So I’ve been commenting on some Star Wars news and rumours lately. And it has gotten me to thinking–thinking long and hard–about some issues: specifically about the nature of the Saga as an epic structure, the Expanded Universe, and what I want in the former.
The reason I’ve started writing about Star Wars again–and anyone who knows me is aware that it doesn’t take much to get me to go on about it–is that I became aware of a particular rumour circling around about the existence of Star Wars: Reclamation: essentially what seems to be an animated tie-in into the Episode VII is that is scheduled to happen in 2015. Now, I’m not going to argue whether or not this is legitimate or if it is a hoax, or one of many projects that Disney effectively cancelled by closing down LucasArts not so long ago, but the prospect of it is very fascinating.
Think about it. We have no idea what the next Star Wars film is going to even be like. There are, again, some rumours but nothing definite.
Which brings me to my first point.
Star Wars is a space opera. There is music, there are opening scenes, clearly delineated heroes and villains and all those who fall in-between, epic battles, moments of levity, romance, and tragedy. In fact, most classical operas can–arguably–be divided into the genres of romance and tragedy if you really think about it. Romance in itself is not merely about love, but also the sublime and grandiose in nature. It is a great epic adventure that encompasses many elements: especially the mystery of existence. Tragedy can also arguably have these traits, but there is usually a very clear circular arc in the Classical sense: the hero begins from nothing, becomes great, and through some fatal flaw–hamartia as the Greek word goes–the hero gives into hubris and falls: and falls hard. This is also known as a reversal of fortune.
I would therefore argue that the Star Wars Prequels–in terms of thematic structure–are a great big space tragedy: take from that statement what you will. However I know that when I am watching or reading something and I know that many of the characters I see will eventually die, it is kind of hard to really get attached to them or any of the events that are going on. I mean, that has always been my issue with the Prequels and The Clone Wars cartoons: I just see that every struggle is essentially engineered by Palpatine and it just … cheapened it for me. But if you view these adventures as the ancient Greeks might have known tragedy–because every legend and myth that was adapted into tragedy was already known to the audience and were therefore judged by the skill of the playwright–then I can see the allure.
But I guess it doesn’t help that I: (1) Read the EU books and (2) believe that the plot and some of the characters in the Prequels and Clone Wars were not given as much depth as they deserved: though granted I did not see many of the latter cartoons. Now I want to talk about some other influences on Star Wars with regards to “space” and “opera”: and how this influences what I want to see in the Saga.
When I talk about space operas there is also the science-fiction adventure genre to consider. You know: that Sunday matinee serialization of different episodes that people in the 1950s or so would watch. I always like to bring up the fact that Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers influenced George Lucas a lot in creating Star Wars. You can read the posts, I won’t repeat them. But these particular science fiction adventure stories also leave their mark on Star Wars in another way: one that channels an even older idea.
This idea is that of redemption. It is redemption that really stands out in the Star Wars Saga. If the Prequels were a tragic and angst-filled arc, then the Old Trilogy was arguably an adventurous and redemptive arc.
I can argue that while hubris is more of a human trait, redemption is as mysterious as the Force itself. There is so much of the romantic, the sublime, and the grand adventure in the Old Trilogy–of things we didn’t know–and it just opens a path to seemingly limitless vistas: much akin to that sense of wonder that existed in the science-adventures of George Lucas’ youth and so much more. After all: who could see the villain becoming, for one brief moment, the hero: someone to be both pitied and respected? Yes, it was a twist moment and some people probably predicted something like it, but it was magical: just as what happened afterwards.
Now let me get back to the other matter: the Expanded Universe after the Old Trilogy. I’m not going to lie. I know that many of the stories in the EU–with some exceptions–are pretty inconsistent in themselves and aren’t always on par with what I liked about the Old Trilogy. That much I can personally can let go.
But I’m also going to make another admission. After the publication of Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Duology, I stopped really reading the Star Wars EU. I think the biggest mistake was the fact that instead of continuing with what that galaxy contained–instead of bringing back the Sith or a Dark Side threat after the peace treaty with the Imperial Remnant, the authors introduced the Yuuzhan Vong: some extra-galactic sadomasochistic warriors using bio-technology and hating machines. As far as I am concerned, that was the beginning of the end of the EU for me and it only got worse when they tried to introduce the Dark Side in some of the most plot-contrived ways I’d ever seen it.
