Star Wars:The Phantom Menace (a 15-Minute Force production): Chapter Eight: Executing A 14-Year-Old Queen’s 3-Pronged Battle Plan


1:45:01 – 2:00:00

The Gungans come out of the fog and march towards battle while one of them blows on a didgeridoo, as if this were a television commercial for Outback restaurant. They surround themselves with some sort of energy shield as they approach the droid army.

You see, I wanted to say “force field,” but that becomes problematic when you’re playing around in the Star Wars sandbox. A Force field is probably a real thing, something generated by midichlorians.

Despite my feelings for Jar Jar, I will say that the Gungans appear formidable in this scene. Again, not a fat Gungan in sight. I do believe that Boss Nass may be the only one. Examining the movie in smaller increments does lead to questions, however. Why would a race of beings who live underwater have so many riding beasts and war equipment used in a ground assault?

Anyway, back to the Battle of the Eighteenth Hole on the beautiful planet of Naboo. The droid army just begins to fire on the Gungans as we cut to…

Captain Panaka and his forces distract the droids around the royal palace at Theed while Padmé, Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Anakin sneak (more or less) through a side door in some structure. You may wonder, as I did, why they would bring a little boy along on this mission, which seems particularly perilous. But, let Qui-Gon assuage your fears as he did mine. He has a line of dialogue in which he tells Anakin to hide somewhere safe once they get inside, and to stay there. Of course, that’s what Anakin will do.

Nute Gunray seems upset that the war has come to his doorstep. Darth Maul, standing imposingly beside him, says nothing.

The structure our intrepid heroes are breaking into turns out to be a hangar. While the battle continues, Nabooian pilots steal their snazzy yellow fighter ships and take off. That’s right: this is the force that’s going to attack the donut battleship in orbit around the planet. The “safe” place Anakin finds is one of the ships. R2-D2 climbs into his socket on the same ship. I’m sure it’s going to remain safely in the hangar, because otherwise this would be heavy-handed foreshadowing.

The fighter ships aren’t solid chrome like the royal starship, but they still have that throwback 1950s automobile hood ornament vibe. This sequence of the ships flying into space, and then the various closeups of the pilots in their cockpits, is reminiscent of the attack on the Death Star in A New Hope. Exciting stuff, with a John Williams score.

We cut back to the Eighteenth Hole. The droids have been unable to blast their way through the Gungan shields. The troop carriers begin to disgorge the droid ground troops. I sort of liked this bit. The battle droids were specifically engineered for easy storage and transport. You can fit a metric shit-ton of them into one carrier. I liked the way the mechanical arm thing comes out and unfolds to deposit the droids on the ground. This may be the most science-fictiony thing I’ve seen yet, a little bit of verisimilitude in what is otherwise a fantasy battle.

The Gungans have personal energy shields that they deploy. “Shields” as in a shield that you carry on your arm, not an energy dome. And glowing purple spheres of some kind are being loaded onto catapults. Jar Jar, that famous Gungan general, gives the command, “Steady…steady…”

Cut to the Donut-in-the-Sky and some Neimoidian whose name I don’t know says to activate the droids. The donut is still under attack from the yellow fighter ships. This part of the movie has always confused me. The donut is apparently controlling the battle droids on the planet. It’s a control hub of some sort, which is why it is important for the yellow ships to attack it.

The battle droids are activated, and for the first time I can see why they would be effective. Their sheer numbers and their precise military formation is impressive. As long as they don’t go around roger-rogering, they would seem very overwhelming. Unless you had a couple of Jedi with lightsabers to cut your way through them, of course. There are apparently no Gungan Jedi.

The Gungan energy dome repels artillery fire, but is apparently easy to just stroll through. Seems like they might have turned up the power just a bit, and avoided the engagement altogether. But that would have been anticlimactic. The ground forces engage. The purple spheres—which look more blue than purple now—that the Gungans are throwing at the battle droids causes some sort of electrical disruption in the droids. It’s apparent in a long shot, though, that the Gungan forces aren’t as disciplined as the battle droids. The approaching line of droid soldiers should overwhelm the Gungan position easily.

Back to the Theed hangar. The infiltration force led by Captain Panaka and Padme, with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan forming a rear guard, decide to go get Nute Gunray in the throne room. “Hey, wait for me!” Anakin says from the cockpit of a yellow fighter ship. Qui-Gon tells Ani to stay there, that he will be safe there. Doors at one end of the hangar slide open as the group approaches, and there stands Darth Maul.

Qui-Gon steps forward and says that he and Obi-Wan will handle this. Padme says that her team will take the long way around. Our 3-pronged battle plan becomes 4-pronged. Improvise, adapt, overcome.

Darth Maul removes his hood, revealing his horny head, and then both he and the Jedi remove their robes and prepare to throw down.

Just then, three destroyer droids roll in and pin down Padme’s team. In his cockpit, Anakin tells R2 that they have to do something. R2 bleeps and blorts something that sounds suspiciously like “No shit, Sherlock.”

