On the one hand, Episode III is the film that fans have been waiting for -- it is supposed to tie together the original Star Wars trilogy, released between 1977 and 1983, and the three new prequels. Questions will be answered, narrative gaps closed.
Over the next three months, Lucasfilm hopes to fire up the fans with an onslaught of activities and merchandise. There will be frequent updates of the official Star Wars website; the Star Wars Celebration III convention, which takes place April 21 to 25 in Indianapolis; a fan film competition and several rounds of new comics, books and toys. (Star Wars fans have a seemingly bottomless thirst for Lucasfilm's products -- they've bought an estimated $9 billion worth since 1977.)
And not a minute too late. After Episode III disappears from theaters, probably sometime this summer, fans will be left with memories (and, perhaps, a television series, though Lucasfilm's Sansweet would neither confirm nor deny those rumors).
Whatever George Lucas and company come up with next, it's a good bet that fans will line up -- Lucasfilm has an unmatched talent for building loyal consumers.
"I'm not sure what the magic formula is, but I'm sure it's hidden deep in Lucas' basement at the ranch," T'Bone said. "Break in there and the world is yours."