Breening Thursday #54: “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” from 1999

This article was written by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan as part of the Breening Thursdays series.

Today is Thursday, so it is time for another Breening Thursday article. Since we published an article in this series every week during August, #AMonthWithoutTheCode2020, we’ve been taking a break from this series during this month. However, since May, we have breened one Star Wars film each month, skipping only July because it was #CleanMovieMonth2020. We are breening the series in the order the films were made. Since today is the last Thursday in September, it is our last opportunity to breen this month’s Star Wars offering.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) - IMDb

Today’s topic is Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace from 1999. This is the first film in the Star Wars prequels which we have seen and breened. It was released sixteen years after the last film in the saga, Return of the Jedi, which came out in 1983. Although many people dislike the prequels, we have always been partial to them. To be clear, The Phantom Menace is the only one we have seen in its entirety so far. However, we have seen many clips from the other two prequels. In fact, we had seen more from the prequels than from the original trilogy before we started breening these movies. Now, we are excited to finally watch these films and analyze how they could have been made under the Code!

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace | Buy, Rent or Watch on FandangoNOW

For those unfamiliar with the plot of The Phantom Menace, let’s give a basic overview. The Star Wars prequels tell the backstory, explaining what happened 20-30 years before the events of the original trilogy. These films tell us how Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) father, became the original trilogy’s iconic villain in a black suit, Darth Vader. Vader was played by David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones, but we don’t really get to see him as a person in the first three films. The prequel trilogy was made to tell us Anakin’s story. This film begins with Anakin (Jake Lloyd) as a ten-year-old slave boy, who is discovered by two Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). Qui-Gon discovers that he has special powers and thinks that he is the Chosen One who was prophesied to bring balance to the Force. Meanwhile, the two Jedi are trying to help Queen Amidala of Naboo (Kiera Knightley) save her people from attacks from the Trade Federation. Little do they know that the real queen is disguised as one of her own handmaidens, Padme (Natalie Portman). Now, start your engines; it’s time for the breening race to begin!

On the planet of Naboo, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi meet Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), a clumsy Gungan. They want to go somewhere safe, so Jar Jar offers to bring them to his settlement, Gungan City. Little do they know that Jar Jar has been banished from the underwater city because of his clumsiness. When they arrive in the city, a guard stops them and says to Jar Jar, “Yousa in big doo-doo this time.” The italicized word is a vulgar expression. It should be replaced with something like trouble.

In Gungan City, the Jedi go before Boss Nass (Brian Blessed), the ruler of the Gungan. When trying to make a decision about what to do, he shakes his head violently, spluttering, drooling, and spitting as he does so. He should not spit or drool when doing this.

To get to the other side of Naboo, the Jedi and Jar Jar go through the center of the planet by submarine. During this journey, they encounter many fearsome sea monsters. When the first giant fish attacks their submarine, it latches on with its long tongue, like a suction cup. This design of the tongue is unacceptable. Instead of latching on with its tongue, the creature could grab the ship with a tentacle.

That fish is grabbed by a creature which looks like a huge aquatic dinosaur. It brutally tears the fish in half, leading to Qui-Gon’s famous line, “There’s always a bigger fish.” However, showing any creature getting torn in half, especially alive, is unacceptably gruesome. Instead, the dinosaur should just be shown grabbing the fish at a far angle, cutting to the Jedi before any further damage is done to it.

When the Jedi are bringing the Queen and her entourage onto a ship to go to Coruscant, they must fight and destroys several battle droids before boarding the ship. We see one droid that has been sliced in half yet continues wandering around, like a chicken with its head cut off. This is disgusting. All killed or dismembered droids should just collapse and not move again.

When the band that escaped from Naboo first arrives on Tatooine, Qui-Gon Jinn, Padme, and Jar Jar go to look around Mos Espa, the local town. As they’re walking, Jar Jar steps in something and shakes his foot, exclaiming, “Oh! Icky-icky goo!” The substance in which he steps looks quite disgusting. This element should be removed.

Qui-Gon needs to buy some parts for their ship, so he meets Watto (Andy Secombe), a Toydarian junk dealer. We heard some say that this character is an offensive Jewish stereotype. Honestly, his accent struck us both as Italian. However, we read on IMDb that the voice actor based his performance on Sir Alec Guinness’s performance as Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948). The PCA warned the British filmmakers against the offensive Jewish stereotype of this character, yet they retained it, since it was a British production. We watched the following clip and were shocked by how similar to Watto Fagin is.

