Here we go again into the world where William Shakespeare and “Star Wars” collide in the most delightful fashion.
Ian Doescher’s back with “The Phantom of Menace,” a rewriting of the first movie of the “first” “Star Wars” trilogy.
He once again merrily plunders William Shakespeare’s style to tell the story of the early years of Anakin Skywalker, known to many as the menacing thug Darth Vader.
Doescher’s version of the “Henry V” Chorus, here called “Rumor,” opens the play and sets the scene of galactic strife.
“Open your hearts; for which of you will stop/ The vent of feeling when loud Rumor speaks?/ Her flaming tongue with poison’d tip shall drop/ Unrest from Tatooine to Naboo’s peaks/ See how, with mere suggestion of a tax/ Begin star wars that shall your eyes amaze.”
For everyone who wondered what the original film was really about, well, it started over a fight about taxes and politics.
What makes “The Phantom of Menace” really enjoyable is the film makes more sense cast in verse. Like in a Shakespearian play, the words paint the picture for the audience, clarifying the conflicts, since there are no space battles or lightsaber fights to distract viewers.
Doescher admits upfront that he had to deal with the Jar Jar Binks problem. The Gungan character of Binks — loathed by many older fans, loved by many younger — provided much of the comic relief during the original film. Here, he’s recast a clever character who just plays it dumb.
“It doth befit the human prejudice/ To think we Gungans simple, low and rude. I shall approach him thusly, yet shall bend/ Him to the path that shall assist us all./ Put on thy simple wits now, Jar Jar Binks/ Thus play the role of clown to stoke his pride,” thinks Binks.
Unfortunately when he speaks, he sounds like this: “Nay, Nay, messa callee Jar Jar Binks — see/ Now messa is your servant humble.”
Then there’s the Senator Palpatine, also the evil Sith Darth Sidious, who describes the Republican Senate in familiar terms to anyone who watches contemporary politics:
“The Senate’s rife with babbling delegates,/ E’er greedy for their taste of power’s meat/ The common good’s become a most rare dish,/ Unsav’ry to their growing appetites.”
Doescher’s “Star Wars” and Shakespeare parodies are a good way to introduce readers to both worlds. The publisher, Quirk Books, includes an educator’s guide on their website.
“William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace: Star Wars Part the First (William Shakespeare’s Star Wars)” by Ian Doescher; Quirk Books (176 pages, $14.95)