qui-Gon smiles wryly .”I’ll Keep that in mind.”


Onboard the bongo, the two Jedi and Jar Jar head off into the ocean.

CHANGE: Jar Jar laments as they descend into the caves: “I have a bad feeling about this…ooh, goober fish!” He adds the latter as he sees a school of fish outside, obviously easily distracted.

Unseen by the heroes, a large Opee Sea-Killer begins to hunt them.

CHANGE: Obi-Wan attempts to question Jar Jar as to what dangers the will face on the journey. Jar Jar elaborates. “Oh, well.. lets see… there are all kinds of things down here… things with tentacles…things with spines…things with nasty sharp pointy teeth…” As Jar Jar lists them, we see out the back window as the Sea Killer closes in. The Opee latches onto the bongo. Jar Jar screams. “Things like that! Things like that!”

Even as Obi-Wan struggles to shake the bongo free from the Opee’s jaws, a larger monster swims by and eats it—freeing the sub in the process. “There’s always a bigger fish.” Qui Gon comments calmly as they continue on their journey. Jar Jar, hands over his eyes, asks weakly. “Are we there yet?” The two Jedi exchange a wry glance before continuing on—diving deper into the tunnels.


The Neimoidians report to a hologram of Darth Sidious that the invasion is on schedule. He in turn reports that he has the ‘senate bogged down in procedure’. Sidious assures his co-conspirators that Amidala is young and naieve and will be easily controlled. Once the hologram fades, the Neimoidian councilor expresses nervousness about not reporting the incident with the Jedi. Gunray replies hastily: “No use in telling him about that until we have something to report.”


CHANGE: As the bongo carrying the heroes makes its way through a labyrinth of underwater tunnels, the power suddenly shorts out. Jar Jar reflexively lifts his hands and states defensively “I didn’t do it!” Obi-Wan smirks faintly and sets to work at a control panel, trying to fix the problem. Jar Jar takes the time to ask how the Jedi can find their way in this maze- but before they can answer, he guesses. “You can… sense the path through the waters, no?” Qui Gon starts to interrupt, but Jar Jar continues in a ‘mystical tone’. “You are Jedi so the force will just ‘lead’ you to where you want to go…” Obi Wan, still working, grunts and points to a still blinking light on the dash-board. “Actually? We’re using this homing signal from Theed city.” Qui-Gon nods. “Yes. That.” “Oh.” Jar Jar replies, a little crestfallen.

Obi-Wan finally gets the bongo working again- only to find that they’re face to face with a huge Colo-Clawfish. They manage to evade it until a larger predator once again makes a meal of their pursuer. As Qui Gon starts to offer some reassurance to Jar Jar, the latter just holds up a hand. “Yes yes. Always a bigger fish…I got that one.” Qui-Gon cracks a smile.


A sweeping panorama reveals the massive droid army approaching the city of Theed as their fighters soar overhead. It continues as they march unopposed into the city and to the palace itself. From a window, Amidala watches pensively as the droids spread out and the Trade Federation Viceroy lands.

CHANGE: As the viceroy steps down from his shuttle, a Battledroid commander approaches—again, it is one of the more foreboding skeletal humanoid designs, rather than the goofy designs used in the film. The voice is likewise deeper and more forboding, reporting in clipped, metallic tones: “We have secured the palace. The Queen has been captured.” The Neimoidians celebrate “Ahhh, Victory!”


We see the heroes bongo rising from the depths, eventually surfacing in a secluded canal within the City of Theed.

CHANGE: The Jedi and Jar Jar quickly dismount the vehicle and move into hiding as Droid patrols sweep by overhead. From hiding, they spy groups of prisoners being escorted by droids. The Jedi exchange a concerned look, then sneak off, with Jar Jar in tow. The latter exhales “Is it too late to go back to the big fish?”


The Viceroy and his droids escort the Queen and her entourage down the steps of the palace, explaining how they will thwart Senate intervention by having the Queen sign a treating legalizing their occupation. The Queen says she will not cooperate. The Viceroy threateningly assures her that seeing the suffering of her people will eventually convince her to change her mind.

CHANGE: Smugly, the Viceroy turns the Naboo over to his droids saying “Take them to holding camp four.” The droids do not speak. They certainly do not say “Roger Roger”, instead they just menacingly lead off their prisoners.


We follow the Queen’s entourage as they are taken through the city, past several other groups of prisoners and a seemingly overwhelming number of droids and war machines. Eventually, they are taken down a more secluded street where we see the Jedi and Jar Jar hiding. They follow along stealthfully and prepare an ambush by leaping off of an overpass walkway.

CHANGE: The Jedi prepare to enter the fray, with Qui Gon telling Jar Jar to ‘stay here and keep your head down’. With that, the Jedi leap down, battling expertly with their sabers and telekinetic force. Jar-Jar, meanwhile, peeks up from the window to have a look, accidently dislodging a huge planter that falls and crushes a pair of the droids. Obi Wan turns just in time to see this and Jar Jar gives him a ‘thumbs up’ as if he meant to do it all along.

