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Library Clerk who enjoys anime, manga, fantasy, sci-fi, comics, GNs, Gunpla, and 'FiM.'

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Revenge of the 5th: What Could Have Been · 12:54pm May 5th, 2016

If, at any time, George Lucas had agreed to it, he could have had an easy blockbuster trilogy. At least, that's how I feel after both having read Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire trilogy, now often referred to as the Thrawn Trilogy. Sadly, Lucas never planned to adapt any of the old Expanded Universe novels or games into movies for consumers of the Star Wars franchise. Just as sadly, Disney's The Force Awakens has details and events within it that preclude the events of the bestselling Heir trilogy from happening, like Kylo Ren's existence (as opposed to Jaina and Jacen Solo) and the rise of the First Order (which Grand Admiral Thrawn would have never allowed, seeing as how comparatively incompetent their leadership appears to be).

Ironically, it's not as if Disney isn't making money off of the old EU. You see, while they have thrown it out as canon by stating that anything that happens in the films that contradicts the precedent novels is canon, they are republishing the EU novels under the label 'Legends.'

Here are the original covers:

And here are the Legends versions:

As you can see, apart from replacing the Back to the Future-style 'continues / concludes' banners with the 'Legends' banner, they look identical. It might be worthwhile to see if I can get them from the library and see if they've altered any of the text to account for the changes in the EU that have happened since those early days when the novels were first published. I mean, we now know many things about the Clone Wars and the universe than we did then, including about the Jedi and the Sith, but Zahn had to work without knowing much about that at all.

In any case, I would have been extremely happy to see the Heir Trilogy brought to the big screen, and I still would be, especially in being able to see the characters brought to life as new, young actors would play them. I can only see Hux, Ren, and Snoke as pale shadows of Tarkin, Vader, and Palpatine respectively since they lack any of the same presence, yet try to fill similar roles (read Tarkin to know what I mean). Finn seems like a less capable version of Leia, only being proficient in skills related to being a stormtrooper, but otherwise completely green. Poe is very much the cowboy in this movie -- maybe too much, and since he's absent for a good chunk of the film, we don't get to see him really do much. Rey is Luke 2.0, even living on Tattooine 2.0 (the other planets just seem to be there. There's no sense of scale or location, and very little of their cultures, it seems). She's an orphan who will also save the galaxy with her newly-minted Force skills, her mechanical prowess, and the Millennium Falcon. Meh.

So what if the Thrawn Trilogy was adapted to film? What would we have seen?

Firstly, Thrawn. This Chiss commanding officer rose to the rank and position of Grand Admiral despite Emperor Palpatine's dislike of all alien races. This speaks to Thrawn's tactical genius, and indeed he is able to analyse his enemies' weaknesses based on their art, which he studies deeply before planning his strategies for attack. I believe this makes Thrawn one of the New Republic's greatest foes, as he uses information in place of Death Stars and Sun Crushers, and has many traits of a great leader, being able to see most things as objectively as possible, to the point where ego doesn't get in the way of listening to and accepting useful advice, and then being unwilling to throw lives and resources away needlessly for pride or revenge, and knowing when to cut one's losses and admit defeat in a given battle, in favour of victory in the war. All of this, and his experience since we know that he was around during the Clone Wars, makes him incredibly dangerous as an adversary, but also a commander his subordinates would follow willingly anywhere.

Secondly, Mara Jade and Talon Karde. Mara is one of my favourite Star Wars characters, since she is so talented and yet she has gained these talents through hard training. She is a perfect foil for Luke, having hard experience in place of his idealism. Palpatine trained Mara as a spy and assassin, and had her operate as one of his voices throughout the galaxy. She was one of the Emperor's Hands, and we now know he had many such agents. Mara stands out because she learned and grew through her experiences, yet still remained a presence in the books that balanced Luke quite nicely, providing an excellent countering voice of reason to his near-endless idealism. Mara helped Luke realize what he could do, and he helped her to achieve greatness as a smuggler, politician, and as a Jedi Master. Karde was also a mentor figure, particularly to Mara in the smuggling business, but also to the other younger characters. He was there to be their support with his roguish charm and experience, in a way that Han Solo couldn't quite match. When you have a universe where the main characters don't really have long-lasting father figures, it becomes more important to have good stand-ins, and Karde certainly fits the bill.

The Heir Trilogy also addresses the heritage of the Jedi, since Luke and Leia are the first of the new line after Order 66 and the fall of the Emperor. The books address Luke's uncertainty in teaching others about the Force when he had so little training from Obi-Wan and Yoda in the first place. On top of that, Leia gets little time to train because she's helping Mon Mothma run the New Republic. Enter Joruus C'baoth, the mad clone of Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth, an ambitious Jedi Master who participated in the Outbound Flight project, and who was far more militant than Kenobi or even Anakin Skywalker. The clone C'baoth was more Dark Side than Light Side, and wanted Thrawn to capture Luke and Leia so he could train them as his servants in the Force. Thrawn wanted C'boath to coordinate his attack fleets against the New Republic, which also revealed how Palpatine used to control the Imperial Navy in battle as well, increasing their effectiveness. Luke, Leia, and Mara had to find out how they fit into the universe and the Force, each in his or her own way -- and Leia had to do so knowing that her twins, Jaina and Jacen, would soon be born with the potential to become great and powerful Jedi, but also hoping they would not follow in their grandfather's dark footsteps.

All of this makes for an interesting story. More interesting, I find, than we got with the rehashing reference fest that is The Force Awakens. But of well. We got what we got. Here's to hoping that things only get better as we go.

And may the Force be with you.

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