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I’m a Star Wars fan, but I wouldn’t call myself a “hard-core”. I like the movies and have sporadically gotten into some of the “expanded universe” stuff. Every now and then, I’ll get the Star Wars bug to delve into that franchise a bit more than usual. With all the news about the upcoming sequel trilogy, I’ve gotten that bug again – but in a different way this time. To be honest, I’m still processing what Disney’s purchase of LucasFilm and the furthering of the franchise actually means. As a way to figure out what is what, let’s explore what’s happening with the Star Wars franchise and the potential results from it.
The sequel trilogy is on its way. Helmed by JJ Abrams (Lost, Star Trek), it not only reunites the original trilogy stars (even Harrison Ford – how’d they pull that one off?), but it promises to push the series forward. My question is: how? The Star Wars movies, especially in light of the prequel trilogy, is squarely the story of Darth Vader – his rise, fall, and redemption. By the end of Return of the Jedi, not only did Vader restore himself, but the series’ principle villain, the Emperor, was killed and defeated. That was it. The end. What more story is there to tell? Sure, you can do tales about the further defeat of the Empire and the political maneuverings to restore the Republic, but that just seems like little details in the grander scheme of things (and seems dull and inconsequential without the Darth Vader component).
I am sure it will all work in the end, and Abrams will deliver an entertaining movie. I guess my point is how will a sequel trilogy not feel like it was tacked on? There are rumors (consistent with the casting) that suggest that the movie will center on the next generation of heroes. That’s great and consistent with how the prequels and original trilogies, worked. But, again, the overall arc presented in the prequel and original has concluded. Will this just start a brand new story? Or will there be some narrative gymnastics to connect it to what came before?
Speaking of what came before, have people completely forgotten the prequels? So much attention is given to the original series and the original stars in relation to these upcoming movies. There seems to be a lot of positive buzz about new Star Wars that it seems as if no one remembers the overwhelming disappointment the prequel trilogy delivered a mere 10 years ago. Granted, Episode VII takes place after Return of the Jedi, so events and characters from Episodes I-III would be few and far between, but there just seems to be a collective vibe of “we are just going to forget about those.”
While those movies are not the greatest, it would be a shame for Disney to completely ignore them in regards to their new trilogy. After all, if it wasn’t for the prequels, Star Wars wouldn’t have come back to the forefront of pop-culture the way it did. Not that it was ever not-popular, but the prequels took it up to new heights than ever before and it hadn’t really settled since. Within the last week, I have read rumors that Disney will classify the prequels as “Legends” (the term being used for non-canon Star Wars). While I highly, highly doubt that will be the case (because – why?), it would be a horrible move on Disney’s part not only from a narrative stand-point, but I don’t think I could deal with the resulting online butthurt.
When it comes to the Star Wars extended universe, there will be a new animated series titled Rebels. Effectively replacing The Clone Wars, rebels will be a CGI animated show centering on a group of new characters before the events of the original Star Wars. I am not exactly sure why this show is being made other than for Disney to have a Star Wars cartoon out there and The Clone Wars was getting long-in-tooth. Time will tell if this show will be in similar tone to The Clone Wars or more kid-targeted.
More interestingly is that all the so-called “Expanded Universe” Star Wars stuff (books, comics, video games, etc) which has been building since 1977 and organized into one cohesive continuity in the 90s (including everything – even stuff by rival publishers) is being completely junked. I can see that being defeating for the major Star Wars fans who have been following and collecting this stuff. However, Disney doesn’t want to be strangled with gobs and gobs of canon material when trying to make sequel movies. Such a small percentage (I think I read somewhere that it is around 1%) actually read that stuff. It would be in Episode VII’s best interest to disregard it. Plus, Disney is starting up their own tie-in material, so it will make it easier for new fans to jump in without having to know who largely unknown-at-large characters like Kyle Katarn or Jagged Fel are when the books makes it seem like you should already know them.
Those older stories are always going to be available for readers (now classified under that “Legends” branding). And that continuity of events is completed. At least it has an endpoint, instead of it going on and on ad nauseam. I wonder if this “Expanded Universe” released a novel as a thematic conclusion. I should check that out.
I think the last thing about Disney’s plans that immediately spring to mind are the other films. No, not the sequel trilogy as discussed above. Apparently, Disney wants to release a sequel trilogy (currently known as Episode VII, VIII, and IX) – one every two years (breaking away from the previous three year gap between films). In the “off” year, Disney wants to release spin-off films centering on various characters who are not necessarily the focus, but appear in the main series. Several rumored movies have been speculated (such as films centering on a young Han Solo, Boba Fett, and Yoda), but nothing is confirmed.
This strikes me as an incredibly bad idea. George Lucas was very good as exploiting the Star Wars name brand with merchandise, but it was always careful when it came to diluting it with an endless stream of movies. I am not convinced that these spin-off films are such a good idea. I get the sequel trilogy. If you want to continue on the franchise, that is the way to go. But to have a new Star Wars-related film every year? From now to who knows when? People are going to get burnt out. Sooner rather than later.
One of the reasons the prequel trilogy did as well as it did was that there was an absence of Star Wars movies for 16 years. I have no doubt that Episode VII will do well at the box office due to the combo punch of it being Star Wars and there being a ten-year gap since Revenge of the Sith. But with a popular cartoon on since 2008, another one starting up, a rumored live-action TV show, and a new movie every year, Disney must realize that Star Wars will eventually produce diminishing returns.
I just fear that Star Wars will be milked into oblivion – now more than ever. Even though I’m not a hard-core fan, I really don’t want to see that happen to this series. You can argue that what made Star Wars special in the first place has been lost. I am not 100% sure if I agree with that, but I do think that can happen with Disney’s current plan.
That said, I am currently enjoying the rumors and tidbits coming out from time to time. I’m sure more and more of that will happen. As you know, I hate “gotcha” journalism and spoilers everywhere, but when it comes to Star Wars, it feels more natural and, in some way, nostalgic. I remember all that stuff during the prequel era. It was great. I am sure I’ll have a different opinion of that a year from now with blogs like Yahoo become obnoxious, but for now, it is fun.
Those are my Star Wars thoughts. I know, I know…too long. I don’t want to come off as if I’m bashing or complaining about what Disney is doing. I’m not. I’m more curious about what’s happening and just considering that possible outcomes. If you are a Star Wars fan, this is an exciting time. For those of you who actually read it, I am curious what you think. Am I on the money? Or am I way off the mark? Sound off below and tell me what you think about the launch of Disney’s Star Wars.