The Jedi quickly usher the Queen and her entourage away. Panaka and his guards arm themselves from the fallen droids.

CHANGE: In the background, Jar Jar attempts to jump down from the bridge, only to trip and fall, only half-catching himself enough to slow the drop. This draws a raised eyebrow from Panaka. Obi Wan just shakes his head to the man and murmurs. “Don’t ask.”

Once off the street, Qui Gon explains himself and his mission as ambassador for the Chancellor. The queen’s man notes tartly that negotiations seem to have failed. Qui Gon replies that they never took place. They need to contact the Republic. Panaka says all communications are down. The next option is to flee the planet—and off everyone goes to the main hangar.


Federation droids organize groups of prisoners in the hangar as the Jedi and Queen’s entourage arrive outside the doors and look on. Panaka feels there are too many, but Qui Gon is confident and suggests that the Queen come to Coruscant with him. This sparks a debate. The Queen is unwilling to leave, despite the threat to her life. Qui Gon points out that there is something more to this situation, as it makes no sense for the federation to be acting like this—his feelings tell him that the Federation will destroy her, even though the Viceroy says he needs her to sign their treaty. The Queen’s aid, considering this, urges her to go, to appeal to the senate and help their own representative, Palpatine, get action from the Republic. The queen considers—exchanging a glances with one of her handmaidens—and with that girls approval, decides to go and plead her case to the senate.

The group enters the hangar. Panaka urges quietly that they rescue the group of pilots there. Obi Wan says he’ll take care of it. Meanwhile, Qui Gon moves to the droids guarding the ship.

CHANGE: The ‘officer droid’ in charge challenges Qui Gon—who explains his official position as ambassador and that he’s taking the Queen to Coruscant. This sets the droids circuits to whirring for a second or so before it raises its weapon. The others follow suit in eerie unison. “…or not.” Qui Gon quips before blasting the group with telekinesis. Obi-Wan, meanwhile, launches into the droids guarding the pilots. The droids prove to be too slow for the Jedi, who attack with blinding speed and deflect the droid’s shots. This gives Panaka, his men, and the rescued pilots a chance to act as well, helping bring down all the droids in the hangar with blasters or by physically overwhelming them.

Everyone quickly hurries aboard the Queen’s ship and they lift off.


The heroes hurry to the bridge of the ship as it races up through the atmosphere and into space. They quickly run afoul of the blockade and start taking fire. The ship’s hull is hit.

CHANGE: Jar Jar, looking on from behind the Jedi (and generally trying to stay out of the way), Jumps at the sound of the bridge alarm, exclaiming reflexively. “I didn’t do it!”

The pilot reports that the shield generator has been hit. We cut to a scene of Astromech droids being deployed to fix the damage—including R2-D2. The droids get picked off, one at a time as those on the bridge comment on the dire consequences of not getting the shields back up. R2 works diligently, despite the fire, managing to fix the generator. Back in the cockpit, the pilot exclaims “That little droid did it!”

With shields set to maximum, the pilot makes a daring run over the massive Federation battleships and through the blockade.

As they flee, the pilot reports that the hyperdrive has been CHANGE: Damaged, not ‘leaking’, they can’t jump far. Obi-Wan, working one of the consoles, suggests Tatooine as a place to stop for fuel and repairs. It’s controlled by the Hutts, though, a fact that Panaka objects to, but Qui Gon sees it as the best option.


Viceroy Gunray delivers the bad news of the Queen’s escape to Sidious, who is adamant she be found and forced to sign the treaty. When the Viceroy makes excuses, Sidious brings forth his apprentice, Darth Maul, and states that HE will find the queen. As the holo fades, Gunray expresses distress that the deal is “getting out of hand”.


Artoo-Deetoo is brought before the queen and commended for his bravery in saving the ship. CHANGE: Cut out the bit with the Queen ordering Padme to clean up R2. Qui-Gon then steps forth to explain the situation to the queen, who agrees to go, despite Panaka’s misgivings.

CHANGE: Later, the “handmaiden” Padme makes her rounds of the ship, checking in on those crewmen and soldiers wounded during the escape. She makes a point of stopping by R2 and dusting off some of the carbon scoring on the little droid. Glancing back to the wounded men, she exhales—obviously concerned. She leans her head wearily against the little droid, who bleeps consolingly.

At this point, Jar Jar shows up, quietly introducing himself to the young woman, who asks him how he came to be traveling with the Jedi. Jar Jar tries to explain. “Well, I was out walking in the swamp, then a droid army showed up so I helped them escape and took them back to my city, only they didn’t want to..” he trails off and replies finally. “Short answer? I have bad luck.” At that, Padme laughs a little.

1 comment:

  1. You've gone up to the point in the movie through which I tend to see it as 'already pretty good' (it's from the landing on Tatooine afterward this film REALLY nosedives)- but yeah, I like this. I think it's an especially good take on Jar-jar.