Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Directed by George Lucas. Liam Neeson, Ewan MacGregor, Natalie Portman, Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson, Ian McDiarmid, Ray Parks, Terence Stamp.

Howard Hawks once defined a good movie as a movie that had "Three good scenes and no bad ones." This long awaited first episode of the Star Wars saga doesn't quite make that cut. It has two good scenes: The pod race and the lightsaber duel. It has a number of mediochre scenes. In fact, most of it's scenes are mediochre. Much has been made of the fact that so much of the film is CGI, but the parts of the film that aren't CGI look like they were done on the cheap. James Cameron, Robert Zemekis, and Steven Spielberg have all pushed the envelope of the truly astonishing with a lot less. There ARE things to like here: The palace intrigue perpetrated by the weasly Senator Palpatine, the scene-stealing Darth Maul, Sam Jackson's Mace Windu (the only actual PERFORMANCE in the film), and even John Williams's score spins interesting variations on the recognizable Star Wars music.

Other elements are disappointing. Aside from Sam Jackson, the remaining actors are wasted. The film is poorly edited. There doesn't seem to be the sense of grandeur that even the worst of the first three films managed to pull off (partly because the epic portions of the movie are almost completely computer animated--there are no flesh and blood characters in the big battle at the end of the movie). The big space battle seems almost like an afterthought. I suppose that I can forgive many of the elements in the movie, since it's mostly exposition, but, dammit, it should be so much more. The Star Wars movies are all about set pieces, and what set pieces there are here are hit or miss. The first trilogy spearheaded a technological revolution. This film seems to trail it.