While a Sarlacc may take over a thousand years to fully digest its prey, the pop-culture news cycle has proven once again to be the complete opposite — devouring and spitting out a new rumor about the “Star Wars” series in less than 24 hours this week. But what makes fans think there would be a new trilogy in the first place? And where should the most successful movie franchise of all time go from here?

The hijinks began Wednesday evening (October 21), when 3-D-movie-focused blog MarketSaw reported that it had an internal source who’d infiltrated the trusted circle of George Lucas like Princess Leia in a Boushh costume. According to the “absolutely connected” source, Lucas is making secret plans to create a new trilogy of films that will be shot in stereoscopic 3-D — and could be directed by such filmmakers as Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola. A mere four hours later, Ain’t It Cool News had a Lucasfilm rep insisting “We do not have any Star Wars theatrical movies planned,” and the ridicule began.

But is the notion of three more “Star Wars” films as absurd as it may seem? Those with Yoda-like memories might say no.

In 1978, a Lucas profile by Time magazine reported that the director planned to make “Star Wars II, and then, count them, 10 other planned sequels.” A 1983 article said that Lucas was making plans to revisit Luke Skywalker “some place in his 60s,” and that Mark Hamill and the original series stars would “get first crack at the roles — if they look old enough.” As recently as 1999, as Lucas’ prequels began hitting theaters, the original trilogy was still being described as the middle films in a nine-part epic.

Unfortunately for fans, Lucas has changed his tune over the years. Vague plans became an insistence that the series would only be six films, with Lucas telling the BBC: “I never had a story for the sequels, for the later ones. … And also, I’ll be to a point in my age where to do another trilogy would take 10 years.” As recently as last year, Lucas told The Los Angeles Times: “There really isn’t any story to tell there. … It’s been covered in the books and video games and comic books, which are things I think are incredibly creative but that I don’t really have anything to do with, other than being the person who built the sandbox they’re playing in.”

In that aforementioned media, many plot points abound: Han and Leia marry and have three children; Boba Fett survives his fall into the Sarlacc pit; Luke rebuilds the Jedi Order and has a son named Ben. None of it, however, is likely to ever be as long as Lucas has a say in the matter.

“I get asked all the time, ‘What happens after “Return of the Jedi”?,’ and there really is no answer for that,” he continued. “The movies were the story of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, and when Luke saves the galaxy and redeems his father, that’s where that story ends.”

Now that he’s 65 years old (and Spielberg is 63 and Coppola is 70), it seems highly unlikely that the idea of handing over a decade to “Star Wars” sequels is attractive — even if it would be done with the 3-D technology high-profile directors are embracing. Instead, Lucas’ not-so-evil empire is focused on exploring the time between trilogies with the successful “Clone Wars” series currently running on Cartoon Network, last year’s CG-animated “Clone Wars” theatrical film and a mysterious upcoming live-action television series set in what Obi-Wan Kenobi once called “The Dark Times.”

Although Harrison Ford showed with his recent “Indiana Jones” sequel that he isn’t above revisiting a classic character, the man once known as Han Solo is now 67; Hamill is 58 and Carrie Fisher is 54. Lucas’ onetime vision of a third trilogy would need to be enacted soon — and to fans who want to see Luke, Leia and Han together again, this week’s MarketSaw article is like a tiny hologram projected by R2-D2, professing itself as their only hope.

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