Bruce Fretts wonders how George Lucas' new film can possibly live up to its unprecedented hype

By Bruce Fretts
Updated April 29, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Who cares about the ‘Star Wars’ prequel?

Am I the only person in America who CAN wait to see ”The Phantom Menace”? Don’t get me wrong: I loved the original ”Star Wars” when I was 12. And I enjoyed it again when it was rereleased a few years ago. But the Jabba-the-Hutt-size hype for the upcoming prequel is almost enough to make me want to boycott the movie — for the first few weeks of its release, at least.

Between the two trailers, George Lucas’ up-close-and-personal ”60 Minutes” segment, and the countless magazine covers, I feel like I’ve already seen ”The Phantom Menace.” Yes, I realize that EW has already done a fair number of ”Star Wars” stories, and I’m sure there are more to come. But at least we haven’t divulged key plot secrets, as some spoilsports on the Internet have.

How could any movie possibly live up to all this buildup? If it’s anything less than the biggest-grossing film of all time, it’ll be considered a box office disappointment. And while I appreciate that George Lucas is returning to the director’s chair after turning over ”The Empire Strikes Back” and ”Return of the Jedi” to the justifiably obscure Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand, who’s to say that his storytelling skills won’t be as rusty as, say, Terrence Malick’s?

I’m sure I’ll break down and buy a ticket eventually, but I’d rather bathe Chewbacca with my tongue than fight the throngs of crazed fanatics who’ll no doubt turn out the minute the movie comes out. Some ”Star Wars” freaks have allegedly already been lined up for weeks. Don’t these people have… oh, what’s the word… lives?

Should I succumb to the hoopla and you see me in line on opening night, do me a favor: Don’t tell anybody that I wrote this column, lest I be beaten senseless with plastic lightsabers.