george lucas knows his mediamanipulation.The director could easily open the fifth instalment of his Star Wars series, Episode II: Attack Of The Clones, next Thursday (May 16) without spending a dime on hype and still rake in the loot, but that wouldn't be Lucas's style.
The campaign for the new Star Wars film has been predictably suffocating, especially online. The Net provides the ideal haven for Star Wars geeks looking to talk about droids and light sabres with their pals, and Lucas has taken full advantage of that.
Trailers for the new film began circulating almost a year ago through an arrangement Lucas made with Apple (they're archived at http://starwars.apple.com/ep2/clone_war/index.html) and he's flattened the online community with an avalanche of hype for the new film. Plug "Star Wars" into your favourite search engine and the first several sites that pop up will inevitably be owned by Lucas himself.
Far more interesting and unusual are the tens of thousands of fan-run sites that the Star Wars franchise encourages. There are predictable news sites offering "exclusive" information about the film, disturbingly geeky places where bearded Star Wars freaks can discuss the finer details of the women of Star Wars and the now-daily stream of advance reviews -- mostly positive -- of the new film.
Of course, the most infamous Star Wars-related use of the Internet had nothing to do with Lucas's sites whatsoever. After the 1999 release of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, one plugged-in fan infuriated by the shuffling and mumbling of digital clown Jar Jar Binks deleted the character from the film entirely, creating The Phantom Edit, a version of the film that was 18 minutes shorter and circulated online.
It's still floating out there in cyberspace for those willing to do a bit of hunting. May the force be with you. In the meantime, here are some of the best of the rest of the Star Wars sites.
The official site. Incredibly busy and not really worth the effort.
Plugged-in fan site offering hot tips and geek news galore.
The home of two Seattle fanatics who have been lining up for the new Star Wars film since January 1.
Find your Star Wars twin by answering a few simple questions. Maybe you and Princess Leah were meant for each other all along.
The home of the Jar Jar Binks Must Die society, which features a two-minute rap about the clumsy character by Detroit MC Stormtroopa.
Where fans can gather and check out those old Star Wars toys that used to rule your life, then were shuffled into the attic, sold at garage sales and are now worth hundreds of dollars. Read and weep.
Not the home of a group of upset anti-Star Wars movie campaigners, but, rather, Greenpeace's effort to stop Dubya's missile defence system. firstname.lastname@example.org