Net Force Clogged

Squllions of Star Wars fans caused online chaos yesterday as they rushed to catch a glimpse at the two-minute trailer for the first of the Star Wars prequels. The launch on the film's official website of the 'rushes' for Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace created on-line congestion not seen since the publication of the Starr Report. The George Lucas-directed Star Wars and its two sequels are the most successful films ever made, but the manic interest created by the launch of a mere trailer - which was also released in selected US cinemas yesterday - is so great that the three planned prequels look set to shatter all established records. At the 75 US and Canadian theatres where it's being shown, thousands of people forked out $10 and queued around the block several times for just a peek at Lucas's latest offering. Star Wars mania is undoubtedly stronger than ever with one report claiming that two thirds of the 500-strong audience for Denzel Washington's The Siege at a Los Angeles cinema walking out after the trailer had finished. Film distributors are apparently seeking to persuade cinema-goers to stay by repeating the trailer at the end of films as well. The films' official website - www.starwars.com - offers a free download of the trailer in Real Video, Quicktime and avi formats, although it recommends a cinema viewing for "top-quality audio and visual presentation quality" including THX sound. The producers are being careful not to give too much away with the website introduction stating that: "It may look like this trailer gives away a lot, but it's only scratching the surface." Don't get your hopes up to much as you dash for your own online viewing of the trailer though - we ain't joking when we say the site's busy and if you can get your beady eyes on it this week, you'll be lucky. Episode One, which features stars such as Samuel L Jackson and Ewan McGregor, tells the story of the young Anakin Skywalker at the start of his journey to becoming arch-villain Darth Vader. The Episode One trailer will be on general release in the US and Canada on 20 November. Fans will have to wait until May for the whole film.