By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Reviews of The Phantom Menace hit the Net last week, after some fans managed to get into a special screening. Ain't-it-cool-news.com was one of the first sites to post fan reviews of the film, which ran from ecstatic ("superb as a story [and] as a film") to disappointed ("You just can't go in expecting the greatest story ever told, cause it's not"). Other sites, such as theforce.net, were also riddled with reviews.
But no matter the disappointment some of these deflated responses impart; far more damaging to the fans who haven't seen the film are the items released last week in every bookshop, toy store, and music outlet in the country. The titles of each song on the soundtrack inadvertently tell who wins, loses, and dies; each toy figure details some secrets of the character; the Star Wars music video"Duel of the Fates"currently playing all over VH1 and MTV, shows too many clips from the film; and if that's not enough, the just released novelization based on the screenplay reveals everything. No place in the real world is safe for Star Wars fans.
So it's back to the Net, where, despite the premature reviews, Star Wars fan sitesjust a few months ago the only place to get any information about the prequelsare now the only place to maintain enthusiasm for the movie without being bombarded by too much information. Even when reviews were posted to the sites, they were either hidden with "invisible text" (dragging the mouse across the blank space highlights the text) or prefaced by ample warnings.
Luckily for the fans who are now hiding in cyberspace, however, there is a site that lets them get their Star Wars fix without having to wade through tons of nonrelated information. France Telecom, France's AT&T, has launched a new portal in North America, voila.com, which has a special closed-data search engine called Jedisearch that tracks only Star Wars material. Type in "calamari," for instance, and it'll give you all sites detailing the home world of Admiral Ackbar (called Mon Calamari) and Calamari cruise ships (seen in Return), but nothing on where to get a good plate of squid.