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My Thoughts on Disney's Star Wars Films

Let me preempt this blog with two forewords: First, as a few of you may have noticed, I have been absent from forum activity on CV due to preoccupation with RL matters and due to my reputed dissatisfaction with the forum quality here. But periodically, I do log in to check in on the site but rarely post. However, Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and their professed intentions to produce more Star Wars movies desperately begs a response, and since I would rather not wait for my inbox to explode with messages regarding this subject, I will just post my opinion here.

Second, I feel compelled to address an aspect of Star Wars fandom. As everyone knows, most casual and hardcore Star Wars fans, in the past decade especially, have been intensely perturbed with the creative direction of the Star Wars franchise particularly as a result of the prequel trilogy, which extracts mixed opinions from viewers, and, for EU fans, as a result of the storylines following the New Jedi Order series, among a few other questionable stories. Because of this, there has been a certain divide in the fandom, but contrary to popular belief, this divide isn't even so much about whether a fan enjoys any one story or not. The divide, really and truly, is about whether the fan even likes Star Wars. Let me explain. A while back, I read an article called “Why Do Star Wars Fans Hate Star Wars?” by Adam Summers (the link is to a forum that reposted the article, not the original source; the original source was Jive magazine’s site, which seems to have removed the blog). There are other similar blogs, such as “No One Hates ‘Star Wars’ Quite Like a ‘Star Wars’ Fan” which basically reiterate the position. And, honestly, as someone who is familiar with Star Wars fandom, this assessment of the standard proclivity of the fandom is absolutely correct. There are some fans who are so extreme that they reject any Star Wars media other than A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back (the films only, not the novelizations or the comic adaptions). Many fans who despise most Star Wars media would not consider a fan who accepts much of the franchise a “real” fan. With that said, I can be categorized as a “fake” Star Wars fan because I enjoy most of the franchise.

Now, I have expressed my malign for story arcs such as The Old Republic multimedia project, The Force Unleashed multimedia projects, and the entirety of the Legacy era, among a few others, and on account of that, the conclusion could be surmised that I dislike most Star Wars stories. But this is untrue. Those stories that I have a distaste for comprise a small fraction of all of Star Wars continuity. Although I haven’t read everything, I have read a respectable quantity of all Star Wars stories. And from what I have read, I enjoy a solid portion of the Old Republic era, the vast majority of the Rise of the Empire era, the vast majority of the Rebellion era, the vast majority of the New Republic era, the vast majority of the New Jedi Order era, and none of the Legacy era. The crucial distinction between me and most of Star Wars fandom is that most Star Wars stories that I’ve read, I like. So by the estimations of many “real” Star Wars fans, I’m a pretender (especially since I don’t attend cons or collect memorabilia or costumes; I just read the stories from novels, comics, etc.). Obviously, there are creative decisions I have taken issue with, and I have made my opinions on them clear. But (as a rough approximation), I would say that about 80% of Star Wars lore, I genuinely enjoy or, at the very least, don’t hate.

Why am I running on this verbose explanation? So as not to be misunderstood, I don't say this to insult other Star Wars fans; people can like or dislike whatever they choose. But I want to establish my own personal mentality before elucidating on my opinion of Disney’s Star Wars project. It alters my perception considerably that I don’t automatically associate new Star Wars film projects with the apocalypse, as many other fans would. I am a Star Wars fan, but I’m not an angry, disgruntled Star Wars fan. And that puts me in a minority and makes a significant difference. So if any of you are expecting me to start a raging rant, you will be disappointed (rants are typically JXM’s specialty anyway; if you want one, request his opinion on this).

With that said, here are my thoughts. My initial reaction is that there are too few details released pertaining to this project for me to form an objective consensus on the story quality, characterization, or Force exposition without arguing from ignorance. So I will not be approaching those subjects. Instead, I want to discuss a live action style of presentation, necessity (or lack thereof), and impacts on continuity.

Briefly, since it has been implicated that these movies could, in the Star Wars film tradition, be live action, I have a problem with that. Maybe I am too attached to them, but I would rather not replace the original actors with younger substitutes (and I doubt Disney would hire the original cast if their movies occur within a decade after Return of the Jedi). Instead, it would be better, to me, if the movies were animated and employed voice actors who simulated the voices of the original cast. But this is just my preference, and somehow, I doubt it will result in that.

