The Phantom Menace: The Good, The Bad, and The Midi-chlorians


A look back at The Phantom Menace and its highs, lows and midi-chlorians to see if after 20 years the same issues hold true.

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of The Phantom Menace release. With Star Wars: Episode IX front on constant rumor and speculation loops, this is like pre-spring training for fans. So, I decided to go back to the beginning, chronologically that is, and see how this highly anticipated follow-up holds up in post-The Last Jedi climate.


First, let’s start with the ugly. For my money the absolute two worst parts of The Phantom Menace are the midi-chlorians, and the virgin birth. Some of you are screaming ‘Jar Jar’ right now and to that I say, ‘You look nuts yelling at your phone.’ But also, don’t fret. We’ll get to him.

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Midi-chlorians have been widely criticized since their introduction and, for the most part, they along with the virgin birth seem like they were throw away lines to help bolster Anakin as the chosen one. So not only was Anakin born in a way that defies nature, his probiotics are off the chart. Yoda better get down to the Jedi commissary and grab some YoPlait stat.

In a way, Anakin having more of these little buggers than Yoda makes sense. He is four times his size – that’s just good science there. Either way both of those pieces of dialogue could be stricken from the movie and the audience would not lose a step. We all knew who this little boy was. We saw the amazing poster of young Anakin with a Vader shadow. We all knew this was fantasy. No need to add in crazy science explanations to why there is a Force and a part of a real religion that some people find unbelievable.

To be fair, the flip side of Midi-chlorians, there has to be something that resides not only in all living things but in between as Yoda described in ESB right? There must be more than a just a strong belief in hokey religions so the Force can be a part of this universe, Maybe its not the Midi-chlorians as much as the blood screening that rubs us the wrong way.

Nowadays though, fans take those in stride and either do not discuss these parts of our beloved galaxy far, far away or poke fun at them because after all, this is just a way of life…I mean movie. Just a movie.

Photo Credit: [Star Wars: The Phantom Menace] LucasfilmThen there is Jar Jar…The Rian Johnson for 1999 Star Wars fans. When The Phantom Menace ended, my hope for the next movie was that it opened after the crawl with a shot of a lightsaber pressed against Jar Jar’s head, then a cut to space and the glorious sound of the saber being ignited. The Midi-chlorians and Virgin Birth paled in comparison to Jar Jar. This character added no value to the story other than poor attempts at humor and bad table manners.

While I am still not a fan of Jar Jar, I have enjoyed watching what has become of his legacy both in story and in fan theories.

He spoke in favor of granting emergency powers to Palpatine, thanks to failing upward to become a delegate for the Senate. Much like in fandom, he was cast aside in Epsiode III and never mentioned again until the Aftermath trilogy where he became a street clown that amuses children. You kind of feel bad for the guy, Also, seeing the crazy theories about how he is a Sith Lord or some mad genius that played the galaxy has really been fun to watch. I would argue there would be a hole with out him.

Good and the Bad:

I combine the good and the bad for one reason. Darth Maul.

The Phantom Menace introduced this great character who was everything the next (or pre) Sith apprentice needed to be. Great imposing appearance, dual lightsaber and not hampered down with age and robotics like Vader.

His first battle with Qui Gon got everyone excited to see him stand next to Sidious until it was time for Vader to take his place. Then in a very Last Jedi move, he is killed by Obi Wan who is too young to understand that the high ground doesn’t matter. For the story, though, this is understandable since Maul defeated Qui Gon in front of Obi Wan.

Providing us with a great duel showing how skilled Obi Wan is, he can take down the Sith not just resign himself to the ether when they strike him. Losing Darth Maul though was a blow. What a great character to leave on the table. Fans were very upset about this and Lucasfilm listened.

Thankfully, Darth Maul was resurrected and used in other Star War properties to enhance his story, unlike the over rated Boba Fett who should and has been left in the Sarlacc pit. If you haven’t caught The Clone Wars or Rebels, I highly recommend checking out at least the episodes with Maul.

Photo Credit: [Star Wars Rebels] Lucasfilm, Cartoon NetworkFor all the bad and the ugly, The Phantom Menace brought a lot more good to the table. Ewan McGreggor’s Obi Wan was incredible and believable that he could turn into the wise man of the wilderness we first meet in A New Hope.

The lightsaber battles were more than just lumberjack style hacking. These duels showed how capable the Jedi and Sith were at this art.

Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu played the angriest calm guy i have ever seen.

Qui Gon Jinn who is really to blame for Darth Vader. Yoda warned him, but he wouldn’t listen. We don’t blame him of course. He’s too cool of a character. A true Rebel.

Padme who rebels in her own way by hiding in plain sight and not afraid to pull out a blaster and shoot up some battle droids. The list goes on.

The Phantom Menace was the first real view past the narrow scope of the Original Trilogy, which is mainly just Rebels and Empire. We never saw regular lives affected outside of alcoholics who think its a good idea to start a conversation with “He doesn’t like you” and trying to farm water from the sky.

What if Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was really, really good?. dark. Next

For the first time we see gigantic cities, politics, and sporting events. It opened up and really enhanced the Star Wars universe.

The Phantom Menace should never crack the top five best, it should be recognized for propelling the story line outside of the OT narrative and showing us even more of the Star Wars world we know and love. Just step out of the room when Anakin is getting his check up.