- Qui-Gon Jinn: Qui-Gon is basically a space Mufasa, a space father figure to all of us. He towers over pretty much everyone but he’s also one of the least threatening characters there is. He radiates calm and poise while also pulling reckless moves like betting their future on a kid who has never won a race. I still can’t believe there isn’t an adult stand alone Qui-Gon book.
- Padme Amidala: I first saw The Phantom Menace when I was about 8 and seeing a 14 year old girl elected queen of an entire planet, who was right in the middle of the action, rocked my world. Over the next two movies I got to watch Padme’s strength and passionate heart both grow and break, I watched her fight for things she believed in and things she knew were right, and I mourned her death while watching her even then still maintain her belief in the goodness in the man she loved. I may have idealized Leia first but Padme was everything to me growing up, and I still have a poster of her in Attack of the Clones hanging on my wall.
- Obi-Wan and Anakin’s Mustafar Duel: It lived up to all of my expectations I’d been building up for years and more. It’s raw and devastating and Obi-Wan’s “You were my brother, Anakin. I love you” line will make me sob every damn time.
- The Jedi Order: So many Jedi, human Jedi, alien Jedi, Jedi women, contemplative Jedi, Jedi of action, maverick Jedi, stickler Jedi, all the Jedi. Even though so few of them are named or discussed on screen there’s so much there, it speaks to such a huge galaxy filled with all sorts of people and all sorts of Jedi. It’s fantastic and it’s unrestrained and I love it. The prequels exist to show us the decaying Order and the decay is part of what Palpatine uses to sway Anakin but even with that decay, I love the Order. It’s a found family, and the loyalty of most of the Jedi is so strong. They’re a fascinating group and I could spend a lifetime studying them (though that might be an anthropologist/archaeologist in me speaking). It makes me incredibly sad that Jedi keep getting wiped out in later movies.
- Tiny Anakin: A friend of mine one described me as not even liking kids when I was a kid, and they were right. It’s not that I hate kids, I just don’t know how to talk to or relate to them and tend to find stories featuring kids as young as Anakin was in TPM fairly boring. Jake Lloyd makes me care about Anakin so much. Nine year old Anakin is excitable and determined, and most importantly he has kept an incredibly kind and helpful heart throughout his hard life. He risks his life in a podrace to help people he’s just met after inviting them to his house to food and shelter. He gives and gives and gives even though he has almost nothing, and he wants to fix everything and it upsets him so much when he can’t.
- Shmi Skywalker: It’s kind of incredible to think that the Skywalker family is all descended from a lone matriarch. Skywalker is her name, not a husbands or Anakin’s father, it’s hers, she starts the Skywalker legacy. She has passed down not only her name but her steel spine and her ability to remain soft and bright and hopeful in a world that has tried its hardest to crush her. I would die in battle for Shmi Skywalker if I’m being completely honest.
- Lightsaber Battles: They’re beautifully choreographed and awe inspiring to watch. These are saber wielders at their prime and it’s astounding.
- The Shaak fields scene: Anakin’s “I’d be much too frightened to tease a senator” and his little grin is so cute. Those awkward kids and their love, I love it.
- Palpatine’s manipulation: The original trilogy gives up this Ultimate Evil character in Palpatine, the prequels show us just how smart and patient he is. He played a masterful long game and managed to influence the fate of the entire galaxy in doing so.
- The scenery: The planets and places we get to see in the prequels are so breathtaking and varied and create a beautiful backdrop for these stories. Sometimes I forget that I’m not actually watching a movie filmed in a galaxy far far away because the scenery created brings it all to life.
**Bonus: Jar Jar Binks: Look, I know everyone is supposed to hate Jar Jar, but come on. Jar Jar has a big heart, he gives his affections freely and easily, he’s loyal and kind. He’s terrified of a lot of things but he still goes into battle with thousands of battle droids to protect Naboo, that’s pretty great. He’s got good intentions and people either write him off or take advantage of him and he doesn’t deserve it.
The recent Phantom Menace tsum tsums collection combines several of my favorite things: prequels merch, cute plush things, and last week they were on sale.
Mine just arrived and let me tell you, they are so much cuter in person. The minis (3.5 inches) are the perfect size to just hold and marvel at their cuteness or, if you’re like me, balance on your shoulder like a parrot as Jar Jar is currently doing.
Prior to the sale I was planning on starting with just Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon because that’s really my niche but with the ‘buy 2 get 1 free’ sale I added Padme. Then I tried really hard to resist Jar Jar, but he just translated into tsum tsum form so perfectly I couldn’t resist how cute he was.
So I get my shipping envelope, take those 4 out, geek out about how adorable they are, then I picked up the envelope to throw it out and out rolled a Darth Maul who must have been thrown in by accident (or because he had unfinished business with the Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon tsums). Now the only two I’m missing from the set are Anakin and Sebulba and I’m sure I’ll add them eventually because now that I’ve started I can’t get enough.
Some especially delightful little elements are Obi-Wan’s fluffy padawan hair cut and braid, Darth Maul’s little horns under his hood, and Jar Jar’s everything, because he just looks so darn cute as a tsum.