One of the first things diehard Star Wars fans thought when news broke that a new trilogy set after Return of the Jedi will be made was this: "What will Episodes VII, VIII, and IX mean for the Expanded Universe?"
The timeline after the destruction of the second Death Star and the deaths of Darth Vader and the Emperor has already been heavily explored. Dozens of novels since 1991's Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn have furthered the saga, showing us how the Rebel Alliance became the New Republic — not to mention the marriage of Princess Leia and Han Solo, the birth of their three children, Luke Skywalker's efforts to rebuild the Jedi Order, and eventually his own nuptials to feisty Emperor's Hand-turned-Jedi Mara Jade. The events depicted in these novels have always been considered to be canon. But is it a continuity that will be honored by screenwriter Michael Arndt and director J.J. Abrams when Episode VII hits theaters in 2015?
When you talk to the Expanded Universe authors themselves, however, you find that's not something that overly concerns them. They're such big Star Wars fans the biggest issue for them is the fact we have to wait three long years to see the words "A Long Time Ago In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...." on the big screen. And, like any fans, they have some major opinions about what they want to see from the new films. We reached out to eight of the most prominent authors in Star Wars publishing — Drew Karpyshyn, Paul S. Kemp, Troy Denning, John Jackson Miller, James Luceno, Michael Reaves, Christie Golden, and Aaron Allston — and asked them what they hope to see from the new films, what supporting or Expanded Universe characters they'd like to see get a bigger role, and how, if they are indeed fated in these movies to become One with the Force, they would like to see Luke, Han, and Leia die. Here's what each had to say.
Drew Karpyshyn, author of Star Wars: The Old Republic — Annihilation
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: I'd like to see films that are directed towards an older, more mature audience. It felt like Episodes I-III were directed at children and a generally younger demographic - which is great for bringing in new fans - but as an adult Star Wars fan I'd like to return to the darker, more serious tone of The Empire Strikes Back.
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: Obviously I'd love to see the films explore the Old Republic era; I think there's so much potential there, particularly with a character like Darth Bane. (The fact that I wrote three Darth Bane novels in no way makes me biased!)
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How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: My hope is that they live to ripe old ages before passing away peacefully. I'd prefer to see their role in the later films be more as mentors/advisors in the same way Obi-Wan was in the original trilogy, though I hope they don't all end up having to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. These characters have paid their dues, so as a fan I don't want to see them suffer an untimely or violent death.
Paul Kemp, author of Star Wars: The Old Republic—Deceived
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: What I really hope to see is love of the underlying subject matter. I think Star Wars is a phenomenon because it’s more than just a space opera or space fantasy (take your pick). It’s a mythic story and touches at something deep in the human experience. It’s built on a foundation of heroic myth and heroic transformation and that’s what makes it so appealing, generation after generation. I’d just like to see the new stories build off that foundation (because it’s a rich one, and there is lots of room for new and wonderful stories, all while hewing to the mythic structure).
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: Hmm. That’s a real toughie so I’m just going to weasel a bit. I’d very much like to see a female Jedi in one of the leading roles. In that regard, Jaina Solo would be excellent, but there are many others to choose from.
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How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: If they have to die, Han and Leia should go out together, wrapped in each other’s arms. “I love you,” he says. She smiles and answers, “I know.” And then it’s lights out. Yeah, that’d work. As for Luke, I think Luke has to go out in a grand, self-sacrificing way, with full knowledge of what he’s doing before he does it, and all in service to the greater good of rebuilding the Jedi Order. Ideally, just before he goes out he’d see the Force ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Anakin (thus recalling for the viewer/reader the iconic ending of Return of the Jedi), and in dying Luke would take his place among them.
NEXT: Could Episode VII Finally Put a Woman in the Driver's Seat?
Troy Denning, author of Star Wars: Crucible (Out July 9)
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: This time, I think it would be fun to follow the hero’s journey of a young woman, the way we followed Luke’s journey in Episodes IV – VI. And I want the thrilling lightsaber duels and epic starship battles of Episodes I-III. Give me three films that combine great action with mythic themes, and I’ll be a happy fan.
