When it was announced two years ago that Disney had started to develop standalone Star Wars films, I was strongly against the idea. Up until now, the Star Wars films have exclusively told the saga of the Skywalker family – the fall of Anakin Skywalker, and the rise of his son Luke, who would ultimately redeem his father and turn him back to the good side.
This is what made the films special for me. The idea of focusing on a single family, and keeping a single strand flowing through all the films, gave the films their unique myth-like nature. Naturally, then, I hated the idea that Disney would “cheapen the brand”, by taking the films away from this narrative.
But then I realised that there was more to this universe than just the narrow scope the films manage to convey. This is a universe that lends itself to expansion, whether it be by films, television, comics or any other media. This is a galaxy full of stories, its many planets housing a rich melting-pot of smugglers, bounty-hunters, force-users and farmers.
In fact it is this diversity that really drew me to the Star Wars franchise in the first place. Everyone (at least in the Original Trilogy) has huge amounts of character. Take Dr Evazan, the scumbag who had the death sentence on twelve systems, or Malakili, the rancor wrangler, who cries when his creature is mercilessly slain. Each of these characters imply unexplored yet fascinating back-stories.
Indeed, if the Expanded Universe has taught us anything, it is that even the extras that simply stand in the background can be given rich and colourful narratives. For example, both the cantina band, ‘The Modal Nodes’ and Jabba’s house band, ‘The Max Rebo Band’, are given detailed back-stories.
The potential for expanding characters is best demonstrated in the animated series, The Clone Wars (2008). In the episode, The Gungan General, we see Anakin, Obi-Wan and Dooku attempt to escape a pirate prison while tied together. This allows us to see the respect that Obi-Wan and Dooku have for each other, and adds more depth to an otherwise bland adversary.
One of the other ways the Star Wars universe could be expanded is by taking it to different genres. The current saga is often described as sci-fi/fantasy, although the original trilogy incorporated a lot of adventure and western elements, while the prequels were quite frankly a badly-made political drama. However, the world is so diverse it could really accommodate any genre that’s thrown at it.
Video games are a great example of this. To date the Star Wars video game franchise has given us first-person shooters, hack ‘n’ slash, role-playing games, flight simulators, racing games, and many others.
Likewise, a stand-alone Star Wars film could encompass any number of genres. You could have a neo-noir thriller set in the depths of Coruscant, or a rom-com between Artoo and Threepio. Hell, I’d even watch a biopic about the life of Figrin D’an as an underdog in the Tatooine music industry.
Ultimately, the films are going to give us an insight into parts of the galaxy we didn’t know before. While the concept of one-Star-Wars-a-year does threaten to lessen the significance of each film, it will be interesting to see how Disney takes it, and I’m looking forward to hearing further information.