NEW YORK – When Lucasfilm announced the title of the next Star Wars film, the outcry from fans was louder than Chewbacca's roar.
"Lame," "cheesy" and "the worst title I could possibly imagine" were just a few critiques offered on the Theforce.net in response to the title, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, announced last week.
"The reaction to the Episode II title has been overwhelmingly negative," said Jeff Yankey, a staff member at the Star Wars-centric site.
And devoted fans didn't merely post whiny rants, but reacted with creative flair. Glen Oliver, senior editor at movie news site IGN FilmForce said he has seen everything from a Quicktime movie about the title featuring Star Wars action figures to lists of actual movies with titles that begin, "Attack of the …"
"My favorites are Attack of the Killer Refrigerator and Attack of the Mushroom People," Oliver said in an e-mail interview.
The controversy has also ignited fears in fans already wary of George Lucas' ability to direct a film that lives up to the Star Wars label.
"Now we know why Lucas waited so long to make the new Star Wars movies," joked 'Data' on Cantgetworse.com. "Unknown to the public, he was being cloned during that time by some sinister organization for the nefarious purpose of derailing the success of the Star Wars franchise and then taking over the world!"
A representative from Lucasfilm could not be reached for comment.
Lucas' record as a director started strong. Critics applauded his first feature, 1970's THX-1138, which he adapted from a short he made in film school. His follow-ups, American Graffiti (1973) and Star Wars (1977) became cinematic classics.
However, it took Lucas 22 years until he directed again, when he took the helm of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The film did well at the box office, but garnered tepid reviews from critics who complained it was so full of technical goodies, the characters suffered.
"It played like a technical demonstration, or a video game intro, rather than a movie with people in it," Oliver said.
Aside from producing the rest of the Star Wars trilogy and the Indiana Jones trilogy, Lucas' big screen contributions during his break from directing lacked gusto.
Remember celluloid clunkers Howard the Duck, The Land Before Time and Willow? Lucas was involved in bringing these duds to theaters.
Of course, Lucas created Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound, the special effects houses that have become the standard by which optical and aural wizardry are measured.
"I don't think Lucas' break from filmmaking has affected his movies," Oliver said. "But I do think that, in the time Lucas wasn't directing/producing movies, he became overly obsessed with high-tech filmmaking"
Then again, with so much speculation over a title that will ultimately have little impact on the movie's quality or gross, could Lucas do anything to satisfy fans?
"Many fans do expect too much from George Lucas. I doubt that if The Phantom Menace had even been like The Empire Strikes Back — which most fans consider the best in the series — most [moviegoers]would be satisfied," Yankey said.
Still, the decision to have Jonathan Hales, who wrote several episodes of the critically acclaimed series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, help construct the script, gives fans hope.
"Maybe his contributions will counterbalance some of Lucas' more errant sensibilities," Oliver speculated.
And although few people are enthusiastic about the title, many have moved past the announcement.
"To be truthful, Attack of the Clones, has grown on me," one posting on Theforce.net read.
Yankey added, "The title is hokey, but it's only a title."
And, despite doubts about Lucas, the man behind "the force" doesn't need a title to sell a movie in this series. If past box office success is any indication, as long as the words "Star Wars" rest atop the opening crawl, fans will see the films again and again — regardless of what they are called.