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Star Wars--Episode 1

[whitespace] A guide to our coverage of 'The Phantom Menace'

MORE THAN A MOVIE; not merely an event--the new Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace (which opened everywhere yesterday), is a repository for the hopes and dreams of people who have enough downtime to skip work and wait in line for days to see it. Who's right? The legions of loyal Star Wars fans who hailed the movie's creator, George Lucas, at a benefit screening in San Francisco, earlier this week, or the cautious critics with their caveats and carping. To be sure that we didn't pander to any one agenda, we sent three reviewers to the preview screening.

Richard von Busack: Is it a surprise, then, that The Phantom Menace is such a cautious reiteration of the previous three installments of the epic? The new film is banal throughout. What it has are puppets by the score--it's more like a toy chest than a movie. PLUS: Can the new movie outhype the original?

Michelle Goldberg: Jake Lloyd's performance as Anakin Skywalker is so irritating that one is comforted by the knowledge that he'll eventually sell his soul and become the arch-villain Darth Vader. One has to feel bad for Lloyd--only 8 years old when he landed the part, he has already almost guaranteed himself a Mark Hamill-like slide into obscurity.

David Templeton: So then, how good is The Phantom Menace? Well, it's pretty good. No, it's not as good as the original Star Wars. Yes, it is flawed: the human characters are decidedly less charming and engaging than were Luke and Leia and Han Solo. Furthermore, the plot is disjointed and confusing, and the actors seldom appear to be having any fun. That said, the film remains a thoroughly enjoyable diversion, on a par with Jurassic Park and Twister. PLUS: A discussion with author Terry Brooks on 'Star Wars,' fairy tales, and the modern decline of imagination.

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A web-exclusive to the May 20-26, 1999 issue of Metro.

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