To prep from writing this review, I rewatched The Phantom Menace for the first time since I originally saw it in 2000 or 2001. I enjoy the Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith well enough, but The Phantom Menace was always that dark place in the Star Wars that I never wanted to go again.
Well, I braved it for the sake of my blog, but I’m still going to say that there was a reason that I never rewatched that film. The viewing did, however, make me even more interested to read Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace. He’d done such a lovely job parodying the original trilogy that I wanted to see how he would tackle a story that would need a lot of asides and monologues to make it work better.
If you’re not familiar with Doescher’s books, they’re basically the answer to the question: “What is William Shakespeare wrote Star Wars?” The stories are (mostly) told through iambic pentameter and presented in a play format. The plots are still the same as in the films, but there are plenty of terrific asides and inside jokes to make sure you won’t get bored by just a scene by scene retelling. If you’re a Shakespeare nerd too, there’s a lot of illusions to his plays (including Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, and Romeo and Juliet).
Doescher originally retold Episode IV through VI but is now working through the prequel trilogy.
I have to say that I loved what Ian Doescher did with The Phantom Menace. Obviously, there’s a lot of problematic (and slightly boring) stuff in the film and most of that is addressed here in an intelligent and funny way. Jar Jar’s shown early on to be more than just a fool and the advanced technology of the prequels is explained by two Jedi in a small detour from the main plot.
Like with his previous retellings, Doescher sticks closely to the main plot of The Phantom Menace. I was so thankful, however, that he added a chorus-type character called Rumor to help explain the workings behind Palpatine’s machinations. It could be that I’ve just seen the film twice, but I still have difficulty figuring out how the war on Naboo helped Palpatine’s scheme (other than to get him into power on the Senate–which I’m sure could have been done in an easier way). Doescher’s book surprisingly made all of that a bit more clear to me.
I also found it extremely fascinating how Jar Jar was rewritten in this book. In his first appearance, Jar Jar is revealed to be playing the part of a fool in the hopes that he can influence peace between the people of Naboo and the Gungans. While this isn’t an easy plot twist to extrapolate from the film, it did help to make him a more interesting character all the same. Other characters were also given more room to shine like Padme, Shmi (Anakin’s mother), and–as always–R2-D2.
William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace was definitely an enjoyable and amusing read. I, truthfully, didn’t know what to expect from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised all the way around at how my least favorite Star Wars film was handled. I might have to watch the film again with some of these plot twists and further explanations in mind as my new headcannon. I think the film would be more likable that way.
If you’re a fan of Star Wars, Scifi, and/or Shakespeare, William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace is definitely a book you should check out!
Who is your favorite character from the Star Wars prequels?