The future of Star Wars, at present, is two things; potentially exciting and most definitely mysterious. With the release of The Rise of Skywalker last year, the Skywalker saga reached its conclusion, which means the main story we’ve been following ever since George Lucas introduced us to a galaxy far, far away in 1977 has reached its end. But that doesn’t mean the franchise is calling it quits. The Disney era of Lucasfilm, in many ways, is just getting started. As the studio looks to the future of what Star Wars should/could look like, they need look no further than many of the great stories they already have before them in other formats. Namely, the many beloved novels and comics that are already part of the established canon.
Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 for more than $4 billion. Up until that point, for many years, fans had turned to novels, comics and video games to help fill the void between movies. The issue was that the canon wasn’t managed terribly well and things became quite messy. So, in 2014, the canon was officially reset. Since then, a series of novels, as well as comic books published by Marvel, have helped shape the new canon, in addition to animated shows like Star Wars Rebels.
Quite a few fans were sad to see all of the stories from what is now referred to as “Legends” thrown to the side, but Lucasfilm has brought pieces of the old canon into the new. Thrawn, for example, who first appeared in Timothy Zahn’s legendary Heir to the Empire novel trilogy, was brought back for Rebels, in addition to a new series of books, also written by Zahn. And, as it just so happens, Thrawn’s new stories have proved to be quite compelling. So much so that there has been a renewed desire to bring him to the world of live-action.
Therein lies the crux of my argument. As Lucasfilm tries to sort out how best to handle the future, it might not be a bad idea to consider doing straight-up adaptations of these novels or comics that have been produced for the new canon. The recent Thrawn novel trilogy could certainly translate to a Disney+ series, or even a movie trilogy, were the studio so inclined to roll the dice in such a big way. And that is but one example in a sea of abundant examples that could lead to a bold and rich new era of Star Wars storytelling.
There are tons of stories that have been written in both comic and novel form that could add depth to characters fans are already familiar with in new and exciting ways. Charle Soule’s Darth Vader comic, for example, could inspire something along the lines of Vader: A Star Wars Story, if you will. Why look for a new story to tell in a solo movie like this when an acclaimed comic that, though popular, was not enjoyed by the worldwide masses in the way a movie would, could be a source for that story?
The real meat on these bones lies in new stories though. One of the best examples is Claudia Gray’s 2015 book Lost Stars. Even though this was written for the young adult crowd, this tale of star-crossed lovers who find themselves on the opposite side of the war between the Rebellion and the Empire is widely considered to be a top-notch example of Star Wars storytelling. There is no reason this book couldn’t be adapted into a movie or limited series. We can also look at Marvel Comics giving birth to a character like Doctor Aphra, who started in the 2015 Darth Vader comic and has since taken on a life of her own. There is no reason to think Aphra wouldn’t resonate with a wider audience, given the right platform.
Movies and TV shows based on books happen all of the time. Marvel Studios had built a multi-billion dollar empire, one of the strongest brands in the Disney stable, based on bringing the world of Marvel Comics to life. Lucasfilm could easily take a similar approach to Star Wars. Take the great stories that already make up this universe in other mediums and bring them to life. And it doesn’t even have to be in live-action. DC, for example, has done a tremendous job of adapting its stories into animated features over the years. Why not do some animated Star Wars movies as well? Look at how well The Clone Wars and Rebels worked out.
The point is, there is a veritable treasure trove of great tales already out there for Lucasfilm to look at in crafting this universe for future generations. This is not to say that the publishing side of things should simply be looked at solely as a means of mining possible movie ideas. Sometimes books are best as books. And I certainly don’t mean to take anything away from these stories as they are. But it’s because I, as a lifelong fan, have found so much to love in these tales outside of the movies that I feel there is a golden opportunity here
This is partially important because, for the first time in a while, we won’t have any Star Wars movies for a few years. Disney currently has a date slotted for December 2022, but it remains to be seen what story will be told. The good news is, they may already be looking at the expanded universe for inspiration. We’ve heard persistent reports that a Knights of the Old Republic movie is in the works. If that pans out, it could be a gateway to what I’m suggesting here.
Lucasfilm also recently revealed The High Republic publishing initiative, which will be a massive undertaking involving multiple publishers, playing out over several years. The stories will take place roughly 200 years before the events of The Phantom Menace. Let’s say readers truly take to these new stories and characters, wouldn’t it be a shame not to possibly bring these stories to the big screen?
We need not get ahead of ourselves in that respect, but it has seemed, for some time, that there are quite a few storytellers out there who deeply understand Star Wars on a cellular level. Dave Filoni, Claudia Gray, Timothy Zahn, Charles Soule, James Luceno. The list goes on. Just because they work, generally speaking, in other mediums, shouldn’t prevent Lucasfilm from using them as a resource to help enrich this franchise so many of us cherish so dearly. What I believe none of us want, no matter what one feels about movies like The Last Jedi or The Rise of Skywalker, is more divisiveness. More of the same. It’s time for something new, yet something that captures the spirit that brought us all to this galaxy in the first place. It’s time to get fans back together again, loving this wonderful thing like we used to. It seems to me having a long, hard look at stories that are already beloved by many of these fans and bringing them to as wide an audience as possible might be one way to go about doing that.