How To Incorporate the Entire “Star Wars” Expanded Universe Into Canon
The opening of the floodgates came at the midway point in “The Force Awakens,” when Rey exclaimed to Han:
“Luke Skywalker? I thought he was a myth.”
Followed a few seconds later by:
“So the Jedi were real.”
Order 66 had occurred only about half a century earlier, which surely reverberated throughout the galaxy far, far away. No matter if Rey was naive, uninformed, or simply surprised due to the lethargy of her own early existence, her statements nonetheless lead to a viable question:
As the “Star Wars” EU (Expanded Universe) is now called “Legends” by Disney, within this universe what is the difference between a legend and a myth?
The Bismarck Tribune, in an exploration titled “Examining the Difference Between Myths and Legends,” succinctly states: A legend contains some facts and becomes exaggerated to the point where real people or events take on a “larger than life” quality. In contrast, a myth isn’t based on fact, but is symbolic storytelling that was never based on fact.
A cursory glance of various dictionaries will likewise define the terms.
So straight away our “Star Wars” legends contain facts within them, while myths … do not? Rey believed Luke was a myth. She was wrong.
The implication is both myth and legend in this universe have their basis in facts.
Which leaves us with this: Within the “Star Wars” universe, how many other of the currently branded “Legends” are, indeed, factual?
How can Disney’s creative team, then, as storytellers, incorporate “Legends” into the canon?
Legends Characters Introduced Into Canon So Far
The Disney story crew hired for “Star Wars” — as distinguished from the company’s corporate overlords — seems to share a healthy respect for the former EU.
The above video was publicly released shortly after Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm. When the brand’s new story department was announced, the EU was officially retired from canon and treated as fan fiction ... only a bit more respectfully, and written by professionals.
Fans were vocal about the change, as could be logically expected from any passionate fanbase.
But Disney has listened to fans, despite some views to the contrary. We’ve seen the following former EU characters become canonized:
- Grand Admiral Thrawn. The brilliant Imperial military commander who controlled the remnants of the Empire’s forces post-”Return of the Jedi” was introduced in Timothy Zahn’s first novel trilogy. Thrawn joined canon in 2016 during the third season of “Star Wars Rebels,” and he was recently referenced in “The Mandalorian” by Ahsoka Tano.
- Rukh. Bodyguard and assassin of Thrawn. Also from Zahn’s trilogy, the character appeared in “Rebels” as voiced by “Star Wars” fan favorite Warwick Davis.
- Lumpy and Malia. Chewbacca’s family from 1978’s excoriated “Star Wars Holiday Special” appeared in Chuck Wendig’s “The Force Awakens” prequel novel trilogy.
- Knights of the Old Republic. Several aspects of the game have made its way to the animated series, including the planet Malachor, home to a Sith temple. The Knights were also referenced more than once in Season Two of “The Mandalorian,” and word has it a new feature film, perhaps a trilogy, is in development based on the game.
Many were hoping to see Timothy Zahn’s groundbreaking The Thrawn Trilogy as the filmed Episodes 7–9, which would have required de-aging technology of the likes used for Robert Downey, Jr. in Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War,” Jeff Bridges in “Tron: Legacy,” “De Niro, Pacino and Pesci in “The Irishman,” or Kurt Russell in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”
Or, more relative to the topic, and though to my mind one of the finest films of Disney’s “Star Wars” canon, the far less effective Carrie Fisher de-age at the end of 2016’s “Rogue One.”
As they are likely to be used in the future for features anyway, may I suggest, in this case, deepfakes?
From Wikipedia: Deepfakes are synthetic media in which a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else’s likeness. While the act of faking content is not new, deepfakes leverage powerful techniques from machine learning and artificial intelligence to manipulate or generate visual and audio content with a high potential to deceive.
Note: The four examples here representing early deepfake technology were created by fans using low-budget equipment.
The Carrie Fisher version, to me, is a bit awkward as the CGI version itself was a bit unreal, especially around the eyes.
Check this out as another example from the same film:
Peter Cushing died in 1994. The CGI version of his Grand Moff Tarkin appeared in “Rogue One” to startling effect, save for similar awkwardness in facial expression and, in this case, movement.
I personally see Ewan McGregor’s Ben Kenobi from “A New Hope” as somewhat more effective than the “Rogue One” examples.
Harrison Ford in “Solo” I think generally works as well.
The “Solo” clips, though, may be a little jarring because of the unchanged voice of “Solo” actor Alden Ehrenreich (who to my mind did a fine job in a challenging role), but once the SPFX teams get those voice logistics down the potential of the technology is limitless.
The point is, there is nothing stopping young versions of Mark, Carrie, or Harrison from appearing in new “Star Wars” films via deepfakes or similar tech … save for possible morality issues.
If deepfakes are not your preference, perhaps for a near-40-year-old Luke “Captain America’s” own Sebastian Stan could substitute for Hamill and we forego the deepfakes entirely.
