It’s that time of year again, kids. It’s May Fourth. It’s the day that all of us Star Wars fans band together and remind the world just how very much worse we are than fans of anything else. Usually I try to stay away from the whole May the Fourth thing, because even though I love Star Wars deep down in my heart, there’s only certain level of nerdiness that I can handle before I have to walk away. Also, I think we can all agree that May the Fourth is a holiday that the greeting card companies made up so they can sell off all the leftover Darth Maul valentine’s day cards- a task that becomes increasingly more monumental as each year the cross section of Star Wars fans who grew up thinking The Phantom Menace was cool and the demographic buying valentine’s day cards to hand out to their classmates grows smaller and smaller. But this year, May the Fourth is surrounded by controversy. Right now, something is happening with Star Wars. As soon as the original trilogy ended, endless followup crap was fed to the fans- legions of people with spare cash to pour on to the feet of George Lucas since they didn’t have dates on which to spend their money. Books, graphic novels, video games- whatever they could churn out spewed forth, even three terrible prequel films. Then, Disney bought it all, and what was the very first thing they did? Apologize, in a sense. “Three new movies!” they said. We were skeptic, but hopeful. “J.J. Abrams will direct!” they proclaimed. We were hopeful, but we knew there would be many scenes where someone hangs perilously above a long drop, if his Star Trek reboot had anything to say about it. “Lawrence Kasdan will be one the writers!” they told us, and we were now quietly clapping and nodding our heads ever so slightly in approval. Then came the tipping point. Disney made exactly the right move, and bunch of people got really upset. They told us this- “don’t worry about it. The new movies do not acknowledge the books, comics, video games, or anything else, except the other movies. The creative team can move forward unfettered and do as they wish to bring you the perfect new trilogy.” And what did the nerds do? They booed, and hissed, and said they felt betrayed.
The books didn’t go away. They still exist for you to be entertained by them. You can pick them up right now and read them and the words on those pages have not changed. Disney did not travel back in time and make reading them an unpleasant experience for you.
There’s something very important for you to remember if you think that the disavowing of the extended universe makes it terrible, and that is simple this: the extended universe was always terrible. Sure, there were some highlights, but most of it was bad. I for one was a huge fan of Shadows of the Empire for the Nintendo 64. If I were to go play it later today- and I very well might- the fact that the events portrayed are not officially part of the story any more won’t make it any less enjoyable for me.
Think about it. Why in the name of God would anybody, ever, even the most hard core nerd out there want to see a Star Wars movie where Chewbacca is dead and the Yuuzhan Vong are there to ruin The Force in ways that even midichlorians couldn’t?
There’s no “extended universe” anymore. You can finally call it what it always was: fan fiction. Yes, that’s right. Most of what is described in the pages of the average Star Wars novel is no better or no worse than incalculable amount of Harry Potter erotica that seems to make up the vast majority of the internet.
Disney is laying out an opportunity for Star Wars fans that the franchise hasn’t had a hope for since the early 1980’s- a great movie. They have made every possible right step in the process so far and I can’t wait to see what they come up with. They have come so far that I will thoroughly enjoy but not be at all surprised when Harrison Ford throws out a one-off line about always shooting first.
So, it’s nothing to be upset about. It’s going to be easier to bring in more Star Wars fans now. Instead of making someone watch a bunch of movies and read hundreds of novels to get a grasp at what is going on, now the only a newcomer needs to see are the six essential films: those being Episodes IV, V, and VI, The Holiday Special, and both Ewok movies. If they’ve got time maybe Episodes I, II, and III, but those are pretty much optional and stand the highest chance of turning them away from the franchise.