Necessity. Do I find this necessary? Short answer: No. Long answer: The story told by the six existing Star Wars movies are very self-contained and, really, need no further development. Of course, many would say this of PT as well, as the OT was, for the most part, a complete story, but it left many questions of its past unanswered. From a narrative standpoint, there is nothing wrong with ambiguity, as long as it leaves no plot holes, and the ambiguity of Obi-Wan, Yoda, Anakin, the Jedi Order, and the Old Republic conveyed an atmosphere of mystique about the lore, which many people preferred. However, there was legitimate room for expansion on those unused plot lines, which is where the PT came in. In this case, while it could be argued that sequels to the original trilogy are no more unnecessary than the PT was, I would disagree. Whatever your opinion on its finished product may be, the PT did have more story potential within a cinematic medium. Post-OT stories bear possibilities but are not required, and I say that because they are never referenced. Throughout the OT, there are allusions to previous events and characters we know little about. All the PT did was attempt to offer closure on those unresolved plot threads (whether that attempt was successful or not is up to you). However, sequels to the OT have no basis within the movies themselves; there are no implications of future events or unsettled matters (which is self-evident, because those events hadn’t happened yet). The OT provides a simple end. This is why the EU entertained the opportunity to expound on the potential stories in separate mediums, much of which many people have never read and care next to nothing about. In a film medium, with only the PT and OT as a guideline for its history, there is just no demand for follow-up stories. The EU is an evolution of the lore with no technical genesis for its storylines within the confines of the movies themselves; the PT, conversely, did have foundations for its exact story within the movies themselves, which is why I find the addition of sequel movies unnecessary.

Having said that, can I see sequel movies as worthwhile additions to the franchise? If handled well and had the EU not already done so, yes, but that leads me into my next point. Parts of the EU could either be G-Canonized or retconned as a consequence of sequel movies, and this is my primary reservation. We could analyze the story necessity of sequel movies as much as we want, but even if the movies are completely unneeded, that does not inherently preclude the prospect of them being decent films (of course, this presumes on your willingness to believe that Disney has the capacity to manufacture good Star Wars films, and I will leave that subjective expectation to your own discretion). The EU is where my interest in this issue rests. Truth be told, I, as with many other EU fans, like the EU more than I do the movies. From what Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy discussed, they may actually incorporate EU material as a framework.

Lucas: “Well, um, I always said I wasn’t gonna do any more, and that’s true, ‘cause I’m not gonna do anymore. But that doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to turn it over to Kathy to do more. I have story treatments of 7, 8, and 9 and a bunch of other movies, and, and obviously, we have hundreds of books and comics and everything you could possibly imagine. So, you know, I sort of move that treasure trove of stories and various things to Kathy, and, you know, I have complete confidence that she’s gonna take them and make great movies.”

Interesting. Is he suggesting that Lucasfilm will be transferring over their EU media as criterion for story development in Disney’s films? If so and if this is taken seriously and with care, I would be very relaxed about this film proposal. So long as Disney respects the EU (for the sake of a hypothetical condition, let’s set aside whatever hesitancy we have to trust Disney for a moment), I have few concerns with this premise. Now, will they recognize the EU as a foundation for sequel story lines almost verbatim? For instance, would they develop film adaptions of The Truce at Bakura, which is an immediate sequel to Return of the Jedi? Or the Thrawn or Dark Empire trilogies, since those are among the most popular EU works? Difficult to determine based on the minimal information we have been apprised to, but for me personally, whether or not Disney decides to consent to EU continuity is the most prevalent topic to read into whenever they deliver updates. But what about stories that may not be adaptions of EU events but instead original stories that still recognize the EU? According to early hints by Lucas, the sequels could deal with the formation of the New Republic decades following RotJ. If that is the case, that could be interpreted as a choice to ignore the EU, or it might not. After all, in the NR and NJO eras, the New Republic was constantly being established. For a governmental entity as colossal and as aggregate as the Galactic Republic, it should come as no surprise that it would take time to fully establish it. So these hints on Lucas' part could garner varying translations, especially since many of them could have been evinced before the news of Disney buying Lucasfilm, as Lucas has divulged his original plans for a sequel trilogy before. Additionally, this statement could very well be far to young in the development stages to be irrevocably conclusive.

Although it may not be translatable to Disney’s habits, Lucas himself did actually include EU-original characters into his movies. Aalya Secura and Quinlan Vos, for instance, originated in Dark Horse’s comics, and Lucas assimilated them into the PT. There are other examples of this as well. If Disney models their practices respective of the EU after Lucas’ recognition and appreciation for the EU when making his movies, then EU continuity could be better off. On the other hand, the EU has suffered continuity errors as a result of The Clone Wars multimedia project. Where Lucas seemed to exercise caution about the EU during the developing stages of the PT (and contrary to popular belief, the PT did not destroy EU continuity; it built it tremendously), he and his creative team (which involves Dave Filoni) seemed more oblivious during TCW. In fairness, when the PT was being released, EU stories during the Rise of the Empire era were scarce, as that era had been largely untouched until the PT’s release. As well, Filoni has stated that he genuinely intends not to hurt continuity, but unfortunately, there have been multiple changes. It should be pointed out though that TCW has contained several EU concepts but sometimes adjusts them needlessly. So if Disney models their practices respective of the EU after Lucas and Filoni’s recognition and appreciation for the EU when making TCW, the Post-RotJ EU would likely still exist but would endure unnecessary revisions.

