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A galaxy close, close by

By Nick Nunziata
CNN Headline News
Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen return for the sixth and final film in the "Star Wars" saga.
George Lucas

(CNN) -- One year from today, the "Star Wars" saga will theoretically be over.

Next summer brings us the third and final film in George Lucas' prequel trilogy. Unless the director goes back on his decision not to make more films that take place after 1983's "Return of the Jedi," it will be the end of an amazing ride that has spanned four decades.

Of course, the "Star Wars" machine will carry on in video games, comic books and novels, but the end of the cinematic franchise will be a death knell of sorts.

The summer movie season in its current form exists partially because of these films, and next summer will be akin to when a weary battle-hardened soldier finally retires and lets his proteges take the knowledge he's passed on and use it as best they can.

It's kind of sad, really. I cannot remember a time when "Star Wars" wasn't in my vocabulary.

I believe the prequel experiment (1999's "The Phantom Menace" and 2002's "Attack of the Clones") thus far has been a mixed blessing. An entire new generation can speak of Jedi knights and light sabers and rush outside after school to have battles with their Wiffle bats or storebought toys, and that is a wonderful thing.

That said, the films themselves have been underwhelming, sending once diehard fans to seek solace in the adventures of young wizards and wall-crawling super heroes.

Yet 2005's still untitled film will be the mother of all event films. No film will carry as much weight as the last "Star Wars" movie or inspire more arguing and speculating about how it unfolds.

Will Lucas allow other filmmakers to take his treasured property and create new stories set in his universe? Will the cartoons, toys and software carry the name to our children's children and beyond? Will something rise up from the ashes and be the next "Star Wars"?

These are questions that will have to wait, but I'm hoping we're given one last taste of that magic in the last popcorn flick from George Lucas, an offbeat independent filmmaker who got sidetracked by immense fame and fortune.

"Star Wars" doesn't carry the mystique and guaranteed quality it used to. It's too big, too corporate.

This new film is going to have to really deliver, and somehow I think the 29-year-old silver screen dinosaur is going to pull it off.

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