That’s Stan’s face in the widely-discussed photoshopped image on the right, from 2019. Hamill on the left.
All to say … it can be done, effectively, both with and/or without the original trilogy actors.
So that’s no excuse either.
But What About Mara Jade, Ben Skywalker, and the Solo Children?
What about them?
For those unaware, Mara Jade was Luke’s wife in the EU, Ben was her child with Luke, and Han and Leia had three children: Jacen and Jaina, who were twins, and Anakin.
- It was never revealed in Episodes VII-IX that Luke was, officially, single for his entire life. Nor was it revealed he never sired a child.
- Regarding the Solo children, if legends are indeed based in fact, once again it was never made official Ben Solo (Kylo Ren) was an only child, therefore any number of story permutations can be invented to justify their existence.
In the present, we have seen the returns of Darth Maul and Boba Fett, canonical characters we were led to believe had long ago passed, not to mention force ghosts of Luke, Yoda, and Kenobi, among others, all of whom seemed to have retained every bit of their powers …
For the most part, fans have accepted their reappearances. Perhaps Emperor Palpatine went over better in the initial trailer touting his reappearance than he did in “The Rise of Skywalker,” due to lack of explanation in the film, but nonetheless …
The lesson is to never dismiss the value of clever storytelling. It’s like a chess game: There are no problems, only solutions.
Sometimes, success will happen.
The Disney “Star Wars” Legacy
For those against Disney’s treatment of the EU, consider when George Lucas headed Lucasfilm the Expanded Universe was allowed to flourish in all its contradictory strands and glory. We were introduced to bonafide classics such as Timothy Zahn’s The Thrawn Trilogy, and other well-received product such as Steve Perry’s “Shadows of the Empire,” Drew Karpyshyn’s Darth Bane Trilogy, James Luceno’s “Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader” and “Darth Plagueis” novels.
We’ve also been presented with works not as well-received such as Vonda McIntyre’s “The Crystal Star,” whose portrayal of Luke joining an evil cult was particularly cringe-worthy to vocal fans (not dissimilar to the reception of some hardcore fans to Rian Johnson’s portrayal of Luke in “The Last Jedi”), and the YA “Jedi Prince” series by Paul Davids and Hollace Davids, where the main character, within the brand’s universe, collected “Star Wars” toys.
The collective of the original EU, regardless of reception, also shows a great deal of repetition: Han and Leia’s kids are kidnapped, typical conflicts within the classic trilogy characters, one-dimensional villains and more. As it regards contradiction, between novels, comic books and videogames with no overseer as to continuity, we’ve seen issues such as Naga Shadow buried on Yavin per “Tales of the Jedi,” but buried in Korriban per “The Old Republic.” The duration of time in hyperspace varies from work to work, and so on.
Disney correctly, in my opinion, reset the EU as “Legends” in an attempt to grasp a larger official continuity, while leaving open the possibility of inclusion.
“You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.” — Ben Kenobi, “A New Hope”
It was necessary.
There are no reasons either technically or story-wise why more “Legends” cannot be incorporated into canon.
Considering the recent batch of EU source material seeping into the Disney continuity, the brand seems to be heading in that direction anyway.
I recently posted the following two articles, which have been — by far — the most commented-upon film articles I have ever published:
A History of “Star Wars” and Toxic Fandom: Part One of Two
How a once-beloved brand forever polarized a loyal fanbase
A History of “Star Wars” and Toxic Fandom: Part Two of Two
The circle is not yet complete …
A large percentage of readers suggested they preferred the EU to the last three chapters of the Skywalker Saga, and their outspokenness was based on anger. Fair enough, but it should be noted Disney also gave us “Rogue One” and perhaps the series’ most impressive Darth Vader sequence, and “The Mandalorian,” which has been the most critically and commercial lauded “Star Wars” project in years.
I believe we can have it both ways.
To the title of this article, How To Incorporate the Entire “Star Wars” Expanded Universe Into Canon, including contradictions and all, here is my very simple answer:
Because copyright-holder Disney as we’ve seen is already doing it, they should consider going all the way. Being clever about the EU material not so well-received is equally important. As a comparison, if like me you cannot accept at face value the death of any character in the “Star Wars” universe, because writers keep figuring ways to bring them back, it’s the same thing. If Legends are based in fact, especially within the “Star Wars” universe where EU characters have already been seeping into canon, there is no honest reason why it cannot be done in its entirety.
At the very least, casually mention or reference as-yet-utilized EU characters and events as myths or legends in existing canon and go from there.
So bring on crime lord Prince Xizor from “Shadows of the Empire” (who has, alas, made his debut into canon via a recipe from Dex’s Diner in the below cookbook, but we can do better), and Mara Jade. It’s time.
Thank you for reading.
Sources: Wikipedia, StarWars.com, Reddit, Gizmondo, HardwareZone.com, Amazon.com, ScreenRant.com, YouTube.com, IGN.com
For more of my articles on “Star Wars,” please see the following compilation:
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