So the leaks were true. Star Wars will be drifting deep into its past–deeper than it’s ever gone before–to carry the franchise forward. Welcome to the High Republic.
Earlier this week, Disney and Lucasfilm announced a slew of upcoming novels and comic books set around an ancient time period in the Galaxy Far, Far Away known as the “High Republic.” The announcement, which did not include any news about upcoming films or TV shows, describes a wave of forthcoming media that will take place in “an era when the Galactic Republic and the Jedi Order are at their zenith, about 200 years before the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.” That’s old. So old that Yoda would be a spritely 600-year-old lad at this time.
The post on StarWars.com made clear that The High Republic–which had formerly been known as “Project Luminous,” if you’ve been keeping up with the leaks–will not “overlap any of the filmed features or series currently planned for production.” But that’s not to say we will never see the old days of the Republic on film and TV. Depending on the reception of the books, it wouldn’t be surprising if the entire franchise veered away from the bleak outer space wrestling match between the Rebels and the Empire, and finally decided to head into uncharted territory, where the name “Han Solo” is about as significant as a glass of blue milk.
The Skywalker saga is over. No more Darth Vader, no more X-Wings, no more Stormtroopers. It’s all done. Star Wars has a chance to go some place new. And although Disney has been trying to tell original tales in George Lucas’s beloved franchise for almost ten years now, this idea of looking far into the past beyond (almost) every character and storyline we’ve known so far may finally be their first step into the great beyond. Let’s just hope they don’t make this all an extended origin story for Baby Yoda.
Back in January, rumors of Project Luminous were surfacing all over the Star Wars fan community. Jason Ward, the editor-in-chief of the fan site MakingStarWars.net, released a lengthy video all about the new frontier, where he compared the ancient Jedi of the High Republic to superheroes. Each of them, according to him, would have movies of their own, not unlike the interconnected storylines of the Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Disney’s announcement matched a lot of Ward’s claims–the Jedi are described as being at the height of their powers, there are mysterious new villains who seem darker and more dangerous than the Sith, and the whole thing has a Knights of the Round Table vibe. But they didn’t mention anything about a Star Wars MCU. With all the exhausting expectations that are attached to cinematic trilogies, though, you can imagine the head honchos at Disney are anxious to get away from the trilogy format–can’t make a bad third movie if your movies don’t come in threes!
The High Republic stories will kick off in August 2020 with three novels and two comic book series. While we don’t know many details other than the titles of those books, the excitement in Disney’s announcement video is nonetheless contagious. Kathleen Kennedy reportedly urged the writing team on the High Republic project to be “bold.” Though we’ve seen some great stories in Disney’s continuation of Star Wars, all of them have been restrained by the storylines with which they coincide. We know something bad’s likely going to happen to Baby Yoda in The Mandalorian–he doesn’t show up in Force Awakens. The characters in Rogue One were never going to survive their mission of stealing the Death Star plans–they’re all dead in A New Hope. Hell, at this point, we pretty much know what happens in every year of Anakin Skywalker’s life. It’s all old news! Sure, the events of Phantom Menace lie at the end of the High Republic timeline–but 200 years should give the writers more than enough time to tell a few generations worth of stories in the Galaxy Far, Far Away.
What’s so enticing about Disney’s announcement isn’t just their scattered images of valiant Jedi Knights, lightsabers blazing (one of which is described as the youngest Jedi Knight of all time). It’s the villains–and the mysterious disaster that apparently set the whole new timeline into motion. Dark, gas mask-wearing bad guys named The Nhil serve as the central antagonists of the High Republic tales. We don’t know if they’re Sith, if they’re dark force users, or if they even fight with the sage-like space guardians. What we do know, however, is that whoever they are, or whatever they represent, they “scare” the Jedi. And they’re responsible for something truly galaxy-shaking. A new (old) Death Star? Hopefully not–it seems like Disney’s got something for more deadly up their sleeves this time.
I didn’t love The Rise of Skywalker. I found The Mandalorian to be pretty inconsequential, overall. The animated series don’t really do it for me. And Fallen Order, well, I’d rather not get into it with that game. After The Last Jedi (which was as exciting and forward-thinking as the franchise has ever been), it’s felt like Star Wars has been on a downward spiral. But I’m not ready to give up on it just yet.
Instead of obsessing over the little details between all the main storylines, Disney should be looking for what’s next. Think of the ending of The Last Jedi, with the scrappy little boy and his broom, gazing assuredly at the adventures that lie ahead. The swell of music, the twinkle in his eye, the allure of it all. That’s Star Wars for me. I’m optimistic that the High Republic could bring us back to that feeling–and hey, the more lightsabers, the better. There are like 20 lightsabers in these promo images! A purple one! A double-sided green one! I’m in!