Thus, we decided that Watto must be revised. He should not have a prominent nose. Also, his accent should be modified to sound less Jewish. As a side note, this alien character should wear more clothes. He appears to be wearing little besides a vest, so some pants should be added to his wardrobe.

When Jar Jar is messing around Watto’s part shop, he accidentally starts a Wac-47. When he finally manages to grab hold of it, it kicks him below the belt. This is crude and must be removed. If the Wac-47 kicks him, it should clearly kick him higher, in the stomach.

When Jar Jar is walking along the street in Tatooine, he sees some little dead creatures, something like a cross between a chicken and a lizard, hanging at a merchant’s cart. He grabs one with his long tongue and sucks it into his mouth, ending up with its legs and arms sticking out. This is absolutely disgusting and makes me a little ill just to look at the pictures. One of the main problems with this saga is the frequent consumption of whole creatures by other creatures. Firstly, entire carcasses should not be hanging there. Instead, they should look like processed cuts of meat, which are unidentifiable as any particular animal. They also must not be bloody. Jar Jar should grab a whole piece of meat with his tongue and eat it swiftly. Thus, it should be small enough for him to take it in one bite.

The merchant selling these little dead creatures is a rather grotesque alien. His face is horrific in a wrinkly way which is reminiscent of creatures from the original trilogy. His face should not look so demonic, and his teeth should not be so scary. The horns might also be removed.

Sebulba (Lewis Macleod), a vicious Dug, angrily accosts Jar Jar after his imprudent theft of the aforementioned dead animal. According to IMDb, George Lucas created this design to look like “a spider crossed with an orangutan crossed with a sloth,” with a camel-like face and clothing inspired by medieval armor. He also wanted the light, muscular creature to use its hands as feet and vice versa. This character is meant to look unpleasant, since he is a villain. However, the nasty face and spider-like gait could be disturbing to some children. Some of the lumps on his face could be removed. Also, while he may walk on his hands, he should not seem to crawl in such an arachnoid way.

After Anakin saves Jar Jar from Sebulba, he leads the group away, bringing them to his house for protection from an impending sand storm. In one final shot, Sebulba is shown viciously biting the head off of one of the afore-mentioned little creatures. This is disgusting and must be removed.

In a later scene, we see Sebulba getting a massage and pedicure from blue female aliens. They look like female versions of Oola (Femi Taylor), the unfortunate green alien slave girl owned by Jabba in Return of the Jedi. Fortunately, they are not as bare as she is. However, they are wearing tight jumpsuits with rather open necklines. Their jumpsuits should not be skintight, and their necklines must be raised.

At the podraces, there is a contestant with three eyes who is rather grotesque. If he only had two eyes, he would just look like an orange goat. Thus, one of the eyes should be eliminated from his design.

At the podraces, one of the spectators who jumps up in the crowd is rather grotesque. His strange head should have a different design.

When Jar-Jar is helping prepare Anakin’s ship, a vulgar noise is heard, and he suddenly seems to smell something unpleasant. He looks up and sees a large creature in front of him. It appears to have passed gas. It turns toward him with a snuffle, and he pinches his nose, exclaiming “Peeyewsa!” This is vulgar comedie de toilette, which is unacceptable in any Code film. This irrelevant, offensive element should be removed.

The master of ceremonies at this event appears to be Jabba the Hutt. Unfortunately, although this is over thirty years before the events of Return of the Jedi, when he was first seen, he doesn’t look much better. He is only slightly less disgusting because, being CGI animated rather than a huge puppet, he looks less realistic. Our notes on this repulsive character from our breening of Return of the Jedi apply to this film, as well. Instead of a horrific alien, he should be a human gangster, the reasons for which we explained in our previous breening article. Also, he is accompanied by his entourage, which includes other objections. Next to him is his main assistant, Bib Fortuna (Michael Carter), whose pink, fleshy appearance should be modified as we suggested in the other film. Also present is a slave girl with spiky blue hair, who is wearing Leia’s famous metal bikini. If a slave girl is present, she could be wearing Leia’s revised costume from Return of the Jedi.

Jabba announces the beginning of the podrace by biting the head of some small creature and and spitting it at a gong. I don’t know why, but whenever this character enters a film, it becomes far more disgusting. This is entirely unacceptable. Jabba can announce the beginning of the race by hitting a gong in the usual way, with a mallet.

At the podraces, an alien vendor in the bleachers is selling grotesque looking little creatures. They should not be whole bodies, nor should they look so disgusting. They should look more like already processed meat, similar to whatever Jar Jar stole earlier.

