Before I get started with this post, it should be known that this is going to get super geeky. And it’s mostly a ramble based on thoughts that enter my head as I’m writing… You have been warned.
The other day, an old college friend of mine tweeted out an article found at Comic Book Resources. The headline reads: Disney Streamlining Star Wars’ Convoluted Continuity Was the Right Choice. Dave shared a small part of his own opinion in response to this article, then asked for some of his friends’ thoughts as well.
I knew before I even read the article that I would need more than the space allowed in a single tweet to share my thoughts. I’m so long-winded…
First, a little about Dave. One of my best friends from my Bluefield years. I introduced him to his wife (a fact I will forever hang on to in case I ever need a favor). We don’t see each other too often these days. In fact, the only time I’ve seen Dave in the last decade was a couple years ago when I drove down to North Carolina to take part in his surprise 40th birthday party.
Dave and I were both geeks and had plenty to geek out about when we were roommates during our junior year at Bluefield College. Most of our fandoms run in different circles. But we could always agree that Star Wars was awesome. Not to embarrass the two of us too much, but we did choreograph a lightsaber duel or two in our day… Me with my Darth Maul double-bladed lightsaber and Dave with his blue Obi-Wan Kenobi saber. Good times.
The last time I saw Dave, at the aforementioned 40th birthday party, the conversation turned to The Last Jedi, which, at the time, had been the most recent Star Wars film to be released. On this subject, we disagreed… Personally, I loved The Last Jedi and, at this point, consider it the strongest of the sequel trilogy. Dave… well… let’s just say Dave was less complimentary of the movie.
And that’s fine. Ever since The Last Jedi was released, I knew it was a divisive film and I have as much respect for anyone who dislikes it as I do for anyone who likes it. I even understand the reasoning behind a lot of the apparent hatred. Just because I disagree doesn’t make them wrong. Film is art and art is subjective.
Please save your arguments over whether or not Star Wars is considered art for another day.
Dave’s tweet (and I hope it’s okay for me to quote him on this) stated: So they wiped out decades of good Star Wars storytelling for the terrible trilogy of episodes VII, VIII, and IX? No thanks. I prefer the “Legends” stories. Now to Mickey’s credit, I love Rogue One and it fits.
My friend, I’m sorry… I have to disagree a little again. Only a little, though.
The article from CBR takes the definitive stance that Disney’s decision to eliminate from Star Wars official canon anything outside of the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, and The Clone Wars animated series, was a good one. This freed creators coming along in the Disney era of Star Wars to come up with new movies, books, comics, etc. without being bogged down by nearly 40 years of continuity.
For those who are unaware, Star Wars has always been a lot more than just the movies we were all raised on. The Expanded Universe, as it had come to be known, contained hundreds of stories that spanned thousands of years of the Star Wars timeline. As with anything, some of it was good, some of it was great, some of it was less than…
I do remember the announcement that the Expanded Universe was going away after Disney acquired Lucasfilm. I remember being disappointed. I can’t say that I’ve read everything that came along in those Expanded Universe days, but those Star Wars novels I had read were fantastic and I was sad to see that some of those amazingly fleshed out characters would no longer be a part of the story.
In particular, I think about Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, consisting of Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command. I didn’t pick these books up until many years after they were first published. Because before this, I could not imagine reading a Star Wars story would ever top watching the movies. Was I wrong!
These books introduced a new world in Star Wars lore that took us beyond the end of Return of the Jedi. In them we were given Grand Admiral Thrawn, a brilliant antagonist who has taken command of the imperial remnant. We also got Mara Jade, who quickly became a fan favorite character and, in later books, went on to marry Luke Skywalker.
In spite of my disappointment, I also understood the desire that Disney had to create new movies, books, comics, video games, etc. completely unfettered. It’s the same reason that Marvel and DC Comics reboots their entire continuity every few years these days. Back when DC first published the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline, it was meant to streamline 50 years of storytelling so that future writers and artists could create comics that fans could jump in on and not need to understand every little thing that happened in the multiverse. It was still a mess, sure… but the theory is sound.
Now… Disney’s era of Star Wars has not been without its problems. I do agree with Dave regarding the overall sequel trilogy. It’s a mess. The movies lacked a clear vision of what they were trying to accomplish and it shows. They really should put someone like Dave Filoni (The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels showrunner) in a Kevin Feige-esque position. Someone should be at the helm of all things Star Wars the way Feige is in charge of all things MCU. Anyway…
The Force Awakens was exciting for me because, hey, new Star Wars. I wasn’t blown away, but it was fun and it played on my nostalgia which is exactly what it was designed to do, while drawing in a new generation of fans. To say they basically remade A New Hope is, sure, kind of obvious. But it is what it is.
The Last Jedi… I still think was brilliant. I absolutely loved the fact that Rian Johnson came in and completely disregarded everything that anyone was expecting from Episode VIII. A lot of people didn’t like that he took such an unconventional turn with his installment. I thought it was great.
