Monday, March 21, 2016

"Borrowing" From The Books: Star Wars Canon

“No use of book canon whatsoever.”  

“Only the cartoon and comic canon is acceptable.”  

We have heard these phrases (not quite so paraphrased) being used repeatedly since it was announced that Star Wars:  The Force Awakens would be released.  It was a movie that fans young and old have been waiting on for ages.  A film that was literally decades in the making.  Since 1983 when Return of The Jedi came and went all we could use to fill the void was fan-fiction and eventually the wonderful written world of published novels.  From the likes of Timothy Zahn to Kevin Anderson, The Star Wars universe has expanded into a wonderful written EU that so many Light and Dark Side supporters remain dedicated to.
The past before Anakin’s time, the current time frame of the original movies, and future that lay beyond them were all laid out for us and continued on in all their glory in the form of the written word.  We got to continue the adventure in a galaxy far, far away.  When Episode VII was announced, however, the phrases that I started this piece with some of the first announcements that were made.  It was made clear that the only universe we have had to fill the void for thirty-plus years was being disregarded. 

But watch the movie.  Was it really?

Let’s look back on Episode VII and debate that question.  Did they disregard the book canon, or simply “borrow slightly” from it?

The movie was worth the wait, despite any problems that one might have with it.  The fact that it didn’t simply take over where Return of The Jedi left off was, in my opinion, a plus.  Many wanted a fill-in.  Something to tie in the gap of the last thirty years.  Realistically, that just can’t (and shouldn’t) be attempted/done.  It was handled in an admirable way and one in which I am hopeful that they will use in the subsequent movies to fill in the gaps via flashbacks or the stories of the characters that came before.  It doesn’t address several elephants in the room, however.  For us die-hard Star Wars fans, we continued our love of the movies with the books.  It was all we had for that thirty year gap; it filled the void and kept the story going.  The persistent comments from the Episode VII production camp that stated the avoidance of book canon infuriated some, confused others, and left many curious as to the nature of the story and this movie could possibly take us.  If there was no story to fill in the gap, exactly where were you expecting these characters to jump from after thirty years?  From Jedi to current time, what were gonna use to fill the void?  If you wipe out thirty years of WRITTEN Star Wars history, then you will have to rewrite it.  The question remained as to how they were gonna pull that off, as sacrilegious as it sounded at the time.

The SW camp kept things so tight lipped that barely a few spoilers slipped through the cracks, and even those you almost have to wonder if they allowed through on purpose.  They were just that good at staying quiet.  So the writing process and the final product remained a mystery.  But when we saw it on the big screen, the answer to how they were going to rewrite our universe was thrown right in our faces in an almost funny haha kind of way that makes you say “Ohhhhhh, I see what you did there!”  They said that they wouldn’t FOLLOW the book canon.  They didn’t say that borrowing from the books was off the table. 

Touche’ JJ.  Touche’.

Let me be clear, here.  I loved this movie.  I laughed at the Easter Eggs and Hans (as always) on-the-nose sense of humor.  I cried when he left us and I laugh/cried when Chewie showed up in the Falcon afterwards (I had been muttering “Where’s Chewie, where’s Chewie…” like a mantra for the entire time frame after that power station blew up, let me tell ya.)  So forgive the pick-apart you are about to read.  Just realize that the creators/writers specifically stated that they were not going to follow the book canon.  What is the key word there?  “Follow.”  Not for one bloody instant did they say that they were not going to “borrow” from it.  If you assumed that this wasn’t possible, well...who remembers the old adage about what assuming does to you…

Let’s start with the biggest question on everyone’s mind from the moment they sat down to watch this film:  “Where is Luke?”  It takes his sister and brother-in-law to give enough back story for one to realize that he did in fact re-establish the Jedi and trained them (Point of Edit:  It is never made clear if Han/Leia married, despite her being addressed as Organa.  It’s not uncommon for royalty or high ranking officials to keep a given name after marriage for political status/backing.)  Jedi and Padawans were unheard of as Luke vanished into obscurity, becoming a thing of the present upon Rey’s resurgence.  But Luke’s disappearance and his original thirty year time frame at the Jedi Temple was not an original concept for the movies, nor was the feeling of disgrace as someone close to Luke was lost to the Dark Side.  The Jedi Academy trilogy, written by my all-time favorite Star Wars writer Kevin J. Anderson, chronicles this tale in more detail.  It tells the story of Luke’s first steps towards creating the Academy, which he chose to re-establish in the Temples of Yavin 4, the site of the Alliance’s first base and first win against the Empire. Many sub-plots threaded through the books, but most stories centered around the Academy’s first class, the Dark Side conversion (and redemption, thanks to Han) of one its members, Kyp, the seeming near-death experience of Luke as he was separated from his body in a battle that ensues during the conflict….all in the years proceeding Han/Leia’s marriage and the birth of their children (as their youngest is kidnapped during all of this mess.)  One of which, is the other rather large literary elephant in the Episode VII room…

