Cinema: The Phantom Movie

George Lucas' new Star Wars epic showcases some dazzling visual effects but is short on human magic

To get in, you needed a ticket, more precious than a passport out of Kosovo, and a fluorescent handstamp with the 20th Century Fox logo. Security guards, as imposing as the Fruit of Islam, eyed you through four separate checkpoints. Inside the theater, an official requested that audience members turn in anyone who might be camcording the event. George Lucas' Star Wars films may celebrate the spirit of communal rebellion, but the first critics' screening of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in New York City last week had a sulfurous scent of the Empire about it.

Precautions may be indulged...