In the end, they killed at least two of the most interesting characters in the Expanded Universe–Jacen Solo and Mara Jade–with the former killing the latter and becoming a half-assed Sith Lord–and the series and what came after it became progressively darker. It is like the criticism that some people have for comics nowadays: that writers are just copying the grit and darkness of larger story arcs before them. But instead of it being comics makers of DC and such imitating Alan Moore and Frank Miller without their nuances, it is writers working with LucasBooks who imitated the darkness of the Prequels: pieces that at least had structural nuances. The mysteries just became contrived and it became all about the angst: all about the tragedy and an attempt to make something epic out of nothing.
It seriously made me just want to quote Lando and say, “This deal is getting worse all the time.” To be fair, I know that the Sith were supposed to be incorporated into the EU earlier, but apparently LucasFilms had issue with that: probably because of the development of the Prequels at the time. Also, George Lucas generally did his own thing, didn’t pay much attention to the EU, and many of these writers always had to “tow the line” as it were with regards to what innovation they could bring to the stories set in Lucas’ universe.
Really, here is what I want to say as succinctly as possible. If there is something like Star Wars: Reclamation–and that title is fitting on so many different levels–then so be it. I wouldn’t mind seeing most of the Expanded Universe rebooted: or at least given an alternative series of stories as they are doing with The Star Wars comic based on the rough draft of the original film script.
Really, the only elements I would miss about the EU as it is now would be the Legacy comics, Mara Jade, the Solo children, Republic Commando, X-Wing, Wraith Squadron and Grand Admiral Thrawn and friends. The rest of it was pretty mediocre in retrospect. I also really don’t like how Luke settled to be another Old Guard when he had so much potential to become something more.
In some ways, the fact that Disney stopped production of Clone Wars and many of the video games–which I feel are rehashings of old ideas and cycles–may be one of its best decisions yet. Even Star Wars 1313, for all of its excellent graphics and the idea that you are not playing as a Force-user, looked like it was just going to be a shooter game set in the Star Wars Universe: and there are so many shooter games out there already.
It all kind of reminds me of how, when something doesn’t work for me anymore, I just destroy it and start from scratch. I am that scarily absolutist when I am driven to that point. My only regret is, aside from potentially losing some characters I did grow attached to, that this is the closest we will ever get to seeing a Star Wars reboot: the best being a silence about the Prequels or anything to do with them after this.
But I am also skeptical about what might be going on. Even if you look at that Reclamation script excerpt you will notice that certain species from the Expanded Universe still exist. This is also assuming the script is legitimate and will survive the light of day. I am however really leery of the fact that Disney closed LucasArts down and and laid off many of their employees: whatever Kotaku and other sources might be saying about its productivity level. It could be that they are, as they say, focusing all of their talent on the future of Star Wars–which theoretically sounds ideal–but I have to wonder about that.
In fact, the very title of this article is a misnomer on my part. I mean, how can any outside party “reclaim” something that wasn’t originally even theirs?
I know it seems like I am saying a lot of things at the same time. And I am. But here is what it comes down to me for me: I am willing to see a lot of the EU disappear–or be placed into an “Old Expanded Universe”–so that something can be created that will need to something potentially new and good. Ideally, I would like to see the Prequels and Clone Wars disappear or change too: leaving only Legacy, The Old Republic, and Tales of the Jedi and other such more “ancient” stories in the Star Wars EU intact. But that is too idealistic for my own good.
I also realize I have gotten a lot more cynical in my old-age of thirty-one. Once, I would never have even considered wanting the EU to be gone or changed. I was just as much into continuity as anyone. To an extent I still am. Tragedy and angst have their place, but I want to see so much more now. I am not completely all Crisis on Infinite Earths DC where I want to see it all burn–much–but just like the viewers of the old days and their adventure serials I do want to anticipate what will happen next as opposed to the minutiae of what is already going to happen. I want to see alternate avenues, new mysteries, and characters that could go anywhere and whose futures are not seen as written yet: new adventures with depth, romance, and wonder.
That is ultimately what “Long, long ago in a Galaxy far, far away” means to me.
I want wonder, and something to look forward to.
ETA: Disney has very recently announced that they plan to release a Star Wars film every summer after the release of Episode VII. Now, the idea is that each film will be a spin-off movie aside from the main Episodes. These are more in line in some ways with the old science-adventure serials of the 50s: in that there are more of them. Now whether they will incorporate some of the EU into their creation, or make a whole other alternate story with them from the books and literature that exist is another matter entirely. And really interesting for it. Limitless horizons indeed.
ETA: According to a LucasFilm spokesperson, Star Wars: Reclamation is not real. This does not surprise me, but at least it made for a good title to my post.