Star Wars debuted in 1977 and essentially redefined the science-fiction film genre. Sci-fi books had long been serious, contemplative affairs. Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, Philip K Dick, and other members of the sci-fi pantheon had been writing fiction that highlighted, commented on, and analyzed the human condition through robots and aliens and imagined futures. Sci-fi movies, however, were silly. There were some attempts at being serious while still being fun, but most of them trended towards Flash Gordon. They were campy, garish affairs. Star Wars changed that. It was campy and garish at times, but it was a quality film that took itself seriously without being overly serious. The galaxy has never been the same.
The film spawned two sequels that are considered monuments of the genre. The Prequel Trilogy is somewhat polarizing. This writer loved Episode III and ranks it near the top, but a lot of viewers disagree. That broad hatred for the Prequels inspired George Lucas to sell the entire franchise to Disney. There was a feeling of “fine, y’all take it and you’ll see how unappreciative these fans really are.” There was some truth to it. Fans whine constantly about the Sequel Trilogy, but they seem to like Rogue One and The Mandalorian. I’m not concerned with what Disney has brought – some of it is good, and some of it isn’t. I’m in mourning over what Disney has taken.
The Expanded Universe
Before Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, Star Wars properties that weren’t movies were considered “the expanded universe.” The EU consisted of books, comic books, and video games. This incredible wealth of material occupied my entire childhood. I have entire bookshelves devoted just to expanded universe books and video games. I studied the histories as if they were real.
The expanded universe chronology begins 25,000 years before the Battle of Yavin, the battle at the end of A New Hope. It shows the origin of the Jedi, some early galactic empires, Sith empires, Jedi rebellions, the beginnings of the Galactic Republic, and all the way into the future. The farthest flung story I can remember is about 150 years after the Battle of Yavin in some comic books about a descendant of Luke Skywalker.
In these books, Luke has a full life after the credits roll on Return of the Jedi. He has a wife and children. Han and Leia have a successful and gallivanting marriage. Luke creates a new Jedi Order that is actually pretty successful and not a summer camp that gets burned down by a dude who isn’t even that good with a lightsaber. They explore Jedi theology, they venture into other Force traditions, and even manage to humanize (alienize?) several Sith practitioners.
In a word, the expanded universe is a full galaxy. It is messy and full of contradictions. There are incredible works of fiction, and some genuinely silly nonsense. Writers brought their own ideas into the galaxy. They debated with each other through their pages on the nature of the dark side and light side. They debated Han Solo’s true character. They introduced Jedi who deviated from orthodoxy and Sith who were compassionate. Then, Disney killed it.
Disney Commits Murder
Disney, in a wholly unnecessary quest to make its own stories, killed the expanded universe. It was renamed “Star Wars Legends” on Wookieepedia. All of the stories were relegated to non-canonical status. And for what?
“Legends” Luke Skywalker is a full person with interesting storylines, human failings, and a legacy. “Canon” Luke Skywalker is a bitter old failure who tries to kill his nephew. Why? Why do this?
Han Solo and Princess Leia break up some time before the start of Episode VII. Why? Because Leia wants to lead rebellions and Han Solo wants to go swashbuckling. In what galaxy is this a dealbreaker for Han and Leia?
Disney killed hundreds of interesting ideas and thousands of hours of entertainment so they could supplant their own inferior ideas. Why buy a fully-stocked library and burn it down? Since it’s fictional, I can choose which galaxy I believe in. In my galaxy far, far away, Luke Skywalker doesn’t try to kill his nephew. Also, I conquered my galaxy in the name of the glorious Sith Empire like five or six times when I was in high school.