Star Wars:The Phantom Menace (a 15-Minute Force production): Chapter Six: Face Tattoos and Inconceivable Vergences

1:15:01 – 1:30:00

We begin where we left off. Anakin runs back to his mother, Shmi, hugs her and says, “I just can’t do it.” It would be a more effective scene if Jake Lloyd had been a better actor. Shmi tells him to be brave and not to look back. Anakin vows that he will return to free her some day. This is where the orchestra should play a dramatic sting.

The soundtrack does swell into a familiar Star Wars theme. I apologize for not knowing what it’s called. It’s not the main theme and it’s not the imperial march. That’s as far as my knowledge of the John Williams score goes. Oh, it’s not Mos Eisley cantina music either.

Darth Maul rides up on his cool sand Harley just as Qui-Gon and Anakin are arriving at the Chrome Nubian ahead of the Amber Alert. He attacks and we get our first lightsaber battle between Qui-Gon and Darth Maul.

Qui-Gon’s lightsaber is green. Darth Maul’s is red. The color of your lightsaber is as important as your favorite color of M&Ms, I think.

One brief note about Darth Maul. He looks cool. I’m not sure I always thought this. I may have initially found his red-and-black countenance with the wicked eyes and all those horns off-putting and maybe a bit too on-the-nose Satanic. But, during this viewing, I’ve decided that I like his look. I like the way he wears his robe, even, especially with the deep hood up. And this is some of the best dueling I’ve seen in Star Wars so far.

I have just one question that I’m not going to bother going to Google to answer: is this supposed to be a face tattoo? And, if so, is it a red tattoo on black skin, or a black tattoo on red skin? Either way, I like it.

The duel is short and inconclusive. After Anakin runs to the chrome starship, Obi-Wan orders the pilot to take off. Rather than running out to join his Master in defeating this ominous-looking Sith, he brings the ship close enough to Qui-Gon and Darth Maul so that Qui-Gon can jump on board and run away from the fight. Wasn’t is Master Yoda who said that any Jedi who turns tail and runs away lives to die another day? Further into the movie runtime, perhaps?

Obi-Wan and Anakin meet for the first time. Pleased to meetcha.

Concerning Darth Maul, Obi-Wan asks Qui-Gon, What was it? It? It?? Perhaps the previous racial insensitivity I’ve detected in this movie has made my own skin too thin. I would have preferred Hey, who was that jerk?

Qui-Gon responds that he doesn’t know what it was, but it was well-trained in the Jedi arts. It. Maybe among Jedi this is the acceptable pronoun when you don’t know the gender or species of your lightsaber-wielding attacker. Qui-Gon adds that he thinks it was after the queen.

Cut to Naboo and a night establishing shot of the palace at Theed. Inside, Governor Bibble is walking alongside Nute Gunray, who is sitting on a moving mechanical chair with spider-like legs. Why not? A company of battle droids walks with them, mercifully not roger-rogering in this scene. Gunray tells Bibble that his people are starving but he’s going to die much sooner than they will. I wonder if the governor is kicking himself for not getting on the starship with the queen while he had the chance. As the scene ends, one of the droids says his troops are in position to search for the rumored underwater villages and that they will not stay hidden for long. Oh, no. Those poor Gungans. And Jar Jar isn’t there to die with them.

Time for a tender scene between Padmé and Anakin on board the royal vessel. Always the Mack Daddy, Anakin gives her the gift of some handmade jewelry. He carved it out of a japor snippet, as one does. He also remarks that she seems sad. She tells him that the queen is worried about her subjects and it’s important that they convince the Senate to intervene because political maneuvering is what Star Wars fans are most interested in. Oh, and did I mention yet that Padmé is the real queen? Shh…no else else knows this yet. She’s just a humble handmaiden who happens to know all of the queen’s intimate thoughts and feelings.

And then they reach Trantor….I mean, Coruscant, an entire planet that’s just one big city. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I like the way Coruscant looks, with all of the skycars zooming through the sky. This appeals to the science fiction geek in me more than desert planets and underwater Thomas Kinkade paintings.

I’m not sure how long their flight was. Seems like only seconds have passed.

The pilot, Basil Exposition, tells Anakin that there’s Chancellor Valorum’s shuttle and, look, Senator Palpatine is waiting for them.

We all know who Palpatine is. Chancellor Finis Valorum is portrayed by Terrence Stamp, who was once General Zod in the Chris Reeve Superman movies. He was also the voice of Jor-El on the television show Smallville. He’s done other things, too, including the cover of a Smiths album. He doesn’t ask Queen Amidala to kneel before him, which is unfortunate. Stamp is on record as saying he thought this Star Wars shoot was boring. He does look bored in this scene.