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: Jaina Solo, without a doubt. Jaina is Han and Leia’s only surviving child, and one of the most capable members of the Jedi Order. She’s emerging as the leader of the next generation, and she’s one of the most popular characters in the novel line. I don’t think there could be a better choice.
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How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: I’d want to see Luke go fairly early, in an incredible display of Jedi power that saves his companions and/or deals the villain a real setback. And I’d want his sacrifice to become a rallying point for the good guys. I’d want him to become more dangerous to the villain in death than he was in life.
Han and Leia should go out as a team, executing a cunning trick that sets the villain up for a hard fall. I wouldn’t want a lot of on-screen sentimentality, just a sense of courageous self-sacrifice from Leia and, from Han, a smug smirk. But as the final moment comes, I'd want to see them together — holding hands or leaning in for a final kiss — because that's who these characters are, two people in love to the last.
John Jackson Miller, author of the upcoming Star Wars: Kenobi (Out Sept. 24)
What I hope to see from Episodes VII-IX: It's something I've speculated about since I first saw them mentioned in Lucas's Time magazine interview back in 1980. My presumption would be that, obviously, it jumps ahead a generation, matching the gap between the other two trilogies — and I would assume that it takes on the larger themes of the ongoing series: power and temptation. My assumption was always that Luke, not Anakin, was really the "chosen one" who brought "balance to the Force" — but as those lines weren't in the original trilogy, they could also take this opportunity to bookend that section by addressing it anew.
Something delving more into Sith philosophy and why it's attractive would be fun to see. I did a deep dive into Sithiness with my Lost Tribe of the Sith stories — their all-for-me-nothing-for-you views are interesting, as are the challenges with achieving power on a galactic stage. You can see why Palpatine had to hijack an existing government — they're not the most attractive bosses to work with!
I would also hope to see something addressing one of the broader issues that I've attempted to take up in stories in other parts of the timeline (in Knights of the Old Republic and Knight Errant) -- namely, the love-hate relationship between the Jedi and the Republic, which is a far larger organization. The Jedi do a lot for the Republic, yes, but they've also been more trouble than they're worth on more than one occasion. One can imagine the Republic chancellor finally revoking the Jedi Council's parking spaces!
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What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: From the movies, it'd be a blast to see Lando as Chancellor. The gamblers, smugglers, and criminals have sort of a world of their own, apart from what's going on in the galactic drama between the Jedi and the Sith.
From the Expanded Universe, most of my work has been in the past or distant past, so if we're getting pantheons of blue ghosts, there's a range of folks that would be fun to see, from Arca Jeth to my own Zayne Carrick and Kerra Holt. There are some old villains that could do turns in holographic form, too. And practically every droid from the past has at least a theoretical chance of still being around. If we see a droid that's refusing to do any work, that'd be Elbee from the KOTOR comics. Sitting immobile for 4,000 years would suit him just fine!
How I want to see Luke, Han, or Leia die: I'm certain that I don't want to see that — it's much more fun to imagine them living on. It would be preferable to think that they died while sitting on a beach drinking blue martinis delivered by serving droids — but I imagine that's not very cinematic!
James Luceno, author of Star Wars: Darth Plageuis
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: A new and perilous threat — of the Sith sort, to be certain that the dark and light sides of Force, as well as lightsabers, are heavily featured.
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: If for whatever reasons the Sith don't figure into the film plots, I would love to see an appearance by the extra-galactic Yuuzhan Vong, who battled the Jedi through the twenty-one Expanded Universe novels that comprise The New Jedi Order.
How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: Luke, with lightsaber in hand, in a blaze of glory; Han, Leia and the Millennium Falcon in an act of heroic sacrifice.
NEXT: The Darker Sides of a Galaxy Far, Far Away
Michael Reaves, co-author of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Out Feb. 26)
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: The latest estimates for the Milky Way suggest literally billions of Earthlike worlds. With lifeforms like gigantic space slugs that can live in hard vacuum, it's obvious that life in the GFFA is at least as tenacious as it is here, if not more so.
