October 30th, 2012 had some big news for Star Wars fans. Disney purchased Lucasfilm and announced a new movie trilogy that will start in 2015. I brought up some questions at the end of my report such as what this might mean for The Clone Wars and how things could change for licensees such as Dark Horse Comics, but the biggest question on my mind is what happens to the Expanded Universe going forward. After having a night to think about it I’ve come up with a few different ideas on how this might affect the Expanded Universe that I wanted to share with everyone. After reading please share your ideas, hopes, and concerns in the comments!
How the EU Could Affect the Films
To start things off, it would be pretty difficult for the people working on these films to stay 100% true to decades of Expanded Universe content which covers hundreds or even thousands of years of “in-universe” time depending on if you’re looking at things later than or earlier than the existing movies. We’ve already seen this with The Clone Wars television series having various minor to major clashes with Expanded Universe continuity. Trying to make everything fit would limit the creative freedom of the filmmakers and honestly could leave a lot of people that don’t read any EU material in the dark if the back-story from dozens of novels and comics are needed to know what’s going on. The easy solution to this would be to set the films in an untouched time period. Instead of picking up with Luke, Leia, Han and potentially their children, jump ahead to the era of the Legacy comics or beyond, or go the other way and play around in an empty area of the Old Republic. This would be direction I’d like to see for the new trilogy as it limits any potential continuity hiccups, but if the deals can be worked out I think the draw of possibly having Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and/or Harrison Ford make appearances will be too strong for them to not try to make this a trilogy set 30-40 years after Return of the Jedi, and I doubt they’d want to do a straight adaptation of an EU storyline.
If the new trilogy is set not too far post-RotJ, the chances of EU continuity lining up perfectly with it will be pretty slim. In this case one of two things is likely to happen. Either the long discussed in fandom EU reboot will actually happen, or the EU will split and we’ll have the “Original EU” and the “New Movie EU”. Both of these options have pros and cons, and we’ll start with discussing a reboot. The biggest advantage to a full or even partial reboot of the EU would be accessibility. Like we saw when the Prequel Trilogy started, this new trilogy is going to bring a lot of renewed attention to Star Wars and hopefully a lot of new fans as well. Giving the EU a fresh start would make it easier for people new to Star Wars to jump in, and it would help make continuity moving forward a lot simpler to keep in line with the new films. The Catch-22 here is that a reboot is also a big con. Fans of the Expanded Universe can be very passionate, and the thought of all of the stories we love ‘not counting anymore’ is a pretty bitter pill to swallow for a lot of us. This is understandable, people have invested a lot of time and money into the EU and would hate to feel like it was being thrown away.
That leads to the other potential scenario, where the EU is split. One branch continuing the EU we currently know and (mostly) love, the other starting fresh with the new trilogy in mind. The obvious pro here is that we keep getting stories set in the current continuity, while letting the rebooted EU allow for a new level of accessibility to the franchise. This also fixes the worry of continuity conflicts as the Original EU would ignore the new movies and the New Movie EU would ignore the old stories, each doing their own thing. The problem with this plan is that it could be pretty confusing for a lot of people. If someone isn’t paying attention it’d be easy for them to pick up a book in the EU they aren’t familiar with and have no idea what’s going on. That isn’t a huge con though, and this is really my preferred route for the EU to go in the future. It frees the filmmakers up to do whatever they want without feeling beholden to EU stories and characters, lets the EU continue on as it is without continuity issues or fans feeling like things have been erased, and offers an accessible fresh start in a New Movie EU. The New Movie EU could also be exciting for current EU fans, as it would be a new playground for authors to work in and come up with fun new stories that might not necessarily mesh with EU continuity as it stands now.
A New Hope
I know a lot of people are worried about the future of the Expanded Universe. Right now we really don’t have any idea what’s going to happen, and that’s in part because we don’t even know what the new trilogy will be about or when it takes place. It could be a lot of stress over nothing, we might end up with one of the situations I described, or something totally unexpected could end up happening. I want to end this column with some statements from people at Lucasfilm that leave me feeling optimistic for the future of the Expanded Universe and Star Wars in general.
Jennifer Heddle, senior editor at LucasBooks, posted a few quick responses to the news on Twitter. As of right now it’s “business as usual” at LucasBooks and she’s excited to potentially work on books for the new trilogy. While they might not know how those movies will affect the EU quite yet, they’re aware that it’s something we’re wondering about and will be keeping us informed.
Leeland Chee, Keeper of the Holocron at Lucasfilm (for those not in the know, he helps manage Star Wars continuity) posted the following quote: “…and obviously we have hundreds of books and comics and everything you can possibly imagine…” That statement comes from George Lucas himself, discussing the future of Star Wars in this video. This more than anything has me excited for what’s to come with the EU. Most importantly it shows that those stories haven’t been forgotten. On top of that, think of the possibilities of these stories being at Disney now. I know I’m not the only one that would love to see some EU stories adapted into films by a collaboration between Lucasfilm Animation and Pixar.