Unlearn what you have learned: Will the Expanded Universe survive new Star Wars movies? Should it?

I’m not going to be the first person to say this, and I certainly won’t be the last: Don’t expect the sequel trilogy to follow the existing Expanded Universe. We know that George Lucas has done story treatments for these films that he’s handing over to Kathleen Kennedy and Disney’s LFL, and Lucas’s take on the EU has been, for most of its existence, that they’re an alternate universe. He has been a distant and uncaring god, at least as far as post-Return of the Jedi is concerned. He has used things from the EU occasionally, but I wouldn’t expect straight adaptations of any of the existing books or comics – at least not as actual episodes.

Best case scenario for the EU? A jump. We know that Lucas mentioned Luke as an Obi-Wan figure to Mark Hamill back during the 1976 filming of Star Wars, and a jump to an older Luke could leave some or most of the existing storylines intact. And, as oft-mentioned yesterday, Hamill will be 63 in 2015 – the same age Alec Guinness was when he originated Obi-Wan.

I do find the idea of a Star Wars episode without Skywalkers – or descendants of Skywalkers – rather unlikely. So I’d think that they’d have to call on the likes of Jaina Solo and Ben Skywalker – or at least their children. We don’t know what thoughts Lucas has on that, but it’s possible he’s painted his concepts in wide strokes (‘Luke’s granddaughter,’ for instance) that will allow the actual screenwriters to incorporate the EU.

But, again – that’s a best case scenario. I don’t doubt that we will see some sort of time jump, Tron: Legacy tech or no Tron: Legacy tech. As for specifics? Well, there will be no end of others speculating for the next few years. (Just as I’m prepping this column, EUCantina posted their own.)

Let’s face it, Disney didn’t pay $4B for Lucasfilm just to dance around some books and comics that only make up a (comparative) sliver of the Star Wars profit margin. They’re a major part of the franchise for us, but they are far from a major part of it as a whole. Disney is absolutely going to want to make movies that don’t require fans to have 20 years of background reading – they want a movie that’s going to be accessible to the vast, mainstream audience.

Now, me? I’m an Expanded Universe fan, no question, but I believe that the EU, while vast and filled with some great stories, has a lot of chaff and good/decent ideas executed badly and mistakes made large. It may not be a popular opinion, but I honestly don’t mind if Disney decides they want to do sequels comic-book style, by cherry-picking the best ideas and concepts and molding them into something new. For a movie, for a mainstream audience, it might just be the best way to go.

So I would absolutely prepare yourselves, EU fans, for the books and comics, the current ‘canon,’ whatever you want to call it – I would prepare yourself, now, for the idea that some, all, or most of it may be shunted aside to an alternate universe. The EU is a huge and somewhat rickety foundation as it is – for movies? It may just not hold.

It seems like so many EU fans want to see what we already know, just bigger, louder, in 3D. They want it to be what they’ve already imagined. But that’s also the mindset that helped sink the prequels for so many people – and the prequels didn’t have 40 years worth of nonstop ‘official’ stories to pin those hopes on.

Will the Expanded Universe survive new movies? I certainly don’t think they’re going to stop publishing books and comics. But I do think things are going to change, that things perhaps need to change, and maybe this is just the thing to do the trick. After all, maybe we’ll finally get to see a Star Wars movie with an unquestioned female lead. Or two female leads. Fully dressed, even. Dare to dream.

Star Wars, and the post-ROTJ continuity in particular, is absolutely in need of some fresh eyes – and that doesn’t just include Disney, or Kathleen Kennedy, or whoever director(s) they decide to helm the sequel trilogy. It means us, too. We need to step back, take a deep breath, and wait and see what they decide to do. In the theater, with an open mind. Not pre-judging on every tidbit, and especially not letting those obnoxious Comic Book Guys inside us win.

I don’t think Disney is going to ‘mess up’ Star Wars. They’ve shown they know how to make movies that are fun and entertaining and I think their chances of making Star Wars movies that work are very, very good. I’m just saying that it might not look a thing like what the EU has led us to expect – and that’s okay.

Just… Enjoy the ride. Because we never, in a million years thought we’d get here.

30 thoughts on “Unlearn what you have learned: Will the Expanded Universe survive new Star Wars movies? Should it?

  1. eliz

    *slow clap*

    Here here! I agree wholeheartedly. Well put, and I hope once things settle a little this is where fandom goes. It will not be the end of the world if the Zahn trilogy isn’t 7,8,9. Yes I would love to see Mara come alive, yes I want to see Hamill on screen again, but I don’t care- I get new Star Wars and that every fan should agree is awesome!

    Reply
  2. Paula

    I think I would faint dead away if they took the EU and put it on screen. It’s not realistic.

    Let’s just enjoy watching new stories and get excited when they put in Easter eggs for the EU fans.