My tendency is to poke around the backwaters and the seedier places of these many and richly varied worlds. There are many other monomyths and archetypes besides the Hero's Journey. One thing I do not want to see is the same storyline with new faces.
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: Hey, I'm not gonna be disingenuous; I'd love for Jax Pavan and I-Five to get a shot.
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How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: Saving the galaxy. They're heroes, right? So let 'em die heroically.
Christie Golden, author of Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi—Ascension
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: Follow-up adventures with Luke, Han and Leia! I would be amenable to seeing new actors in the old roles if Lucasfilm wants to pick up right where Return of the Jedi left off, but the actors would have to be VERY well cast. I'd actually love to see Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford reprise the roles of Luke, Leia and Han...alongside their kids! ;)
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: Vestara Khai. *coughs a little* Okay...Pocket the chitlik. No? Seriously, though, the Skywalker and Solo offspring are such terrific characters in their own right, it would be wonderful to see them brought to life.
How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: Oh this question is just cruel! Well...if they HAVE to, Han or Leia would have to die sacrificing him/herself for the other. And I want a "dies in your arms" scene, darn it, if either one has to go. Luke...should die alone, of his own free choice, saving countless lives. It should be set to John Williams' most beautiful music, and I better see Luke become One with the Force pretty much immediately or I will not be responsible for all that Kleenex on the movie theater floor.
Aaron Allston, author of Star Wars: X-Wing—Mercy Kill
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: Could I see "Screenplay by Aaron Allston"? No?
Well, barring that, I'd like to see the story move away from the Skywalkers, Solos, even the Jedi a bit, reminding us that there are other people doing important things in the galaxy. I'd like to see a greater proportion of female characters. I want to see more spectacle — Tatooine junkyards and bongo interiors aren't exactly challenges for ILM's skills. And I hope to see a return to the lightheartedness and humor of A New Hope, putting the fatalism of the prequels behind us.
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What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: This kind of depends on exactly when in the timeline Episodes VII through IX take place. Timothy Zahn's Mara Jade would always be a good choice. The next-generation Solos and Skywalkers, such as Jaina Solo and Ben Skywalker, would be welcome. If any sort of espionage is in the offing, some sort of nod to my own Wraith Squadron characters would be a thrill for me.
But what I really hope to see most is any sort of appearance by recognizable EU characters, which would be an acknowledgement that the EU is a significant part of what constitutes Star Wars.
How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: You know, I actually don't want to see them die in the movies, and it's not just because of affection for the characters.
Action movie characters live pretty tortured lives. There's no chance of them appearing on-screen for 90 minutes of shopping or gossip, so any time we put them in front of the camera, it's for punishment. At a certain point, we recognize there's no way they can keep doing this and survive, so we kill them, an act so common and callous we don't even refer to it as killing them — it's "killing them off." Ellen Ripley. Bernard Quatermass. Hoban "Wash" Washburne. Sometimes characters die because their portrayers can only show up for one or two day's filming, and the director and producer decide to maximize those three minutes of screen time by whacking the character.
Me, I'm all for having Luke, Leia, and Han be in a scene showing them knocking back shots of Corellian brandy while playing cards. Then the screen can go through a 1940s-style wipe and the camera can zoom in on their descendants saving the galaxy for a new generation.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: LucasBooks (5)]
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The story is the same. Poor little orphaned Oliver Twist (Barney Clark) has had a hard life. Either toiling in a horrible workhouse or being beaten at a miserable foster home it's hasn't been easy for the 9-year-old. The boy finally runs away to London where he is immediately spotted by the Artful Dodger (Harry Eden) a wily pickpocket. He whisks the sickly Oliver off to meet Fagin (Ben Kingsley) the leader of the pickpocket gang. Under the watchful guidance of Fagin and the other boys Oliver is taught the fine art of lifting. But when he finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time and is falsely accused for a theft Oliver is inadvertently taken under the wing of the kindly Mr. Brownlow (Edward Hardwicke) a rich man who adopts the boy. Finally some happiness right? Not if you're in a Dickens novel. No sooner is Oliver contentedly ensconced with Brownlow when tragedy strikes again. Fagin's business partner the utterly cruel Bill Sykes (Jamie Forman) kidnaps Oliver and forces him to help them rob Brownlow's house. And when that doesn't go so well Bill then wants to get rid of Oliver. Only with the help of Bill's mistress Nancy (Leanne Rowe) who feels sympathy for Oliver can the boy be reunited with the only person who has ever showed him any kindness.
