Back in 2014, two years after Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the company announced that the sequel trilogy would not tread familiar ground found in the books. But in other to have a blank slate to work on, the company decided to wipe the previous thirty-plus years of books out of canonical existence. The move had mixed results, with many old school fans feeling betrayed and others agreeing that the high budget fan fiction shouldn’t count as the new canon.
While the films went forward, fans also got a new set of novels and comics to look forward to. Unlike the old Expanded Universe, now labelled as Legends, the new stories would be on the same canonical level as the shows and movies. This was an exciting prospect. But the canon thus far has been hit or miss in terms of having any impact on the narrative or world. Often, we’re left with a satisfying but contained story that doesn’t contribute. There have been teases, such as the mysterious Acolytes of the Beyond in Aftermath or the Grysk in Thrawn Alliances and Treason and so far, those teases are left unanswered. The most impactful novel on the greater narrative has probably been Catalyst, which served as a prequel to Rogue One.
And while Project Luminous likely won’t have any impact on the films, as the press release for the project states it won’t clash with any existing films or planned films. This seems like a self-contained project, it does seem to be a rich new frontier where the writers, which include Charles Soule, Claudia Gray, Cavan Scott, Daniel Jose Older and Justina Ireland, can really unleash their storylines without fear of clashing with the events of the movies. Luminous, which was revealed to be the High Republic Era, is set 200 years before The Phantom Menace and will see the Jedi at the height of their power, before they lost their way as depicted in the prequel era. The Jedi in this time period and in the stories are described as “Jedi Knights of the Round Table” as we see the Republic begin to venture off and explore places like The Outer Rim. It looks like this galaxy, far far away will be very different than the one we’re familiar with. Don’t expect there to be any cantinas on Tattooine for example. Not yet at least.
If there’s one thing we can be critical of the old EU, it’s that the world looked pretty much exactly the same as the prequel era 3500 years prior to the films. Already, the High Republic feels different. There are no star charts yet, planets haven’t been colonized and brought into the Republic and there are no Sith, who are living in secrecy within the Rule of Two still. Instead, we have the Nihils, who are described as “Space Vikings” who were also compared to “Sid Vicious taking over the galaxy”. While there are no other bits of info on them, I have to imagine they’re more than just smugglers and pirates if they’re a threat to the Jedi-especially with that name. One thing is for certain though: they’re not stormtroopers.
So what makes all this awesome? Well, a few things for starts. In the Disney era so far, Star Wars has seemed almost afraid to talk or show the Jedi as fans remembered them, often portraying them as weak and fools. The Light wasn’t the opposite of Dark and that their hubris was their ultimate downfall. Jedi: Fallen Order felt like a welcome breath of fresh air when it came out and now, we have an entire story initiative centred around the Jedi when they were proper guardians of peace and justice. But even more so is that this entire project seems aimed at the hardcore, diehard Star Wars fan. At the Luminous press conference, the panel opened up with a statement that went on to ask, before the prequels, what was the lifeblood of the entire franchise. The answer to that is of course, books. This project seeks to tell stories set within a time period that’s never been explored over multiple mediums. There’s going to be adult novels, kid stuff, YA books and comics from Marvel. And this is all just “Phase 1”, as they called it. The initiative behind the project can be summed up by Light of the Jedi author Charles Soule: “New, new, new. What have we never seen in Star Wars that still feels like Star Wars.” This, and “what scares the Jedi” are what will drive these stories.
This is really exciting. The way the trailer describes this is like a movie being made, with concept art, meetings and an actual plan helping to shape this new frontier with many new characters. People who work on the movies, like Iain McCaig and Phil Noto, are involved in this project. There are explorer Jedi who are described as “Texan Rangers”. There’s a Wookie Jedi! This feels like the spirit of the old Expanded Universe is coming back, something akin to the Old Republic banner, which saw multiple stories told across many mediums separated from the films. I’m sure you can read only one or two stories if you really wanted to and wouldn’t be lost, but to get the whole picture, you may have to step into uncharted territory and try something new out.
This feels like what fans have been wanting for the past few years. While these stories may not influence the big screen, they will influence each other. This is akin to a cinematic experience on paper. It’s wholly original and feels good. I hope we eventually get games and maybe even a show or movie set in this time and that the High Republic isn’t confined to these phases. Of course, someone somewhere is complaining about it but based on reactions online, this seems to have had the desired effect as fans seem genuinely excited. Count me as one of them.