One of the biggest squandered opportunities in Hollywood history was The Phantom Menace. If you’re old enough, just remember the surge of excitement you felt when you saw trailer for that movie the very first time. Man, I was pumped.
Then I saw the movie.
Hm. Yeah. You know the rest of the story.
Although I can still watch The Phantom Menace today and somewhat enjoy it (it’s light-years better than The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi), it’s a movie that, as you already know, is riddled with problems. Bad acting, horrible dialog, a plot that often doesn’t make sense, and so on.
So I’m going to give you my modified version of The Phantom Menace that fixes these problems. I’ve seen other articles and videos (and even fan edits) trying to do this, but most of these things re-write the entire movie into something very different. Instead, I’m going to keep the The Phantom Menace as close as I can to the original while tweaking it just enough to make it into a good movie. You can decide if I succeed or not. Obviously, major spoilers for The Phantom Menace are about to follow.
First, I would rename the damn thing. “The Phantom Menace” is the second dumbest name for a movie in the universe. (The first dumbest is “Attack of the Clones.”) So I would call it something like The Hidden Darkness. It took me about 15 seconds to come up with that. That’s how bad “The Phantom Menace” is. Okay, here we go:
Star Wars: The Hidden Darkness
The opening crawl explains that the evil Trade Federation is about to start all-out war on the peaceful planet of Naboo. (This is instead of the stupid shit about taxation and trade routes.)
A ship docks at one of the Trade Federation vessels and an envoy of about ten diplomats emerge, sent by Chancellor Velorum. (Sending diplomats makes more sense than sending Jedi.) They are sent to a boardroom where they wait. The Trade Federation leaders contact their evil master, Darth Sideous, who instructs them to tell the diplomats that the Trade Federation will invade Naboo tomorrow, that there will be no further negotiations, and to send the diplomats on their way. (Sideous wants the Senate to know about the invasion so that Queen Amidala will assist in removing Chancellor Velorum from office.)
Sideous signs off, and the Trade Federation goons obey, but one of them panics, and against orders, instructs his combat droids to kill all of diplomats and destroy the bodies and evidence. When the droids enter the boardroom and open fire, they are shocked to find that two of the diplomats are actually Jedi in disguise! They are Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, who is the hero of the movie. (The original movie had no hero or main character. Obi-Wan is the hero of my version.)
The droids are Destroyer Droids, very dangerous and lethal, and the two Jedi defeat them, but only barely, and are greatly tired at the end of the battle (instead of the droids being completely useless and easily killed by the Jedi with barely any effort or danger). The group make a harrowing escape from the ship, during which all eight diplomats are killed and the two Jedi barely escape with their lives, stowing away on one of the dropships (again, showing the Trade Federation is a real threat instead of just a bunch of bumbling robots).
On Naboo, the two Jedi meet Jar Jar Binks, who is an intelligent, proud and capable warrior of the Gungans, who was banished because he upset one of the leaders. He speaks completely normally, and brings the two Jedi to the underwater city, where they secretly gain access to an underwater craft to take them to the Naboo capital city, and from there, leave the planet.
While the three of them have a harrowing underwater adventure with giant monsters, the Trade Federation armies take control of all of Naboo’s major cities and imprison Queen Amidala in a dark cell. The two Jedi and Jar Jar arrive at the capital city and attempt to rescue the queen. They are unable to, until assisted by a mysterious cloaked figure, who then vanishes.
The two Jedi, Jar Jar, the queen, and her staff blast off and attempt to run through the Trade Federation’s blockade, assisted by R2-D2. Just about when the ships of the Trade Federation destroy the queen’s ship, a strange malfunction in the Federation’s weapon systems allows the queen to escape. The good guys jump to hyperspace and land on Tattooine to repair their ship.
While Qui-Gon stays on the ship, Obi-Wan, Jar Jar, and Padme, pretending to be one of her handmaids, go into the city to get the part they need to repair the ship. Wattoo refuses to sell them the part they need and the Force doesn’t work on him. As they leave the shop, Obi-Wan feels a great wave from the Force emanating from a teenage slave named Anakin. Instead of ten years old, Anakin in my movie is about 15, so as to get a better actor and have him more compatible with Padme’s age.
Obi-Wan just buys the part from another parts dealer, but before leaving, he speaks with Anakin and realizes that the Force is strong with him. He decides to take Anakin along with them without asking for Qui-Gon’s permission. He could just take him, but as a Jedi, he is forced by his Jedi code to follow local laws. Thus, only way to legally free Anakin is to let him enter the pod race. Obi-Wan bets Wattoo money against Anakin’s freedom. Anakin wins the pod race and Obi-Wan convinces a reluctant Qui-Gon to allow Anakin to join their group, who leaves his mother (who is not a slave) behind. (C-3PO does not exist in this movie.)
On the way back to the ship, the group is attacked by Darth Maul, the same cloaked figure who helped them rescue the queen! Obi-Wan is severely wounded (lightsaber slash across the chest) and almost killed when saved at the last minute by Qui-Gon, and they barely escape Maul.
The group lands on Coruscant, and Obi-Wan is healed. (There is no scene with the Jedi Council.) There is a very brief scene with Queen Amidala with the Senate and Senator Palpatine, except about with about 20 minutes of the boring crap cut out, no midi-chlorians, better acting, and better dialog. It is revealed that Darth Sideous has engineered this entire thing. He wanted Naboo harassed and the queen to complain about it at the Senate. That’s why he had Darth Maul ensure the queen was rescued from the Trade Federation, and made sure the queen escaped the blockade via a weapons malfunction. He even force-choked to death the Trade Federation goon who disobeyed his orders.
Thinking the queen was going into hiding instead of Coruscant, he had Maul attempt to capture the queen. When that failed, she came to Coruscant on her own anyway. Perfect… for Palpatine. (Now everything in the entire plot makes sense.)
The group arrives back on Naboo, and things play out more or less as it does in the original movie, though with some minor differences. Four battles take place at the same time; the battle in space (where Anakin shows his amazing, natural, Force-based piloting skills), the ground Gungan war (where Jar Jar fights valiantly), under the city Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon battle Darth Maul (sent by Palpatine to kill the two Jedi to remove the two most dangerous witnesses to all of this), and in the palace where the Queen’s guard attempt to capture the Viceroy. (The queen is not involved in this battle, since she’s a god damn 14-year-old girl with no combat training. She stays back at the camp.)
The space battle is won by the Naboo, the ground war won by the Gungans (though barely with and with great losses) and the Viceroy is captured. (The Trade Federation robots do not suddenly shut off when their mothership is destroyed, since that’s dumb. They are simply defeated and surrender.)
However, below the city, Darth Maul is victorious. He kills Qui-Gon right in front of Obi-Wan, then knocks Obi-Wan into a deep shaft. Darth Maul then escapes into the darkness so he can return in the sequels. Obi-Wan, bruised and battered but still barely alive (like Luke Skywalker at the end of Empire Strikes Back) is barely able to claw himself back (with the aid of the Force) and is eventually rescued.
Later, Obi-Wan is made a Jedi Knight and asks for Anakin to be his apprentice. Yoda wisely says no, sensing too much fear and darkness in the boy. Obi-Wan, in his arrogance, starts training Anakin anyway, against orders (just like he said he did in A New Hope).
The movie ends with Palapatine becoming chancellor of the Republic and the Naboo celebrating their victory. As the screen fades to black, you can hear the Emperor’s distant voice saying “Goooood. Everything is proceeding as I have forseen….”