Darth Maul reveals his double-bladed lightsaber. It’s red. It seems only fair that he has two “blades,” since he’s being double-teamed. Obi-Wan’s lightsaber is blue. Qui-Gon’s is green. What color would your lightsaber be? Mine would be white-and-red, striped like a candy cane or barbershop pole. Why not?

Anakin flips toggles and presses buttons, accidentally starts up the fighter ship and then, on purpose, uses its guns to destroy the destroyer droids, giving the Padme-Panaka group the opportunity to move on. The ship is on automatic pilot, however—at least, that’s what Anakin says—and it flies out of the hangar and takes off for the sky. As Anakin puts on his helmet he orders R2 to try to override it.

Back to Darth Maul vs. the Jedi. Maybe I’m revealing my Sith leanings again, but I think Darth Maul is a better fighter than Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. Maybe because he’s aggressive and the Jedi are supposed to be primarily defensive in nature, according to their Code. I don’t know. I just know that Maul is holding his own against two Jedi who seem unable to coordinate their own attacks, and he leads them into another chamber that’s highly reminiscent of the interior of the Death Star with its inexplicable chasms and wells to nowhere. No guard rails or safety features in sight. There are no personal injury lawyers in the Star Wars universe. Saul Goodman would rake in the dough here.

Padmé, Panaka, et al., engage in a gun battle with droids in a beautifully columned hallway leading to a grand staircase. “We don’t have time for this, Captain,” Padmé says, using her weird queen voice. The camera cuts away before we see Panaka’s eye-roll behind her back.

The autopilot is taking Anakin and R2-D2 to the donut battleship, because that’s how autopilot works.

The battle at the Eighteenth Hole still rages. General Jar Jar stumbles around with a downed droid attached to his foot, accidentally discharging the droid’s weapon and killing other droids in the process. I still despise Jar Jar. Incompetence is not funny.

Back to the space battle. One of the pilots says that the deflector shield is too strong. Anakin adds his two-cents and says that the situation is tense. He is immediately given a field promotion to Captain Obvious. If it’s possible, I think R2-D2 even rolls his eyes behind him. R2 finally manages to take the ship off of autopilot and Anakin takes over the controls. He’s a natural fighter pilot, of course.

Back to the beautiful hallway fight. Panaka shoots out a huge window and their team climbs out onto the ledge. They use what they call ascension guns, but what I call Batman guns, to rapidly scale the side of the palace. Once they’ve made it to this higher floor, they burst through another window into another beautiful hallway with columns. This hallway has a statue at one end. But no droids, apparently.

Seems like there was another fight going on somewhere else? Where were we?

Oh, right. Maul and the Jedi. Their battle has moved into another improbable chamber with unsafe platforms and narrow catwalks and large shafts of crackling purple energy. What exactly is this place that’s next to the hangar? Some sort of power station, maybe? Why do I care? This is exciting.

Obi-Wan falls to a lower platform. So does Maul. Then Qui-Gon jumps down and he and Maul are fighting while Obi-Wan struggles to return to the fray. Then Qui-Gon and Maul fight their way into an improbable corridor of randomly occurring red energy screens, which I’m sure serve some sort of purpose in the literature of the expanded universe. Suddenly, Obi-Wan is cut off from the other two. Then, Qui-Gon is cut off from Maul. Qui-Gon meditates as he waits for the screen to drop, while Maul paces like a caged tiger. Obi-Wan watches.

Back to the Battle of the Eighteenth Hole, where the Gungan energy dome has been defeated and the Gungans wisely retreat. During the retreat, Jar Jar does what Jar Jar does and accidentally destroys a bunch of battle droids and their little tank-like things.

The Padme-Panaka squad is cornered by destroyer droids and battle droids outside the Theed throne room. Padmé orders her team to put down their weapons. The enemy has won this round.

Back in space, Anakin and R2 are hit and crash land into the hangar of the droid control donut. As battle droids are approaching the downed yellow fighter, Anakin starts flipping toggles and pressing buttons again. That’s what I would have done.

The red energy barrier drops and Qui-Gon and Darth Maul are able to start fighting again. This time, next to a large inexplicable hole in the floor. Obi-Wan rushes to rejoin the fight, but is again cut off by one of the regular-as-clockwork red energy things.  Do you see how difficult it is to not say ‘force field’?

This fifteen-minute segment comes to abrupt close just as Maul runs Qui-Gon through with his lightsaber.

Obi-Wan, still kept from the fight by the force field, is in the middle of a prolonged “Noooooo—” at the 2:00:00 mark.

You know, I think this segment, with its frenetic cuts to the various battles taking place, has been my favorite of the movie so far. Truly quick-paced and exciting. And the movie is almost over and Lil’ Anakin will be out of our lives forever.

Join me next week for Chapter Nine of this 15-Minute Force production of The Phantom Menace. It will be our final chapter for this movie.

Until then, When in Doubt, Flip Toggle Switches and Press Buttons…and May the 15-Minute Force Be With You.

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