The Power of the Force
New movie trailer's recent release demonstrates hysteria surrounding Star Wars film series
By this time everyone has surely heard the big news. No, not Ricky Williams record-setting season. No, not the escaped death-row inmate. This is real news.

The new Star Wars trailer is in theaters.

The new movie has already generated plenty of hype long before the film will be released in May 1999. The debut is still six months away, but folks are getting ready to camp out for tickets starting this weekend (OK, maybe not, but someone has probably thought about it).

Either the movie industry is really hurting, or people are insane about a galaxy far, far away. Whatever the case, George Lucas and the Star Wars team have done an excellent job getting the public excited about the new Star Wars film.

To be accurate, however, the newly-released preview is not really a Star Wars trailer, it is a preview for the latest film in the Star Wars series. That is misleading, however. The upcoming film is not next in the series. It is next to be released, but first in the series. Or something like that.

To avoid confusion they call this new movie a prequel. If the first film's story line took place a long time ago, the new movie must be set in a time in time immemorial -- like even before Starr's grand jury convened. Give or take a couple of weeks.

Maybe researchers had trouble digging up information from such an ancient period, explaining why the first film was released over 25 years after the fourth film. Of course, the fourth film is the first film -- the original.

To be fair, all this hype is not about a single film, but a trilogy of movies planned by the director, Lucas. These three films -- which all take place before the first film (making it the fourth film and not the first film) -- will be released over the next several years -- possibly decades.

Star Wars fans have been trained to be patient. They waited almost 10 years for the last installment of the original trilogy. Most Hollywood sequels hit the box office almost as soon as the original's video is released. Consider, for example, the soon-to-be-released film, I still continue to persist to know what you did that summer a while back.

Though Lucas makes audiences wait, he does deliver. And fans are already counting the days. But that has been the studio's strategy all along. Merchandising began years ago. Stores were filled with Star Wars paraphernalia. Shoppers could find books, action figures, models, everything short of pet Wookies.

The nation's marketing wizards have been carefully cultivating the Star Wars hysteria to maximize profits, and the strategy is paying off.

When the theatrical trailer was released, patrons across the country began arriving early for movies. Some fans bought movie tickets and left as soon as the previews were over. Internet surfers flooded the film's Website to download the trailer.

This two-minute teaser has drawn more people to theaters than any movie reel since James Cameron's epic shipwreck film. And Titanic is almost one hundred times as long as the Star Wars trailer. Quality can be found in brevity.

Fans who watched the whole trailer without fainting from euphoria know the mysterious title, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. It is a cryptic title describing fans' search for movie information as much as it describes the film.

In fact, internet sites are dedicated to the search for new rumors about the new films. Excited fans carefully track any new "disturbance in the force," that might provide clues to the new films' plots, characters or release dates.

In short, Star Wars has generated an abnormal following. Maybe the hype is due to the series' quality or the films' message of hope. Perhaps Americans identify with characters like Luke Skywalker and Boba Fett. Jabba the Hut has many "guy next door" qualities. Maybe a generation has grown up playing with plastic light sabers and as a result bonded with Lucas' storylines. Maybe the whole craze is due to a few clever marketers. Whatever the driving force is, audience will just have to get used to the hoopla because the Star Wars mania is not likely to die down soon.
Dave Johnston is a senior mathematics major.