In a film full of fine performances from relatively unknown British actors Ben Kingsley stands out--and rightly so. Finally Kingsley has been given a part worthy of his talent and the Oscar-winning actor plays one of literature's more memorable characters to the hilt. Part Shakespeare's Falstaff part Lord of the Rings' Gollum Kingsley enjoys playing up Fagin's sprightly nature and physicality. Fagin is a merry prankster even if he's all hunched over and craggy faced with a high squeaky voice and a long moldy beard. But Fagin suffers. He doesn't really want to corrupt young Oliver. He knows the boy is pure of heart but he's too afraid of getting caught--or of evoking Bill's wrath--to let Oliver go. Kingsley subtly shows this internal struggle of good and evil raging within Fagin. As far as the rest of the cast it's interesting to note how all the children are fresh-faced and wide-eyed especially Clark as the oh-so-fragile yet surprising resilient Oliver and Eden as the crafty but goodhearted Dodger. All the adults especially the mean-spirited ones are either very severe and haggard or doughy and sweaty. In fact the film is a great study in faces a testament to Polanski's keen eye for the human condition.
Roman Polanski may have made some bad choices in his personal life but the man sure knows how to make a movie. With Oliver Twist the Oscar-winning director returns to the 19th century England he so vividly painted in his 1979 Tess--except this time around it's a bleak existence in the mud-caked streets of Victorian London being used as a backdrop instead of the lush English countryside. Polanski and his team painstakingly recreate the newly industrialized London from the ground up. It's a bustling teeming frightfully dirty environ filled with pestilence and vermin of all kinds. It must have been such an awful and a brutal time period to have endured and Polanski wants to make sure we understand this so we'll be that more amazed by how this little boy survives in it. There are times you almost wish they would break out into song ("Food! Glorious food!") just to lighten the mood a bit--but of course that's an entirely different Oliver Twist. And therein lies the film's problem: too many Twists. By count there's about 18 other versions either done as feature films or television movies/miniseries--and that's not including the Oscar-winning 1968 musical Oliver!. With all of Polanski's talents he could have picked something that was a little less of a retread.
How To Write a Victorian Novel 101. First introduce a perfect family like the Nicklebys and place them in an idyllic country setting. Shortly thereafter the father/provider must lose the family fortune and swiftly die of grief leaving his family reliant on the charity of a cruel yet wealthy relative like Ralph Nickleby (Christopher Plummer) who should break up the happy family sending the eldest son--in the case of Nicholas Nickleby 19-year-old Nicholas (Charlie Hunnam)--to teach at a horrifying boys' school called Dotheboys while forcing his mother (Stella Gonet) and his sister (Romola Garai) to live in the dark miserable city of London. During this period of separation the title character should prove himself an upstanding and honorable gentleman rescue the unfortunate show mercy to his enemies fall in love and attempt to reunite his family and avenge the wrongs done to them. If the story is a comedy he will succeed and we will proceed--to the denouement in which loose ends are tied up a happy couple weds and the cast takes its bows.
