SO, what was it that changed me from a Star Wars prequel-hater to a… well… something different?
As I debated “Jessi-Wan Kenobi,” (AKA Jessica the Uberfan) on many occasions, she consistently drew upon Star Wars “stuff” not contained in the films—the Expanded Universe.
Here is the definition of the Expanded Universe (now called “Star Wars Legends”) from Wookiepedia:
The Expanded Universe (or EU for short) encompasses every one of the officially licensed, fictional background stories of the Star Wars universe, outside of the six Star Wars films produced by George Lucas and certain other material such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars, created before April 25, 2014. It is derived from and includes most official Star Wars–related books, comic books, video games, spin-off films, television series, toys, and other media created before the date. This material expands and continues the stories told in the films, taking place anywhere from over 36,000 years before The Phantom Menace to 134 years after Return of the Jedi.
It wasn’t the discovery of the Expanded Universe that helped me gain a new perspective. (I had actually read an EU book about some lizardly psionic aliens that was quite good.) What brought me to a new understanding was Jessica’s extremely imaginative Kessel Run. Her Star Wars universe is much larger than mine—and there are no rules, other than those a fan places upon themselves, that govern how large that universe can be.
In short, I discovered that Star Wars is NOT a gourmet meal served in three courses at the sci-fi-fantasy restaurant at the end of the universe. It is a banquet, with more delicacies than you might imagine. Take what you like and fill up your plate. There’s plenty for all and for all tastes.
(This however is NOT the end of the story, as we will see in the remaining posts… The magic of the originals still reigns…)
But let’s hear from this uberfan, shall we?
Jessica Champneys is a novice filmmaker and writer from Utah. She has made several short films and is currently writing a Star Wars fan fiction novel. You can see some of her film work at www.almostreel.com. Also, in her spare time she loves to make Star Wars fan films, which you can see on one of her many YouTube channels: youtube.com/damselindamnation
For the reader’s convenience, she included brief and long answers to my questions.
Why do you love Star Wars?
Brief: Because it’s awesome!
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
Long: I’ve always liked Star Wars. I’ll never forget seeing Phantom Menace in theaters for the first time as a kid, or watching the original trilogy on VHS every other weekend with my family. I’ve always thought Star Wars was cool. With cool ships, cool weapons, cool aliens, cool characters (Darth-freaking-Vader!), cool planets, etc. But I didn’t love Star Wars…until I saw Revenge of the Sith.
From Anakin’s tragic fall to the dark side to the amazing, epic duel on Mustafar, I get chills every time I watch that movie. There is an emotional depth and complexity there that no other Star Wars movie has, and I find myself drawn to that. So, in answer to your question, I think that’s the big reason I love Star Wars: the depth. Specifically, the characters; their stories, their emotions, their internal struggles, and all the crazy plots that tie them all together. Even more specifically, the core reason I love Star Wars, is Anakin Skywalker. It’s so intriguing to me how this 9 year old slave boy from Tatooine – who was so kind and cared so deeply for his family and friends – could go from that to becoming the most feared villain in the galaxy. In many ways I sympathize, and even empathize, with his life-long struggle. It’s so very compelling and I can’t get enough of it. Throw in some Star Destroyers and lightsabers and you have sheer awesomeness!
How do you feel when someone attacks the prequels?
Long: I feel sad for a couple of different reasons. First of all, the prequels (especially Episode III) are so near and dear to my heart that when I hear someone attacking them, it really hurts. At the same time, I feel sad for them. Because I realize that they can’t see what I see. They don’t get the same feelings I get when I watch the prequels, and I wish they could.
Are people who prefer only the original trilogy still worthy fans?
Han Solo in Star Wars: A New Hope
Long: Oh, yes! In fact, there’s this meme floating around Facebook right now that says something like “You don’t have to love everything about Star Wars to be a Star Wars fan.” I think that’s very true! Of course, I don’t think you have to hate the prequels to be a fan either, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. And it’s always going to be that way. As the future of Star Wars continues to unfold and more movies and books and games and TV shows are released, there’s going to be a wide variety of opinions among fans. And that’s okay. Because whether you think that Han shot first or Greedo shot first, you still love Star Wars. You’re still a Star Wars fan.
Does your general zeal for Star Wars cause you overlook some of the less-than-awesome aspects of the movies?
