"I have a bad feeling about this," says the young Obi-Wan Kenobi (played by Ewan McGregor) inStar Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace
as he steps off a spaceship and into the most anticipated cinematic event... well, ever. He might as well be speaking for the legions of fans of the original episodes in theStar Wars
saga who can't help but secretly ask themselves: Sure, this isStar Wars
, but is itmy Star Wars
? The original elevated moviegoers' expectations so high that it would have been impossible for any subsequent film to meet them. And as with all theStar Wars
movies,The Phantom Menace
features inexplicable plot twists, a fistful of loose threads, and some cheek-chewing dialogue. Han Solo's swagger is sorely missed, as is the pervading menace of heavy-breather Darth Vader. There is still way too much quasi-mystical mumbo jumbo, and some of what was fresh aboutStar Wars
22 years earlier feels formulaic. Yet there's much to admire. The special effects are stupendous; three worlds are populated with a mélange of creatures, flora, and horizons rendered in absolute detail. The action and battle scenes are breathtaking in their complexity. And one particular sequence of the film--the adrenaline-infused pod race through the Tatooine desert--makes the chariot race inBen-Hur
look like a Sunday stroll through the park.
Among the host of new characters, there are a few familiar walk-ons. We witness the first meeting between R2-D2 and C-3PO, Jabba the Hutt...