With 40 years of storytelling through an expanded, multimedia universe, the subject of Star Wars canon inevitably gets a little thorny. This is undoubtedly part of the reason why Lucasfilm Head Kathleen Kennedy started the Lucasfilm Story Group back in 2012.
Currently consisting of 11 people, the group is tasked with overseeing the canon – essentially determining what is and is not included, with the ultimate aim of ensuring a single cohesive narrative. A number of the Story Group members are also authors of books that accompany the Star Wars universe and, recently, one such member – Pablo Hidalgo – Tweeted in response to fan speculation about the extent to which the plans of George Lucas are included in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Mr Hidalgo’s Tweets on the subject have since been deleted, but snapshots of them have been widely shared across the internet. They basically address timeline speculation, and fans drawing connections between previously published novels and comic books, and the movies.
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To sum up, then, some quarters of Star Wars fandom have been questioning the canonical integrity of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and, more specifically, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, based on assumptions made about a supposed move away from the original story concepts designed by George Lucas. Pablo Hidalgo has confirmed that the biggest story beats in the arc of Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, Finn, and Rey are indeed based on ideas previously developed by Lucas – but that these story beats have been spread differently through the new established timeline.
The conclusion of that fact is that, while George Lucas did not write the scripts for Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Star Wars: The Last Jedi, his original concepts are still very much a touchstone for the new artists contributing to the franchise, and provide something of a basis from which further ideas are developed.
What’s perhaps most fascinating about this exchange, though – and the wider fandom debate from which it sprang – is the way in which it reveals the intense sense of ownership Star Wars fans feel over their favourite film universe. With this particular franchise, the relationship between creators and consumers seems to be far more symbiotic than is seen elsewhere in popular culture. This is evident not only in the visceral response Star Wars: The Last Jedi elicited from some viewers, but also in the way in which fans approach those involved in determining the canon.
It brings the whole thing to an interesting point, where fans unhappy with the direction of the saga as a whole are faced with the fact that the bare-bones of the modern Skywalker family story in particular were indeed designed by George Lucas – and the modern trilogy writers and directors have fleshed them out, added detail, and adjusted the timeline for their movies. It’s simply not accurate, then, to write off the latest developments as an aberration – because these story beats come from the creator himself.