#311: Star Wars Ep. 1 Live Commentary

In honor of this week’s re-release of Star Wars Episode 1 in 3D, we fire up our cheap-ass 2D DVD of the movie and take you along for the ride. If you like, you can grab your own copy, sync it up, and follow along with us as we enjoy the effects, lament the childish JJ moments, and get a big kick out of the droids. But it’s not necessary. Feel free to enjoy this podcast as you wish. Next week we’re following up with an Episode 4 commentary, comparing and contrasting the “firsts” of two different generations.

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Jon Stewart to George Lucas on The Daily Show:

“My son’s favorite Star Wars movie is Episode I. And I keep explaining to him: No it’s not.”

This week’s Entertainment Weekly has a feature about the actor who played JarJar. Interesting stuff.

Keira Knightley was the double for Natalie Portman.

ETA: should have listened to the whole cast before posting this. :o

Earlier this week I tweeted that Elizabeth Banks and Rachel McAdams should play twin sisters on some movie (a fact that DefaultProphet disagreed with). However I have no idea that Keira Knightley played Natalie Portman’s double in Phantom Menace until Sean mentioned it. Sweet! I wouldn’t want to sword play with either of them! =)

Great podcast guys! I lament that there was no news segment but appreciate that this cast will stand up forever on its own since it was solely dedicated to the GWC Crew commentary of Phantom Menace. I’m looking forward to next week’s cast.

~Shooter Out

Just a little info on Ian McDiarmid / Palpatine.

Palpatine didn’t appear in Episode 4: A New Hope.

His first appearance was in Ep 5/Empire. In the brief scene where he speaks to Vader via holo, he’s played by Elaine Baker and voiced by Clive Revill. This is the footage that was later changed.

In Ep 6/Jedi, he was played by Ian McDiarmid, who was only in his late 30’s. When they made the prequel trilogy, Ian was able to reprise the role for all three films. I think it’s kind of neat that young Ian played the old Palpatine, whereas old Ian played the young Palpatine.

So, aside from the brief holo in Empire, Ian has played him in all the films. And now all the updated versions have him in Empire, too.

Apparently Jake Lloyd, the kid who played Little Anakin Skywalker in Phantom Menace, had a very short acting career. According to IMDB he only worked from 1996-2001 and his most notable non Star Wars role was in Jingle All The Way 3 years prior to the release of Phantom Menace. I dug up an article stating he graduated from Columbia College Chicago. Does anyone have any more recent information on him?

My opinion is that he seems to have suffered from the same issue that Wil Wheaton experienced post The Next Generation. Although I think it would be hillarious for him to make an appearance on Big Bang Theory either with or without Wil Wheaton.

~Shooter Out

Rewatching Episode I at the theater with my kids really made me want to do a write up of “Why I enjoy The Phantom Menace” to counter all the Prequel hate I see in general society…

If I get so motivated…I’ll post it here :wink:

Also the young Rodian who was Anakin’s friend wasn’t Greedo, his name was Wald. They did film a scene where Anakin is rolling on the ground fighting with a young Greedo but it was cut. Wald was played by Warrick Davis, that’s why they gave him an unmasked cameo in the crowd scene.

I would :oops:

First you grip the handle of the lightsaber, then turn it on, and then the blade extends.

What?..I’m just reviewing how to use a lightsaber? What did you THINK I meant…perv :o

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of criticism of The Phantom Menace that centered around two main themes: the Pod Race and Jar Jar. While not my favorite movie of the 6 Star Wars releases, The Phantom Menace is my favorite of the prequels. There was a defined good side and a defined bad side, and Anakin was this sweet helpful little kid that could do no wrong. Jar Jar and the Pod Race didn’t detract from that. In my opinion the movie could not have been what it was without them.

In movies 4, 5, & 6 C3PO was by far the biggest comic relief and he was only present for a portion of the Phantom Menace. Also, C3PO was less than a shadow of what he was capable of in the later movies. His parts were showing, he had just been powered up and he was far less experienced with the world around him. While R2D2 is capable of expressing emotion, he is incapable of dialogue necessary for full comic relief. Jar Jar was needed to fill that void. Without Jar Jar the ominous overtones of the creation of Darth Vader and the Emperor would have darkened the movie beyond watch-ability for many. Jar Jar just wants to help. He wants to do the right thing. He has no or little ambition. In fact, I enjoyed his clumsy moves. Most if not all teenagers have experienced lack of control over their own bodies in the hallways at high school. Jar Jar just embodies those parts of each of us so we can relate to him at that lower level while the galaxy is starting to fall apart around us. We all know what is going to happen. Jar Jar helps us forget and enjoy the movie.

Maybe it’s just a guy thing, but that Pod Race is so damned cool. It’s NASCAR on steroids. We get to see Jabba and Greg Proops. We see Anakin beating all odds in a dramatic win despite sabotage and foul play and equipment failure and even his use of his Jedi powers for the first time. We see crashes and explosions. We see a style of chariot that is not seen anywhere else. The sound is amazing and the Sandpeople blasting away is priceless. We see Anakin’s piloting abilities are second to none WITHOUT droid assistance. It’s only three laps. No lightsabers or torpedoes are needed. It’s just racing! It’s a way to get excitement without combat. It’s Days Of Thunder WITHOUT Tom Cruise. It’s a way for them to win their way off the planet and continue their journey and it shows Padme just what Anakin will do for strangers when needed. What more could you ask for?

Of course it all goes sour in the coming war and the creation of Darth Vader. I haven’t watched Star Wars II much and I’ve only seen Star Wars III once. But for this one Star Wars prequel movie the good guys win. And it could not have happened without Jar Jar Binks and the Pod Race.