Long: Probably. But I think I go about it a bit differently. When someone brings up a plot-hole in the story or some sort of problem, I’ll think (if I don’t already have an answer from the Expanded Universe) ‘hmm, you’re right. That doesn’t make sense. So what’s the reason for that? Why is that?” And I’ll really think about it, about the characters, the motives, the what-ifs, and really delve deep. Because that’s another great thing about Star Wars is that there are so many layers. You can watch/read the stories over and over and again and you’ll always get something new out of it. It makes for some really fun discussions. But anyways, I’ll go into my writer mode and break the problem down and oftentimes an answer will hit me and I’ll think “oh my gosh, that makes so much sense!” and suddenly this “problem” that was once a blemish in the story becomes a deeper and more meaningful moment to me than before.
So in short, there are no such things as plot-holes. Only wells of information that you can climb into and find an even deeper, richer story than the one you see on the surface.
How has the expanded universe affected your love for Star Wars?
Brief: The expanded universe has definitely expanded my love for Star Wars!
A wee stack of Expanded Universe or “Legends” books. Credit: Onceuponageek.com
Long: I love the Star Wars movies. Always have, always will. So it’s so great that the adventures in that galaxy far far away don’t have to end there. There are so many more wonderful stories, with characters old and new, in the EU, and it’s so much fun! On top of that, I feel that the EU also adds more depth to the movies. When you’re watching a movie, you can only see what the characters say and do, you can’t see what they’re thinking. But in a book, you can. And when you have that knowledge it completely changes your Star Wars movie watching experience.
For example: in Revenge of the Sith there was a part that, at first, really confused me. When Anakin learns that Padme is pregnant, he realizes that he will soon be expelled from the Jedi order because of this. Soon after this realization, Palpatine requests that Anakin be made a Jedi Master, but the Council refuses and Anakin becomes very upset. While watching this, my first thought was “Why are you angry? One way or the other, you’re not going to be a Jedi for much longer anyway. So why do you care?”
But then I read Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith novelization (I highly recommend this book! If you aren’t a fan of Episode III, read this book and you will be!) and suddenly this scene that I wasn’t very fond of became one of my absolute favorite parts in the movie! Because in the book you can see what Anakin is thinking. He’s not upset with the Council just because he didn’t get the promotion. He’s upset because he’s been searching and searching the Jedi archives for some way to save Padme and hasn’t found anything. But there are some more promising sections of the archives that he can’t search, because only Masters are allowed to go there. So when Palpatine asks him to be a Master on the Council, Anakin feels he’s just been handed the key to save his wife. He’s so relieved and so euphoric…until the Council pulls the rug out from under him. Thus, he lashes out.
Doesn’t that just make you want to go and watch the Revenge of the Sith again? See how the books give the movies so much more depth? And there are many, many more moments like this throughout the EU! It’s so fascinating!
What’s your fanfic about and why are you writing it?
Brief: An Order 66 survivor joins the Sith and is tasked with finding Luke Skywalker. Why am I writing it? Because I need more Star Wars!
Concept art for Jessica’s fanfic, by Kayli Champneys
Long: My story is about an Order 66 survivor who, instead of going into hiding or helping the rebellion as many Jedi did, turned her back on the Jedi way and joined the Sith to save herself. Upon the Emperor’s request, she became Darth Vader’s apprentice and is one of the few people allowed to know his true identity. But when she is tasked with finding Vader’s son, Luke Skywalker, nothing goes as planned and her entire world begins to fall apart.
Why am I writing it? Probably the same reason I started reading Expanded Universe novels. I need more Star Wars! I actually started coming up with this story a long time ago as part of a role playing game, and later decided that, with some tweaking, it could make a really great novel. We shall see!
Thank you, Jessica, for your heartfelt and illuminating answers. I take issue only with the statement: “…there are no such things as plot-holes. Only wells of information that you can climb into and find an even deeper, richer story than the one you see on the surface…” There are indeed such things as plot holes! In fact, she has very astutely pointed them out in my own work. So I think seeing them as wells of magic is a bit nutty. I believe and her own creative powers have made some stories better than they are. Which is why I’m very happy she’s writing a fanfic…
But before we all dance to Ewok bongos together, let us check in with a Sith Lord…