Star Wars:The Phantom Menace (a 15-Minute Force production): Chapter Two: New Weesong and Bigger Fish

15:01 – 30:00

Yousa cannot bees hair. Dis army of mackineeks up dare tis new weesong.

This is the first line of dialogue from the character Boss Nass. I am not fluent in Gungan but I get the gist. You cannot be here. Then something about an army of machines, maybe. You’re on your own with new weesong.

Boss Nass is the only fat Gungan we’ve seen. He’s even the only fat Gungan sitting at the high semi-circular table looking down on our pair of stalwart Jedi and one simpering Jar Jar. We might even be forgiven for thinking that the reason he is in charge is because he is fat. He has some sort of vocal tic that is literally tick-tick-tick-tick. In Gunga City, Like a Boss means you’re fat and have a speech impediment.

Boss Nass doesn’t care about what’s happening on the surface of Naboo. Obi-Wan points out that the Gungan have a symbiotic relationship with the Naboo. But Nass isn’t hearing any of that. He insists they are safe underwater because the droids know nothing about them.

Here’s where Qui-Gon Jinn shows Boss Nass who’s really the boss. He waves his hand. We all know what it means when a Jedi waves his hand. Seconds later, Boss Nass is offering a transport to the Jedi and giving them directions for the quickest route to Naboo.

A couple of things confused me here. First, I’m going to assume that, since they are already on Naboo, Boss Nass is talking about directions to the capital city. I mean, if aliens landed in my back yard, it wouldn’t make sense for me to give them directions to Earth. I choose to whistle past that one.

Second, Boss Nass insists that the quickest way to Naboo is through the planet’s core. Think that one over with me for a minute. For the sake of this story, we are meant to assume that the quickest route to the central Naboo city is through the center of the planet. That’s some serious Jules Verne shit right there. I’ll accept this, too, because Star Wars has always been more science-fantasy than science-fiction. If that means we accept antiquated Victorian notions about hollow planets as fact, so be it.

Also, if the quickest route is through the center of the planet, it means that the Trade Federation’s army landed about as far away from the city as was possible on the surface. Seems like poor planning for an invasion force. That’s like invading Normandy by landing at Fort Lauderdale.

As the Jedi are leaving to board their bongo, which they hope is some sort of transport, they stop long enough to save Jar Jar from receiving his punishment. Qui-Gon says that they may need his help navigating through the planet’s core, because apparently Jar Jar inspires confidence in his abilities as a navigator. Qui-Gon then uses the life-debt argument with Boss Nass, essentially claiming Jar Jar as his slave. Make of that what you will. Do we really need more fuel for the racial insensitivity furnace?

With just one more pass through the script and a minor rewrite, we could have left Jar Jar behind right here at this moment. You blame George Lucas. I blame Qui-Gon Jinn. In my head canon, this makes Darth Maul the hero of the movie.

The bongo turns out to be a rather neat-looking underwater vehicle. As Jar Jar is explaining to the Jedi that he was banished from Gunga City because he is accident prone, their craft is attacked by one big gooberfish. This fish, in turn, is eaten by a bigger creature, which leads Qui-Gon to quip, There’s always a bigger fish.

Back on the Trade Federation battleship—the big donut—Nute Gunray is hologram conferencing with Darth Sidious again. These guys have too many meetings. Nute says the invasion is going as scheduled. Darth Sidious says he has the Senate bogged down in procedures and that they will have no choice but to accept the Federation’s control of the system. Nute says that Queen Amidala thinks the Senate will side with her. Sidious says she is young and naive and will be easy to control. No one talks about the Jedi.

I have an admission to make here. I thought the Neimoidian standing with Nute this time was still Daultay Dofine, also known as Stunted Slime, but apparently he’s a completely different character named Rune. Here I was talking about racial insensitivity, and I can’t even tell my Neimoidians apart.