The Rise of Skywalker… meh… Look, I’m not gonna say I hated it. I’ll never say I hated a Star Wars movie. More on that later… For this movie specifically, though, there are choices I definitely would not have made. I would not have brought back Emperor Palpatine. It was a cheap move and it wasn’t earned in terms of the story. Rey being a Palpatine descendant… okay, I guess. Not what I would have done after the set up of her coming from “nobody” in the previous film. It was nice ending The Last Jedi with the idea that anyone can be the hero of the story. You don’t have to be of a special bloodline. Anyway, Episode IX was, in my opinion, the weakest of the sequels.
But the Disney era has given us so much more than the sequel trilogy. Rogue One was an incredible war/spy movie set in the Star Wars universe. Solo was a story that no one asked for, but I would argue it was better than expected. It was fun. But it suffered under the weight of being released only a few months following The Last Jedi, which so many fans derided. Fans were jaded, so they didn’t show up for Solo.
On television, we’ve gotten Star Wars: Rebels, which is a brilliant series that explores so much of the rich Star Wars lore. Oh, and it introduced Grand Admiral Thrawn into the current timeline (allowing fans of the old Expanded Universe to have some hope that other favorites could be salvaged in some way at some time). If you haven’t taken the time to binge all four seasons, do it. The Clone Wars, which began prior to the acquisition, was always hit or miss for me. But when it hit, it hit hard. And it was so great that Disney+ allowed for a final season. The final four episode arc of that series is just about the best Star Wars has to offer. And do I even have to mention The Mandalorian? Two words: Baby Yoda.
I’ve only picked up a few of the books published in the new canon. I’ve also looked at a number of the comics that Marvel has been putting out as part of the new canon. Again… hit or miss, just like with most intellectual properties out there.
Like with the Expanded Universe, the Disney era of Star Wars canon has given us some amazing characters outside of Luke, Leia, Han, and Vader. We’ve gotten Ahsoka Tano for one. I mean, she was introduced on The Clone Wars so she was around before Disney, but her character got seriously fleshed out in the new canon. Pretty much any of the main characters on Rebels. Din Djarin, AKA The Mandalorian. And, again, two words: Baby Yoda.
Star Wars, like any other fandom, has an unfair responsibility. It’s this big, epic thing that we all want to look back on and remember with fondness and nostalgia. And every time Disney comes up with something new to release to the public, they risk alienating their fan base. Because, what it comes down to is the old saying, you can’t please all the people all the time, you can only please some of the people some of the time.
When the prequels came out, they made tons of money, sure. But George Lucas got so much flack for just about every aspect of those movies. It just wasn’t as prevalent because social media wasn’t a thing in the early 2000s. Now that the sequel trilogy has come and gone, we all hear about every positive and negative opinion out there because every blog post, article, and tweet has the potential to go viral.
Here’s my thing, and note, this is just me talking, I’m not going to hate on anything that some creator has poured their heart and soul into. That includes great movies. It includes crappy movies. No one writes a script with the goal of making a movie that millions of people are going to hate. And when it comes to Star Wars, when the next movie comes out, I’m gonna be excited about it. Because, hey, new Star Wars. If it’s great, awesome, I have a new Star Wars movie I can watch over and over again. If I don’t happen to like what they’ve done with it, okay… I got a new Star Wars movie that I don’t necessarily have to watch ever again if I so choose.
I don’t know… There are so many serious things happening in the world. Piling on hatred for works of fiction seems absurd at this point.
Does the fact that Disney rebooted the canon have to mean that the stories that came before are obsolete? No… Should it mean that they don’t still have value? No… Can’t they still be entertaining in spite of the fact that they “don’t count” in the current timeline? Of course they can… Those stories were popular among fans for a reason and, perhaps, someday Disney will recognize the value in those stories. They’ve already been publishing the old books under the “Legends” banner, which means they at least recognize that people are willing to continue spending money on them.
Like I said… No one sets out to make a bad movie or to write a bad book. At its core, Disney wants to get as much return on its investment in Star Wars as it can, which means they aren’t going to actively create stories that die hard fans are going to despise. They want those fans to keep lining up at the box office year after year (assuming we ever return to watching movies in the theater).
Uh… Where did this all start and how is it going to end? Right, that CBR article… I guess the question remains, do I think Disney did the right thing by eliminating the old Expanded Universe stories to make way for a new continuity. Yeah… I’m gonna say I think it was the right call for Disney. Was it the right call for fans? I think that’s up to each individual fan to decide.
For me, I’m okay with it. I had a vague understanding of the fictional events taking place in a galaxy far, far away, but having Luke and Mara Jade married with children was not necessarily a non-negotiable for me. Especially since, I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that George Lucas never liked the idea of Luke getting married in the first place.
The Expanded Universe or “Legends” stories had the good… the great… the not so good. Disney’s continued Star Wars continuity will do the same. There will be good… there will be great… and there will be not so good, too.