Star Wars: How Disney Has Improved The Phantom Menace

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is the most derided entry in the saga, but Disney has been working hard to fix it in the new canon.

Disney and Star Wars The Phantom Menace

The much-maligned Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace may be getting a reprieve after the Disney-era has worked to fix and otherwise improve the movie. George Lucas had been promising the prequels for almost as long as he'd been making Star Wars films. By 1978, he was openly discussing the past of the galaxy he had created, including talking about a fateful duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader on a lava planet. When he finally decided to make them, in theory, they should have been unforgettable hits.

Unfortunately, although the prequels all performed well in the box office, to Star Wars fans they were seen as the nadir of the franchise. That was particularly the case with The Phantom Menace, which contained so many good ideas - an ancient Jedi prophecy, the return of the Sith, a political crisis in the Old Republic, a slave-boy seeking his freedom, the battle to liberate a planet - but all stitched together quite poorly. Any one of these elements would have made for a good film; together, they didn't quite work, like pieces of four or five different jigsaw puzzles that have all been mashed together. As the years have passed, though, the level of vitriol has faded; in part that's because, however vocal some fans were online, the fact remains that the prequels were a success, and the young viewers who grew up watching them have come of age. But it's also partly because Lucasfilm has been carefully working to rehabilitate the prequels.

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Related: Star Wars Fandom Has Finally Got Over The Prequels - Thanks To Disney

Lucas himself began this process, with Star Wars: The Clone Wars drawing together various loose narrative threads and adding new depth to both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. When Disney purchased Lucasfilm, though, the process began to accelerate. Tie-ins and spin-offs explored both the Clone Wars and the Dark Times between the trilogies; Darth Vader's "noooooo" moment from Revenge of the Sith became the foundation for an entire comic book run; and new Star Wars films liberally mixed references to the original trilogy with references to the prequels. At first, though, Disney seemed to be leaving The Phantom Menace alone. That's changed over the course of the last year, and now the House of Mouse has worked its magic once again - all thanks to the tie-ins. Let's take a look at all the improvements that have been made recently.

The Chosen One Prophecy & The Balance of the Force Explained

When Qui-Gon arrived on the planet Tatooine in The Phantom Menace, he was somewhat shaken to encounter a young boy with an unusually high Midichlorian count - and seemed to have actually been born of the Force. Qui-Gon believed Anakin's mother when she claimed the boy hadn't been conceived in the normal way; he concluded that young Anakin Skywalker could be the "Chosen One," destined to bring "balance" to the Force. The prophecy of the Chosen One informed the rest of the prequel trilogy, as well as The Clone Wars, and yet oddly enough it was never properly explained.

Disney has finally put that to rights in Claudia Gray's Master and Apprentice, a book that focuses on the relationship between Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi several years before the events of The Phantom Menace. It features Qui-Gon Jinn realizing that the time of prophecy is at hand, and it even includes the text of the Chosen One prophecy. "A Chosen One shall come, born of no father," the prophecy declares, "and through him will ultimate balance in the Force be restored." It's quite incredible that it's taken 20 years for Star Wars to give fans that one sentence.

The idea of "balance", introduced in Epiosde I, had always seemed an odd one, because it suggests that both light and dark have a part to play - and that's hardly a typical Jedi philosophy. Greg Rucka's Guardians of the Whills suggested that the Chosen One prophecies may come from a very different Force sect, though, and even included a quote from a group known as the Ascendants of Mau.

"The moment between breaths

Is the balance of the Force.

Between life and death.

Rest and action.

Serenity and passion.

Hope and despair."

Related: Star Wars Canon Already Explained How The Emperor Survived Return Of The Jedi

This contradicts both the Jedi and the Sith Codes, suggesting that both the idea of balance and the Chosen One was originally nothing to do with the Jedi; indeed, in Master and Apprentice the key prophecies are written in ancient Alderaanian, suggesting they may even predate the Jedi Order. It's true that, as yet, it's unclear how this definition fits with the idea that the Chosen One will bring "ultimate balance in the Force." Still, for the first time in 20 years, Lucasfilm has started to define some of these mystical terms - hinting that there will be an answer to that question in the end.

Anakin's Mysterious Birth Was (Probably) All Palpatine

Qui-Gon believed that Anakin Skywalker was the Chosen One because he had been born without a father, a strangely Messianic element that sat uncomfortably with the Eastern mysticism of Star Wars. A common fan theory was that Anakin was conceived because of the Sith, with either Darth Plagueis or Darth Sidious manipulating the Midichlorians in Shmi's womb in order to create new life. This was apparently confirmed in the recent Darth Vader #25, in which Darth Vader experienced a series of mysterious Force visions that explored his own history. One of them seemed to show Palpatine creating the Chosen One.

It's important to remember that Force visions can be symbolic rather than actual representations of events. Note that Shmi is shown to be already pregnant in this image, with the Emperor looming over her; it could just as easily represent the fact that Palpatine would manipulate the child she bore, recreating Anakin Skywalker in his own twisted image. This is the most subtle kind of retcon; if a reader is inclined to believe Palpatine created Anakin, they can find evidence of it here, but otherwise the scene can simply be interpreted in a different way.

The Shadow of Darth Vader Is Real

Young Anakin in The Phantom Menace

Darth Vader's experience was more than just a series of visions, though; he was manipulating the Force at a powerful nexus of the Dark Side on Mustafar, and as a result his consciousness transcended time and space. In an amusing twist, that meant Vader unintentionally made one of the posters for The Phantom Menace canon. Just as in the poster, the shadow of Darth Vader really did loom over his younger self on Tatooine, and even reached out, terrifying the child.

Page 2 of 2: Fixing The Phantom Menace's Controversial Story Decisions

Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
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