MYOPIA #17: Star Wars Episode III – The Canon Cannibalized

Part 3 of a 3 part series. Click links for Part 1 and Part 2.

Throughout the release of the prequel movies through the 2000s, Star Wars novels continued to get abundant publications. After the trilogy ended, novels continued to develop the Star Wars story, even once again picking up on some of the post-Return of the Jedi stories that had been cast aside during prequel development. As for George Lucas, after he’d dedicated many years of his life to making Star Wars movies, he stated that he had no intention of developing any episodes beyond six. Lucas just felt that Luke’s journey of a hero, and Anakin’s of a villain, had reached a satisfying finality in movie format. For fans who wanted more, there were still plenty of novels, games, and comics. Fate may have left Star Wars alone if not for the seduction of the dark side…or was it just money that changed everything.

In 2012, George Lucas announced he was selling all Star Wars rights to Disney. For a series he had guarded and likely cherished, the move came as a big surprise. Disney wasted no time planning for new movies. They could have chosen to develop stories from any timeframe in the Star Wars galaxy—seriously, there is so much potential out there for originality—but Disney wanted to start with episode VII. To pave the way for this, Disney announced that all previous novels, comic books, and video games were being dismissed from the official canon. Fans of what people came to call this expanded universe, were by no surprise, angry as a caged Rancor.

All the supplemental material had been officially licensed by LucasArts. The stories had been part of a cohesive plan. The company would claim all these novels and stories born of the expanded universe were never meant to be canon, but that’s a load of Bantha Fodder.

True, LucasArts did own all the rights for characters and stories in the expanded universe. And true, as the new owner, Disney did have the ability to make drastic changes to their new creative properties. The shift of continuity gave Disney freedom to work with a blank slate. LucasArts (under slightly different names) would oversee development of new novels that would be recognized as part of a newer continuity. Previous Star Wars novels were relabeled under a Legends banner, and no longer officially viewed as anything but source material. Disney could thus draw story ideas from these novels without even giving credit to the creative people who developed them.

The various authors who’d written novels for the expanded universe, responded to the news of the destruction of their old Star Wars canon, with grace and dignity—at least garnered from some interviews on the topic. These authors after all, had developed characters in a world that George Lucas created. Fans of the novels, however, have been the most vocal and critical about the cannibalization of the old canon. And their anger has justification. Here’s why.

First of all, the novels of this old canon kept Star Wars fans satisfied and interested for more than twenty years. Just because this material wasn’t written by Lucas, it didn’t mean it was any less true to characters or rules of the Star Wars galaxy. The novels kept Star Wars relevant long after the movies had ended. For all that the novels did for the overall development and popularity of Star Wars in pop culture, the move to discredit the old canon was the kind of thing a wrinkly-assed old emperor would choose to do.

Secondly, just because working with a blank slate was easier for the new Disney developers, it might not have been necessary to get rid of the entire canon in order to develop a new trilogy. Episode VII is supposed to take place thirty-some years after Return of the Jedi. Yes, the novels branched into this timeline and core characters underwent drastic changes, like having children. But what if the new trilogy had somehow incorporated events from the old novels into the movies? Disney could have simply chosen a focus for the new trilogy that diverts toward the newer characters, with perhaps some major cameos from old characters. The new trilogy is shifting attention onto their new characters anyhow, and those core characters from the original trilogy are in my opinion, under-utilized to the point where erasing the old continuity actually seems fairly pointless.

Lastly, the biggest reason dismissing the old canon was a shame: these novels had a better overall story arc than the new movies. Episodes VII and VIII have been released. These are fine movies, with good science-fiction and action elements. The core characters from the original trilogy, however, just don’t truly seem like the characters they were shaped into by the events of the original trilogy.  In fact, the new movie trilogy thus far, leaves some characters, new and old, feeling fairly flat. Why dismiss so much history in the old novel canon if characters in the new trilogy are barely going to get development?

Star Wars movies will continue to progress, and new novels will continue to build a new canon. Perhaps though, just as people clung to a love for the original and unaltered movies, people will cling to a love of those novels that so shaped and reinvigorated the world of Star Wars. All these many novels were after all, elegant stories in what one might call a more civilized time for the overall handling of the Star Wars franchise. May the force be with the old canon, and the people who loved it…always.

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