Here is an imaginary review of Star Wars Episode 1 as seen through the eyes of Pauline Kael of the New Yorker Magazine:
Review of Star Wars Episode I: ______ of the _____ (1999)
The Empire and the Rebellion, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. These are names most of us grew up with and they have become part of our cultural mythology. In 1977, George Lucas gave us the space opera Star Wars, and no one knew just how great an impact it would have. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn't at least heard of this timeless classic and almost everyone would recognize the names C-3PO or R2-D2. It pioneered special-effects the likes of which had previously never been seen and it changed the way movies were made.
The spirit of the original Star Wars lives on as writer-director George Lucas continues to pay homage to the films he grew up with in a wow of a sci-fi film. Using state-of-the-art visual effects, with Technicolor prints by Deluxe and ear-splitting THX Sound, this LucasFilm Ltd. production is one of the most entertaining films of its type yet done. The special effects, conjured up by an army of experts, are non-stop and the action is first rate. Few fantasies have been made with such a sense of humor and the script contains virtually every cliche to be uttered in a war film or adventure epic; the actors -- especially Liam Neeson in a Harrison Ford/Alec Guinness-like performance -- add to the fun by delivering their lines in an off-handed way.
The pace rarely lets up, since the Rick McCallum production moves as quickly as the serials from which it was patterned. Credit for the inevitable success of the film must begin with Lucas and continue down the lengthy credit list to all who worked on the master film effects. Shot in Tunisia, Italy and Leavesden Studios in England. A symphonic score is by John Williams. Should be a very big success.
In a far-off galaxy, Queen Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) of Naboo attempts to contact the Galactic Senate on Coruscant to overthrow the evil aliens who have captured her homeworld in a blitzkrieg-style attack. Portman flees Naboo for the temporary safety of the remote-world of Tatooine with her droid companions, Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker. Here, she contacts a middle-aged Jedi Master, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) to secure safe passage to Coruscant.
Neeson, who has mastered the Force (energy), enlists the renegade Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his sidekick to help in their upcoming event-filled adventure. McGregor's ship is something to behold. Before embarking for the Galactic homeworld, Qui-Gon brings along young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who they recently watched win a spectacular race in a small flying vessel.
On Coruscant with the aid of the graceful Senator Palpatine, the Galactic Senate is pursuaded to send the Jedi Knights to rescue Portmans's home world from the invaders. The final battle is marvelous and showcases the best special-effects sequences in the history of cinema. Of course, the bad guys are defeated and the good guys carry the day.
The special effects are superb and may be the biggest draw for repeat viewers, but don't overlook the other elements (i.e., surprise cameos made by characters from the classic trilogy).
May the Force be with you.
What's a Jar Jar?
Reviewed: May 18, 1999
Release date: May 25, 1999
--- Pauline Kael The New Yorker Magazine
Eon: Pauline Kael is a well-respected film critic for the New Yorker. She ripped into ROTJ for being nothing more than a vehicle for merchandising. It appears that she likes Ep 1 a little bit better or perhaps she has mellowed over the years.
Trivia: George named one of the bad guys in Willow, General Kael, after Pauline.