March 09, 1999 12:00 AM

Jumping the gun on the May 19 release date of “Star Wars,” New York’s Sunday News ran its review of the long-awaited $110-million “Star War: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” over the weekend, after a preview held for critics Friday night. “Children under 12 will love it,” wrote News reviewer Jack Matthews, who awarded the film two-and-a-half (out of a possible four) stars. “Old ‘Star Wars’ fans, having waited 18 years, will likely embrace it. The question,” he continued, “is whether (George Lucas’s) toy-friendly, computer-dependent prequel to the ‘Star Wars Trilogy’ has enough freshness, energy and magic to carry everyone else into the 21st century with it.”

  • Elsewhere in the galaxy, TIME Magazine’s Richard Corliss writes: “One suspects that Lucas was more interested in the aliens than the humans, and in the art direction than the direction of actors.” Todd McCarthy in Variety: “It is neither captivating nor transporting, for it lacks any emotional pull, as well as the sense of wonder and awe that marks the best works of sci-fi/fantasy.” David Ansen in Newsweek: “The movie is a disappointment. A big one. Will you take my word for it? Of course not. This massively marketed movie is virtually critic-proof.”

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