Savoring 'Star Wars'

Concentrate on the moment. Feel, don't think." That's the advice Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn gives young Anakin Skywalker in "Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace," which opened to record-breaking movie crowds Wednesday.

It's the attitude that theater owners and toy merchandisers hope "Star Wars" fans will keep as they line up for the second, third, or umpteenth showing or hit the checkout counter with a Queen Amidala fashion doll or a talking Yoda action figure.

Ignoring mostly critical reviews, those attending early screenings - including some who played "Wookie Hooky" from jobs or school - seem to be making it into a grand old costume party. Summer has been declared early this year. Let playtime begin.

Hands have been wrung over what messages this clearly influential movie is sending to those throngs. But a movie series in which good eventually defeats evil, and in which the heroes display qualities like honesty, courage, and compassion isn't exactly a social menace.

Whether he intended it or not, "Star Wars" creator George Lucas has produced a saga with a powerful idea at its core: redemption.

Fans know that the innocent boy in "Episode 1" is going to become the ruthless and evil Darth Vader. But they also know that eventually even he will be redeemed, his true identity as Anakin Skywalker restored through the power of his son's love.

The "Star Wars" movies have been analyzed from every possible angle: as film, commerce, and philosophy. Now that the latest has arrived on screens, perhaps it's time to just sit back and enjoy - or ignore, if we like - these entertaining galactic goings on.

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