We should also inspect Disney’s attention to the EU fandom. Would they be willing to disregard EU continuity altogether and upset EU fans in the process in favor of their own stories? Or, for the sake of broadening and subsisting their audience, carefully integrate EU productions into their movies? Or would it matter? If Disney disrupted EU canon and earned the contempt of its fans, would that affect the future of their films? Personally, I doubt it. Star Wars has an immense audience; EU fans constitute a modicum of that audience. Chances are, even if EU fans are revolted by Disney’s handling of EU canon, the films would be a market success nonetheless. After all, numerous fans detested the PT but still visited the theater to watch it. From a marketing perspective, I’m not entirely convinced it would carry any substantial meaning to Disney if they wrecked the EU or not, and aside from poor publicity and compulsory criticism, that may be their only incentive not to dismantle the EU medium.

Another thought is how Disney could feasibly execute this. Assuming Disney acknowledges it, the EU is very precise in its linear standing with previous events. While there are plot inconsistencies (especially in horrendously written stories, such as those authored by Troy Denning or Karen Traviss, which willfully ignore prior canon), most authors have the sense to research the stories chronologically preceding their own, which is why most stories in the Old Republic, Rise of the Empire, Rebellion, New Republic, and New Jedi Order eras are relatively coherent in their placement in continuity. They are definitely disparate because of the varying authors and times of release, but they can function sufficiently in a continuous medium. Understanding that, how could Disney maintain EU continuity unless they meticulously adapted all mandatory Post-RotJ stories into films? This presents a challenge out of the gate that could cause canonical mistakes.

Of course, all of this assumes that Lucas’ remark on “books and comics” portends that Disney will acclimate their film projects toward the management of EU continuity in the first place, which might or not be the case. On that note, I do wonder about novelizations or comic adaptions of these upcoming movies though. If the movies have original stories and content, then novelizations and comic adaptions could be in order; if they borrow from the plots of EU novels or comics, then they might simply have a comic supplement to a novel the movie is based on or a novel supplement to a comic the movie is based on. Or they might abandon the adaption altogether. Although I doubt this would be ever be realized, I wonder if, in the event that Disney discards the EU, a new canon class could be instated. For instance, I wonder if there could be a split in G-Canon, one to accommodate Lucas’ first vision and a second to accommodate Disney’s direction. The former could continue to be the baseline for the EU that currently exists, and the second could serve as a baseline for an alternate EU (not an alternate reality; my hope would be that this doesn’t create a parallel universe but rather a wholly separate continuity). That way, our current EU could persist and publish more works in the set continuity while Disney’s could introduce their own continuity. Do I believe Lucasfilm would adopt this system? No, and I honestly hope they never need to. This is just a contingency in case Disney retcons the EU.

So, what is my opinion on this? Setting aside the state of the EU, I am thoroughly indifferent toward this development. I honestly did prefer Lucas’ original statement that he would never spearhead another Star Wars movie and hoped that that statement meant others never would either, meaning Revenge of the Sith would be the last movie. But since Disney is planning on more, fine. To be honest, I don’t really care. My thoughts on this are almost identical to my thoughts on TCW. I’m not a fan of TCW (though some of the related comics were decent), but unlike other fans, I never hated it. I just have no substantive investment in it one way or another. While TCW does bother me with its retcons (Ahsoka Tano’s existence being the retcon that irritates me the most, not just because I find her character uninteresting but because she interposed herself between the Obi-Wan and Anakin Jedi team dynamic that Clone Wars novels had formulated), there are a few ideas TCW gave us that were actually very good in my opinion (the Legend of Mortis, for instance). This upcoming film project resonates with me the same way. If the movies turn out to be good, fine. If they turn out to be mediocre, fine. I really just don’t care that much. What I care more about is how the EU will be influenced by the addition of more movies. If the EU is retconned out, I will be frustrated with that (but on a positive note, at least it will prevent Denning from writing any more awful Legacy series). If the EU is sustained through all this, great. If the movies are faithful adaptions of EU stories that leave the present EU continuity intact, even better. But right now, my attention is with the EU, not with the movies.