Back to the Jedi and Jar Jar. Their bongo momentarily loses power. Obi-Wan jiggles a few wires and when the power comes back on there’s another large underwater creature with a long crocodile mouth about to crunch them. But, in further proof of Qui-Gon’s bigger fish theory, it is eaten instead by a bigger creature. A scene that was a carbon copy of their previous scene and added virtually nothing to the story except for the fact that Jar Jar is useless as a navigator—big shock—and the Jedi are using the Force to guide them into the jaws of increasingly larger underwater beasties. The scene concludes as the vessel goes into a cave.
Meanwhile, back on the surface of Naboo, the droid army reaches the city ahead of the Jedi even though the Jedi took the shortest route to Naboo. None of the Gungans are good navigators, it seems, not even the fattest.

I’m going to point out that this part of Naboo is the universe’s largest golf course and that it is a beautiful day for an invasion. No one should stay indoors (or underwater) on such a glorious day.

Queen Amidala is inside the palace looking out the window as the army approaches. It’s a beautifully composed shot, reminiscent of that famous photo of JFK in the oval office. Nute Gunray and another Neimodian—maybe Rune, but I’m not the one to ask, it seems—come out of a large transport and one of the droid soldiers tells them that the queen has been captured. Her volunteer armed force seems to have un-volunteered. I took a moment to refer to the script and discovered that the capital city of Naboo is called Theed. So, this is Theed that the army is rolling into.

The Jedi’s bongo bobs to the surface of some body of water in the middle of Theed. It is an idyllic setting, reminiscent of Venice, or somewhere watery and Italian, at any rate.

Back to the palace. Governor Bibble and Queen Amidala are walking down a picturesque stairway with Viceroy Nute and a lot of battle droids. The viceroy says the queen will sign a treaty with the Trade Federation, legitimizing their occupation, and the senate will ratify it. The queen, vocal fry still being used to good effect, says she will not cooperate. The viceroy orders the droids to take the queen and her party for processing.

I must add that Queen Amidala has changed costumes again. She’s the Lady Ga Ga of Naboo. Still in kabuki face like the fifth member of KISS, but now in an all-black ensemble with yet another elaborate headdress, this one either a giant Cossack hat or a bunch of black feathers. No, definitely feathers. I don’t know much about couture. She changed costumes between watching the army roll into Theed Plaza from the window and this scene.

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan ambush the droids escorting the queen and her retinue to Camp 4, and dispatch them in short order. I’d like to point out that Captain Panaka and several of his soldiers are part of the group, but they seem to do little to help the Jedi. Qui-Gon introduces himself and Obi-Wan as ambassadors from the chancellor. Governor Bibble says that their negotiations seem to have failed. A witty one, is the governor. Also a bit of an ingrate, I’d say. If I were Qui-Gon I’d run him through with my lightsaber, but there is abundant evidence to suggest that I would be a Sith Lord.

Captain Panaka leads the way to the main hangar. Since communications are out, the plan is to get to a ship and leave Naboo with the queen for Coruscant. Qui-Gon says that the Trade Federation will kill her if she stays. I don’t think we’ve heard anything from the viceroy or even Darth Sidious to suggest that. Sidious even said she would be easy to control. But Qui-Gon is convinced otherwise.

I was fooled again by this movie. I was certain that it was Natalie Portman in the black outfit on the stairs, but, here, in the hangar, it’s obvious in closeup shots that she’s one of the handmaidens and the girl in kabuki face isn’t her. I am a rube. At one point the faux-queen looks to the Portman handmaiden, who says we are brave, your highness, which seems to mean let’s haul ass out of here on the spaceship, Lady Ga Ga.

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan slice a bunch of battle droids into pieces, free the pilots, and then they zoom out of the hangar in a sleek, shiny Naboo spaceship.

I want to talk about the Naboo ship for a minute. Technically, it is the J-Type 327 Nubian royal starship. What’s a Nubian? Heh, that was for you Kevin Smith fans out there. Anyway, let’s call it the Naboo royal starship for brevity’s sake. In a universe where we’ve grown accustomed to beat-up, used, lived-in looking spacecraft, this one is sleek and beautiful, solidly chromed from snout to tail. It looks like a 1950s version of what they thought the future would look like. In a world full of POS Edsels this is a cherry ’57 Chevy with giant fins. And I love it.

