A few ways to fill your days until `Menace' opens

Read: `Star Wars' fans will really need the force -- or something -- to cope with all the information overload.

May 07, 1999|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

Important reader advisory regarding "Star Wars: Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace":

Here are just some of the stories we understand U.S. newspapers are planning in advance of the movie's May 19 opening -- just 12 days from now! -- perhaps the most important event of this or any lifetime. Additional stories will undoubtedly appear, warranted or not.

* STARWARS-IMPACT: How the first movie focused the industry on special-effects blockbusters aimed at teen-age boys, helped create the summer movie season, changed movie sound systems, and led people to believe Mark Hamill could act.

* STARWARS-HISTORY: How does "The Phantom Menace" fit into this "Star Wars" trilogy? How much has creator George Lucas remained true to his original vision of the trilogies? Why has Lucas, for example, changed Darth Vader's name to Brad?

* STARWARS-SCHOLARS: A look at the scholarly debate over "Star Wars" with various interpretations. Johns Hopkins University professors debate: Will history remember "Star Wars" as a really neat "film" or "movie"?

* STARWARS-GRIP: Profile of the key grip on the original "Star Wars." Now 65, Charles "No Silly Nickname" Smith recalls how once during shooting, Harrison Ford asked him to bring him a chilled wash cloth. "Really, he did."

* STARWARS-LUCAS: Interviews with "Phantom" cast members on what exactly they believe is currently burrowing in George Lucas' neck.

* STARWARS-SWITCH: Why George Lucas decided, just weeks before its release, to change the movie's title from "The Dennis Menace" to "The Phantom Menace." Will the decision come back to haunt him?

* STARWARS-MEANING: Why it's so psychologically important to so many people. (In this case, an actual story available through the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.)

* STARWARS-FUTURE: "The Phantom Menace" is only the first installment of another planned "Star Wars" trilogy, tentatively called "Another Star Wars Trilogy." Next year, Lucas plans to begin work with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns on a nine-part series exploring the parallel histories of "Star Wars" and the Civil War.

* STARWARS-THEN/NOW: The world was a different place in 1977, when the first "Star Wars" debuted. Earl Weaver, for instance, was leading the Orioles to a 97-64 record. A fond look back.

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