“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”
Those voices were the fans of the “Star Wars” Expanded Universe, a galaxy made up of novels, comic books, video games, and other stories that feels a whole lot smaller after a recent statement from Lucasfilm, which is now owned by Disney:
“These stories are the immovable objects of Star Wars history, the characters and events to which all other tales must align,” the statement reads. “In order to give maximum creative freedom to the film-makers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience, Star Wars Episodes VII-IX will not tell the same story told in the post-Return of the Jedi expanded universe.”
Fans knew this was coming ever since Disney announced that they would be making a new trilogy of films, but this statement officially confirmed those suspicions and sparked a debate that is raging harder online than anything waged in the Imperial Senate. The Expanded Universe, commonly referred to as the EU, extended the legacy of the original movie trilogy by detailing what happened between each film and what occurred after the movies ended. We watched Luke Skywalker become the Jedi master he was destined to be and find love with a new character named Mara Jade. We watched Princess Leia and Han Solo have three children, including the popular twins Jaina and Jacen Solo. We watched minor characters like Boba Fett go from minutes of screen time to badass legends. And we watched new threats like Grand Admiral Thrawn rise and give our heroes a new trilogy of challenges to face.
While these stories were all approved and endorsed by original creator George Lucas, the EU will basically be wiped clean as if it never “happened” so that J.J. Abrams and others hired by Disney can do what they like with the continuity, more or less pulling a “New 52,” the still controversial DC Comics relaunch of 2011. Like the diplomatic Obi-Wan Kenobi, I can see both sides of the argument here.
On one hand, fans feel like they’ve wasted years and years getting to know every last inch of the “Star Wars” universe, only to have it all be written off as glorified fan faction and replaced with something that could potentially be just as unsatisfying as the prequel film trilogy was to many fans. Some kids grew up with the adventures of the Solo twins, and teens and adults made the Thrawn trilogy bestsellers long after the general public’s interest in “Star Wars” faded. To abandon the EU now would be like remaking the classic films to many fans, and we all known the pain of watching a beloved movie turn to the dark side of Hollywood.
On the other severed hand that has since been replaced by cybernetics, many of these same fans would probably like to see film versions of these EU stories, but would filmmakers ever be able to do them justice? Even if they created the most accurate adaptations possible, picky fanboys still wouldn’t be satisfied and they would be in the same desert skiff anyway. From the filmmakers’ perspective, it makes sense to start fresh and be able to tell stories unimpeded by decades of cannon. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher have all agreed to return, but they’re already much too old to play the versions of the characters popularized in the EU anyway. Fans should also keep in mind that Lucasfilm/Disney hasn’t ruled out the possibility of utilizing some fan-favorite characters and scenarios in the upcoming films and television shows, either:
“While the universe that readers knew is changing, it is not being discarded. Creators of new Star Wars entertainment have full access to the rich content of the Expanded Universe,” the statement continued. “Demand for past tales of the Expanded Universe will keep them in print, presented under the new Legends banner.”
And at the end of the day, let’s be honest – what made the EU work was the fact that George Lucas himself wasn’t directly involved. His company approved the storylines, but he didn’t personally oversee their production (with the exception of the “Clone Wars” animated series). One of the main issues with the quality of the prequel film trilogy was that Lucas seemed to take on too much himself, surrounded by yes men who wouldn’t tell him that certain concepts like Jar Jar Binks were bad ideas. The original trilogy was guided by other directors, editors, cinematographers, special effects geniuses, and actors, culminating in a perfect storm(trooper). Maybe a new perspective is exactly what is needed to craft a better trilogy.
For fans on either side of the debate, I simply suggest believing what you want to believe and enjoying what you want to enjoy. If you only like watching the original films, just keep watching them. If the EU novels are so near and dear to your heart that you can’t imagine anything else, stay home and read them again when “Episode VII” hits theaters in 2015. As we learned during Luke’s Jedi training, the Force is only strong if you truly believe in it. The same goes for fandom, so keep yours alive by enjoying what was tailor-made for your tastes and let the rest of the universe expand around you and right out of existence.
-Rich Howells is a lifelong Marvel Comics collector, wannabe Jedi master, and cult film fan. E-mail him at [email protected]