With the recent news of the Star Wars Expanded Universe no longer being considered ‘canon’ by the powers that be, I have only one thing to say:
You know enough to know you’ve said the wrong thing.
I’m totally serious, Disney: you’ve made a serious faux pas here, and anger is the result. The Star Wars Expanded Universe has become a canon portion of Star Wars over the past 30 years and now you’re altering the deal. The EU for me, and many other geeks, is something loveable and celebrated in its own right over the past 30 years of painstaking effort. I don’t sit around praying you won’t alter the deal any further, now I’m looking for the exit sign. For Disney to assure us that there will never be an Expanded Universe for us to enjoy on the screen, well, that’s another nail in the coffin of the entire franchise to me.
Let me be clear – the Star Wars franchise, the official one, hasn’t been lighting my fire as a geek for many years. As a child of the late 70s, I grew up on this life-changing Space Opera and accepted with cheerful grace the lack of movies after 1983. Between the end of ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘Phantom Menace’, there was only one thing to keep me going: The Expanded Universe.
Yes, those books that you (whoever is responsible … ) decided were ‘not canon’ … those are the books that kept me going when a thousand other sci-fi universes beckoned. In them, so many new ideas were explored and so many wonderful new characters were created. You decided that they didn’t belong, but you know … maybe the thing that that doesn’t belong is you.
I wasn’t always this way. I sucked up ‘Phantom Menace’ and kept a stiff upper lip throughout that process, but when it came to ‘Attack of the Clones,’ I knew we were in trouble within 20 minutes. Let me tell you a story that helps illustrate my point: Me and my wife? We’re Star Wars nerds. In fact, she’s an even bigger SW geek than I am. We sat down at a Tony Roma’s following our first screening of ‘Attack of the Clones.’ Waiting for our drinks, the wife looks at me straight in the eye and says those three little words: `That movie sucked!’
Pause with me a moment. She, of the faithful, who could never say anything bad about Star Wars. She, who has read and owns every single Star Wars book ever read, who still owns her R2-D2 nightshirt from when she was four and has it framed, no less. She, who kept her stiff upper lip even in the face of Episode 1, has lost hope that Star Wars can be saved. She apologized to me saying, `I appreciate you taking me!’ That was when I realized that the dream was over, not only for she and I, but also for thousands of fans that are now hanging up the lightsabers.
The utter lack of chemistry floored me. Where was the comedic romantic tension of Han and Leia? Watching Padme and Anakin was was like watching sodium refusing to bond to chloride. At first they’re making eyes, then it moves to small scenes where the blocking is non-existent but the words are suggesting something. Then they’re back on Naboo and standing in front of a variety of spectacular scenery. Portman wears a variety of Britney Spears-like outfits throughout the exchange. I’m not complaining, but come on. Princess Leia in combat gear and wielding a pistol was sexier, and she wasn’t even trying. The scene where Leia and Han end up kissing in the Falcon’s maintenance hatch was a lot hotter than that fireside chat Annikin and Amidala had. He confesses his love like he was on the high school debate team. They’re facing certain death at the end of the movie, and she gets as schmaltzy and wooden as he does. Guh.
I knew back then that the movies were cannibalizing the Expanded Universe books. The novels by Timothy Zahn tell you that Darth Vader lost his hand after failing to recruit Luke Skywalker, but the movies would have you believe that he lost his arm fighting Count Dooku. AoTC also made a huge deal out of the fact that Jedi aren’t supposed to love or marry and yet, in the second Zahn series, Luke asks Mara Jade to marry him. They eventually have kids. No one had a problem with this, until now. Now, Jedi are supposed to live as loveless monks. Given the current state of affairs in the religious world, is forbidding the `clergy’ of your faith from marriage really the best policy? How are Jedi born then? Do they all spring about through spontaneous combustion? Is Leia still married to Han Solo? Continuity errors were everywhere; perhaps that plays a large part in why they abandoned the EU … the problem was too big for them to solve.
Star Wars needs the Expanded Universe. It’s that simple. The stories always revolve around the Skywalker clan and a handful of others and how they always manage to be at the center of universe-size conflict. To my knowledge, World War II wasn’t fought single-handedly by FDR, Hitler and Churchill. Why does Lucas assume that his characters are the only ones to save the day? Zahn recognizes this to some extent and introduces new characters to us: Thrawn, Karrde, Jade and the Noghri to name a few. Now we’ve abandoned all of that and, adding insult to injury, they’re bringing back the original characters for SW:VII – it’s never going to end!
All in all I feel an enormous sense of betrayal, watching this happen. So much of my time, imagination and emotional energy have been invested in this just to have it fall flat. The Star Wars franchise has lost its way … that’s the only rational conclusion I can come to.
Tragically, there are going to be hangers-on that help this crap perpetuate itself. The ones who say `Who cares? It’s Star Wars!’ By not coming out and saying `hey, we deserve better’, Disney won’t be moved to improve the movies. Star Wars fans, you deserve better. Put the toys down and step away from the edge. Disney is not interested in making great movies, they’re interested in making money and they have enough of mine as it is. Other people are interested in filling the public’s need for science fiction stories and movies with interesting storylines and thoughtful dialogue. We are enough without the movies, we are interesting and worthy of entertainment that doesn’t insult our intelligence. It’s time to hit them where it hurts the most: in their wallet.
About Dan Haight
I’m the author of the Flotilla series and many published short stories. I get that we live in a world where tropes are recycled to the point of nausea. If you’re sick of what passes for sci-fi in 2014, I’m right there with you. I hate watching movies and telling you how they’re going to end within the first 5 minutes. That’s why I write real stories for real people. Before I was a writer, I was a reader, and I’m passionate about well-told stories. You can learn more about them at www.flotillaonline.com or follow me on Twitter @Flotillaonline