William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace: Star Wars Part the First by Ian Doescher (2015)
Much like the movie it was based on, Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace is the weak link in this series of books. It would be difficult for anyone to dress up George Lucas’ greatest misstep, but Doescher does his best and remains true to the filmmaker’s vision, Jar Jar Binks and all. Doescher does some interesting things with the characters, such as giving Jar Jar more intelligence than most would. When speaking in asides to the audience, Binks speaks Shakespearean English, fully in iambic pentameter just as the other characters; when conversing with the other characters, however, the last syllable drops off. Conversely, the other Gunguns receive the full ten syllables, even with their native dialect.
There are other deviations from the iambic pentameter with other characters: Yoda speaks in haiku, while Valorum tacks on an eleventh syllable at the end of his lines. Another quirk with the language includes the two-headed podrace commentator, who uses the pronoun “we” instead of “I.” Qui-Gon Jinn has a Julius Caesar moment during his final battle with Darth Maul, and tribute is paid to Samuel L. Jackson’s long career in Hollywood in several stanzas.
One of my favorite parts of William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace is the conversation Doescher inserted between two unnamed Jedi in Act IV, Scene 5, foretelling the regression of technology and Jedi skills that would be seen in Verily, A New Hope. A weak explanation, but a nod to the lack of consistency between Lucas’ original trilogy and the prequels.
William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace is a step back for the series, but Doescher should be able to right the ship with the next installment (scheduled for a July release) as he will have better source material from which to work. Still, for the completist, this tale is necessary as it tells the innocent beginnings of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars saga.