Star Wars 7 and its cast and crew have to work under a lot of pressure. Fans of the classic science-fiction property were largely disappointed by the long awaited prequel trilogy that began with the oft-maligned Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1999. One of the most cited problems with the prequel trilogy is the over reliance on digital visuals that left the films feeling inauthentic and lacking focus on the most important aspects. In order to avoid this same mistake, Episode 7 director J.J. Abrams has made it clear that Star Wars is going back to basics. A few leaked set photos showed glimpses of actual set pieces being created with not a hint of green screen to be found.
Soon after the leaked photos began making their way around the web, Abrams officially released a video with two purposes. One was to introduce a contest to appear in Episode 7 supporting Unicef. The other unspoken purpose of the video was to prove to skeptical fans that Abrams had the best interest of the property in mind and truly understood it. He did this in a subtle and rather humorous fashion by appearing in front of a small section of what could only be a Tatooine marketplace set on the new film. Not only did the director appear on a real, physical outdoor set, but also he was joined by an alien creature that walked through the shot. The important thing about this creature was that it was in no way computer generated. It was created with practical effects, a masterfully realistic puppet with very natural movements. With that one short video, Abrams calmed the fears of a crowd of anxious fans. However, Star Wars 7’s return to the basics of the original Star Wars trilogy has a different set of fans worried.
This other group of critical fans is those that enjoy the Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU). The EU is any officially licensed Star Wars story outside of the main films, and now The Clone Wars and Rebels TV Shows, and has existed since soon after the release of the first film. It truly came into its own with the release of Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy in the early 1990’s. Since then the EU has grown exponentially into hundreds of stories spanning books, comics, video games, and more. The abundance of authors and creators necessary to bring such a universe into existence has resulted in the fleshing out of nearly every possible aspect of the Star Wars universe, allowing fans to experience exactly what they specifically love about Star Wars.
The problem fans of the EU have with Episode 7 of the Star Wars movies going back to basics is that Abrams intends to return to the simplicity of the original trilogy. EU fans are a small group relative to all those who will see the new Star Wars movies, so in order to appeal to the majority whose fondest Star Wars memories are of the original trilogy, the EU is now officially regarded as more or less glorified fan-fiction. Everything released so far that is not a Star Wars film or The Clone Wars or Star Wars: Rebels will be released under the new “Star Wars Legends” banner. What this means is that until one of the new movies or TV shows confirms an event or character as canon nothing appearing in the EU can be considered to count towards the overarching story of Star Wars.
Therefore, by going back to basics with Star Wars 7, J.J. Abrams is doing his best to make a good film. What he also might be doing is getting rid of years and years of complicated and layered universe building loved and experienced by thousands. The EU will always exist, to be enjoyed by fans as stories, no matter what their canon status. However, if Abrams and those who come after him decide to take a new direction with the Star Wars saga and ignore the most well loved aspects of the EU, an entire generation of fans could be alienated. Many feel that without some of the established characters and themes of the EU the new trilogy would be wasting its potential. It will be a long wait until December 2015 for moviegoers and EU fans alike.
Opinion by Matt Isaacs