BREAKING NEWS on Star Wars Episode VII: the Extended Universe Strikes Back!
Yesterday, StarWars.com announced that principle photography on Star Wars: Episode VII will, really, no joke, start filming in May of this year. More than anything, everyone should start get ready to watch out for the inevitable turbo-laser crossfire of Star Wars rumors and speculation. And to add fuel to that lightsaber lousy fire, StarWars.com also mentioned the movie will take place “about” 30 years after the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. So, does that mean the expanded universe canon from the various novels, comic books, et al., is definitely being jettisoned like space garbage? Not so fast! This number might be a good plan that allows J.J. Abrams and the other forceful creative folks to incorporate just enough of this “extra” canon to avoid fan backlash. Here’s how:
In honoring the structure of the existing two trilogies of Star Wars movies, 30 years actually is perfect. The prequel trilogy, starting with Episode I: The Phantom Menace takes place 30 years before the classic trilogy which begins with Episode IV: A New Hope. So, 30 years after the classic trilogy, is, at the very least, a loose tradition.
Because Star Wars takes place “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” regular dating systems of what happened when are pretty much like trying to figure out what college tuition prices were like for aliens who live prior to the Big Bang. SO, most timelines—whether fan created or “official”—generally use A New Hope as the baseline, or year zero, a point which prequels, spin-offs, sequels, etc. all revolve around. On many Star Wars timelines this means events are usually numbered as Before the Battle of Yavin (BBY) or After the Battle of Yavin(ABY). For example Return of the Jedi is 4ABY, because it takes place four years after The Battle of Yavin, which is when Luke blows up the Death Star in A New Hope. Got it?
So, if Episode VII will take place 30 years post Return of the Jedi¸ that puts it at 34ABY. Now, the press release also doesn’t say exactly 30, so if it’s like 35, or even 36 years after Return of the Jedi, we’re dealing with a film that’s anywhere from 34ABY to potentially 40ABY. Where’s that on the timeline of all the stuff that’s happened in the Star Wars novels and comics? I’ll tell you: it’s right smack dab in the middle of stuff that NO ONE CARES ABOUT.
Most the Expanded Universe (or EU) canon starts with Timothy Zahn’s “Thrawn Trilogy” which is set five years after Return of the Jedi, or 9ABY. This is when Mara Jade is introduced and in these years when Han and Leia’s kids are born. By 30ABY, Chewbacca is dead (spoiler alert!) Han and Leia’s youngest child—Anakin Solo—(NOT Anakin Skywalker, confusing, I know, it’s like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel up in this piece!) is dead, too. Luke, Han and Leia are getting older, an alien invasion of the galaxy has been mostly repelled and Jacen Solo (Han and Leia’s other son, and a twin of Jania Solo) is probably turning to the dark side. Now, a lot of this is down to opinion, taste, and when you started reading Star Wars novels, but I’d argue for the vast majority rabid Star Wars fans, the death of Chewbacca and the subsequent events of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion are a period where the tone of the EU changes and becomes more about the books and comics being sequels to each other, rather than being stories which continue the canon of the films. This IS NOT TO SAY that there aren’t some great books here and that the stories of the Solo Twins and the Yuuzhan Vong war isn’t tops, it’s just that fans aren’t as attached to all that as much as they are attached to the stuff from the 1990’s like Heir to the Empire, or even Dark Empire.
So, if the “real” canon of Star Wars picks up in the new film between 34ABY-40ABY, that means Mara Jade, Grand Admiral Thrawn, the Solo kids, most all of it, can have already happened in the past. These events then can be referenced as much or as little as J.J. Abrams and company want to. Mara Jade can be in the film, the Solo kids can be there too. Chewie can maybe be alive. And most of all, the specific events probably don’t have to be explored too much, leaving the writers to start fresh. When you consider the staggering amount of Star Wars material out there, being able to rescue this much of it, and to keep most of the stories of those books alive could be a huge accomplishment on the part of the screenwriters.
When Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams and the new Lucasfilm walked into this trap of Star Wars continuity problems, it now appears, they had a plan for getting out…
What do you think? Will Episode VII honor most of EU Star Wars canon? Should all of it stay?