Back on Naboo, Viceroy Gunray (Silas Carson) is traveling down a hallway with one of the queen’s entourage. He is riding on a strange crawling chair which resembles a robotic spider or crab. This is very creepy and extremely upsetting to people who are afraid of spiders, like Rebekah. His chair could automatically role or float, but it must not crawl.

When Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is talking to Queen Amidala on Coruscant, there is a naked statue in the room. If a statue is included in the decor, it must not look like an unclothed human form of either sex.

In the Jedi High Council Chamber, several unacceptably grotesque aliens are visible. They include an alien with a long serpentine neck, a creature with gruesome skin on Mace Windu’s (Samuel L. Jackson) left, a prophet-like man with long, creepy fingers, and a creature with multiple horns coming out of his head seated next to a woman who looks Indian. Especially since these creatures are Jedi, “good guys,” their various appearances need revision. The serpentine neck must be redesigned, the creature next to Mace should be completely changed, the fellow on the cushions should have more normal hands, and the horns should be removed from the fourth fellow.

When Qui-Gon Jinn goes before the Jedi High Council, he tells them about his discovery of young Anakin, whom he believes to be “the Chosen One.” He says, “Finding him was the will of the Force.” The expression “will of the Force” could be considered sacrilegious, since it is too similar to the Christian concept of Providence and predestination. Instead, he should say, “Finding him was not chance; it was destiny.”

When Anakin goes to the Queen’s chambers to see Padme, there is a statue of a naked woman in the background. This statue is totally unacceptable and must be removed or replaced with an acceptable piece of art.

Statues seem to be quite a problem in this film. Outside of the Senate, there are several statues which look like creepy, naked guards. If statues are guarding the Senate, they should not be so strangely lumpy, and they must look clothed.

In the Senate, one of the floating seats holds three creatures with three eyes, which look like the same species as the afore-mentioned three-eyed goat in the podrace on Tatooine. They should be revised similarly.

Another one of the floating seats holds three strange-looking green creatures with grotesque teeth and large heads. They look like horrific monsters. Their appearance should be revised.

Later, when Queen Amidala forms an alliance with the Gungans, Boss Nass once again splutters vulgarly. Like before, he must not spit when shaking his head.

When Viceroy Gunray is communicating with Darth Sidious via “Skype,” the hologram of him is on another crawling mechanism. Like the arachnoid chair ridden by Viceroy Gunray in an earlier scene, this should be revised to some mechanism which doesn’t resemble a spider.

In a penultimate battle, Darth Maul (Ray Park) stabs Qui-Gon Jinn with his lightsaber. You can see the lightsaber sticking out of his back when he is stabbed. The lightsaber should not be shown going through Qui-Gon. Instead, Darth Maul should just stab him from the front.

When Anakin successfully blows up the control ship, we briefly see the aliens inside. It is one thing to show them before the actual moment, but these unfortunate creatures are shown during the actual explosion. Code war films often showed ships being blown up, but they didn’t show the people inside right before or during the explosion. This could be disturbing, so the shot must be eliminated.

Instead of becoming “one with the Force,” as many Jedi do when they die, Qui-Gon Jinn leaves mortal remains. Thus, his body is cremated. Cremation is not explicitly against the Code. However, showing a body being burnt is disgusting. The funeral pyre and people around it can be shown, but Qui-Gon’s body should not be visible within the flames.

During the celebration on Naboo in the final scene, there is a rather grotesque alien standing next to Yoda. This creature has wrinkled, scarred pink skin and large ears. His ears and skin color are fine, but the scars and scratches look horrible. Those should be changed.

In two of the three films in this series we have already breened, we have discussed the Force itself. As we mentioned in our breening of A New Hope, the concept of the Force in its original state is a bit too “New Age” or theosophical. It should instead be more magical or fanciful, eliminating the “looking inward” idea. We continued this theme in The Empire Strikes Back, again simply by altering a few words in descriptions of or discussions about the Force. Now, we have reached the point when a new element is added to the Force, midi-chlorians. These “microscopic life forms” were not mentioned in the original trilogy, although George Lucas claims that he thought of the concept in 1977. Midi-chlorians are based on real biological elements of cells, mitochondria. They can be detected by blood tests. High midi-chlorian counts determine sensitivity to the Force. Qui-Gon Jinn explains midi-chlorians in a conversation with young Anakin, clarifying the concept to the audience as well as to the boy. He says, “Midi-chlorians are a microscopic life form that resides within all living cells.” “They live inside me,” Anakin repeats. “Inside your cells, yes. And we are symbionts with them.” “Symbionts?” Anakin repeats. “Life forms,” Qui-Gonn continues, “living together for mutual advantage. Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to us, telling us the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you’ll hear them speaking to you.” For the most part, this speech is very good. It reinforces the scientific versus mystic/Eastern religion feeling of the Force which we have been advocating from the start. The only parts to which we object are the italicized phrases. The phrase about life not existing without the midi-chlorians makes them seem too powerful, so it should be removed. The second italicized phrase includes the expression the will of the Force. This phrase should be replaced with “helping us understand the Force.” Other than that, this film continues on a very Code-compliant path, especially regarding the Force.

