Friday, November 2, 2012

"If it didn't happen in the movies, it's not real."

So, a few years back, me and the boys were discussing Star Wars, and some nut commented how sad it was that Chewbacca was dead. And I was like, What is this nut talking about? Is he some kind of nut? He explained that it all went down in some novel, which was "canon" and "a huge story" in the fan community. Well, I considered myself "the fan community," and I held that no Expanded Universe content could ever be considered "canon," "a huge story," or at all worth discussing in my presence. This nut huffed at me as though I were the one being ridiculous. "Sorry," he said, "but if you haven't been reading the books, then you've been missing out on some really important Star Wars stories." On the contrary, I rather felt that any nut who would bring up "Chewbecca's death" should have been the one prohibited from participating in any serious discussion of Star Wars. At the time, my hardline position was basically "If it didn't happen in the movies, it's not real."

Things got complicated, however, with the arrival of the Clone Wars cartoons. It had been easy to dismiss the books, because I hadn't read any of them, I wasn't interested in reading them, and everything I'd heard about them suggested to me that they were not worth my reading them. But I did watch the Genndy cartoons, which I initially approached more as promos for Revenge of the Sith than as fiction unto themselves, canon or otherwise. I was apathetic toward the first season, which I thought really added nothing to the story. The more intriguing elements of Season 2 were Anakin's trials and especially the debut of the General Grievous character. After that cliffhanger finale, I could not wait to see Grievous in Revenge of the Sith. Little did I suspect that that cliffhanger was really hype, not for Revenge of the Sith, but for a third season of Clone Wars, wherein Grievous grew progressively less impressive with each appearance, until finally, by the time we got to the actual movie, he was totally lame, in almost every sense of the word. Mind you, I still considered him the coolest character in the prequel trilogy, but his best moments weren't actually in the movies. And thus, because of Clone Wars, suddenly I had become the guy who would bring up non-movie elements during discussions of Star Wars.

When the Clone Wars movie came out in 2008, that was when I really had to reexamine my position on the canon. After much soul-searching on the matter, I did not so much change my stance as clarify its original meaning. My clarified position on canon: "Unless Lucas himself wrote it, it's not real." Thus, Episodes I-VI were real, and everything else was not, though the Clone Wars stuff was at least occasionally interesting. In the course of amending that conditional, however, I had to confront a reality I had never seriously considered before, namely, the inevitability that there were going to be feature films called "Star Wars" that would have no place in Lucas's story. It seemed obvious once I considered the simple economics of it; the property was far too profitable to ever end simply with the story that one man had to tell. In fact, for years already, hundreds of other people had already been writing their own Star Wars stories, which Lucas approved because they made him money. I just didn't really notice because I didn't pay attention to all those books. But why had it never occurred to me that the Expanded Universe could encompass more than just books? Movies were where the big money was, and there were surely at least as many people out there wanting to make Star Wars movies as there were to write novels. I considered that it might not happen until after Lucas died, but eventually there were going to have to be blockbuster movies that would be part of what I considered the "not real" Expanded Universe. The potential for moneys simply demanded it.

Now, it seems we won't even have to wait for Lucas to die first. Frankly, I'm rather stunned by Disney's forthrightness in stating its intention to release a new movie every 2-3 years (and that's following the completion of their sequel trilogy). That's surely a press release note for investors; does any fan seriously interpret anything other than crass commercialism out of that promise?

That said, I do like Star Wars, and I like summer blockbuster season. Even without knowing anything about what Episode VII will be, I'm already more excited at the prospect of getting to see a Star Wars summer blockbuster in 2015 than I was about the Avengers sequel. But will it be canon? Well, since they're daring to call it "Episode VII," and since Lucas has already said that he had story treatments for the sequels, I'm hoping it won't go too far afield of what I currently consider canon. If Chewbacca dies in "Episode IX" on movie screens across the world, then that may be when I finally withdraw altogether from serious discussions of Star Wars canon, lest I come across as the nut denying that this thing everybody saw ever actually happened.

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