Ever since the new Star Wars trilogy was announced, I have been hoping that the stories and characters from the Expanded Universe (EU) would be respected and acknowledged in the new films. I have been hoping that J.J. Abrams and his cohorts would use the existing stories to fill the thirty-five year gap between the timelines of the Original Trilogy and the new one. I even wrote an Opinion Piece about it.
But that’s all changed now.
Canon vs Fan-fiction
Last weekend, Simon Kinberg, when asked if the new films would look to the EU for inspiration, said “You know, it’s not off-limits, and it’s certainly inspiring — I’m working on an animated show for [Lucasfilm] as well, Star Wars: Rebels, that will take inspiration from everywhere, but — I know for the movies, the canon is the canon, and the canon is the six films that exist.”
And just like that, my interest in the new trilogy plummeted.
Not only had Simon Kinberg just dashed a lot of people’s hopes and dreams of seeing long-established EU characters on the big screen, in one fell swoop he had also just undermined everything that makes the Expanded Universe great.
One of the most appealing things about it was the fact that every novel, comic, game and television show released since the birth of the EU in 1978 has been an official part of the Star Wars canon. Sure it has different levels of canon, and sure some things have been overwritten over the years, but it has never had to delve into the realms of parallel universes, or What If? stories, or time travel, or even anything like the mess that is DC’s Crisis series.
The EU has been expanding for 36 years, and has never once needed an overhaul or a reboot or even a major retcon. Every piece of it fits together perfectly to make one huge and seamless continuity and chronology. That alone makes the EU a masterpiece of storytelling.
But all of that is in danger now.
If what Kinberg says is true, and that the six films are the only things now considered “true” canon, then we, the fans, are basically being told to dismiss almost four decades worth of stories and characters as nothing more than glorified fan-fiction. And as a fan who has grown up loving a lot of thing about the EU and who has, up until now, considered them to all be part of the same universe as the films, this is a massive blow.
Too many parallels
The other thing about Simon Kinberg’s response that really worries me is the fact that he says while the Expanded Universe won’t have any impact on the films, it will be used to inspire other elements of Star Wars, and directly refers to the upcoming Rebels. This initially sounds like a good thing. It shows that they aren’t brushing the EU under the carpet, that they haven’t forgotten it is there.
But if I have understood Kinberg’s comments correctly, then Rebels won’t be considered part of the official Star Wars canon. By his own admission it can’t be. It’s not one of the six films. And that turns this exciting new television show, designed to help fill the gap between Episodes III and IV, into fan-fiction, just like the rest of the EU. Sure, it’s studio endorsed fan-fiction, but it’s still just fan-fiction. And that means The Clone Wars, its brilliant predecessor, is now fan-fiction too. Or will they make a special exception for these two shows, because they’re just that good.
But the thing that really annoys me about Kinberg’s casual dismissal of the EU and its canonical status is the fact that, for the first time in 36 years, it fractures the Star Wars universe. There will still be an Expanded Universe, that much is clear. They’re still using it for inspiration and, with programs like Rebels, they’re still expanding it as we speak. It’s good that it won’t be forgotten or ignored. But it’s bad that we’ll now have to consider it separate from the world of the films. Kinberg, if I have understood him, is basically saying that Star Wars will now have two separate universes: the universe of the films, and the universe of the EU. And that is very wrong.
Up until recently, those two universes had always been one and the same. There had only even been one Star Wars universe. But now it sounds like it’s being pulled apart. Now it sounds like it’s lost that perfect construction and narrative that made it so special in the first place.
Now it sounds like J.J. Abrams had gone and given us another parallel universe.
Yes, I have read the recent press release on StarWars.com regarding the future (or lack thereof) of the EU, and no, it doesn’t make me feel any better. In fact, I think it makes me even angrier.