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Happy 25th Anniversary STAR WARS: The Phantom Menace! Here are 12 Things You Never Knew About the Movie

The trade negotiations have failed, Padmé has her Queen Amidala face on, and Qui-Gon Jinn is reminding us that there’s always a bigger fish. It’s time to call on those droidekas because Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a limited run re-release in theaters.

Yes, Lucasfilm is bringing the once-maligned prequel back to cinemas to honor a quarter century of podracing and padawans — complete with an R2-D2 popcorn bucket that’s a lot more SFW than the Dune one. Whether you’re new to the galaxy far, far away or fancy yourself as something of a Master Plo Koon, here are 12 things you (probably) never knew about The Phantom Menace

 

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Star Wars: The Beginning

 

 

After George Lucas envisioned A New Hope as the fourth entry in what would become the sprawling Skywalker Saga, the door was left open for a prequel trilogy. Although he stepped away from the idea of developing a sequel trilogy, the success of the Legends stories in the ‘90s proved there was still plenty of hype for the wider franchise.

With advancements in CGI, Lucas started working on Star Wars: The Beginning in 1994 and referred back to a 15-page character outline he’d written in 1976. The first draft for Star Wars: The Beginning was widely different, with Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn (spelled Quigon) largely absent, Obi-Wan taking the mentor role, and Anakin being much older.

Alongside Darth Maul actually having some dialogue, Jar Jar Binks is a more serious character who speaks normally. The Jedi Council was shrunk to just Yoda, Mace Windu, and Ki-Adi-Mundi, and there were more politics with a focus on the racial tensions between the Gungans and the people of Naboo (Utapau in this draft). Most interestingly, there was a twisted love triangle between Anakin, Padmé, and Obi-Wan. 

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The Return of Darth Maul

 

 

The Phantom Menace ends with the climactic Duel of the Fates, which goes down in Star Wars history for the music alone. Claiming the lives of both Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul, it catapults Anakin on the path toward being “the Chosen One” with Obi-Wan as his father figure.

While Maul would go on to make a miraculous recovery and return for The Clone Wars animated series, the original plan was to have him appear later in the prequels. Speaking to /Film, The Clone Wars writer Henry Gilroy confirmed Revenge of the Sith’s General Grievous was going to be a disfigured Maul behind the character’s armor.

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Even though we’re glad Maul got to return in some form, redeeming the character in the prequels might’ve helped him. Maul had just six minutes of screen time and three snippets of dialogue, leaving voice actor Peter Serafinowicz famously unhappy with the character’s sidelining – even calling it “one of the worst-paying jobs” he’d ever had. 

 

The Tragedy of Jar Jar Binks

 

 

Another unhappy actor on the set of The Phantom Menace was Jar Jar Binks himself, Ahmed Best. Lucas once said that Jar Jar was “key” to the whole thing and praised this Goofy-inspired character, but unfortunately, the fans didn’t seem to get him. 

Best had to dress in a rubberized costume to perform as Jar Jar, but when it came to The Phantom Menace’s actual release, he was an entirely CGI creation. That wasn’t Jar Jar’s only problem, and after being criticized as a racial caricature created solely to sell toys, fans went as far as creating edits that killed him off. J.J. Abrams even considered featuring Jar Jar’s bones as an Easter egg in The Force Awakens

The other prequels took note, paring Jar Jar’s appearance down to a mere cameo in Revenge of the Sith. Best has been open about the toll this hatred took on him, with the actor telling Participant how he considered taking his own life. Best has thankfully returned to the franchise to play Kelleran Beq in The Mandalorian, but safe to say we don’t see Sith Jar Jar leading to a live-action reprieve anytime soon.

 

BUY TICKETS TO THE LIMITED RE-RELEASE OF STAR WARS: EPISODE 1–THE PHANTOM MENACE HERE

 

Blue Blades

 

 

No matter what you think of the prequels, Samuel L. Jackson’s role as Mace Windu is a highlight. Jackson infamously said he’d only play the stoic Jedi Master if he could choose his own lightsaber color, meaning Lucas let him swing his signature purple blade.

Things were a little different back in Episode I, with Kenner’s “The Power of the Force” toy line showcasing Windu with a blue lightsaber. Windu didn’t use his lightsaber at all in The Phantom Menace, but when it came to Attack of the Clones, it seems he got his wish and got to pick purple. 

2000’s Jedi Council: Acts of War comic series features Mace with his blue-bladed lightsaber during the Yinchorri Uprising, although later depictions of the event have changed it to purple. Both Legends and canon have their own reasons for Windu having a purple lightsaber, while him having a blue one during the events of Episode I is equally convoluted. 

 

The Other Yoda

 

 

A forgotten addition to Episode I is Yaddle. Despite appearing in just one scene and being mysteriously absent in the rest of the prequels (we now know why), ‘female Yoda’ fascinated fans. Concept artist Iain McCaig originally envisioned Yaddle as an eight-year-old Yoda, however, it grew into its own character.

Yoda presented problems of his own, and although there were some CGI shots of him during the 1999 theatrical release, it was largely Franz Oz’s puppetry. When Lucas rereleased the movie on Blu-Ray in 2011, Yoda was entirely CGI and fit with newer modifications of the original trilogy.

To this day, we’re still not sure what species Yoda, Yaddle, or Grogu are, while Tales of the Jedi confirms that Yaddle speaks ‘normally’ and Yoda’s garbled way of talking is seemingly unique to him. 

 

Costing the Economy

 

 

When The Phantom Menace released, we’d been starved of Star Wars movies for 16 years. Hype was at a fever pitch, with toy stores dedicated whole sections to Podracer LEGO and that iconic Jar Jar tongue toy.

While we weren’t short of blockbusters at the time, cinemagoers were stumping up the ticket cost for the likes of The Waterboy and Meet Joe Black just to see the Episode I trailer. There was also a barbed campaign that mocked Roland Emmerichh’s Godzilla with the tagline, “Plot does matter.” This backfired as The Phantom Menace was ravaged by the same complaints. 

The Phantom Menace scored big at the box office and is Lucas’ only movie to take over a billion, but according to consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, 2.2 million full-time employees bunked off from work to watch the movie, causing a whopping $293 million loss of productivity in North America. 

 

BUY TICKETS TO THE LIMITED RE-RELEASE OF STAR WARS: EPISODE 1–THE PHANTOM MENACE HERE

 

Weathering the Storm