Three days ago, in a galaxy not so far, far away, under-capacity crowds of moviegoers attended the opening of the latest "Star Wars" installment, "Episode II -- Attack of the Clones."
The film, directed by George Lucas and released by 20th Century Fox, started playing at noon Thursday at the Kambe Theater in Kenai.
Unlike in other areas of the country, there were no lines wrapping around the building, no "Star Wars" fans camped out the night before to get tickets, no one showing up dressed as their favorite character and no sold-out shows.
The excitement may not have been palpable enough to cut with a light saber, but those who did see the film enjoyed it.
"I liked all of it," said Kevin Treider of Kenai, who took his 2-year old son, Sydney, to see the movie. "I think they're getting better and better. ... The special effects were really great."
"Attack of the Clones" opened on 3,161 screens nationwide Thursday, and grossed $30.1 million in ticket sales on its first day, according to estimates by 20th Century Fox. The film took in more money than any weekday release in movie history but failed to beat the best single-day box office take of all time, set this month by "Spider-Man." "Spider-Man" pulled in a record $39.3 million on its first day, which was a Friday -- considered a weekend day at the box office.
"Attack of the Clones" topped the single-day record of $28.5 million set three years ago by "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" on its opening day. That record stood until November 2001 when "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" grossed $32.3 million on opening day.
This latest chapter of the "Star Wars" saga brings back Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Natalie Portman as Padme Amidala, picking up the story 10 years after "The Phantom Menace," the fourth "Star Wars" movie to be made and the first installment of the prequel series. Other favorite characters, like R2-D2, C-3PO and Yoda, are also present.
Hayden Christensen is the main cast addition. He plays Anakin Skywalker -- the future Darth Vader -- now a Jedi knight in training.
One character who has a much diminished role from the previous film is the computer animated, bumbling Jar Jar Binks. He appears in only three scenes.
According to Karl and Michael Rosser, who came from Kasilof to see the film, Jar Jar's absence is not a bad thing.
"He was annoying," Michael said.
Karl said the absence of the character came from his unpopularity in "The Phantom Menace."
"(Lucas) listened to what a lot of people didn't like in the first one," he said.
This particular animated character might not be a big part of "Attack of the Clones," but digital animation and special effects certainly are. As with "The Phantom Menace," entire cities, planets, characters and chase and battle scenes are computer generated in "Attack of the Clones."
"A lot of it was computer animated, which sometimes I wish they wouldn't do," Michael Rosser said. "You can tell the difference between computer animation. Masks and makeup still look better because they're real."
But overall, Rosser said, the use of animation was balanced in the film.
The special effects were one high point of the film for the McKee family of Kenai. Jay and Diya McKee brought Joshua McKee, Chelsea Hardcastle and Austin McKee to a Saturday showing of the film.
While Jay preferred "The Phantom Menace" to "Attack of the Clones," saying the film dragged a little, Diya thought it was a good movie to bring the family to.
"I liked that I could bring them to this," she said. "There was not a bunch of junk in it. It was appropriate for all ages, but probably not understandable (for younger kids). ... It was probably a little too much for younger ones."
A favorite scene in the movie for kids and adults alike is a light-saber duel between Count Dooku, one of the film's villains, and none other than the stooped, shuffling and supposedly decrepit Yoda.
"I liked Yoda," Joshua McKee said. "He was cool swinging his light saber."
Another big draw for "Star Wars" fans is the introduction of characters and plot lines that make up the original "Star Wars" movies. The bounty hunter Boba Fett appears in this film as a child, and Owen and Beru Lars, uncle and aunt of Luke Skywalker, are introduced as well.
The movie runs two hours and 22 minutes, and ends with enough questions unanswered and mysteries unsolved to leave viewers in suspense of the next installment.
"I was hoping it wasn't going to end there," Michael Rosser said. "It was good all the way through, you want to see what happens next."
"Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" is playing at Kambe Theater at noon, 3:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. It is rated PG.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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