Your casual Star Wars fan knows about the six-part saga George Lucas brought to the movie screen; however, your hardcore fan (or those who simply enjoy good sci-fi literature) know all about the Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU) - a series of books, TV shows, video games, etc., which have taken Lucas' story well beyond what the movies depicted.
That expanded universe got its "big bang" in the form of author Timothy Zahn's early-90s books, collectively known as "The Thrawn Trilogy," and continued from there, often following the lineage of characters like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Today, we have further rumoring that Star Wars Episode VII could include elements that at least hint at the Expanded Universe continuity serving as the film's core.
Building upon the recent news that Harrison Ford is returning as Han Solo in Episode VII, Showbiz 411 claims that Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher will ALSO be back as Luke and Leia Skywalker, in a story focusing on their respective children. Any reader of Star Wars EU will instantly recognize the writing on the wall, as names like Jacen, Jaina and Anakin Solo - or Ben Skywalker - are already familiar to them.
For those who never experienced Star Wars beyond the movie screen: Zahn's "Thrawn Trilogy" picked up five years after Return of Jedi, and included the birth of Han and Leia Solo's twins, Jacen and Jaina. They - along with their little brother Anakin Solo and cousin Ben Skywalker - would later be featured in many EU storylines - like "New Jedi Order" -most notably (for our purposes here), the "Legacy of the Force" saga.
"Legacy of the Force" was written in the mid-2000s by authors Troy Denning, Aaron Allston and Karen Traviss; it featured most of the surviving Skywalker/Solo offspring, as well as their legendary parents Luke, Mara Jade (Skywalker), Han and Leia. Did I mention that LotF is set 40 years after A New Hope - almost exactly the real-world span of time between that film's release and the release date of Episode VII? You see where this is headed...
LotF chronicles how the Corellian system (Han's home) tries to secede from the Galatic Alliance, resulting in political/military skirmish, while the Jedi Order (led by Luke) senses a growing Sith threat (Lumiya). In the midst of all this, Han and Leia's son Jacen, now a trained Jedi, is lured to the Dark Side and must ultimately face his twin sister Jaina in battle. A major subplot involves a dying Boba Fett's family, and his training of Jaina Solo to defeat Jacen, who has transformed into Darth Caedus.
A streamlined or amalgamated version of this EU saga makes a certain amount of sense for Disney's next trilogy of films, as it offers a mix of both the old and the new. It also would fit in step with a lot of what we have seen or heard rumored about the film, including:
- Rumors of Episode VII having a female protagonist (like Kick-Ass star Chloe Moretz). Jaina Solo casting in the making?
- The hiring of Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3 writer Michael Ardnt to pen the script (an Oscar-winning expert in the "heart-meets-humor, touch of darkness" department).
- Super 8 and Star Trek Into Darkness director J.J. Abrams being hired (again, that kid-friendly humor and heart, mixed with blockbuster sci-fi talent and just a dash of darkness).
- The re-hiring of Harrison Ford (and possibly Hamill and Fisher), who could conceivably return to the franchise at their current ages.
- The hiring of Empire Strikes Back writer Lawrence Kasadan to work on Episodes 8&9 (the guy who nailed the darker Shakespearian family drama of Star Wars) - alongside Simon Kinberg (known for younger more modern fare like Jumper and Sherlock Holmes).
- Rumors of other young actors being sought to star in the film.
There's nothing CONCRETE to say that Disney is going to draw directly from LotF as its inspiration for Episode VII, but the incentive is clearly there. From the title "Legacy of the Force" to the storyline (which echoes many themes and arcs from the previous two trilogies), to the character/casting and merchandising opportunities, this is ripe material for an epic onscreen movie trilogy. It also allows for the already-announced Star Wars standalone films (which are being released in between episode chapters) to flesh-out characters like Boba Fett, who is featured prominently in stories like LotF.
For now, however, it's important to remember that the semi-official word from sources is that Disney is most likely going in a NEW direction, with an "original" storyline for Episode VII. While that may well be true, bringing back original series characters (and possibly featuring their offspring) in a storyline that isn't drawing from EU material is going to invite skepticism (and ire) from hardcore fans.
Then again, the beauty of having so MUCH expanded universe material (which has a high proven success rate in some cases) allows for the picking and choosing of key storylines and characters to be mixed and matched in a movie script. Could we ultimately see some amalgamation of EU novels and mythos? I, for one, would be for it (mixing the Thrawn saga, NJO and LotF is okay by me!).
What do YOU think - are we seeing something akin to Legacy of the Force shaping up onscreen? And if so, would you be ok with that being your next Star Wars trilogy? Or are you hoping for entirely NEW material? Sound off in the comments.
Star Wars Episode VII will be in theaters in 2015 (though that's currently subject to change).
Source: Showbiz 411