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Hey America - it's only a movie!

Critics see 'Star Wars' as ordinary movies buried in hype. But for fans, this Wednesday will be the biggest day of the year.

Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace" is rocketing toward its May 19 premire. Some pundits have already weighed in, and others are revving up their word processors for a burst of commentary that may rival the movie itself for sheer firepower.

Anticipating the big event, we asked a diverse group of critics, teachers, and Hollywood-watchers to give their personal assessments of the "Star Wars" movies as a cultural phenomenon. Their responses are varied, but several tilt toward the opinion that George Lucas's hugely popular Force has a dark side along with its undeniably crowd-pleasing components.

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Is this a minority view, or a sign that audiences may deliver a backlash when "The Phantom Menace" is finally unveiled? Time will tell, and the countdown is quickly approaching its climax.

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