Dave Filoni certainly knows a thing or two about Star Wars. He worked under George Lucas for many years prior to the Disney purchase and has been instrumental in the success of The Clone Wars, Rebels and The Mandalorian. In fact, I daresay that the Sequel Trilogy would have definitely benefited from Filoni being more involved in planning it out. This means that when he gives his opinions on Star Wars, it’s worth your time to pay attention.
Filoni’s work on The Mandalorian is being chronicled in the newly released Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian. This eight-part documentary series takes us behind the scenes of the show and reveals the innovative techniques used to bring a big screen adventure in on a small screen budget. But there was a telling sequence in one episode where Filoni gave his perspective on what he considers to be one of the pivotal moments in the franchise: the Obi-Wan Kenobi/Qui-Gon Jinn vs. Darth Maul fight at the end of The Phantom Menace.
This is rightly considered the best bit of the film, combining neat choreography, excellent direction and one of the all-time best pieces of John Williams Star Wars music. But while everyone knows it’s good, why is it so important?
Over to Filoni:
“In Phantom Menace, you’re watching these two Jedi in their prime fight this evil villain, Maul couldn’t be more obviously the villain. He’s designed to look evil, and he is evil, and he expresses that from his face, all the way out to the type of lightsaber he fights with. What’s at stake is really how Anakin is going to turn out. Because Qui-Gon is different than the rest of the Jedi, and you get that in the movie. Qui-Gon is fighting because he knows he’s the father that Anakin needs, because Qui-Gon hasn’t given up on the fact that the Jedi are supposed to actually care, and love, and that that’s not a bad thing. The rest of the Jedi are so detached, and they’ve become so political, that they’ve really lost their way. Yoda starts to see that in the second film, but Qui-Gon is ahead of them all and that’s why he’s not part of the council.
So he’s fighting for Anakin, and that’s why it’s the Duel of the Fates. It’s the fate of this child. And depending on how this fight goes, his life is going to be dramatically different. So Qui-Gon loses, of course, so the father figure [is gone]. Because he knew what it meant to take this kid away from his mother when he had an attachment, and he’s left with Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan trains Anakin, at first, out of a promise he makes to Qui-Gon, not because he cares about him. He’s a brother to Anakin, eventually, but he’s not a father figure. That’s a failing for Anakin. He doesn’t have the family that he needs. He loses his mother in the next film. He fails the promise to his mother, ‘I will come back and save you.’ So he’s left completely vulnerable, and Star Wars is ultimately about family.”
“So that moment in that movie, that I think a lot of people diminish into just this cool lightsaber fight, is everything that the entire three films of the prequels hangs on. It’s that one particular fight. And Maul serves his purpose, and at that point died — before George made me bring him back. But he died, and that’s showing you, again, how the Emperor is completely self-serving. He’s just a tool. He’s using people and now he’s going to use this child. That follows all the way through to the line, which terrified me as a kid, when the Emperor tells Luke, ‘You, like your father, are now mine.
I believe Luke would turn to the Dark Side in Return of the Jedi. I believe that was on the table, I believe he would kill the Emperor. The only thing that’s going to save him is not his connection to the Force, it’s not the powers he’s learned, it’s not all these things that are an advantage to him. That’s gotten him to the table. But what saves Luke is his ability to look at all that, and look at his father, and say, ‘No. I’m going to throw away this weapon. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to let that go and be selfless.’ And he says, ‘I am a Jedi like my father before me.’ But what he’s really saying, and why I connect so powerfully to him, is ‘I love my father and there is nothing you can do that’s going to change that. The Emperor can’t understand that connection. ‘Why wouldn’t you take someone offering you the power of the galaxy? Why won’t you take this?’ And Anakin, then in that moment, has to decide to be the father that he’s never had. He has to give up all of the power in the galaxy and save his son. That’s the selfless act that he does in return for his son and that’s what saves him. So the son saves the father and the father saves the son and it works out perfectly. And I draw that line all the way from Phantom Menace to Return of the Jedi. That’s the story of Star Wars.”
Well, it’s difficult to argue with that. Over the last two decades, the prequels have undergone somewhat of a reevaluation amongst fans. Many have recognized that while the execution might have been somewhat iffy, the philosophy and conceptual thinking behind them was rock-solid. In fact, all this talk is making me want to revisit the prequels and follow them up with yet another rewatch of the original Star Wars trilogy. And fortunately for me, they’re all readily available on Disney+.