I have to admit that I have not seen The Phantom Menace film in many years. I am definitely due to watch it again. I am aware, however, of the criticisms surrounding the film and how people consider it not only the worst of the films, but also not worth watching whatsoever. The popular Machete Order of watching the films often leaves out The Phantom Menace in its lineup.
I do not really understand this.
Everyone is, of course, entitled to their own opinion and sure, maybe I will eventually say this was the worst film out of the seven currently out there, but I do think it is still worth watching. I also think this book is very much worth reading and I am so glad these novelizations exist.
Why do I think this? Well, I will speak in the context of the book.
The Phantom Menace, written by Terry Brooks, provides a solid base for the rest of the series. It starts to tell you of Anakin’s origins, introduces Padmé before you find out who she really is (that said, many of us already know who she actually is so the reveal in the novel does not come as a surprise), and gives more background to the Jedi Knights. Yes, many people in the first book die before the remainder of this trilogy, but does that really matter? Obi-Wan is a significant figure in the rest of the series and this book shows a little bit of his education as well. I know people do not particularly like Jar-Jar Binks, but I think that every character does play some kind of role in this book and, obviously, the film. Additionally, this book provides the introduction of the ever-famous droids R2-D2 and C3P0.
After reading this book, I have a theory that the opinions of those who disliked the film might actually change a little should they choose to read this. As everyone knows, information is inevitably left out of a film when it is a book adaptation. For movie novelizations, the author inevitably adds information to the book. In the case of The Phantom Menace, this meant adding in scenes cut from the movie, additional information never really revealed (at most, only alluded to) in the film, as well as insight into the minds of the characters. Shortly after I finished reading this book, I shared these thoughts with a friend of mine (who, at the time, was reading the novelizations of the original trilogy). I fully believe that, regardless of how good an actor or actress is, there is only so much they can do in terms of giving the audience insight into their characters’ minds.
The added information makes the story come just that little bit more alive. It adds richness and detail, allowing the writer to flesh out the story in such a manner movies never seem to allow. The richness and detail in books are the main reasons why I always fall on the side of the book being better than the movie in the case of book adaptations. Is that still the case here? Well, for The Phantom Menace I would really have to watch the movie again to say definitively.
With this book, I found the progression of Anakin and his relationship with Padmé, among other elements, became much more believable than the way I remember things from the films. From what I understand, the believability of the relationship side of things was one of the main criticisms of the prequels.
Overall, I am quite pleased with The Phantom Menace. Reading it gave me a bit more appreciation for the film, as I suspect the remainder of the books will do. It helps to be familiar with the story while reading, but of course, you could go into this completely blind should you choose to do so. If that is what you wish to do, you can read them in any order you so choose, but why not try the Machete Order when reading the books? If you search that online, you will encounter spoilers. So, on the off chance you are one of the people who have not seen the films, read the books (and watch the films) in this order: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, and finish with The Return of the Jedi.
Title: Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
Author: Terry Brooks
Publisher: Del Rey