Another Way George Lucas Schooled Us All

Shadows of the Future

George Lucas, and his team, have always been a bit ahead of the curve in terms of marketing and showmanship. I realized recently how far ahead as I thought about the Shadows of the Empire campaign in the 1990s. He gave us a preview of the future just ahead of the Internet’s breakout changing of the world and our interactions with it.

"It's still real to me, dammit!"
“It’s still real to me, dammit!”

For those that don’t remember, Shadows of the Empire (henceforth SOTE) was the sort-of-sequel that fit in between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. At the time, it was referred to as the movie without a movie. There was a comic book pseudo-adaptation, a video game (N64!), a novel that served as a novelization, and even a complete soundtrack. Heck, there was a poster by Drew Struzan.

Ben Burtt even helped write an operatic piece in an alien language for a climactic moment that was supposedly adapted from an ancient opera in the Star Wars universe.

And though I know some will roll their eyes, Lucas worked in the ship “The Outrider” and Swoops into the Star Wars Special Edition as a nod to the officialness of the work.

The movie without a movie

I’m on to the thought now that SOTE showed the forthcoming tangential importance of an actual film. In the landscape he saw coming, the box office success of a film is a secondary concern. The idea of the film is what hooks us.

The story could be related in an abstract way. You didn’t need to see SOTE to understand what was happening. SOTE was purposefully done that way, and I think because they saw what was coming. Lucas wanted to know how far he could push things.

The inheritors of that legacy have capitalized on it indeed.

I haven’t seen Jurassic World yet, but I know everything I need simply by observing the toy aisle with my kids. The ancillary materials give away enough to the audience that they can construct their own version of the story mentally. In a sense, the story has become an oral tradition again.

Look at the recent leaks of the Star Wars Episode VII action figure line. The names on the figures and how they’re packaged pair with rumors or interviews you’ve heard and you’re already writing the movie in your head.

A Wider Way to Tell the Story

SW Radio Drama Poster
It was awesome. Is awesome. I still love it.

From a different perspective, though, SOTE also allowed purposeful deviations in storytelling. This is certainly something we’re now missing.Everything “needs” to be contained, tied in and restricted.

Look at the 1977 comics adaptation of Star Wars (“Episode IV” to the young punks); it’s vastly different from the final film. Look at the novelization; it’s still got Blue Squadron.

People used to be OK with these variations! They are what drove our imaginations and, in a sense, said it was OK to play in that world without having to worry about officially sanctioned sources. We were our own Expanded Universe.

What happened to us?

Different interpretations used to be highly valued. Now people argue with fervor over “which interpretation” is the official one. It’s why I enjoy head canon and mourn the loss of poster art. Reading the comics adaptation helped flesh out the film, and any gaps you wondered.

Of course, I also still wish they made new radio dramas. Oh well.

Some Questions

I am left in Limbo on the question of “officialness.” Is SOTE still regarded as accurate, or is it now “legends” materials?

Is disregarding it key to making room for Rogue One and Episode VII? If so, I’m really glad I still have my original-run CD.

Cha-Ching!

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4 thoughts on “Another Way George Lucas Schooled Us All

  1. I always find it interesting that it’s the movies that are the absolute. Yes, the film came first, but once the whole range of media take up the stories, the movies are just one aspect of that.
    I got into a huge row with a guy online who said Disney had “no right” to relegate the books and comics to “legends”, that they had been and always would be canon. I pointed out that Disney bought the rights to do exactly what they wanted, and he didn’t have to like it or agree with it, but they paid for it and they own it. He told me I wasn’t a “true” Star Wars fan, and I guess he must be right. I just liked the movies and books and stuff, and I’m really looking forward to the next one. George really turned the movie business around, maybe for better, maybe for worse, but I’m glad I was there to see it happen. Star Wars has been a huge part of my life, and it’s great to see my kids embracing it too.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I agree with you, obviously – Disney has “every right” to do with their property as they see fit. I can understand how it can be upsetting to fans, but at the same time, there are so many things worthy of more attention. I didn’t complain when the entire Marvel run of comics from the 1970s/80s was disregarded (losing my beloved Hoojibs). And the WEG RPG stuff I pretty much memorized got flushed away too…

      Perhaps it’s a question of “having gone through it” before? I’ve seen the “EU” rebooted so many times in my life, I’m just happy when the materials are good! On Fri, Aug 14, 2015 at 11:34 AM kessel korner wrote:

      >

  2. “You’re not a _true_ Star Wars fan.” “You’re not a true (fill in the blank here).” I have come to despise this retort. If you’re left judging the authenticity of somebody’s identity, you’ve lost your argument and you’re a fool. That’s not to say that somebody may be in error and can be corrected. Nor is it to suggest that somebody’s opinion may not hold up in the light of evidence. However, somebody in error may still identify with that which they do not understand. To suggest otherwise is self-righteous intellectual laziness.

    Sorry to hijack the thread, back on topic now. I dabbled in the expanded universe but it never really caught on for me. I found what I read to be somewhat contrived in some ways, and way overthinking it in other ways (actually, that’s related to some of the beef I have with Episode I beyond the directing). That being said, I’d catch on to a thread of thought and go looking into it to see if there’s more about it in the greater Star Wars anthology, which of course would not be possible without the expanded universe. Sometimes I’d still be disappointed, but overall, what is satisfying about Star Wars (and art in general) is the spark of imagination that leads to revelation. What I dislike about the expanded universe is the sense that I’m being spoon fed somebody else’s interpretation and told that’s right, even if I think it doesn’t feel quite natural. Yet, I like to opportunity to come up with an idea and have to ability to see if anybody else thought it and what they did with it.

    If there needs to be a line drawn on “canon,” I support the idea that only the movies are canon, everything else is “legend,” even commentary by Lucas himself (though, I would regard that as “high legend”). Art needs to be freed from any sense of strict interpretation. The viewer must be free to draw from it what touches them. If an interpretation can be supported strongly and not contradicted in the movie, then it is valid. If the same event can be interpreted differently, it only adds perspective. Nothing only ever means only one thing anyways.

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