Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
wrote this two years ago when it was announced that Disney was rekindling the Star wars universe, as we get closer to the release of the Force Awakens, we are hopeful, but still resentful that midclorians and Jar Jar are canon and Mara jade and Grand Admiral Thawn isn’t.
Oh and they just announced that the next Aliens movie will have a 28 year old Newt kicking Xenomorph butt. So maybe all wrongs re eventually resolved.
I will hopefully put my more recent feelings on line by the end of the week.
By now unless you are living in a galaxy far far away you know that Papa Lucas is retiring and that he has sold the Star Wars franchise lock, stock and Skywalker Ranch to Disney. Of course any geek with an iota artistic sensibility is bemoaning this fact, fearing the results will be a massed produced pile of Bantha fodder. Well first I am going to say why it might be a good thing that Disney is taking the controls of the Star Wars franchise, and then I am going to tell you my big concern that so far I haven’t heard anyone else mention.
The first reason I am hopeful is well, Disney is a business, a business whose specialty is making big stinking piles of money. On the surface that may sound like a bad thing for the S.W. franchise, but the House of Mouse, knows that the only way they can keep the money flowing in is if they produce a quality product. They already paid Gorge over four Billion dollars,(1) and they aren’t one to throw good money away for bad. They want their money back and they know they can do that only by making movies that don’t suck.
Next Disney already has a good track record with Star Wars, look at my all-time favorite Disney ride Star Tours. The simulation ride is not only true to the ethos of Star Wars, with R2D2,and C3P0, trading quips with that surely control room Mon Calamari, but it is the only theme park ride I enjoyed waiting in line for. I love all the overhead speaker puns animatronics droids telling jokes, I mean who can forget the G2 droid’s rocking version “I’ve been working on this droid for all the live long day…” Now yes I agree that the ride is really a small step in the large Star Wars franchise, but Disney defiantly got that first step right.
The ability and integrity of JJ Abrams is often a matter of discussion in our household, but I like what the guys does and I think he was a good choice to head the initial Star Wars projects. Felicity, Alias and Lost, seasm to be a far departure form science fiction (at least deep space science fiction) and a lot of old school trekkers hate his revamping of Star Trek into an action movie franchise, but I say give the guy a chance. The worst that could happen is that he drops the ball, and then his notorious ADD kicks in and he finds something else to do and leaves the whole shebang to someone else.
And finally, look how many geeks smashed their heads into a table when they heard that Disney had bought Marvel. Remember how for months people groaned that it would have better that Marvel had gone bust in the nineties when they filed bankruptcy, than let Walt’s followers pull the strings. But let’s face it, post Mouse/Marvel superhero movies like The Avengers, and Captain America are pretty good. Disney paid good money for talent (both in front and behind the camera), and good scripts and came up with some awesome movies. (Yes they are popcorn movies but awesome popcorn movies.)
OK, so far so good, now this is my concern, what I feel is the eight hundred kilogram dewback in the living room that no one is talking about. What about the expanded universe? For those of you who do not what the EU is, it is the large collection of books and games that create the back story for and expands the Star Wars movies. Arguably it started when the Marvel comic books stop telling the original movie’s story and the writers began to make their own story lines, but most geeks recognize the big bang of the EU happening in 1977, when Allen Dean Foster took the original unused script for a low budget sequel, to be used if Star Wars didn’t make any money, and wrote the novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. (2) Ever since then literally hundreds of other writers have been contributing to the Star Wars expanded universe. Though never as popular as the movies many things have come from the EU that have since become science fiction icons, such as the blue skinned alien mastermind Grand Admiral Thawn, Luke Skywalker’s wife Mara Jade, even some now cannon names for aliens like Twi’leks, Mon Calamari and Aqualish who before the novels and games of the EU Lucas Films felt appropriate to just call Tail Heads, Fish Men and Walrus Men.
For good or bad George has kept a loose eye over his creation and made sure things didn’t get to out of hand or to contradictory. (3) Sure there were some misses. A plurality of versions of the marriage of Han Solo and Princes Leia.(4), The personality character Zuckuss (The bug looking bounty hunter from The Empire Strikes Back.) was so egregiously different in a novella in Tales of the Bounty Hunters from the novel Mandolorian Armor that the Essential Guide to Characters had to explain it away as a case of split personalities.(5) But in general when you consider how many people worked on the project for over thirty years it fits together pretty well.
Most writers realizing that someday Lucas was going to get around to writing the prequels, and what he says is Star Wars law, so they left the time frame of the rise of the galactic Empire alone, or at least until after the release of the Revenge of the Sith. So very little of the EU had to be changed or ret-coned, with the arrival of Episodes I – III. There were a few acceptations, mainly Bobba Fett’s back story and that and the fact that all of us including author Timothy Zahn thought that the clone wars would gotten its name from clones attacking the republic not from the clones being made with Jedi approval and then becoming the precursors of storm troopers. But almost nothing else had to be changed or explained away with the most recent movies.
My fear is that with Disney’s new movies and all the tie ins, that all of the EU set after Return of the Jedi will get shot with a blaster let out a Wilhelm scream and fall of the broken Death Star bridge of fictional reality. Or more simply put just get scraped.
This has happened before. A big part of the Aliens franchise of the late 1980’s and early 90’s was the Dark Horse comic books, and the follow up novels.(6) This series was everything that the movies after James Cameron’s Aliens were not. The Aliens came to Earth, and despite the human race getting their keasters kicked by the xenomorphs, the governments and corporations couldn’t put their greed and squabbles behind them to save us. And unlike in the latter movies Aliens and Predators meshed perfectly.
This awesome EU was pretty much destroyed when two thirds of the survivors form Aliens were killed in the credits of Alien3. Sure Dark Horse tried to keep things going by changing Newt and Hicks characters names and saying that the comic book characters were different people with identical back stories. But that really didn’t work once Ripley (Who died at the end of Aliens3) came back into the story.
Maybe I am too harsh saying that Aleins3 killed the Aliens EU franchise, maybe it would have run out of steam anyways. But Aleins3 sure didn’t help the Aliens universe in general including the movies that followed it (which weren’t that good either).or the EU. And yes I know that there are still some Aliens EU novels and comics that pop up once in a while, like a distress signal form LV-462, they just don’t have the grandeur or thrill of the original Aliens EU, and I fear that the same thing will happen to the Star Wars EU.
Some of my friends are geeked to see a new dawn of Star Wars stories, but I like the old ones, they are the print version of comfort food. On a very personal level, I remember when I was living in Pocatello Idaho and everything in my life was going wrong. I paid four bucks for a copy of the Courtship of Princess Leia, and was reading it a parking lot down town because I had no where else to go, then it dawned on me that graffiti someone left on the tile page was the authors signature. It was a small good event that helped me keep going, in a tough time.
The Disney Star Wars movies and the changes that they bring are just going to be. It is like Luke and Liea being brother and sisters, you can’t go back once it has happened. I am sure that I will find something to like about them, but I am sure I will mourn that which they replace.