Disney has rapidly expanded their Star Wars universe with a new EU. Books, comics, cartoons, even theme parks add background texture to the story. Will any of this ever significantly affect the films though?
When Disney first took over Lucasfilm–and therefore Star Wars–in 2014, it immediately took the existing stacks of “expanded universe” or “EU” material, and designated it as “legends.” The only official canon (those parts of the story that subsequent storytellers must consider as in-universe fact) was what was seen in the then six films and The Clone Wars TV series.
Along with that came the promise of new material that would continue the tradition of expanding that story. Almost immediately we got Star Wars: Rebels, an animated series, and the first novel A New Dawn. The book prominently featured the heroes of the new show, Hera Syndulla and Kanan Jarrus on the cover, and provided background for the series.
Soon after books, comic series, video games, and more followed, along with The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi, Solo, and soon The Rise of Skywalker on the big screen.
A pattern emerged where the new EU seemed to cherry-pick some of the best parts of the old EU and bring them into the new canon. Admiral Thrawn appeared on Rebels. Moments from the original Han Solo and Lando Calrissian novels made their way into books and film. The characters of Kylo Ren and Rey seemed to mimic Jacen and Jaina Solo from the old books set post Return of the Jedi.
This created desire in fans that more should be adopted, particularly if the EU character was well liked. It also led some fans to read into the story of the films, for instance creating the theory that Kyo and Rey may be siblings.
There was an expectation if the new EU was going to be tightly controlled that the new material was there to provide specific context for the new films.
Ezra and Sabine must be Rey’s parents. DJ must be the grown Ezra. Why provide this expansive story if it was not going to directly affect the films? So far, however, that has not been the case, and those expectations may be the foundation for some of the mixed receptions certain movies have had.
Yes, in Rogue One the Ghost and Chopper from Rebels appear as Easter Eggs, and Hera’s name dropped, but there is little direct affect on the tale. Conversely, aspects of the R1 story do affect what happens on Rebels as Saw Gerrera, the Death Star project’s kyber crystals, and Mon Mothma all play prominently into the series.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story..(Genevieve O’Reilly)..Ph: Film Frame.© 2016 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Rebels does seem to thematically expand the Sequel Trilogy, particularly in how it sets us up to interpret The Force. There are direct allusions to people beyond just the Jedi or Sith being able to tap into The Force when necessary.
Indeed, Ahsoka Tano being “no Jedi” while still powerfully connected does that, perhaps providing a template for Rey. With all of that though, no direct characters seem to appear, nor does it seem there will be on-screen mention of any the crew or their allies as more than those Easter Eggs.
Currently, Star Wars: Resistance is dovetailing nicely with the Sequel Trilogy as well. The revelation of the true nature of the Colossus station at a time when The Last Jedi left the Resistance homeless seems like kismet; a coordinated effort to entwine the stories.
Nothing we have seen of Episode IX though seems to indicate that any of the Resistance characters like Kaz or Tam will appear in Rise of Skywalker. Perhaps it is too early to tell, but it feels as if the connection between Disney’s EU and the films is primarily a one-way street.
There is one exception to that shown in Solo: A Star Wars Story. That film boldly decides to show us a live Maul regardless of the fact a “movie-only” audience would have assumed him dead after The Phantom Menace.
Photo credit: Lucasfilm/Solo: A Star Wars Story
He is more than an Easter Egg here, and portends more story to be told, particularly since we know where he ends up after this thanks to Rebels. Perhaps this is a hint that the producers are willing to include more elements of the EU in the films, and not just protect the movies for those who have never watched an episode of any of the cartoons.
There is plenty of good material waiting to be reaped from the old EU. However, as the Saga ends and different stories come to the cinematic Star Wars, it would be nice if new films reap material from the current EU as well. Rae Sloane? Alphabet Squadron? Iden Verso? HERA SYNDULLA? They are waiting for their close up.