Born near the end of the Thrawn Trilogy written by heralded Star Wars author Timothy Zahn, the Solo Twins were the first of their four children (three by birth, the fourth by adoption as the fourth was actually their grandchild, adopted for protection of her identity.)  Of the twins, the boy Jacen Solo, was born second.  The brother/sister duo were always close and had a closely linked Force-related Twin bond that kept them even closer than most.  The kid always dreamed of being a fighter pilot, then of being a Jedi, while his sister just loved to tinker with junk and build/take things apart.  They made an interesting pair.  Both trained at their Uncle Luke’s Jedi Academy as well as their little brother Anakin and cousin Ben (Luke’s son.)  All were very close...until the day that all changed when, just like his Grandfather, Jacen was only trying to do the right thing and it blew up in his face.

In the book The Unseen Queen written by Troy Denning (part of the Dark Nest trilogy) Jacen’s daughter had just been born.  A hit had been placed on the baby and when Jacen found that it was the mother’s Grandmother who ordered the hit, he pressed her for more information.  He interrogated her by pressing her with the Force, eventually lapsing her into a coma to save his new family.  The result however, led him into a staggering, apocalyptic vision of the future...a future in which a raging war led to the death of millions.  For the first time since his Jedi training began, Jacen Solo was mortally afraid.  It was this need to stop the war that he foresaw that led him to the mentality of “Whatever it takes.”  This eventually led to saving the life of a Sith who became his teacher, being christened as Darth Caedus, killing his own Aunt Mara Jade, and eventually being killed by his own sister...but luckily not before his own redemption as, just before he died, he sent a Force message out to his beloved and daughter warning them of their impending danger and reconnected his Force-Twin bond with his sister.  He was brought back, just too late. 

And then we have Kylo Ren.  A Solo who trained with his Uncle, who fell away from the light, who began training as a Sith, and murdered a family member.  Then there is always the real name.  Yes, I suppose one could argue that Han/Leia wanted to name their child after Kenobi, but obviously Luke did too, as his son was born during the New Jedi Order series and given the same name.  That nugget can be up in the air debate-wise as borrowed from the books or just J.J.’s homage to a great character.  I’ll let you decide.

These are only a few of the book-to-movie “borrowings” seen so far.  There are even rumors that Grand Admiral Thrawn might be making an appearance in the subsequent films.  Granted, these are rumors, but with the growing evidence that while they didn’t follow book canon, they borrowed from it, would it surprise you?  He could easily be rewritten to make an appearance, and as one of the most notorious and deadly commanders in Imperial history he would be on-screen gold.  I went slack jawed over seeing that rumor in print and prayed it was true.  While many fans have been incensed over the lack of written canonic following, we at least have credible evidence that they are taking its worth to heart.  If you know how to follow the trail, you can see that it leads back to the books.  They have paid attention.  Hopefully that counts for something and will keep the subsequent movies following a similar path so that they will have a broader amount of source material to work with to keep originality an open playing field.  

It could have been worse.  They could have rehashed bits of Episode four.  Put information in a Droid, sent someone out to deliver it, it falls into the hands of a Force sensitive kid on a desert planet, a dude in the Falcon flies them to a Rebel base to blow up a planet….

Crap...wait a minute!

Christina Sizemore is trained in only four things:  writing, fighting, paranormal investigating, and being a mom.  At this point in her life she truly feels that she is not qualified to attempt to learn any new field.  A twenty year martial artist, mother of three, and writer who is working on the publication of her first book titled “Finding Your Way: A Guide To Your Path In The Martial Arts,” she spends her days working out, writing, making fanvids, going to DragonCon, and playing board games/video games/out in the yard with her kids and husband who are just as geeky as she is.  She is convinced that one day her skills will be of assistance in the Zombie Apocalypse and that while she is of no use in the kitchen, she can Buffy that zombie for ya or teach you the best way to get the blood stains out of your clothes (Psst…the secret is mixing Crown Cleaner and Shout.  Just sayin’.)

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