These are not the continuity strands you're looking for...or are they?
Walt Disney Pictures announced yesterday that the official continuity of their Star Wars science-fiction film franchise will receive a firm overhaul ahead of the release of Episode VII next year. Rather than including fan-favourite characters such as Mara Jade, Grand Admiral Thrawn and Starkiller who derive exclusively from licensed novels, video games, comic strips and the like in future big-screen instalments of the iconic saga, for the most part director J.J. Abrams, executive producer Kathleen Kennedy and the extensive production team intend to carve their own path from a narrative perspective, even if it means outright overruling many of those story arcs which were previously established in the "Expanded Universe" in the process.
We're going to deal with the specific implications of this rather revolutionary decision in a few stages over the course of this article, but first, let's 'hear' the words straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Here's what Kennedy (one of the foremost members of the franchise's similarly-overhauled production team) had to say on the matter: "We have an unprecedented slate of new Star Wars entertainment on the horizon. We're set to bring Star Wars back to the big screen, and continue the adventure through games, books, comics, and new formats that are just emerging. This future of interconnected storytelling will allow fans to explore this galaxy in deeper ways than ever before." The news post on the official Star Wars confirms in addition that those novels which dealt with the aftermath of Return of the Jedi will essentially be rendered void by Episode[s] VII-IX, a revelation that's sure to rile more than a few old-school fans of George Lucas' dense universe of scum and villainy (and trust us, you'll find plenty of controversy regarding this subject matter on the web's various Wars-themed forums).
For all the criticism that the move will attract from seasoned veterans of all things far, far away, though, we here at On-Screen will gladly admit that the big news was met with sighs of great relief here. Fans who have even a basic knowledge of the EU and its ramifications for the original six films will attest to the fact that several of the classic comic-books and novels based in the Star Wars universe directly contradicted what came later in the three prequel instalments (for better or for worse), and if Disney are aiming for a cohesive ongoing narrative along the lines of their Avengers franchise/the Marvel Cinematic Universe in this case (indeed, much of the terminology featured in this press release regarding "interconnected storytelling" and "the canon" echoes Marvel Studios' own approach to their multi-million dollar superhero saga), then there's few better ways they could ensure it comes to pass than this. Video game developers such as DICE, EA, Visceral and BioWare all announced that they're working on licensed Star Wars titles for release in 2015 and beyond at E3 last year, so expect their much-anticipated projects to represent some of the first non-screen iterations of the reworked canon in the not too distant future.
Better yet, it transpires that we won't even need to wait for many more parsecs until we get our first proper look at how Star Wars will operate from this point onwards. Starting from this September, a series of new novels based in the re-established canon timeline will be released in UK and US book retailers, including A New Dawn (set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, and intended to act as a prologue to the impending interconnected TV show Star Wars: Rebels), Lords of the Sith (set between Episodes III and IV once again), Tarkin (a mock-biography of Imperial commander Grand Moff Tarkin from life to death) Heir to the Jedi (a bridge between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back which plays out from the first-person perspective of Luke Skywalker himself). You can expect to hear plenty more details on Episode VII and its major players in the next week or so, and as ever, the best source for quality coverage of all of the latest news is On-Screen.
Star Wars Episode VII ignites its lightsaber in cinemas worldwide on December 18th, 2015. Meanwhile, Star Wars: A New Dawn launches in book retailers this September 2nd, Star Wars: Tarkin on November 4th, Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi in January 2015 and Star Wars: Lords of the Sith in March 2015. And lest we forget, Star Wars: Rebels premières on Disney XD this Autumn.