from Film Forum, 01/20/00
Two films this year transported me back to my youth, alternately bringing joy and guilt, both of which were important to me. For a kid who grew up eating Chewbacca cookies and drinking out of Darth Vader Dixie cups, Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace delivered spastic waves of giddiness, not only in the actual film but in the months of eager anticipation: scrounging for truthful rumors, exploring the back stories of characters in insider guides, chatting about the movie with every other movie fan my age. Granted, this movie wasn't quite as exciting as the previous trilogy, but that's to be expected when you're tracing the very beginnings of a conflict than when you're in the full throes of it. Actually, by avoiding the focus on good versus evil that the original trilogy details, The Phantom Menace adds nuance and depth to the series by showing how a person at the most innocent and selfless moment is never far from following the dark side—that the fight between good and evil is more often an internal battle than we recognize.