Victorian Drama 201. A rule of thumb: the villains and the minor players are always more interesting characters than the ingénues and they will always receive the greatest ovation. Nicholas Nickleby is no exception to this rule. The soft-hearted good guys--Hunnam (Abandon) as Nicholas newcomer Garai as his sister Kate Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries) as Nicholas' love interest Madeline Bray and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) as the broken child Smike whom Nicholas rescues from the boys' school--humbly accept their plight and it's enough to make you want to shake their genteel little shoulders to force them into action. Mercifully Hunnam at least occasionally gets to fight back exchanging some heated words and even coming to blows with his enemies especially the utterly nasty Jim Broadbent (Iris) and Juliet Stevenson (Emma) as Mr. and Mrs. Squeers who run the ghastly boys' school with finely honed cruelty. Even Plummer (Ararat A Beautiful Mind) for all he's the big villain of the piece doesn't come off as evilly as these two. There are also notable performances on the comedic side particularly among the perfectly cast merry band of melodramatic theatrical players (Nathan Lane Dame Edna Everage and Alan Cumming) that Nicholas and Smike join on their journey home.
Making Victorian Movies 301. With its fairy-tale look fantastic sets and theatrical bent Nickleby hearkens back to the flamboyant dramas of the Victorian period (think Oscar Wilde)--its opening credits in fact are displayed on the stage of a Victorian toy theater. But stories based on novels like Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby obviously take a lot longer to tell than plays--and in their time they reached their audience in a different way. It often took weeks even months to read a full novel (or a serialized one) in Victorian Britain; families would gather 'round the fire for a few pages a night savoring the story making it last. Director/screenwriter Doug McGrath's (Emma) rendition of Nicholas Nickleby reconciles these two modes of entertainment admirably allowing modern moviegoers a chance to revel in the assured pace of the twists and turns Dickens chose to place in the narrative's path but abridging them in such a way as to make good theater. Despite the relative brevity of the narrative however McGrath doesn't rush us to the end; he seems to recognize that the best stories are all about the journey not about the resolution.
January 31, 2002 5:51am EST
A group of high school seniors put a boy who is eager to become part of their clique through a cruel initiation prank that involves jumping off some sort of high scaffolding into a cloudy pool at a local cement factory. When one of them Landon (Shane West) gets caught the principal decides Landon needs to hang with a different crowd and assigns him to tutor kids on the weekend and take part in the drama club's spring play. Surprise-the plan works! In over his head with the play Landon seeks help from Jamie (Mandy Moore) a dowdy bible-thumper who apparently only owns one ratty cardigan. Jamie however is not your run-of-the-mill unpopular girl. Rather than being introverted and weird she is smart witty and confident-in fact that grubby sweater of hers seems to be the only thing branding her as an outcast. The two grow closer and Landon eventually sees her inner beauty forgoing his own A-list status to be with her. But Landon learns that Jamie has been keeping a secret from him that inevitably blocks their path to happiness.
Moore the underdog of the teen pop stars dyes her hair brown and dulls herself down for the role of Jamie a simple girl that loves to gaze at the stars in her spare time. She did a great job transforming herself into her character but in the process extinguished most of what makes her sparkle on screen. Mind you the script might be to blame for creating a character so unbelievably mundane and one-dimensional. Under all of Jamie's goodness and perfection is well nothing. West does a great job portraying his character transformation. Even while Landon runs with the bad crowd West conveys a sense of humility in the character. Peter Coyote plays Reverend Sullivan Jamie's over-protective father without being too overbearing which is refreshing. An almost unrecognizable and weathered Daryl Hannah has a small but convincing enough role as Landon's mother. Maybe it was her now-brunette hair but I didn't realize it was Hannah until I saw the credits.
In A Walk to Remember director Adam Shankman steered away from being overly sentimental. The relationship that develops between the teens is actually very sweet and interestingly enough the film ends up being more about Landon's transformation than about Jamie's faith. While the film is not as flaky as the rash of recent teen movies it still manages to fall into the same clichés. Though the story is very-dare I say-poignant characters like Jamie's in trying to be different have become a stereotype: The plain Jane whose personality and convictions win over the popular guy. Remember Andie (Molly Ringwald) in Pretty in Pink? Or more recently Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook) in She's All That? And though Moore has a beautiful melodic voice her singing scenes are too drawn out. We are not just treated to her crooning a chorus or two of a song during a church scene but the songs in their entirety. Even Mariah Carey spared us that much in Glitter.