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Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute. […]
While the Congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict….
The opening crawl firmly establishes the importance politics will play in The Phantom Menace and, as we'll see, the prequels as a whole. It frontlines the political maneuverings in the galaxy far more than the original film, which can summed up as "Empire vs. Rebels. Round 1. Fight!"
SIDIOUS: This turn of events is unfortunate. We must accelerate our plans. Begin landing your troops.
GUNRAY: My lord, is that legal?
SIDIOUS: I will make it legal.
Sidious is a villain for numerous reasons, not the least of which is penchant for murder and Halloween fashion sense. Yet his most villainous aspect might be his disregard for the political system and its laws designed to protect the people. He believes the law should be under his control. Until then, it's more of a nuisance than anything.
AMIDALA: The Federation would not dare go that far.
PANAKA: The Senate would revoke their trade franchise and they'd be finished.
AMIDALA: We must continue to rely on negotiations.
BIBBLE: Negotiation? We've lost all communications. And where are the Chancellor's ambassadors?
At this point, Padmé believes in the due process of law and the political system. She sticks to negotiations and believes her opponent will do the same because that's what is required of them. Only Bibble, who looks like he's seen some politicking in his day, knows what's coming.
BOSS NASS: Wesa no carrre-nn about da Naboo.
QUI-GON: Then speed us on our way.
BOSS NASS: Wesa ganna speed yous away.
QUI-GON: We could use a transport.
BOSS NASS: Wesa give yousa una bongo.
Interestingly, one quality Qui-Gon shares with the antagonist, Sidious, is his willingness to go outside the political system to get what he wants. Here, we see him manipulating the leader of the Gungans with his mind trick, and we'll see his defiance against authority again later when he announces he'll train Anakin regardless of what the Jedi Council says.
PADMÉ: I can't believe there's still slavery in the galaxy. The Republic's antislavery laws—
SHMI: The Republic doesn't exist out here. We must survive on our own.
What makes Tatooine such an awful place to live isn't the crime, sandstorms, dangerous wildlife, or risk of dehydration…. okay, those things, too, but the main reason the place is so dangerous is because it lacks a government. Contrasting the democracy of the Republic, Tatooine is ruled by the gangster Hutts, who has allowed anarchistic, outlaw justice to rule.
PALPATINE: There is no civility, only politics. The Republic is not what it once was. The Senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates. There is no interest in the common good. I must be frank, Your Majesty. There is little chance the Senate will act on the invasion.
PADMÉ: Chancellor Valorum seems to think there is hope.
PALPATINE: If I may say so, Your Majesty, the chancellor has little real power. He is mired by baseless accusations of corruption. The bureaucrats are in charge now.
And like any good liar, Palpatine's story infuses just enough truth to help it go down smooth. Yes, politicians are greedy squabblers, but they also have the needs and rights of their constituents to consider. Yes, the chancellor lacks authoritative power, but that's by design, ensuring one person isn't able to force the majority to his will. Granted, that's bad news for Padmé's cause, but the alternative, as we shall see in the later films, is far worse.
PADMÉ: The Trade Federation has destroyed all that we have worked so hard to build. If we do not act quickly, all will be lost forever. I ask you to help us. [Genuflects.] No, I beg you to help us. We are your humble servants. Our fate is in your hands.
BOSS NASS: [Laughs.] Yousa no tinken yousa greater den da Gungans? Me-e-esa like dis! Maybe wesa bein friends.
Despite Padmé's misgivings about the Republic's political system, it is ultimately politics that win the day. By setting aside their differences, forging an alliance, and working cooperatively toward a goal that will benefit all, the Gungans and Nubians are able to thwart the Trade Federation's invasion and restore sovereignty to their people.
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