    Reply
  3. Nanci

    Well said. And agreed that a comic book style adaptation approach would work best. You get to keep the broad ideas that Star Wars fans have come to know over the past 20 years, but not be chained to them.

    Reply
  4. Iari

    Well said. As a near exclusive EU fan (I don’t care for any of the movies save Empire Strikes Back and any scene with Ian McDiarmid) this is my guess about what will happen.

    As I said in a comment on a prior post, this is why the post-Fate of the Jedi period, that century plus span before the Legacy comics kick in, is the perfect place for Disney-Lucas to go. Why?

    - As you mention, Hamil is 63 now, perfect timing…
    - The LucasBooks folks were about to “wrap up” the “big three” in an upcoming title anyway…
    - Even in “our” EU, there are famous name kids and grandkids running around (Skywalkers, Solos, etc) that the general movegoing public could easily bond with without 20 years of book knowledge…
    - As you suggest, the post-ROTJ period overall is a continuity and quality mess and could use some narrative vision and structure…
    - The EU has already established that there’s a whole planet of Sith out there, so lots of villian potential without continuity gymnastics…
    - Again, a whole century of blank time to play with without ticking off the entire fanbase. As anyone who read FOTJ knows, the galaxy is basically a blank state at the end. There’s no major investment in the direction of any characters, government, events, etc. Only Alana and Vestara maybe have had some hinted elements and, really, I guess even most EU fans could care less about that.

    We’ll see what they do. Whatever their decision, I would like them to state from the outset what the status of the “new EU” will be from the outset. The Star Trek folks have always said that only what’s on-screen is canon, and what’s anywhere else doesn’t matter. The Star Wars folks have always tried to have it both ways, which I think has frustrated fans and authors.

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  5. Nancy K

    *applauds*

    Lately I’ve come to realize that much of the SWEU that I enjoyed most has moved to a special place in my head and heart, unaffected by various other SWEU that I enjoyed…less. I’m still full of thoughts and feelings about all this but I think future SW movies/books/comics/whatever will just be another extension of that. Another layer of SW I either love or don’t.

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  6. kataja

    Leland Chee’s comment really calmed me. If they could take up the mantle right where the EU timeline is now, with big there in their 60′s 70′s, with them in cameos, I think we could have a magnificent and fresh new start – but could maybe still hope for future movie or tv adaptions of some of the novels we already have. As for Legacy, it could remain but be rebooted maybe hunded years further off to create more space for a new time-era.

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  7. Andy

    Personally, I would like to see a deep prequel. Something like the earliest days of the Jedi, 25,000 years before the current Star Wars universe. Tacking on after ROTJ has always seemed tacky to me, it was a brilliant and beautiful ending to the story. I may be biased since it was the first movie I ever saw in a theater. Still, everything after it has paled in comparison, much like the prequels.

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  8. Sabrina

    Having just finished Sacrifice – yeah, I’ve been avoiding the SWEU for a while – there are parts of the SWEU I would not cry to see rebooted.

    Besides which, I feel like if you actually tried to incorporate all of the SWEU you end up with a lot of timey wimey wibbly wobbly stuff (thank you Doctor) in there – it’s not always consistent on continuity even within itself.

    There are characters in the SWEU that if the new stuff takes original trilogy characters and ignores the existence of say Mara, Ben, and the Solo kids, it will be hard to not be somewhat disappointed, but there’s a lot of story lines I just don’t care about.

    Best case scenario I think is the one you mention above. It doesn’t necessarily need to reference the books/comics, but it leaves them all open as possibilities.

    Either way, I am excited to have new films to share with my little one, and after disappointment with aspects of the prequels, I’m pretty certain I can get over disappointment with new stuff as well.

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  10. Eric

    I think, basically, what we will see from the EU standpoint is a giant reboot — where things start fresh with an entirely new history springing forth from ROTJ — just like Abram’s reboot of Star Trek.

    Hollywood is in a reboot sort of mood… hopefully it will be fun — and even if there is no Mara or Thrawn, hopefully there will be new, good characters to delight in. (and I think Paula has a great idea with the Easter Eggs)

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  12. MG

    I know this is probably too tricky to execute, but I’d really love to see Jedi Leia. I feel like that’s the one thing we got short changed on in the OT. Yoda says “No, there is another” in ESB and it’s mind-blowing. “Another potential Jedi??? AWESOME!” Yet that line ends up doing nothing more than setting up that Luke and Leia are siblings. Yet Leia never does anything with the Force. It’s such a shame. I’d love to see Leia at least be the Obi-Wan in the ST and not Luke. Let’s flip the script a bit here.

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  13. Sarah

    I agree that I don’t think I would mind if Disney handled the EU in the comic book style. I do wonder how they plan to handle the sequels. Are they are going to go with the 60-70 year old main characters introducing the next generation, or if they’re going to be replacing the original cast, and having new people play a younger Han, Leia, Luke.

    Either way, I’m optimistic about this merger, it might just be the reboot that Star Wars (and the EU) needs.

