By Ryan J. Downey
Not that long ago, in our own galaxy, Jedi Masters and Sith Lords around the world got the shock of the century when Disney announced their $4.05 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm and plans for a brand-new "Star Wars" trilogy.
Disney paid $3.96 billion for Marvel in 2009; "The Avengers" grossed more than $1.5 billion this year. There is little doubt that Disney and their cohorts are capable of revitalizing all things "Star Wars" with the torch passed to them by George Lucas, but the news does raise plenty of questions for die-hards surrounding plans for the "Star Wars" universe.
Disney plans to unleash the seventh episode in 2015, followed by eight and nine and then more "Star Wars" related flicks after that. Despite rumors to the contrary, Lucas had long maintained that "Star Wars" was intended to be a six-part series.
Back in 2008, Lucas told the Los Angeles Times: "I get asked all the time, 'What happens after "Return of the Jedi"?,' and there really is no answer for that. The movies were the story of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, and when Luke saves the galaxy and redeems his father, that's where that story ends."
In the same interview, he did acknowledge that the saga had continued via the Lucas approved Expanded Universe, "which are things I think are incredibly creative but that I don't really have anything to do with other than being the person who built the sandbox they're playing in." There is also of course the incredibly well-received "Clone Wars" cartoon series, which fills in the gaps between "Episode 2" and "Episode 3" with the type of awesome ret-conning dreamed about at ComicCon.
Which all begs the question, for "Star Wars" story-philes: What type of story rules will Disney have to abide by?
Clearly anything that transpired in any of the theatrically released films dating back to 1977's retroactively named "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" qualifies as canon. Yes, there are a few debatable contradictions in the prequels, like why does Obi-Wan tell Luke that Yoda is the Jedi who trained him if Qui-Gon was actually his master? Of course, Yoda being in charge of the Jedi Order fixes that contradiction for anyone who is familiar with martial arts. Also, in "Episode III," Yoda tells Obi-Wan he is going to continue his training by teaching him how to commune with the spirits and eventually return from death.
But overall, most fans agree that whatever took place in a movie can't be touched. Or can it?
The "Clone Wars" cartoon is also canon. Lucas made this decision last year, elevating it to a status heretofore unreached by the other related properties (including, we hope, the "Star Wars Christmas Special"). Lucas signed off on the return of Darth Maul, who showed up alive (but not so well) in season four and has been a big, fake-legged presence in the ongoing season five.
The Expanded Universe
In the non-canonical Expanded Universe, Luke restarted the Jedi Order post-Jedi. Han and Leia have Jedi twins. Palpatine survived via clones, making Luke his Sith apprentice for a time and trying to take over the body of infant Anakin Solo. Darth Sidious eventually met a (second) end. But the stories of the Expanded Universe continue. Let's not get started on the whole "Rule of Two" thing with the Sith Order and how complicated the Expanded Universe (and "Clone Wars") have made that.
Presumably, Disney will abandon all of these storylines and establish a fresh, more official post-"Return of the Jedi" universe.
Will some elements remain? In "The Avengers" movie universe, the comic origins are modified, but retain most classic elements. Interestingly, Marvel Comics was the first to publish "Star Wars" comics. Dark Horse has run the property for many years now, but almost assuredly, they will lose them now that Disney owns both Marvel and LucasFilm.
Samuel Jackson wanted Mace Windu to have a purple lightsaber. He wanted to make sure people knew which one was his during the Battle of Geonosis in "Episode II," as the story goes. He became the first actor in a Star Wars movie to have a lightsaber in a color other than blue, green or the Sith friendly red. In the expanded universe, this was all explained. Windu's lightsaber was made from rare crystals on a remote planet. It's color symbolized his expertise in a variety of techniques.
What sort of liberties will the creative folks engaged by Disney be able to take, of a similar fashion? Only time will tell.