Review: Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Jerry Lunsford weighed in with his opinion to the Fairfax-Chat mailing list.

Date: Thu, 20 May 1999 16:22:08 -0700
From: Jerry Lunsford
Subject: Re: Review: Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace

I feel obliged to espond to Dan's meesage only because I can. It might make for an entertaining story.... Since it has could turn out pretty well I'll also forward it on to the Point Reyes Light.

Greetings gang from the land of Tatooine.

I have piloted my trusty toyota pod to an Island in the sky. Behind me Uncle John has taken me to a riverside where the rising tide can never reach. My view overlooks the chasms and fins of the Green and Colorado, Abbey's country. Truly an outer world, off the planet experience. A gentle desert breeze accompanies my thoughts as I breath the dry, and clear high country air. This, the morning after a very interesting evening at the theatre.

Zeke is a twenty thirty something who has a criterion for finding a date, she must be born after the year of the original star wars. Pretty good reasoning, if I was 20 years younger the same could apply; This is a good companion to experience the latest installment with... But I digress. Needless to say Zeke has been highly anticipating the release, finding ourelves in Moab we were fortunate to have a local theatre with the big show opening yesterday. Zeke ran down in the early afternoon afraid the movie may have a huge line and non existent tickets for the evening show... He purchased three of the first ten sold for the 7pm showing. After enduring months of the hype in Marin this was eye opening, so much for my reality check on the scene. By 6:15 the anticipation around the bakery was becoming palpable, we jumped in the car and headed on down to the theatre, Doors opened at 6:30 and we were amoung the first in line. Then again this is somewhere out in the back of beyond, maybe the hype has a different effect on desert rats? So there we sat after paying $6 for tickets and a grand total of $5.50 for popcorn and coke and waited. The lights dimmed and we were off to fantasyland.

It was 1978 when the original Star Wars was released. I was among the baby boomers caught up in the initial fascination with the phenomenon. Here was a true E ticket ride, this strange movie, in a time when the E ticket was becoming a collectors item, and the homogenization of our entertainment industry was beginning to peak. It was a time of relative innocence for us suburban college students, probably more so because we were all still at an age when immortality was a given rather than simply a dream.

I go to the theatre to watch a story; If the special effects, computer generated goodies, and sound track enhance the story then I am all the more impressed. I go to the movies in anticipation of honest entertainment, it is obvious when a films producers and crew have fun creating something exciting. Unfortunately this presentation missed the boat on just about all levels, it's only saving grace will be the incredible hype we have had to endure as the folks in Lucasland turned up the volume on what they must have known was a film that could barely rise to the level of B grade action flick. I would have been pretty scared too, after investing the countless millions of dollars in such a substandard product. This movie is not about telling a story or pushing any envelopes; It is simply about making money.

Trying to compare the earlier product with the newest is kind of exercise in futility. I expected a story that had grit, adventure, and pathos. What we recieved was a piece of celluliod that pandered to the lowest common denominator, and failed miserably in living up to most peoples expectations of something really exciting. Characters were left to play as a backdrop to overblown special effects and blatant attempts to display (read market/sell) the latest action figures, chachkas, and toys. Plot was left to languish behind undeveloped characters, a cute kid, and gratuitous attempts to make half hearted social commentary. There is just enough of the story left that needs to be told that we may hope for a better effort on the next installment of this first trilogy. The folks over at Lucas have designed a situation where they are assured job security far into the next millenium. We can only hope for something better.

Go see this movie, don't expect much, but go see it anyway; it's a pretty good ride. Enjoy the fantasy, then get up the next morning, go outside and revel in the planet we are blessed to live on; Be it the hills of planet Naboo4, the desert of Tatooine, or the dark, overcrowded chasms in the canyons near the Jedi council. This is all around us and we have the capacity to create our own fantastic realities daily. Better luck next time George, I'll still be watching and waiting.

Jerry Lunsford Box 252 Olema, CA 94950 e-mail: packet: KD6ZZM on 144.910mhz (currently inactive) www:

Friday, May 21st, 1999