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Thursday, 13 May, 1999, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Star Wars blazes a trail
Darth Vader in the Empire Strikes Back
Darth Vader in the Empire Strikes Back
The full-length trailer for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is being shown in the UK for the first time on Friday.

Star Wars
The producers of the two-and-a-half-minute trailer to the much-hyped prequel say it includes the first hints at plots, characters and special effects.

A one-minute "teaser" to the film was shown in cinemas at the beginning of the year, but this is the first time the whole 150 seconds will be seen.

The poster for the much-hyped 'prequel'
The poster for the much-hyped 'prequel'
It will also show the first glimpses of Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor wielding light sabres.

There will be a welcome return for old favourites such as C-3PO, R2-D2, Yoda and Jabba the Hutt - the latter in a slimmer incarnation than his last screen appearance.

A spokeswoman for the makers Lucasfilm said: "It starts off explaining how Queen Amidala is under threat from invading forces and has to appeal to the Federation.

"It also looks at the relationship between the two Jedi Masters, Qui Gon Jinn, played by Liam Neeson, and Obi Wan Kenobi, played by Ewan McGregor."

The preview reveals Darth Vader's new rival in evil - Darth Maul - a fearsome character with sinister yellow eyes.

"This is the last trailer before the release of Episode I and we wanted something that would both blow the fans away and sustain them during the last stretch before the movie opens," said Jim Ward, Lucasfilm's Director of Marketing.

Incredible effects

The film is also a showcase for the latest in cinema technology.

Ninety five per cent of the shots in the Phantom Menace have been altered on computer in some way. But director George Lucas is not only aiming for incredible special effects in the space battles - he is also planning to alter the way directors work.

Use of digital technology now allows film-makers to 'paint' their movies. The sequel to The Phantom Menace will not be shot on film at all but stored on computer and possibly delivered to cinemas via optic cable or satellite.

The last Star Wars film - Return Of The Jedi - was made 16 years ago, the third in the hugely successful Star Wars trilogy.

The new film, which opens in the US on 19 May, will not open in the UK until 16 July.

Meanwhile in the US, retailers are expecting "midnight madness" on Monday morning, when the new products linked to the film go on sale.

In keeping with publicity controls on the film itself, toy retailers are unable to sell any of the toys until 0001 EST (0501 GMT) on 3 May.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Video
BBC's David Gregory explores the technology behind the new Star Wars epic
See also:

13 Apr 99 | Entertainment
26 Apr 99 | Entertainment
13 May 99 | Entertainment
13 May 99 | Entertainment
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