'Clones' attacks world's cinemas
LONDON, England -- "Star Wars" fans are crowding into cinemas around the world following the release of the latest blockbuster in the sci-fi series, "Attack of the Clones."
Followers of Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker have been camping in the streets from London to Los Angeles to make sure they are among the first to see the new chapter in George Lucas' space saga, which made its global debut on Thursday.
"Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" first hit the world's movie screens on the Pacific island of Guam at one minute past midnight local time in two sold-out theatres, a spokeswoman at Lucasfilm Ltd. told Reuters. The island is 17 hours ahead of Los Angeles.
The film then premiered in cities in Australia, Asia and Europe to throngs of fans swapping tales of previous "Star Wars" stories, duelling with light sabres and dressed as Jedi Knights Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi or the beautiful Senator Padme Amidala.
"Attack of the Clones" is expected to be a huge worldwide hit following the success of the last "Star Wars" film three years ago, "The Phantom Menace," which is the third biggest box office hit of all time after grossing more than $920 million globally.
On Wednesday, Lucas was joined by a horde of showbusiness stars at the movie's London premiere in Leicester Square. (Full story)
Hard-core fans have for weeks eaten and slept outside cinemas for the newest adventure in one of the biggest box office franchises in moviemaking history.
"Everybody's really excited. The fever is running high," Justin Sewell, 21, told Reuters. He had camped out since early April to be among the first to see "Clones" at historic Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles.
Fellow fan Eric Putz, 28, said: "I'm here to make sure I see the first show. Even if the movie is horrible, it's worth it just to see the light sabres lighting up."
"Clones" is the fifth movie in the 25-year-old series of films started by Lucas in 1977 with the original "Star Wars."
The first film has since been retitled "Episode IV -- A New Hope," and in 1999, Lucas debuted the first in a new series of three "prequels" to the original three "Star Wars" films, "Episode I -- The Phantom Menace."
The movie showed how 9-year-old Anakin Skywalker became a Jedi apprentice. Jedis, skilled in lightsabre combat, are master manipulators of "The Force" which permeates all things in the universe.
In "Clones," fans re-unite with a now 20-year-old Anakin (Hayden Christensen), who is growing restless with his Jedi apprenticeship under Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor).
A romance between him and Padme (Natalie Portman) blossoms, but the first signs surface of Anakin's descent into evil that leads to his transformation into the menacing Darth Vader.
Lucas told CNN, "In this film, you begin to see that he has a fear of losing things, a fear of losing his mother, and as a result, he wants to begin to control things, he wants to become powerful, and these are not Jedi traits.
"And part of these are because he was starting to be trained so late in life, that he'd already formed these attachments. And for a Jedi, attachment is forbidden."
For fans who were disappointed with a softer story in "Phantom Menace," "Clones" is filled with more lightsabre fights, extra blasts from laser guns and more lightning-quick space races.
"Menace" has only been eclipsed by "Titanic," the top grossing film of all time, which took $1.8 billion, and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (known as "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" in Europe) with $962 million.
The original 1977 "Star Wars" movie raked in some $798 million in global box office takings, while 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back" cashed $534 million and 1983's "Return of the Jedi" $573 million.