Critics confuse Jedi with Jawa in reviews

Well, I finally joined the masses and saw “Star Wars, Episode I — The Phantom Menace” the other night. I wasn’t sure if I would like it from the reviews I’d read during the past couple weeks. Critics gave the movie disdainful write-ups and poor critiques, so I prepared myself for a second-rate showing and a ill-conceived story line.
What the hell were they talking about? I loved it! Excitement seized my chest when young Anakin Skywalker raced against all odds to win the pod race against the scheming Sebulba, freeing himself from slavery and clearing a new path to his turbulent future.
Tears welled in my eyes when the child who will become Darth Vader bid his caring mother goodbye, not knowing if he would ever see her again. Pride burst forth from my heart when the underdogs vanquished the dark forces. God, it was so cool!
I left the theater bubbling with glee in anticipation of the next episode — I must know the whole story now; I’m hooked. In fact, I couldn’t sleep for awhile after I got home from the late showing because my mind reeled with the uncanny similarities that connect the young Jedi apprentice to Jesus: He was born by immaculate conception and he is called the chosen one who will bring balance to the force. Geez, this stuff could start a religion — or has it already?
As my roommate so eloquently said on our way home from the movie, “Chris Hewitt (the St. Paul Pioneer Press movie critic who gave the movie a poor review) should be destroyed.” Well, maybe not destroyed, but penalized for his pithy review of a decades-long phenomenon.
Hewitt and other critics who gave this film a bad rap reviewed “The Phantom Menace” as any other movie in the theater these days, right alongside “Cruel Intentions,” “She’s All That” and the barrage of Shakespeare rip-offs inundating our screens. But “Star Wars” isn’t just another movie; that’s where these critics made their fatal error. It is a legend — OK, a fable, if you want to get technical about it, but a legendary fable, at least.
To use another biblical reference, would a critic of the written arts review the much-awaited New Testament of the Bible series alongside a Tom Clancy or Stephen King novel? No, it’s not in the same league; it’s not even in the same galaxy. But, rather, a galaxy far, far away. (Sorry about that last remark, I couldn’t stop myself.)
“Star Wars” has transcended popular culture and passed into a realm of sacredness. This extraordinary happening, this singularity, if you will, is far beyond the hands of one man, but dwells within the powers of a higher consciousness. Seriously, as much as Lucas might have wanted his 1977 “Star Wars” film to trigger a decades-long obsession, it is hardly something he could have manipulated. Give the guy a break. Lucas is already the apostle of a new generation; what more do you want from him?
Lucas created the series in the late 70s and early 80s, when a good movie was “Saturday Night Fever” or “Revenge of the Nerds.” A different era of technology, humor and expectations dominated the slate from which “Star Wars” emerged. If Lucas continued the story in the extravagant, cynical and violent pathos of 1999, he would’ve destroyed it.
Can you, in all honesty, imagine “The Phantom Menace” cultivated with the same juice powering films like “Independence Day” and “The Mummy”? Sure, it would’ve been great eye-candy, and I probably still would have gotten all riled up. But when the credits rolled, I would have felt gypped. People don’t go see a “Star Wars” film for million-dollar explosions or big names like Brad Pitt and Tom Hanks. They go to experience the innocent awe-inspiring, and sometimes hokey, magic that they first felt so long ago.
So what if the acting isn’t first-rate? Was it really that great in the first three films? Did that matter? Does it now?
When the second episode hits theaters sometime in the next few years, I sincerely hope it’s reviewed by someone who knows the difference between a movie and a cultural phenomenon. I don’t think I can stomach another critic’s opinionated diatribe of matters which he does not understand.
Emily Dalnodar is a Daily freelancer. She welcomes comments to [email protected].