Saturday, May 17, 2014

Disavowing the History of the Future

I’m sitting at my kitchen table right now while wearing a Star Wars T-shirt writing about Star Wars Episode VII, and I have to admit, I’m getting a touch emotional about it.

The first time I went to a Galaxy Far, Far Away was at a double feature for A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.  I can remember being awestruck at the form of an Imperial Star Destroyer chasing a Corellian Corvette in the opening scene of A New Hope.  I didn't know what the Expanded Universe was for nearly 30 years after the first time I watched Star Wars in the movie theater.

I had ideas of what Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia were up to after the Battle of Endor.  I thought the final scene of the remade Episode VI where riots were occurring on Coruscant days after the second Death Star was destroyed a far more egregious breach of storytelling than Greedo shooting first.  Wading into the Star Wars Expended Universe allowed me to explore a rich universe far beyond the narrow scope of story told in 6 feature film episodes.  There are good stories to be had here, from an Imperial Grand Admiral’s attempt to take revenge on the heroes who destroyed the Death Star and killed Darth Sidious and Darth Vader, to the exploits of Wraith Squadron in Star Wars: X-Wing: Mercy Kill, to a wonderful biographic of Darth Sidious and his master, Darth Plageus, that’s not only a fantastic story in its own right, but also supplements the Episodes I – III and makes them better.

Disney has decided to throw all that in the trash, and start over, in a manner of speaking.  There’s no particular reason to do this, and the business reasons for not doing it are many.  Ordinarily, I’m not one to argue on the side of the business interests, but let’s be frank for a second, the Thrawn trilogy is far and away better written than Episode I – III.  I can accept that certain stories can’t be told due to the limitation of the actors that would be forced to play main characters, and I can understand why Disney would be concerned with trying to assemble another cast equivalent to Episodes IV – VI.  That said, I don’t get what disavowing the Expanded Universe and attempting to recreate it from scratch buys Disney and Lucasfilm.

Here’s an example:

Okay, so there’s an actor that’s rumored to be playing a son of Han Solo and Leia Organa Solo that’s going to be seduced by the Dark Side of the Force.  That’s Jacen Solo (aka Darth Caedus); however, Jacen Solo doesn’t exist canonically anymore, since the Expanded Universe has been disavowed.  So we have a character that walks and talks like Jacen Solo, but who isn’t Jacen Solo.

That is the problem in a nut shell.  I can’t look at a child of Han and Leia Solo without seeing Anakin, Jacen, and Jaina Solo.  I can’t see a child of Luke Skywalker and not think about Ben Skywalker.  The Lost Tribe of Sith, The One Sith, Darth Bane, Saba Sebatyne, Cilghal, Tenel Ka Djo, Jagged Fel, Imperial Knights, and tons and tons of other characters are just gone.
That said, my biggest fear is not the loss of great stories, the loss of great characters, or that canon is going to be reinvented on the fly in the midst of the finishing Episodes VII – IX.  My biggest fear is that the Expanded Universe that doesn’t exist is going to become a miasma of characters and events, and the Disney folks are going to pick and choose what makes the cut for canon, and what’s really disavowed.

Science Fiction film during my childhood consisted of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Aliens.  Prometheus shook my faith in the concept of the Aliens prequel.  JJ Abrams did a great job with 99% of the rebooted Star Trek; subsequently, he filmed that absurd reactor scene in the last 1% of Into Darkness, paving the way for a remake of the third worst movie of all time, Star Trek IV.  Now Disney has disavowed the awesomeness of the Star Wars Expanded Universe to remake it in some committee.  Call me crazy, but I don’t think I have the heart to watch Star Wars’s carcass get picked at by a company cognizant enough to do a Boba Fett off-year biographic cash grab, but not situationally aware enough to recognize the gold mine that the Expanded Universe prior to last week has to offer when taken holistically.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that there’s going to be a biographic book on Grand Moff Tarkin. I love that continuity is going to be a consideration for everything that’s done in the rebooted Expanded Universe and Episode VII – IX.  But there’s no guarantee anymore that the Tarkin biographic will include his affair with Natasi Daala, who was just a key character in a story arc of 9 books—books that don’t exist anymore. Furthermore, why the hell isn’t someone writing a biographic on Daala?  It’s going to be very hard for me to love the next Star Wars movie, no matter what Disney and Lucasfilm do, but taking 2 steps back right before filming starts isn’t the way to endear me to your new project.

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