Tiffany’s Conclusion: I really enjoyed this film. Personally, I am a fan of the Star Wars prequels, at least from what I have seen of them. Some fans find them to be a disconnect from the original trilogy, and it is true that they are quite different in some ways. However, I feel that The Phantom Menace is a natural extension of Return of the Jedi, which branched off in a different direction from the previous two films. The first two films contained four-letter words, excessive and lustful kissing, and bloody yet more realistic violence, making it seem like a Shurlock Era film. The third one contained no swearing, only proper kissing, and little blood in its more science fiction-like violence. Instead, it incorporated vulgarity, like more eating of little creatures, burping, slimy slugs, rock and roll, and also a startling amount of indecent female costumes. Aside from the last element, it seemed less “mature” because of these things. The first film in the prequels continued in this vein by having more eating of little creatures, comedie de toilette, drooling, other random vulgarity, and science fiction violence versus bloody but more realistic violence. These difference would be less obvious if all these films were made under the Code, since all objections would have been eliminated, as we have suggested.

Rebekah’s Conclusion: I was very excited to see the prequels, since I watched clips from them before watching any from the original trilogy. While I especially look forward to seeing the latter two films, which feature Hayden Christensen, I was eager to watch The Phantom Menace, as well, and it did not disappoint! I had watched the least clips from this film, so much of it was new to me. While it often had a different feeling then the originals, it was every inch a Star Wars film and didn’t seem out of place in the saga. It was the most similar to Return of the Jedi, since, as I mentioned in our last article, that film struck me as having a different feeling than the first two. At times, the CGI was a bit excessive and reminiscent of a video game, and I found this especially disconcerting as a classic film fan, but, overall, I enjoyed it very much. I found all the performances to be very good, particularly that of Jake Lloyd as young Anakin. I found the widely-hated character Jar-Jar Binks to be irritating only when he was supposed to be, and overall I thought he was quite entertaining. Liam Neeson was excellent as the wise Qui-Gon Jinn, and Ewan McGregor was very amusing as the witty and mildly sarcastic young Obi-Wan Kenobi. Overall, I found it to be an excellent addition to the saga and a great start to a new trilogy of films. I am excited to finally see Anakin’s story all the way through in the next two films. Once more, I hope that our changes won’t keep us from being allowed on the Jedi Council. After all, we only wish to make the Light Side prevail more than ever in these films! I look forward to seeing you on our next visit to a galaxy far, far away. Until then, if you run into trouble, try spinning, that’s a good trick! 

We hope you liked our journey into “a galaxy far, far away” for the fourth time. We are enjoying this foray into breening very popular entertainment. We now are beginning to breen the Star Wars prequels. We wish that we could make dissenters like these three films with our removal of objections, but that is unlikely. However, we can explain how this film would have been different without any Code violations. A Code film from 1999 might be hard to comprehend, but we hope to have shown you that the Code applies to any era. Until October, may the Force be with you!

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2 thoughts on “Breening Thursday #54: “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” from 1999

  1. Hooray! You’ve started breening the prequels! I’m not a fan of them as much as the originals just because I personally don’t like the story line as much. I do think these little changes would make it more agreeable to me! A common complaint is against the actors and I think that they actually had good performances. The story behind the CGI is quite impressive, but basically what happened is that they wanted it to be so perfect that they adjusted everything therefore over doing it, which gave it those strange video game quality visuals. I’m looking forward to your breening of episode 2!

    MovieCritic | Movies Meet Their Match

    Liked by 1 person

    • It means so much to us that you really enjoy our breening of “Star Wars” films. In fact, it’s my main inspiration to keep going with breening the saga, aside from the fact that we’re enjoying it. I appreciate your thoughts on this film. Your comment about the CGI looking like a video game is both true and fascinating. I’m so glad you think our changes would improve the film and complement the actors’ good performances. We’re excited about watching Episode II as well, since we’re eager to see the first film with Hayden Christensen.

      Yours Hopefully,

      Tiffany Brannan

      Like

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