~Shooter Out

  1. …one of the central ideas in the previously mentioned EW article about the Jar Jar actor was that everyone at Lucasfilm expected Jar Jar to be a big breakour character and popular favorite. And they were totally surprised by the wave of hatred.

  2. This American Life #232 has an interesting coulda-shoulda take on Episode 1, in which a writer proposes a way Sebulba might have been put to better use. You can download/listen to it here…


Or read the transcript here (search for “Act Three. Jar Jar Head” to take you straight there.


  1. I avoided spoilers for Ep 1 religiously, only to be spoiled a week beforehand by… a Pizza Hut pizza box, which let me know The Emperor would appear. A frickin’ pizza box. You can’t be too careful.

  2. Darth Maul rules. The moment when he extended the double-blade saber was my favorite “oh wow!” instant in the movie.

  3. …but they couldn’t take a couple seconds to characters Maul a little?

  4. …which leads me to my biggest gripe with the flick – and for me, it’s the straw that broke the bantha’s back: They had room for three poop jokes, but they couldn’t take five seconds to show that Anakin had the seeds of great darkness inside?

  5. And also: Come ON… how many Star Wars movies do they have to end with a giant celebration scene following a great triumph?

  6. Under hostile cross-examination, George Lucas defends Episode 1 in the Clerks cartoon:


“Objection, your honor: The pod race was pretty cool.”

I guess the thing about Jar Jar is that he is clearly designed to appeal to the kids. I also think the reason they misjudged the wave of hate they ended up getting is because they forgot something about a key part of the target audience.

They grew up.

Look at anything you watched as a kid, and try looking at it now. There is a reasonable chance that the character that really annoys the hell out of you now was one of your favourite aspects of the show when you were a little’un.

I loved Snarf from Thundercats and T-Bob from MASK. I loved them when I was around ten years old, A mid-thirties, not so much. They come over now as irritating and distracting in a way that they just didn’t when I was the target age range.

I think what Lucasfilm didn’t take into account that as well as the target age range of the overall feel of the films, a major part of who would end up being the core audience for the prequels were the people who watched it as kids back in the 70s and 80s. And who have grown up, along with their tastes, ever since. The same kids that grew out of liking Snarf and T-Bob, but who still enjoy the core concepts of their respective fictions. The fans who love the Force, the Jedi, the Sith, the conflict, but not so much the irritating sidekick characters.

Compare and contrast the modern Thundercats, which (at least in the first handful of episodes) appeared to appeal to both the kids and the nostalgic fans.

(via Tapatalk on iPad)

First, FANTASTIC cast. I listened to it without watching the movie, and I STILL felt like I was watching along. I am really excited to “watch” Episode 4 in the same way.

Secondly, while I agree with the above about Snarf et al (though for me it was Slimer and Twiki) I can’t just blanket put that in Star Wars, because C3P0 is, in the original trilogy, NOT annoying. He is genuinely funny and - more importantly - likeable. It’s not until that horrible droid-factory scene in episode 2 (followed by the worst line in a Star Wars movie: What a drag!) that he became annoying.

Something happened to Lucas’ comedic sense in those twenty-some years. I don’t know what, but it was horrible.

I’m listening to the part now when they talk about the beginning of the Rise of Palpatine, which to me is the REAL story in the prequels and the GENIUS in the movie to be honest…yeah it’s about Anakin becoming Vader, but REALLY it’s eventually Palpy using him as his pawn, bishop and rook all at once to checkmate the Jedi and Palpy’s schemes and plans and twists to get to what he wants… UNLIMITEEEEDDDDDD POOOOWWWEEEEERRRRRRRR!!!

The more I re-watch the prequels the more I enjoy that stuff…and the more I can tune out Jar Jar and get into it!

Really fun cast to listen to. I think the crew nailed what was and was not good about Episode I. Visually it was excellent, story wise it was decent. Pretty much all humor fell flat, big time, and humor is a fairly important part of Star Wars. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a “good” movie, but very watchable.

Shooter: Excellent write up, but I have to disagree. I don’t think most fans disliked the Pod Race, they just felt it was a little bit too long for an already over saturated film. I thought it was fine they way it was.

Regarding Jar Jar: The core of the problem is he was not funny. Bottom line. I’m OK with comic relief characters, but the best ones are ones that serve the story. The annoying thief guy Conan the Destroyer I didn’t find very funny, but at least he did something in the movie. Jar Jar really have almost no purpose in the plot, on top of not being funny. The comparison to C3PO in A New Hope is interesting, because C3PO did not have a huge part of the plot either. However most of the C3PO jokes didn’t feel like they had to stop the movie for 30 seconds to make something funny happen. Oh well, still a very watchable film.

By too long do you mean just the three laps of racing or the long lead up to the race and the clean up afterwards?

By too long do you mean just the three laps of racing or the long lead up to the race and the clean up afterwards?
Probably all of them, but especially the lead up. I have to watch the movie again, but I remember it seemed like there was quite a bit of fanfare before it even started.

Semi-related side note…this podcast got me playing the Force Unleashed game again…damn I forgot how good and badass this game was!

My only problem with the pod race (which was mentioned in the 'cast) is that there is NO WAY that Anakin could have BOTH caught up after such a long delay, and not simply overtake everybody once he caught them.

So he went twice as fast as everybody, then decided to slow down… why?

Other than that, though, I think the Pod Race has the potential to be the best part of that movie. Maybe tied with the saber-3-way.