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There is no movie mythology quite like Star Wars. The sun never sets on the Lucasfilms empire, with the adventures of the Rebel Alliance against the evil Imperial Guard expanding beyond the original trilogy and into a sea of toys, merchandising, and many novels. Though enthusiasm didn’t wane, by the nineties it seemed like the fan’s imagination was the only thing still spreading Star Wars stories across the galaxy. And then a funny thing happened: plans for a new trilogy coincided with the rise of the internet, and the expansion of the sharing of new ideas. Not only were people more motivated to share their stories of Jek Porkins, Admiral Ackbar and Jar-Jar Binks, but they were also finding new and exciting ways to share them. Novels persisted, toys continued, and all you had to do was click a button and a Star Wars story of any type could find itself in your bedroom.
Of course, that was back when Star Wars was George Lucas’ baby. Now that the property is over at Disney, they are free to pick and choose what mythologies they want to pursue. Because why go through all the trouble of writing new material when you have years of other stuff to comb for story fodder? Over at Disney, Lucasfilms has their own "story team" which employs a man named Leland Chee, and Chee has recently been doing some mythbusting on his Twitter (via Bleeding Cool). And it seems as if he and his associate Pablo Hidalgo are in charge of making sure what is and is not considered Star Wars canon.
On one level, this is sort of a thank-you to the fans who not only loved the original films, but craved the SW world so much that they found entertainment in extended-universe books and games, some of which are quite elaborate. A whole generation of fans absorbed the world George Lucas created, and while he had to restrict their influence on his own storytelling, he had to appreciate the various offshoots based on his ideas, and how Star Wars inspired us all.
On another level, this brings Star Wars to the level of every other franchise, each of which is a slave to source material. If The Amazing Spider-Man 2 dares depart from canon, the fans will react, and the studio can’t have that. If the new Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them series contradicts the Harry Potter universe, there will be a revolt. The idea that Star Wars was getting a fresh start seemed exciting, given that the universe is so vast. And then the rumors came, regarding an elderly Han Solo, as if that was something we really wanted to see. Suddenly we realized Star Trek collage-maker JJ Abrams was likely going to load this thing with references to parsecs, and the return of older characters, betraying the knowledge that Star Wars is a galaxy, and that we don’t have to be interested in the core twenty-to-thirty characters we already know.
The fact that they are being called a "Story Team" and not something else is telling. Star Wars excites because it's rich not with characters or stories (it is), but because it has possibilities. The team in place should be free to create whatever world they like, particularly now that George Lucas is no longer involved. By bringing in expanded universe material, they run the risk of getting bogged down in further continuity, unable to control certain characters, manipulate others, or be imaginative. It's the same obsession with "blueprints" that is going to trouble that Spider-Man series: worrying about consistency over creativity. Having a wealth of characters to choose from is exciting and efficient from a writer's perspective. Having the freedom to invent whole worlds out of nothing, to create brand new Star Wars characters, and to explore this galaxy far far away is exciting from an audience's perspective.