    Reply
  14. Amanda Jane

    Coming out lurkerdom to comment on the big news. I wasn’t happy about the announcement. I was shocked and whiny about it. I grew up reading the books, and now they may not be “real”?

    At the end of the day…they are just books. If they don’t end up being “canon” then…? If they made an impression on me and I enjoyed them, what difference does it make if it doesn’t fit perfectly with the new films?

    And realistically, where would SW be in a decade without new interest? The big three are aging in the books and they can’t keep writing stories for them forever. I love SW enough that I don’t want it to fade into oblivion.

    So bring it on, Disney.

    Reply
  15. Kelly

    I stopped following the EU a long time ago. It just got to be too MUCH. So I wouldn’t at all mind the comic-book cherry-picking style EXCEPT (and this is a BIG EXCEPT for me personally) it can’t negate Mara and her marriage to Luke.

    I honestly think I’d skip the sequels if it has Luke married off to someone other than Mara. Well, no, I’ll take that back. A much older Luke on a second marriage I could probably hack. They don’t even need to MENTION Mara, AFAIC. They just need to not CONTRADICT her and her relationship to Luke.

    That’s not *too* much to ask, is it?

    Reply
  16. Aaron

    BTW I want to see Leia as Surpreme Chancellor sitting on Palpatine’s throne/chair and Luke on Yoda’s chair from Episode II in the chancellor’s office, with the blue senate guard flanking the doors wearing slightly rebel-ized helmets.

    Get me that, Disney, and I’m half-way yours. :D

    Reply
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  18. David

    Mara Jade Skywalker on the bigscreen!! There is your female lead folks!! I feel too many fans would be disappointed (including me) if she wasn’t in the movie!! I really don’t see how they can get around that, especially if Ep. 7 is 20 years after ROTJ. Ben is Luke and Mara’s child, I don’t see them getting around that either. It would be nice if they were married sooner!!

    Reply
  19. Dunc Post author

    If Lucas is outlining/setting the stage, I wouldn’t bet on Mara showing up. Or anyone from the existing EU, for that matter.

    I won’t say an appearance is entirely outside the realm of possibility, once Disney’s screenwriter(s) get involved, but I definitely wouldn’t expect Mara as a lead. Maybe Luke’s kid, maybe they use Ben or Ben’s kids and she’s still dead, maybe they invent a new kid for Luke and she cameos… It’d be nice if she did show up or just get referenced, but it is absolutely not something you should count on or expect.

    Again: There is no guarantee that they are going to use any of the existing EU. This may be a complete clean slate situation, they may borrow some bits and pieces, but there are no guarantees. None at all.

    Reply
  20. JM-421

    Okay. I’m a person with Autism, and the thought of Disney [potentially] ignoring books that fans, like myself, have thought of as ‘cannon’ being shoved aside, seems wrong to me. I just can’t get my mind around it. It’s a timeline, written, printed, and read. To me it would be like being invaded by a country and having entire bits of your country’s history removed and discarded. Unless Disney decides to take the movies into a gap, unexplored, I probably will just ignore them, and keep the continuity I’ve grown up with.

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  22. Mark Elwood

    Wow. Awesome article. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the best case scenario myself. Whenever any book, game, or comic has come out there has always been a little maneuvering that took place to make everything fit together again. But they always have. One of the great things about Star Wars is that it is all on one timeline. I have heard Leland Chee brag several times that Star Wars is the only major franchise that has not required a reboot. (Usually in reference to the continuity database that he runs) I would love for that to continue. I’m hopeful that it will.
    I think we shouldn’t cave too easily. If I was a Disney person reading this blog and these posts I would assume it is okay with most fans to disregard the EU entirely. I say, please no. Respect what has made Star Wars the giant it is today. Part of what makes it awesome is that all the little trivial facts we’ve memorized over the years are still “real”.
    I’m hopeful that others will voice their opinions about keeping the Star Wars EU as intact as possible. As silly as some parts get and as epic and emotional as other parts are. You don’t need to acknowledge it in Episode VII. We don’t need a brief rundown of everything that has taken place in the EU at the beginning of Episode VII. We just need it to be left untouched. I want Star Wars to grow and change, and I’m excited about the movies. I don’t think they need to destroy the EU to do that. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a jump forward in time.

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  25. DSK

    I’m with this article in that I find it very unlikely that the new movies will go with what the EU says, and honestly I’m perfectly fine with that. I’ve never cared for the EU. In fact, I’m really hoping that the new movies completely replace Mara and the Solo/Skywalker kids alltogether and come up with some great new characters.
    Disney already got rid of The Clone Wars, Detours, and everything else. Why should they care about the EU? Knowing them, they’ll probably completely reboot it, like some have said.
    I’m fine with borrowing small things from the EU, but I really don’t want the new movies to have the same plots/characters at all.

    Reply

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