“After Star Wars was released, it became apparent that my story–however many films it took to tell–was only one of thousands that could be told about the characters who inhabit its galaxy. But these were not stories that I was destined to tell. Instead they would spring from the imagination of other writers, inspired by the glimpse of a galaxy that Star Wars provided. Today it is an amazing, if unexpected, legacy of Star Wars that so many gifted writers are contributing new stories to the Saga.” – George Lucas
I still remember walking out of the movie theater in May 2005 feeling a mixture of both joy and sadness. Joy, obviously, because I had just seen the third episode of the prequel trilogy with my family and friends; which was a lot of fun. So why did I also feel a touch of sorrow? Well, because the film saga had finally come to an end and for all the 19-year-old version of me knew, there would be no more Star Wars movies for the rest of eternity. Sure, the prequel-era Expanded Universe was just beginning to really blossom (and I devoured every piece of literature I could get my hands on), but for most fans, the real meat-and-potatoes of Star Wars is the movies. Lucas had no further plans for the saga at that time, and I was certain, I wouldn’t ever see a new opening crawl, accompanied by John Williams’s iconic theme music. Boy, was I wrong.
“The standalone films can be a wide variety of genres inside the Star Wars universe, and they very definitely have a beginning, middle, and end. They are not being designed to necessarily build new franchises. They are really being designed as standalone movies which is fantastic for the filmmakers we bring in.” – Kathleen Kennedy
It’s now 2016 and by now, everyone knows about Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, and the currently-ongoing sequel trilogy. I won’t dwell on the sale because it isn’t the topic I want to discuss. However, the reorganization of Lucasfilm is connected to another aspect that I do wish to cover–the announcement, and subsequent development, of the Star Wars Anthology Series. While I do admit to being slightly obsessed with the Skywalker family, the concept of the anthologies intrigued me greatly. As Kathleen Kennedy herself stated, these movies could explore whole new genres within the universe that just wouldn’t be possible with the numbered episodes. As a huge fan of standalone Legends novels such as Darth Plagueis and Kenobi, I saw the value in stories that could flesh out the Star Wars universe and its characters in new ways without relying excessively on the existing film trilogies.
Of course, not everyone is obligated to agree with me about the Anthology Series. This brings me to my choice of title for this entry. In my various social media sojourns, the most common complaints I see about the spin-off movies are that these films are either unnecessary or, at worst, a “milking” of this franchise. I’ve seen it argued that (in Rogue One’s case) we already know that Princess Leia Organa will receive the Death Star plans in A New Hope. The upcoming Han Solo Anthology movie seems to get the worst of the Internet’s ire. Many fans are not thrilled with the casting of Alden Ehrenreich as the titular character and others have complained that they would rather not know any details about the iconic smuggler’s past.
“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way” – Yoda
In the face of all the criticisms leveled at the Anthology films, I do not have an objective, infallible defense for these movies. (Though I will say that the snarkier side of me is always tempted to retort that no fictional story of any kind needs to be made. They’re created purely for entertainment purposes.) That said, I think that these Anthology stories–if done correctly–have the potential to add so much depth to the galaxy far, far away. I can’t speak for everyone and I haven’t yet seen the movie, but I’m going to make the assumption that after witnessing the Rogue One crew’s many trials and sacrifices, Bail Organa’s death will carry a lot more gravitas and the Alliance’s fight in the wake of Alderaan’s obliteration will be even more meaningful.
In summary, a story based on a foregone conclusion isn’t always bound to be meaningless. Often, one can get as much enjoyment from a experiencing a journey as reaching the destination. The true beauty of the Anthology stories is that they can now take the old concepts of expanded world-building, genre shifts, and time period exploration that were the near-exclusive domain of the Star Wars novels and bring them to life in a full-on, feature film format.
So now, our newly Expanded Universe includes films in its ranks, and that is a very good thing indeed. Finally, I’m also fairly certain that the fine folks at Lucasfilm are aware of the fans’ fears and will work to make sure these new stories are worthy of the name Star Wars. Granted, I will concede that there are some truly sacred concepts that I don’t ever want to have explored such as Yoda’s species or planet of origin, but those off-limits stories are few and far between. It is a big galaxy, after all!
The Cantina Cast
The wretched hive your Jedi Master warned you about!