Star Wars: Episode I -The Phantom Menace

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This is a no-brainer: Go see Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace. You will anyway, no matter what I say. Visually the film is a feast, a gourmet banquet. All other parts are peanut butter and jelly on 22-year-old white bread. But you don’t care. So go, already. If you want to stand in line, stand in line. Go.

Don’t expect anything new outside of the next generation of miraculous Special Effects. What you saw once you’ll see again – and again. Dueling light sabers. Enormous space metropoli. Cute aliens. Scary aliens. The screen explodes from beginning to end and the noise rarely stops. When it does, so they can try and cram in a plot point with all the subtlety of a shoe horn trying to lever a four hundred pound foot into a ballet slipper, you can’t wait for them to stop talking and start exploding again.

The audience applauded the Twentieth Century Fox logo. Then they applauded the Lucasfilms logo. Then they applauded the familiar block yellow writing: "Long Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…" The point is we want to applaud. The first three Star Wars movies (the premiere was 1977) bring us back to our youth. We grew up with these characters and we have been waiting for years for them to come back and say hi.

So when Yoda hits the screen we applaud. When R2D2 is introduced to C3P0 (remember, this is Episode One, the Prequel), we laugh in recognition. It’s good to see Obi-Wan Kenobi when he was a young stud. Jabba the Hutt’s here (same skin, maybe a paltry few hundred pounds lighter). These are our friends. Life is good.

Dialogue bad is. Characters stupid are. Seahorse sidekick (Jarjar) embarrassingly awful cannot help himself. Matter to movie does? Not one whit.

The undersea city is amazing. So is the jellyfish escape vehicle. My favorite character is a dragonfly-winged used rocket parts dealer with a voice like Victor Borge. He is destined for soft drink cups and burger wrappers around the world. The pod race is cool, and the two-headed announcer, one of whose heads sounds exactly like Howard Cossell, is memorable. Can’t forget Jarjar’s boss – a great green fish with a green hat. Speaking of hats, Queen Amidala wears the coolest chapeaus this side of Beach Blanket Babylon. Her unique lipstick application is destined to be copied in secret by the next generation of pre-teens (while mom’s at the mall).

Sadly the battle sequences, while technically marvelous, tend to drag on forever. There is a rather confusing climax to the last great Kurosawa-like battle (Gungan sea horses firing blue boulders propelled by catapults defeating droids firing automatic pistols that never seem to hit anybody). But we knew little Anakin Skywalker had to save the day because we’ve seen the sequels. Anakin has to grow up to be father to the twins Luke and Leia, so it’s not like the war’s outcome was in question.

Other small negatives that will not deter you at all: Samuel L. Jackson manages to make himself irrelevant. Liam Neeson needs to loosen up. He should have watched Space Balls first. Every time anyone pulls out the tiresome old light saber you keep thinking: "Use Your Schwartz, Use Your Schwartz!"

It doesn’t matter. I’m glad I saw this movie. You’ll be glad you did too. It’s an amazing adventure into technology and glitz.

And that’s all there is, folks.

– DAK

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