A bit of current events first: thanks in part to my being sick I didn’t watch the movie I was planning to review for today. I think I should be able to see it tomorrow so the intended Finally Watched marathon is going to have to move a day over and there will be no Art Of Storytelling this week. However, my being sick has nothing to do with being a week behind on stuff so let’s get to something I just heard about today.
In the time period where there were no new Star Wars stories the comics, novels, and video games picked up the slack, telling the further adventures of Luke Skywalker and his friends. Some were set during other battles not shown in the movies while others took place after the movies as the Rebel Alliance attempted to reforge the Republic. However, other stories opted to go way back in time, to tell the origins and early days of the Old Republic and the conflict between the Jedi Knights and Sith Lords, each with their own perspective on how to best serve or use the Force, the ancient power that binds the universe together in Star Wars lore.
Not that it matters anymore since Disney tossed out all of it, with only the occasional makeover like fan favorite Grand Moff Thrawn getting through. I understand the reasoning. Going into the history of Luke and Mara Jade alone would probably lose most casual fans who only know the movies and never bothered with the books, comics, games, or cartoons. Plus most of those weren’t canon to Lucasfilm’s run either. Well, they recently decided to do their own take on the history of the galaxy as seen in novels and Dark Horse comics. Star Wars: High Republic is the first of these projects and it has the usual hate by the so-called Fandom Menace, traditional Star Wars fans who don’t care for the direction DisneyFilm has taken the franchise, and the usual defenses by the so-called “shill media” who are totally on board because now it matches their tastes. As I’ve said on this very site in literally the first article, quality of enjoyment is not proof of quality of story. I can watch The Pumaman without a guy and two robots ragging on it and enjoy it just fine, but I’m not interested in watching Citizen Kane. The latter is the better made film but the former is more in-line with my tastes. Taste is subjective and even I know I’m a weirdo.
Since I’m a week behind still on YouTube I only caught the trailer this afternoon, so while it’s hardly timely it’s also not me joining the movement or whatever. The heat has died down a bit and I’m approaching this from I hope a more neutral perspective. That doesn’t mean I don’t have issues with it; I do. I do however see some potential in the mistakes.
I’ve seen this project compared to Star Wars: Shadows Of The Empire, another multimedia project. Shadows ran with the notion that it was a new movie set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi, and featured a novel, a comic adaptation and a comic sequel, an audiodrama that might have just been an audiobook (I sadly didn’t get it) and a video game that focused on original character Dash Rendar. Toys were also made and I own an actual soundtrack based on the book. That’s the thing though. The book was the central focus. Meanwhile all of the other novels, comics, and games built on Lucas’ concepts and organically went its own way. This is a committee sitting down to create this new history, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean disaster it does court it. Writing by committee and trying to please as many people as possible is part of Disney’s problem in their approach. Perhaps they really are just there to be on the same page with this new altered history and will bring diversity of thought and character into the project.
That’s been one other stickler. The Star Wars universe had been a diverse group of aliens, habitats, customs, languages, and perspectives, but when you hear the term “diversity” these days it usually means a particular social perspective. I have no problem with humans of different skin colors but there are skin colors in that reality that don’t exist on Earth and I wouldn’t mind seeing more stories with the non-humans being more central characters. The cartoons have done this rather well.
Let’s take a look at the infamous whiteboard. Going over their listing there are some I agree with. Authentically lived-in, relatable characters (though what modern storytellers consider “relatable” is often depressing), and humor are big parts of this franchise. I don’t know if a story needs to be epic since it’s becoming a drug for some writers, directors, and editors but that’s not necessarily a dealbreaker either. Star Wars does have epic stories, but given this is about numerous writers focusing on different aspects of this invasion I’ll get back to I worry this is going to get too ridiculous given the history. “Feelings” also tends to have a limited notion nowadays as feelings or emotions usually refers to making the audience sad or reflective and ignores that happiness is also an emotion. But let’s look at what the committee decided was the essence of Star Wars.
- Not pro-war: The series never was. The war was just the backdrop to see how the characters reacted to the Empire/Separatists/First Order and was never depicted as a good thing. It wasn’t depicted as a bad thing. It was simply what was happening and both sides wanted to end it, one to live in peace and contentment again and the other to have complete control over the galaxy.
- Droids: Okay, droids doing what? Existing? It’s not like this is the first science fiction franchise where robots were around. Want to impress me? Have a droid that for whatever reason can use the Force and show me how that shakes things up. Just don’t do it in this supposed history unless it ends up being some kind of secret Jedi even the Council isn’t aware of. Seriously, I have a few ideas on how this could work. Marvel, IDW, whomever else, call me.
- Complicated monsters: What, we learn the Rancor had daddy issues and that’s why it ate people? Is the Sarlacc just lonely? Did the Wampas actually want to attend the academy? I don’t get this one. This isn’t the “wishes” section, this is what these people think Star Wars is.
I could go over the whole list, but that’s kind of the problem here. Most of that list is so surface level I suspect they don’t get WHY these are cool…unless they actually did discuss why the space and lightsaber battles are important. We don’t know what discussion went into this list but the trailer doesn’t show they went into greater detail. Given the track record of the writer’s room of the actual movies, which includes some of these writers, it doesn’t breed confidence.
The final list are what the writers want to do with the franchise and it’s a mixed bag. “High Republic” is the first project, but they want to include dinosaurs. Why? Because dinosaurs are cool? Granted, dinosaur Jedi/Sith with a lightsaber would make a fun art piece but how would you make that work? Then you have un-Star Warsy things like “rival houses”, which is more Game Of Thrones or Dragon Age than the action science fantasy built on Japanese samurai movies and 40s science fiction serials. Not that some European influence like the Arthurian legends doesn’t have potential and I’m curious what they mean by “relic hunters”, but it seems like it’s more “stories I really want to write” more than “things that are classic Star Wars”. Column 3 should fit in with column 2 more than it does. The idea of a splinter group of Force users have potential in not being Jedi or Sith, maybe a good counterpart to the Nightsisters or something. I wish I knew if any of this was thrown out and what the discussions were actually like but I wasn’t there.
(Also, why is it at Skywalker Ranch? I thought Lucas still owned that place?)
Finally let’s talk about what little we know about High Republic‘s tying gimmick, the Nihl. I’m not all that convinced. I’m guessing they’re the splinter group we’re actually getting but “space vikings” against the Jedi “Texas Rangers” doesn’t sound right. I never got into the historical stories of the pre and early Old Republic periods so I’m not the best judge here but it feels unnecessary when you already have the Sith. That’s what Dark Horse and the novels focused on, the Jedi versus the Sith without Empires and First Orders to distract us. There are some interesting designs but it doesn’t quite feel right. I’m also wondering what the consistency level is going to be with so many publishers involved. The discarded Expanded Universe was built by Dark Horse and whomever was doing the novels at the time, plus LucasArts themselves with the games they made themselves and partnered with others on. I see this hard to maintain simply because they can’t get one publisher to focus on all three age groups. Heaven forbid Marvel write something for a nine-year-old.
So I’m not rejecting this outright but at the same time I’m not convinced that it’s going to be Star Wars. It may very well be good, but being Star Wars comes with a tone and direction that Disney hasn’t always shown as modern writers try to turn the franchise into what they like rather than what Star Wars is. I’m not dumping on it, but I’m not really on board with this just quite yet.