Rod Hilton, creator of the Machete Order for watching Star Wars movies, once wrote, “Episodes II and III aren’t exactly Shakespeare, but standing next to the complete and utter trainwreck that is Episode I, they sure look like it.” But wait!  Ian Doescher has done it and turned Star Wars Episode I into Shakespeare with The Phantom of Menace.

I saw your sword bewitch’d with laser beam. None but the Jedi wield such rare defense.”

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So bring on Shakespearean Gungans, heroic Sando aqua monsters, and epic lightsaber duels.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

Like many in fandom, we simply can’t stay away. What if this version of Episode I beats all other enhanced editions, fan edits,  script re-writes, and fan fiction?

Rating (3 stars)

I’m in an unusual place reviewing William Shakespeare’s Phantom of Menace. When I reviewed the trilogy, the movies were, as always, burned into my mind. I know them very well.

But it’s been years since I watched The Phantom Menace. Last time I re-watched the prequels, I did so in the Machete Order, thereby skipping Episode I.

And so I was able to go into this book with a fairly fresh outlook, save for some lingering distasteful memories of Jar Jar’s voice (something you don’t have to hear if you read this book silently).

Also, while I was delighted by the concept, idea, and act of reading the original Shakespeare Star Wars trilogy, I was apprehensive about Episode I. Last year when I was lucky enough to chat with author Ian Doescher, he was considering setting aside Shakespeare Star Wars, even though the writing was fun.

But when I heard the announcement regarding The Phantom of Menace, I still wanted to pick up the book.

The nice thing about Ian Doescher’s Shakespeare Star Wars series is they aren’t just a retelling of the Star Wars movies, but a re-imagining. Characters given only a single line in movies may have soliloquies. The quirks of fandom can be acknowledged, (as in Han’s line in Shakespeare’s Star Wars, “[Aside:] And whether I shot first, I’ll ne’er confess!“). And perhaps best of all, reviled characters like Jar Jar Binks suddenly turn out to have hidden depths.

Although perhaps not as fresh as the first book, or as unforgettable as the Shakespearean original trilogy, it was still masterfully done and wholly entertaining. And I’ll agree with what Ian Doescher wrote in his afterword,”Diving into the prequels has been more fun than I expected.”