Episode VII could have had a title that echoed one of the dregs of the early Expanded Universe. “It was Shadow (singular) of the Empire for a while,” Pablo Hidalgo tweeted Friday. “With so many books, it’s inevitable,” he said earlier. And that’s true enough: The Force Awakens itself is a title reminiscent of the 2008 video game The Force Unleashed.
But unlike TFU, Shadows of the Empire hails from the mid-90s, when all the franchise’s new content was in the form of books, comics and games. In fact, the 1996 Shadows storyline was used as a marketing test-run for The Phantom Menace – it had a novel, video game, comic, toys and even a soundtrack. As such, it has lingered on in fan memories to the point where it’s not unusual for some to think it’s still canon.
Having Episode VII reuse a form of that title would have muddied the well considerably, even if the two had nothing in common other than a handful of characters. The key fact: Shadows was set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It’s not an Expanded Universe entry anyone could ever actually mistake for an Episode VII contender.
(Shadows certainly has a following, but it has never been a personal or CJ favorite – I recommend listening to this relevant episode of Full of Sith if you need a primer on why. It’s oh so very ’90s.)
Will we see Shadow of the Empire as a title again? We might! It could certainly fit the new era, but I’m very glad Episode VII became The Force Awakens instead.