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By Merle Bertrand | October 18, 2001

It’s not often you get to experience the Movie of the Century…and no, I’m not talking about “The Beach.” It’s doubtful that there’s ever been a movie as eagerly anticipated, or that’s arrived with as much pre-conceived baggage, as “Star Wars Episode I.” With the original blockbuster film’s fans fermenting for nearly two decades while waiting for another fix, their appetites whetted by the now-mature hype and merchandising machine practically invented by that first “Wars” film, the build-up for “The Phantom Menace” was unprecedented. Tariq Jalil’s “A Galaxy Far, Far Away,” takes a bemused and well-rounded look at the “Star Wars” phenomenon and the fans who fuel it. The film uses as its skeleton the fans who began camping out in a Hollywood line some 42 days before tickets went on sale. However, its coverage of this Fourth Coming quickly and effectively covers the country, drawing on footage collected by filmmakers who interviewed the, ahem, “colorful” fans waiting in lines in Chicago, Boston, New York, Cleveland and other places.
A handful of celebrities — Meatloaf, Joe Pesci, Roger Corman, Andy Garcia — also provide their insight, which is actually pretty useless, except it’s kinda cool to see them. While there are, of course, the usual assortment of pathetic geeks and misfits who are more than willing to make inadvertent buffoons of themselves on camera, “Galaxy” also reveals the very real and positive impact the films have had on peoples’ lives. It also effectively demonstrates the universal need humans have to belong by interviewing those for whom the ordeal of waiting and the fellowships they’ve formed while waiting are more important than the movie for which they’re ostensibly standing in line. Thankfully, although this sprawling documentary examines seemingly every possible explanation for the “Star Wars” phenomenon, it doesn’t dare come up with a one-size-fits-all answer. In the end, “A Galaxy Far, Far Away” shadows its parent films in that it’s just good clean fun for the whole family.

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