When Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace is released on video today (click here to buy it in MSN’s E-shops), odds are that video stores won’t exactly be overrun with fans looking for George Lucas’ monumentally anticlimactic movie. After all, most critics, including Slate’s own David Edelstein, slammed it, suggesting (among other things) that what the movie really needed was: 1) a conflict sexier than the taxation of trade routes; and 2) a script doctor to rework Lucas’ wandering, unfocused opus.
Eerily, Peter Lefcourt’s satirical Hollywood novel The Deal, which was published eight years before Lucas’ latest movie, prophesies … a duller-than-dirt script about trade routes, badly in need of reworking. In this scene, a rather clueless budding screenwriter tells his uncle, an industry veteran, about his first screenplay and its unlikely topic: 19th-century British statesmen Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone.
“The script is mostly about their rivalry over hot issues like protective tariffs in England in the 1870s.”
“Protective tariffs?” [the uncle] murmured weakly.
“Well,” he said, after a long moment, exhaling deeply, “I suppose we’ll just have to fix it in rewrite.”
Admittedly, it’s difficult to find counterparts for Disraeli and Gladstone in The Phantom Menace (though Obi-Wan Kenobi does change his name to Ben later in the series). Besides, this is just Episode 1–give Lucas a chance. And it doesn’t take too much imagination to draw parallels between Queen Amidala of Naboo and Queen Victoria of Britain, whom both Disraeli and Gladstone served as prime minister late in her reign.
- Both have four-syllable names.
- Both came to power young. Amidala is just 14 when she takes power; Victoria was 18.
- According to Episode 1, Amidala is an elected leader. Victoria inherited the throne, but by a rather circuitous route … (The route is so roundabout that I’ll spare readers the details; click here for an explanation courtesy of the Concise Encarta encyclopedia.)
- Amidala’s Al Gore-like speech patterns are rather Victorian. How else to explain, “I … will … not … condone … a … course … of … action … that … will … lead … us … to … war”?