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Thursday, 13 May, 1999, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Studio rages at Star Wars reviews
star wars
Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson star in The Phantom Menace
Hollywood's biggest secret is out of the bag - and 20th Century Fox is furious with newspapers who have published reviews of the new Star Wars movie ten days early.

Star Wars
At least three North American newspapers reviewed the film after being allowed into a sneak preview of Episode I: The Phantom Menace in New York on Saturday, while leading trade magazine Variety described it as a stale "letdown".

Fox says the papers broke a long-standing pact to hold back from publishing reviews until the day of the film's release - 19 May.

While the New York Daily News gave the film a modest two-and-a-half-stars, the Los Angeles Daily News splashed its review across the front page, relegating reports on attacks on US diplomatic buildings in China to the bottom of the page.

One of the film's characters, Yoda
It gave the film three-and-a-half stars, calling it "pretty good" over all, and "outstanding in many parts".

But Variety's Todd McCarthy said the film "could scarcely help being a letdown on some levels, but it's too bad that it disappoints on so many."

He added: "It is neither captivating nor transporting, for it lacks any emotional pull, as well as the sense of wonder and awe that marks the best works of sci-fi and fantasy."

Variety traditionally prints advance reviews, but most US papers wait until release day before giving their judgements. But all were scooped by Internet reviewers, who sneaked into advance screenings and posted their verdicts last week.

george lucas
George Lucas: Expecting bad reviews
Tom Sherak, chairman of 20th Century Fox's domestic film group, said: "It's really disappointing that the publications that did that didn't have high enough standards to uphold the agreement with the studio.

"It's not fair for the movie to be reviewed until everyone has the chance to review it together.

"It has nothing to do with whether it's a good or bad review. They're being devious. There are rules and they decided they didn't want to follow the rules."

Despite the massive publicity campaign surrounding the new film, Sherak added: "The bottom line is that this isn't news, it's a movie."

Director George Lucas has said a backlash against the film is inevitable. "We tried very hard not to let the film be overhyped. It kind of got out of control and got overhyped anyway. There's not much you can do about that."

darth maul
Figures like this Darth Maul have gone on sale in UK shops
Adding most of the Star Wars films have received bad reviews, he said: "I certainly expect not to do well critically. I never have. You sort of accept this."

When asked if the new film was aimed more at children than adults, he said: "I don't think it's any more kid-friendly than the other films. This is a Saturday afternoon serial for children. People forget what the movies actually are."

Meanwhile, a limited amount of Star Wars merchandise is going on sale in shops in the UK. Last week thousands of US fans queued outside toy stores for the first day's sale of merchandise.

The full range will be available in the UK from 18 June. Consumer products are also lining up to cash in on Star Wars fever, with Pepsi, Walkers Crisps, Birds Eye, Cadbury and Daz washing powder among the brands licensed to use the Star Wars name. The film will be released in the UK on 16 July.

Tom Brook reports: "One in three Americans are planning to see the film"
See also:

13 May 99 | Entertainment
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