Wednesday, July 14, 1999 Published at 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Star Wars: Sit back and enjoy it
Young star: Natalie Portman
By the BBC's William Gallagher
It's Star Wars. Huge fun, great excitement and spectacle enough to send your jaw dropping. The three main leads are exceptional, too, and deliver performances that are really far better than their roles warrant.
What's more, they do so in a range of planets and cities that are nothing short of beautiful.
When the first Star Wars came out, I was a young enough boy to think Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker should end up together.
It's not true. Nobody can touch Lucas for the visual impact of his fantasy films and the core story is an excellent epic with enough duplicity and deceit to get you wound up and concerned for the characters.
But although he's 20 years older and has created an entire little film industry of his own, Lucas's writing in The Phantom Menace is more primitive than it was for the original Star Wars.
He's not great on humour. Comic character Jar Jar Binks is a failure, although technically superb.
While the cute Anakin Skywalker - variously being called Mannequin or Anadin - is not as wooden as expected - he has to carry far too much of the plot.
It is a great idea to show us this boy when we know he will become the evil Darth Vader of the later films because it lends terrible import to some seemingly innocent lines.
But knowing a taste of his future is also a weakness for you cannot watch him (Jake Lloyd) and Queen Amidala (Portman) without snapping out of the film and wondering how in the world this adult royalty is ever going to marry this nine-year-old.
While it's on the screen, Star Wars will snatch you out of the cinema and into its universe and give you a fabulous couple of hours.
Without question, it's the most exciting movie of the year and huge, huge fun - it just wouldn't have taken much to make it a lot better.
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