Mara Jade. Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin Solo. Grand Admiral Thrawn. Names so well known to fans who have put in the time to explore the Star Wars expanded universe, that thoughts of official sequels excluding these characters literally hurts millions of fans right down to their geek muscle. But is Disney’s recent decision to decide which pieces of the EU are canon really a bad thing?
After the Episode I debacle, and the ensuing shit-fest that was Episodes II & III, all I had to hope for was that, in the remote chance more Star Wars movies were made, at least there’d be a staggering volume of source material to draw from. The Expanded Universe is comprised of some of the greatest stories in the Star Wars universe. In many ways, the stories that follow Return of the Jedi are far better than any on-film “official” material.
Whether it’s the “Thrawn trilogy”, the Jedi Academy trilogy, Dark Empire, or any of the other brilliant books, comics, or games that exist, there are so many fantastic stories begging for film adaptations that it seemed almost obvious this is where future movies would turn to for inspiration. But when you stop to think about it, that was always a pipe dream. Although nobody could foresee the sale of the Star Wars licence to Disney, the logical part of me always knew that any films would be from the mind of Lucas, and not taken from the EU.
So when news came a couple of weeks ago that Disney would be putting together a Jedi council of their own to determine which material would be officially recognized as canon, my heart was torn in two. At first it seems an abomination that some corporate-assembled team of “officials” would be slicing and dicing the stories millions of fans have recognized as canon for years. Unless the team is comprised of fans who’ve read the material, how would they get it right? Are they going to consume all the material that makes up the EU? I’d be really surprised if they did. So they how can anything good come from this? Are fans now expected to disavow the EU just because some suits say so?
On the other hand, there is an opportunity here. If anything good is to come from this, it is that Disney is actually choosing to recognize EU as canon at all. Think about it. The chances of the EU ever being used to make new movies always were improbable, but now we’re being told that effort is being made to canonize what fans have already canonized. Disney has no innate requirement to accept the EU even exists. They are within their rights, literally, to do whatever they want. But choosing to recognize anything from the EU is not only a nod to the fans, but also proof that they’re trying to do this thing right. Will everything be included? Most definitely not. But now there’s at least hope that the brilliance of Grand Admiral Thrawn might be officially recognized. Why do I pick Thrawn? Not because he’s basically the fan favorite EU character, but because he actually has incredible on-screen potential. And Disney seems to be acknowledging all the potential the EU holds. That’s a good thing.
Could they use the Jedi Academy trilogy, Shadows of the Empire, Rogue Squadron, or any other EU stories? Sure, but I believe that what Disney is looking for is what will translate to film the best, whether a particular story, or a particular character that can pop off the screen and not only satisfy die-hard Star Wars fans, but also entice new fans. In the long run, the Star Wars franchise is about making money, and just think of the fire that would ignite throughout the Star Wars fandom if it were announced that Grand Admiral Thrawn was going to be the focal point of the next movie… or trilogy? Just imagine the Black Fleet crisis on the big screen! Just imagine the fervor over casting rumors…
I feel it’s worth noting that Star Wars isn’t the only SciFi mega-franchise to recently canonize its expanded universe. With a recent surprise appearance by the 8th Doctor, Paul McGann, in a very special short made to celebrate Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, the many audio dramas set in the Doctor Who universe were officially recognized as canon. While there’s no way to prove that Disney’s decision was in any way influenced by the Doctor Who decision, it’s good to see the recognition by Disney, and I think bodes well for the Star Wars franchise.
image source: [starwarswikia]