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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

In the Absence of Life, There Is Always 'Star Wars'

May 21, 1999|MIKE DOWNEY

I promised everybody that I'd wait until millions of people had seen "Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace" before I would give away any of the plot.

Well, millions have. It's been out at least 36 hours now.

Having seen it already 10 1/2 times, I just about have the movie memorized. A few more viewings ought to do it.

It was very hard on us Warries, camping out for 72 hours on the sidewalk, washing and drinking out of puddles. I gagged on an awful lot of bus fumes, and found a spider one morning crawling up my I (Heart) Princess Leia cargo pants. A TV crew from "Access Hollywood" voted us the most gross and bad-smelling George Lucas groupies ever.

But it was worth the filth.

I think the guy behind me put it best, when he said, "Yoda rules, man!" He said he was a professor at Pepperdine.

We sat in the front row together and cheered the film at each viewing, particularly the big surprise near the climax, when Rosie O'Donnell appears and is swallowed by Jabba the Hut.

Reviews have been lukewarm--apologies to Luke--but pay no attention. Just pay $9, then $9 more, then $9 more, until you've seen it so many times, it costs $10.

I assure you, this is the best film ever made or that will ever be made, at least until "Star Wars: Episode 2 The Starbucks Revolt."


For those of you who do not wish to have any of this new movie spoiled, read no more. I don't want to be one of those jerks who blows the endings, like the one who killed "Titanic" for me by revealing that in the end, both the ship and Leonardo DiCaprio sink.

But this is not just a movie.

I would be remiss in my duties as a journalist not to discuss it in every detail, from the opening scene, in which Oxy Clearasil (Liam Neeson) lands on a small planet to refuel and encounters Exxon Texaco (Samuel L. Jackson), an android who is part human, part Pez dispenser, to the very last scene, when the evil Admiral Robinson overpowers and destroys the hopelessly undermanned Kobe En Shaquille.

It's so good, I don't even go home anymore.

I sleep in my theater seat. I wrote this column on a laptop, during the part where R2-D2 and 3-CPO are taken prisoner by Dodge Viper and Jiffy Lube and melted down into hubcaps.

Best scene I've ever seen.

In line night after night, it was amazing how many of us without lives banded together to be the first to see this classic motion picture, which I expect to become the No. 1 grossing film of all time by, oh, around 6 o'clock, maybe 6:30.

I know that we Warries are mocked by some of you who feel that we should be doing something more worthwhile, like reading books. But don't worry, because long before we got in line, many of us shopped at bookstores like Barnes & Noble, where we found all kinds of great "Star Wars" paperbacks and coffee table books. Some of us who bought the bigger books don't even own coffee tables.

Hey, I bet I've spent no more than $400 so far on "Star Wars"-related merchandise, souvenirs and junk I'll never look at again after June, so it's not like I'm overdoing it. You parents, you shouldn't worry about your kids. They probably won't waste more than 900 bucks on this movie altogether, maybe a thou.

Why should they save money for some stupid college when they can see a really cool movie 10 or 12 times?

I can't say everyone will like the plot twist in the middle, when a young Jedi warrior asks Yoda to help him learn about the mysteries of the universe, like why restaurants never give you enough napkins, or why nobody ever casts Sean Connery with women his own age. In a key scene, galaxy storm troopers chase a sport utility vehicle down a freeway, with several TV helicopters overhead.

The plot thickens when several violent, snaggletoothed creatures have to decide which one they prefer to be guests of, Jenny Jones or Jerry Springer.


We don't have a phenomenon like "Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace"--or SW:E1TPM, as most of us call it for short--very often in this lifetime.

I'm proud to say that I only stand (or sleep) in a movie line every 10 or 20 years. I can't remember doing anything like this since . . . well, let's see, I guess that time 5,000 of us camped out on the street for the premiere of Steve McQueen doing Henrik Ibsen.

So this is a rare occasion.

I intend to sit here and watch the new "Star Wars" a few more times, mainly because it's a whole lot weirder outside the theater than it is inside.


Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. E-mail:

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