Episode I: The Phantom Menace

April 25, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

menaceEpisode I: The Phantom Menace by Terry Brooks

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It’s been a long time since I’ve read a movie novelization. The closest I’ve come in several years was reading Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly a week after seeing the movie, which I abandoned halfway into it because the movie had been such a faithful recreation. I also read A Song of Ice and Fire after watching the first three seasons of the show, but I had read the first volume several years before. Before that, I think the last novelization I read was The Goonies, which I read before the movie came out. (Yes, I am old.)

I liked that the book started a bit before the events in the book. Brooks gives us extra detail to give us more context on Anakin, even going so far as to introduce an anonymous spaceship pilot who befriends him and gives him further reason to aspire farther than Tatooine. In the movie, we don’t meet Anakin until Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan go to Watto’s shop, but in the book, the story goes back and forth between the two of them on Naboo and Anakin on Tatooine. I’d say I can see why Lucas cut that kind of thing out of the movie, but man, the central plot of the movie was about a trade blockade. The additional backstory on Anakin was much better.

It’s hard to tell what details were part of Lucas’ original story and what details Brooks brought to the story. There’s an interview with Brooks at the end of the book which shines some light on that question, but doesn’t answer it completely. I’ve always wondered that about books that are co-written by multiple authors. I do know that Brooks captures the pidgin English Jar Jar spoke in the movie, which somehow comes across as even more offensive than when he speaks it.

I hadn’t noticed it about the movie until I finished reading this book, but in both, the pacing is very fast. I hadn’t realized just how much happens in the story, but as I was reading the book and thinking, “Wow, we’ve barely spent much time here in Coruscant but we’re already going back to Naboo”, that it dawned on me. It works better in the movie than it does in the book, but either way, the movie covers a lot of ground. I have to give Lucas credit for putting it together without making it feel hyper-compressed.

I’ve watched The Phantom Menace enough times to be familiar with the details, and that familiarity helped the novel to fly by. I was more focused on reliving what I had already seen, looking for the details that were slightly different, while waiting to get to the parts that weren’t in the movie. My reason for reading all of the Expanded Universe books is to get further details on the universe as a whole, so I was more interested in what I didn’t already know about the story.

The book ends with another Darth Maul short story, “End Game”, which is largely pointless, especially if, like me, you’re reading through all of the books in the EU. The story basically sums up what Luceno has already written about in his preceding novels and short stories, and possibly sets it up for what’s to come. It briefly covers some events that happen between the time Qui-Gon escapes Maul on Tatooine and when they face each other again on Naboo, and it makes a connection between Darth Plagueis and Maul, but otherwise it’s just a summary of what I’ve already read. So far, these short stories don’t feel like a necessary part of the EU.

The Phantom Menace has some details that help us better understand Anakin and give us more context into how Anakin went from a selfless young boy to the scourge of the universe. It always bugged me that the movie didn’t give us enough detail into what prompted that kind of change. I’ve read before that the books give us more insight into that very problem, which was part of the reason I decided to read all the EU books in the first place. I’m hoping that the other books that take place between the movies will keep giving us those additional details.

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