Star Wars is MY fandom. I have been worried about it lately. I have posed a single question to my family, friends, and a multitude of folks I know online.
The question: "Since Disney now owns Lucasfilm with J.J. Abrams is set to create a new trilogy, will they respect the Star Wars Expanded Universe in the same way that George Lucas himself respects it?"
In other words, will Disney-made Star Wars films ignore all the novels, comic books, video games, television series, spin-off films, toys, and other media that are part of the franchise now in order to reboot the material story elements that are considered canon?
J.J. Abrams has done it before to ‘restart’ a film franchise. I mean, ask a trekkie about their fandom’s continuity right now and you may be in for a prolonged conversation about parallel dimensions and the many versions of Mr. Spock. Is this one of many possible futures that Star Wars fans have to look forward to? The folks I ask my question to gave answers like these:
‘Don’t worry about it, just wait and see. Abrams is a talented director...’
‘The EU (expanded universe) complicates things’
‘I just want to see something original.’
‘Do you really want to watch movies of the books you already read, or do you want to see new stories?’
All these people are fan of the Star Wars franchise. They have been for years. They have watched the films, played the games, and read the books, but still want something more than what they have recently experienced. They generally like the idea of a new guy at the helm. And most seem to believe that the EU is this irrelevant afterthought.
I have to question this thinking. Number crunching site Statistic Brain estimates that worldwide, the 6 Star Wars films have generated a little over 8 billion dollars through the box office, video purchase, and rental sales in the past 4 decades. However, they also calculate about another 1.8 billion made from 358 Star Wars novels, 2.9 billion from 130 video games released, and over 13.1 billion from licensing, TV programs and merchandise. Of that last number, 12 billion is from toys and collectibles alone! That’s a grand total of about 27 BILLION dollars worldwide since December 1976. That’s right - December 1976, when the novelization of the first film was printed.
Star Wars fans have spent their dollars more than two to one in favor of media generated by the expanded universe over the films. If people were really as tired of the adjacent material in the books, comics, and games as they say, why are they still spending so much money to buy it? I think I have been questioning the wrong things all along. I have been thinking like a hardcore fan and not like a hardcore accountant.
J.J. Abrams wants to make money through his art, like Lucas did. Disney wants to make money like Lucas did. George Lucas is artist who found a way to marriage his commercial and artistic endeavors like no other filmmaker ever had before. He fostered and guided other artists inspired by his franchise to create within that universe and even borrowed elements of their creations to further enhance it. Look as far back as 1978, to the insanely successful ‘Marvel Star Wars’ comic and see how it influenced ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.
EVERYONE wants to make money through this artistic/commercial marriage that created all six films and the EU. Star Wars is NOT Star Trek. The highest grossing ‘Trek’ film has never generated more cash than the worst Star Wars movie. My fandom was built with a winning formula to make DOLLARS. When I look at it this way, I can only see J.J. Abrams and the Mouse taking a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ policy towards the Star Wars Expanded Universe.