Perhaps the only upside to extended periods of time disconnected from my constant stream of information is the joy of getting it all at once in bulk as soon as the periods of time end. Yes, it was not long after I opened up my laptop in a designated safe area after almost two days with no electricity thanks to the delightful harbinger of badly timed disasters, Madame Sandy, that I found the internet abuzz with news about what I had previously considered an impossible notion. There will be a new Star Wars. Yes, Disney has grown a few feet at the waistline thanks to this new deal, and this is a rather important fact when examining and predicting the future of a new set of SW films. But the cause, in this case, is outshone by the effect. There will be a new Star Wars. Hot damn.
My own history with this beloved but extremely contentious franchise began long ago in a childhood not too far away (I swear that will be the one and only textual reference I write… I hope). Without boring you with what is perhaps a typical story of discovery, investigation, and full on devotion, Star Wars hit my elementary school self like a goddamn tidal wave. While I admite much of my love stemmed from the video games out at the time (remember that the previous generation of consoles was perhaps an unequivocal golden age for Star Wars in the interactive realm), I was also an avid reader of expanded universe material. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t be an animator if it weren’t for Star Wars inspiring me to make dozens of silly powerpoint-powered animated projects as a young adolescent, which later evolved into more fruitful artistic endeavors.
Star Wars was my everything. But by middle school, I had seen everything theatrical Star Wars had to offer. Episode III came out and the saga was finished. Now I’m going to do my best to accommodate the overwhelming opinion that the new trilogy is garbage, but while I agree to some extent, you must realize that my childhood love was as involved with the prequels as it was the original trilogy. I do certainly hold steadfast to the opinion that the originals were better (I can admit that as a kid, the political tones of the prequels went way over my head), and truth be told, every single animated video I made took place within the scope of the original three. I just never had the immediate negative reaction as most. It sunk in over time like most in my age group.
Never did I think that the saga could continue. In all honesty, how could it? The entire timeline has been mapped out by the novels, comics, games, and etcetera that spell out the narratives of each of the characters in the film with excruciating detail. Want to know how and when Chewie dies? No? Too bad! It’s in a book (spoilers: some aliens throw a moon at him). Did you know Leia can use the force? Neither did I until she became a Jedi. Oh and that whole important scene in the last film with Darth Vader sacrificing himself to kill the Emperor once and for all?
Ha. Totally unnecessary. The Emperor’s soul can never die. Turns out he can just clone himself forever. Kind of kicks the whole sacrifice of Anakin in the balls, don’t it? This is the expanded universe for you. It generally floats around from extended conflicts between the New Republic and the endlessly resilient Imperial Remnant. Nevertheless, in this cloud a few very strong stories do come up from time to time. Everyone loves the Thrawn Trilogy, of course, and the Yuuzhan Vong narrative is legitimately interesting at times, if somewhat farfetched.
But the truly strong explorations into Star Wars lore come from vast time separations. It’s why the story of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic could be so bombastic and out there, as its events occurred hundreds of years before Luke and Leia were ever born. There’s great freedom in removing a story from the central narrative, where creating staggering thematic and content inconsistencies is all but inescapable.
So my number one hope with the new wave of Star Wars films is that Disney, the new carriers of this cinematic burden, knows where to place its new story. They’ve already claimed that they want to tell a new story separate from the expanded universe. Good, I suppose (although a Thrawn Trilogy of films wouldn’t be a bad option, guys. We still have yet to see Chiss in the movies). But you’re basically left with two options if you want the story to take place anywhere near the existing films. First option: you do away with the expanded universe and make your own goddamn narrative that breaks all the rules. Second option: you respect the expanded universe and find an as of yet unfilled pocket of time somewhere in the timeline and set up camp there.
To be honest, neither option sounds particularly appealing. The first option would show that Disney has no clear respect for the established timeline in Star Wars and the work that many, many writers and artists put unto it. The second would restrict the scope of the film, probably limiting it to a small story or collection of stories that have little lasting consequences in the overall universe, if what we see will truly not be from any currently existing expanded universe material. Just try to recall that god-awful three-episode Clone Wars animated series that was in theaters. Admittedly, the show got better with time. But man, what we were given in theaters was just bad.
But truth be told, I’m not as worried as I would be if it were just Lucas announcing a new film without the buyout from big D. Part of why that Clone Wars animation even happened is largely due to Lucas’s shift in personal conceptualization of what Star Wars is supposed to be. Back in the day, it was a perfect boyhood space, cowboy, knights in shining armor mix that inspired adventure and magic. Now he seems to look at it as something meant to fullfil the strictest of moral codes. It’s why he went back and edited in Greedo shooting Han first. In his little fantasy that he’s created for himself, Han has to be family friendly and therefore would never shoot someone unless to defend himself. It’s a dramatic shift of character, and the new Star Wars films take full advantage of it.
So you know what? Good for Disney. Take some of the creative space away from Lucas who, in a creative vacuum, can be the greatest destructive force for his own work. Thank you, Disney, for not letting Star Wars drown slowly in its own legacy without another cinematic tale to tell. The first three films were great because Lucas shared so much of his creative energy and ideas to be interpreted by other people. His latter three films sucked because no one could tell him no, what is this Gun-Gun thing. WAT R U DOING. LUCAS. STAHP.
No, I’m not saying they’re guaranteed to make a successful Star Wars film. I’m honestly all for a stance of cautious optimism here. Don’t forget history and let the opportunity for a really disastrously negative burn to happen all over again. Before Episode 1 came out, few were not convinced that it wasn’t going to be one of the greatest films of all time. Some predicted it would leave a greater generational impact than even Episode IV. Let’s not put ourselves through that again. If they suck, well that’s pretty much to be expected. But if they rule, then we’ll be all the happier for the pleasant surprise.