Anakin keeps stealing glances at Padmé and at the faux-queen Lady Ga Ga. I think this midichlorian-saturated fool has it figured out.

Qui-Gon tells the chancellor that he has to meet with the Jedi Council immediately. The situation has become much more complicated. Yay, more meetings, and questions of procedure in the senate. This is the stuff we’ve been waiting for.

Queen Amidala meets privately with Senator Palpatine. She’s changed wardrobe again, going from black to white this time. I think she’s changed actors again as well. I believe that’s Natalie Portman behind the kabuki makeup this time. Qui-Gon had sent Anakin along with Padmé, who is now his babysitter, I suppose, but I didn’t see him in this scene. He’s probably out roaming the streets of Coruscant with Jar Jar.

Palpatine says that the senate is full of greedy bureaucrats and that Chancellor Valorum has no real power, mired in baseless accusations of corruption. Palpatine is urging the queen to put forth a vote of no confidence. They need to get a chancellor in power who has the strength to control the senate. Hmm. Does he have anyone in mind for the job? This seems like political chicanery to me.

Meanwhile, in another meeting, at the Jedi Council, Qui-Gon presents his theory that the being who attacked him on Tatooine was a Sith Lord. Impossible, says the Jedi Master Conehead, the Sith have been extinct for a millennium. Mace Windu, sitting beside Master Yoda, says he doesn’t believe the Sith could have returned without their knowing about it. I like Mace Windu: I know he has a leather wallet under his robe that has Bad M*********ker burned into it.

Hard to see, the Dark Side is. Words of fortune cookie wisdom from Master Yoda.

Mace vows that they will discover the identity of Qui-Gon’s attacker. He dismisses Qui-Gon and his padawan with a May the Force be with you, but Qui-Gon has more to say. He informs the Jedi Council that he has detected a vergence in the Force around a boy who has the highest concentration of midichlorians he has ever seen. It’s possible, even, that he was conceived by the midichlorians.

Mace Windu says that Qui-Gon is referring to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the Force. The One. I should capitalize that. If the Jedi Council didn’t buy his theory that Darth Maul was a Sith Lord, how could Qui-Gon have thought this would fly? At this point, I have every reason to believe Qui-Gon is always going to the council with tinfoil hat theories. Sith Lords and vergences and ancient prophecies…Give us a break here, Qui. Vergence may be a word, but it doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Qui-Gon requests that the boy be trained as a Jedi. The council members shake their heads in disbelief, exasperated with Qui-Gon’s crazy theories. Bring him before us then, Mace says.

Anakin goes to the queen’s chambers to say goodbye to Padmé before he leaves for the Jedi Council to, hopefully, begin his training. He thinks he may not have another chance to say goodbye to her. Padmé has been sent out on an errand, Queen Amidala says. Another wardrobe change. This time she looks like the joker on a deck of Bicycle playing cards. The queen says she’ll pass along Anakin’s goodbye to her handmaiden. Okay, she’s Padmé. Can’t we just go ahead and admit that? Is it really a spoiler at this point?

Another meeting. This time of the senate. With Senator Palpatine whispering in her ear, Queen Amidala presents the plight of Naboo to the chancellor and to the senators assembled in their little floating UFO luxury boxes. The representatives of the Trade Federation object to the accusations and ask that a commission be formed to investigate the claims. Chancellor Valorum, still looking bored, asks Amidala if she will defer to the requests to form a commission. No, she will not defer. Instead she calls for a vote of no confidence, just as Palpatine wanted. The crowd goes wild. It’s a foregone conclusion that Finis Valorum is Finis’d as Chancellor.

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are taking a sunset stroll onto an outside walkway. The young padawan says that no way is Anakin going to pass the test; he’s too old to begin Jedi training. Oh, he’ll become a Jedi, says Qui-Gon. You just wait and see. Obi-Wan asks his master not to defy the council again. He insists that Qui-Gon would be on the Jedi Council if he would just follow the Code. It seems that Qui-Gon is the rebellious one in this relationship, much like—one might assume—Anakin might become as Obi-Wan’s padawan.

As the 1:30:00 mark draws nigh, Anakin is being tested by the Jedi Council using what seems to be a variation of all those old ESP tests from the black-&-white movies from the 1950s, only using a computer monitor rather than cards.

In spite of all the meetings and the politics, I liked this fifteen-minute stretch much more than the previous one. We were gifted with a lightsaber duel. It was too brief, of course, but it was some action. And we got more expansive views of Coruscant, the Jedi Temple and the Senate. Plus, Nute Gunray on a completely unnecessary spider-chair.

I got the distinct feeling that this was all about maneuvering chess pieces on the board. Stuff that is more exciting is coming. It has to be.

Until next episode, May None of Your Children Be Conceived by Midichlorians, and May the 15-Minute Force Be With You.

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