Episode One is the most anticipated movie of the year - but can it live up to its billing?
"They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally, they became heroes." -- Princess Leia, Star Wars: A New Hope

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away [1975, to be precise], a young director named George Lucas, fresh from the success of "American Graffiti", began work on a film that has come to be called the greatest sci-fi movie ever made.

Star Wars

An explosive special-effects extravaganza that combined contemporary science fiction with mystical sorcery.

A coming-of-age film, with the battle between good and evil as its overarching theme.

A space opera that begins with a cryptic message from a rebel Princess, and culminates in an epic showdown with a Dark Lord.

A movie which, more than any other, transcended language and cultural barriers, and became the defining icon for a generation of impressionable adolescents.

Luke: I don't believe it Yoda: That, is why you fail. -- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

For more than a decade, Lucas' epic trilogy has thrilled and moved audiences around the world with its story of a young farm-hand named Luke Skywalker who grows up to become a Jedi knight, and his confrontation with his father, Darth Vader, a representation of everything Luke abhors. A global phenomenon, Star Wars immediately generated a cult following, and was quickly crowned one of the best movies of the century - a title it still bears!

Last year, Star Wars found itself in the news all over again, when Lucas announced plans to begin filming the first of three so-called 'prequels' to the events in the original Star Wars trilogy. This long-awaited announcement from the high priest of the Star Wars phenomenon has resulted in an explosion of Web sites devoted to informing fans about the latest news and rumours from the LucasFilm studios. And with the release of first one, and then the second, trailer for the new release [titled "Episode I: The Phantom Menace"], the Web has gone into overdrive.

Since we're both devout believers in the Force [how else do you think we get home after a long night at the pub - it's the Force, stupid!], we thought that this would be a good time to take a look at the very best Web sites out there for Star Wars news, views and information, together with a brief overview of the plot outline for "The Phantom Menace".

Star Wars http://www.starwars.com

Let's begin with the official Star Wars Web site.

"Here goes nothing, sweetheart!" -- Han Solo, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

A visual treat for anyone who's ever been enthralled by the Star Wars saga, the official site takes you behind the scenes to give you a sneak preview of "The Phantom Menace". In addition to all the latest news, the site also has special features, including a diary written by one of the crew members, downloadable trailers, screenshots and a virtual tour of the young Anakin Skywalker's home.

But it doesn't end there - since this is the official site, you'll also find links to the other three chapters of this galactic saga, "A New Hope", "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return Of The Jedi". Each section contains information on the characters, droids, weapons, aliens, creatures, technology and locations found in that particular film, with a level of detail that should satisfy even the most rabid fan ;-)

As of this writing, "The Phantom Menace" will hit US theatres on May 19, 1999. And for all our Indian readers - tough luck, guys! It looks like we're going to have to wait until October 22, 1999 :-(

And just BTW, if you're a Web designer, this site is sure to teach you a little humility - the design is simply breath-taking!

Making Episode I: Lynne's Diary http://www.starwars.com/making/

Step Inside Anakin's Home http://www.starwars.com/episode-i/features/tour/

Star Wars at the Smithsonian http://www.starwars.com/smithsonian/

The Episode I poster http://www.starwars.com/episode-i/news/1999/10/one_sheet.html

International Release Dates http://www.starwars.com/episode-i/news/trailer/international/

Photo Album http://www.starwars.com/episode-i/features/previews/

The Episode I trailers and screenshots http://www.starwars.com/episode-i/news/trailer/

http://starwars.apple.com/quicktime/trailers/fox/episode-i/zip/menace02.zip

http://starwars.apple.com/quicktime/trailers/fox/episode-i/trailer_b/zip/menace_480.mov.zip

Star Warz http://www.starwarz.com/index.htm

Created by a guy with the unusual name of T'bone Fender, Star Warz Universe is a site devoted to bringing you the latest Star Wars news as and when it happens. In particular, you should take a look at the "Cut Scenes" page, which contains deleted footage and production stills that never made their way into the final cuts of the films. You'll also find interviews, a multimedia archive, a top ten list of Star Wars sites and a prequel preview that tells you a little bit about the storyline of Episode I.

Counting Down http://sabbeth.com/~menace/

Counting down to Episode I? Join thousands of frenzied fans doing exactly the same thing at a site CNN calls "the most obsessed site on the Net!". Not only does it have a ticking clock that tells you, to the second, just how long you'll have to wait, but there's also a free newsletter to keep you updated on all the latest Episode I news, and a discussion forum to post and answer questions.

There's news on all the latest Episode I events, complete with photos and reports, an ICQ group, and a special section with links, wallpaper, fan art, desktop themes and more! And the site also promises a live 24-hour Webcast of the hype and hoopla in the weeks leading up to the release of the movie.

"When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not." -- Yoda, Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi
TheForce.net http://www.theforce.net JediNet http://www.jedinet.com Another couple of sites that keep you up-to-date on the latest news from the Star Wars stable. There are technical commentaries on the equipment used in the film, comics, humour, discussion forums and a free newsletter. The Fandom Menace http://www.zdnet.com/yil/content/mag/9902/fandom.html A Yahoo! presentation, this page takes a look at twenty-seven rumours about the new film, rated on a scale of one to four R2-D2s :-) Take a look - some of them are pretty wild, such as the one about Yoda being played by Charlton Heston ;-)
"I find your lack of faith disturbing" -- Darth Vader, Star Wars: A New Hope
Faces and places http://www.zdnet.com/yil/content/mag/9902/faces2.html Take a look at some of the characters and locations you'll be watching in Episode I, complete with background information. The Official Star Wars Site Gag http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Alley/7028/swosg.htm A spoof on the official Star Wars site, this one is definitely worth visiting. If you go by what the author has to say, keep an eye out for Star Wars VSE: The Very Special Edition. You'll find some silly new scenes, like the one where Han Solo chokes on a wookie hairball and then gets the Heimlich manuever from Jabba the Hut. And also take a look at the prequel, titled Episode I: Here Come The Jedis ;-) And finally, before we go, we thought we'd give you a quick preview of the Episode I storyline - if you're a devout fan, we suggest you skip this section and wait for the movie to get to your local cinema, because we'd hate to kill the suspense ;-) The Trade Federation attacks the planet Naboo. Qui-Gon-Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, two of the coolest Jedi knights around, head for Naboo to protect the Queen. The three of them leave Naboo for Tatooine, where they meet Anakin Skywalker. And next, they leave for Coruscant, where they meet Yoda and the evil Senator Palpatine, who plays the Emeperor in "Return Of The Jedi" A little sketchy? Well, Lucas is doing his best to make sure that nobody - and we mean nobody - finds out more about the first prequel. But if you'd still like more information, point your browser to the Newsweek article [from where we obtained most of this information] at http://www.newsweek.com/nw-srv/printed/us/ae/mvc105_1.htm
"You're all clear now, kid. Now blow this thing so we can all go home!" --Han Solo, Star Wars: A New Hope
This article was first published on 15 Mar 1999.