So much has been said about the Star Wars phenomenon that it’s hard to separate the movie from the hype. I’m not sure what I can add that hasn’t been said, but I will say this: Everything that has been said is true: Jake Lloyd is no great actor; Jar Jar Binks is an annoying computer-generated character; the pod race is an amazing sequence; there sure was a lot of hype; and the visuals are very good.
My own evaluation is that the movie was, first, a lot of fun. The action and battle scenes are well-planned and interesting to watch. The political story is just twisty enough to keep you paying attention. The foreshadowing and future-references reward loyal fans with winks and insights.
But also it was a rekindling of our cultural fascination with George Lucas’ one great vision. Something clicked in all of us with Star Wars. Lucas’ obsessive fantasy was one that, somehow, captured the imaginations of all of America. That fascination has faded over time, but it was always there, dormant in our brains, waiting to be reawakened. Episode I is the alarm clock that brings the that entire mythical world back into consciousness. It’s interesting to see what has happened to our little myth in 20 years.
Many of the aliens and ships were printed to film, rather than painted on glass or constructed as models, which is a loss I’d usually mourn. But the entire pace of the movie and universe has become more lively, colorful, and vivid. Armies, senates and crowds of aliens, which were cost-prohibitive in 1977, now grace the screen, thanks to computer imaging technology. It is both ironic and appropriate then that Lucas saved the first three episodes — which take place in the golden days of history, before the fall of the great republic — for last, when filmmaking technology would be shiny, new, and well-practiced.
This entry into the Star Wars saga does the originals justice in terms of heart, action, and fun. The box office lines aren’t as bad as even I had feared, so go see Star Wars and wake the sleeping 12-year old in you.