I wouldn’t love it if all the spacecraft we see in the Star Wars universe looked like this. That would be boring. But, I accept this as the ship designated to ferry the queen of Naboo around the galaxy. Maybe it couldn’t make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs, but who cares? We’ll talk more about the Kessel run in the future.

As our heroes are leaving the planet, they encounter the Trade Federation blockade, of course. We already saw Jar Jar saying hello to the astromech droids on board the ship, one of which was obviously R2-D2. This made me happier than recognizing TC-14 as a protocol droid. When the Trade Federation fires upon the royal starship, they damage the shield generators. This triggers the astromechs into action. They go out to the ship’s exterior while they remain in flight and begin repairing the ship. The droids are being picked off by the Trade Federation at an alarming rate. But we know who doesn’t get picked off, don’t we? R2-D2 completes the repairs alone, restoring the shields by bypassing the main power drive or somesuch technobabble.

More problems. The hyperdrive is leaking. They will have to set down somewhere to make repairs. What is the hyperdrive leaking? Oil? Dilithium crystals? Antimatter? Have they created an ecological disaster on the order of the Exxon Valdez? Oh, I get it. The closest planet to set down on is Tatooine. The Trade Federation have no presence there because it’s controlled by the Hutts. The Naboo royal starship is leaking convenient plot contrivances.

Another holographic conference call between the viceroy and Darth Sidious. Gunray has to tell Sidious that the queen has disappeared and that one Naboo cruiser made it past the blockade. Sidious insists that she be found. Gunray says it’s impossible to locate one ship. Not for a Sith, says Sidious as Darth Maul steps into the hologram image, looking all badass with his hood up. Gunray and the other guy seem to regret falling in with the Sith now.

Back on the shiny ship, R2-D2 is brought before the faux-queen by Captain Panaka. Lady Ga Ga thanks R2, after learning his number, for saving them all, because that’s what we do, right? We treat droids with respect and show them our gratitude. No one mentions the other droids which were destroyed while trying to do the same thing R2 ended up doing. If we’re going to anthropomorphize droids, you might think a little memorial would be in order. But, no….Anyway, thanks for saving our lives, R2-D2. And then the faux-queen orders Padmé, who is, remember, the real Queen Amidala, to go clean up R2-D2. Lady Ga Ga has brass balls. I know we’re trying to keep up appearances and all, but it takes a lot of nerve to order your monarch to take an SOS pad to a filthy battle-scarred astromech droid. Even one that just saved your life. Is this like Jesus washing the feet of his disciples?

While Padmé is scrubbing R2, she meets Jar Jar for the first time. He gives her an abbreviated account of how he ended up in the ship with the others. She seems to think he’s humorous. I still don’t.

As we reach the 30-minute mark, the silver ship is landing on the outskirts of a settlement on Tatooine.

What did I think about this second fifteen-minute segment? I think I liked it better than the first, overall. Most, if not all, of the Gunga City part could have been excised from the plot for me, unless we’re just setting up some sort of subplot where the Gungans and Naboo realize how important each are to the other (wink-wink). But, if we’re going to be stuck with Jar Jar, then so be it. I really liked the part where the Jedi were using their lightsabers. If the enemy weren’t comprised almost entirely of droids, we wouldn’t get all the neat decapitations and vivisecting that we do. I would love to see a Quentin Tarantino reboot of the series, though. We also see Darth Maul, R2-D2 and Tatooine for the first time, as well as the Naboo royal starship, which could have been cruising the strip in George Lucas’s American Graffiti.

It is obvious that we’re going to pick up the thread of the story, when we return, on the desert planet Tatooine. If memory serves, there are some parts coming up that will make me long for Gunga City.

Until next time…May the Force Be With You…Fifteen Minutes at a time.

I’m working on my outro. My time would probably be more wisely spent trying to figure out if all Gungans could be edited out of this movie.

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