Sunday, December 28, 2014

Opinion: 2014, A New Dawn for Star Wars


We had a conversation towards the end of this week's SWU Podcast about the legacy of 2014 when it comes to Star Wars.  It's an interesting question to pose, how will we look back on 2014 ten years from now, if we even bother to do so at all.  A lot of good happened in 2014, but it was also a year of great anticipation.  There was the build up to the premiere of Rebels, countless books and comics (most of which are still to be released) were announced, and of course we were all following the production of a little film due out in less than 365 days.

There is no denying that it has been a fun year to be a Star Wars fan.  A lot of good came out of 2014, we got our first look at the next Star Wars film for crying out loud.  That's something I sincerely wondered if I would ever get to say.  And when compared to 2013, 2014 comes out looking amazing.  2013 saw the cancellations of more projects than I care to count (ok fine I counted, it was at least 4.  And that's assuming you count the closing of LucasArts as one project, with the others being The Clone Wars, Detours, and the 3D re-releases).  Combine that with a distinct lack of anything official about the movie whose trailer was the fastest ever to reach 50 million views.  

That's not to say there weren't good things in 2013.  There was Celebration Europe, the announcement of Star Wars Rebels, and the confirmation of stand alone films.  But I'm about 365 days too late to be writing about what the legacy of 2013 will be, so let's switch back to 2014.

The title A New Dawn, once rumored to be for Episode VII but turned out to be the novel by John Jackson Miller which kicked off the new canon novels in September 2014, to me represents 2014 better than any project it could have been attached to.  2013 was a dark time for fans.  Not the same as the dark times between 1983 and 1999, but it was a difficult time to be a fan.  I, like many others, found myself questioning the new regime behind the Star Wars franchise at multiple points early in that year.  But as a wise district attorney turned super villain once said, "The night is darkest just before the dawn."

And 2014 was that a dawn.  A new dawn for Star Wars.

When we look back on 2014, we see how it was the turning point for when Star Wars as owned by Disney came into its own.  2012 ended with euphoria at the prospect of what was to come.  2013 was a reality check on what needed to happen in order to take us where we needed to go.  And 2014 was when it all, finally, began.  It didn't hit full stride in 2014 mind you.  That will likely come on December 18th of 2015 when we all gather in the theater again to do something we haven't done in 10 years, see a new Star Wars film.

Looking back on the year I feel we can safely pinpoint the moment when everything changed, the moment we knew 2014 would not be a repeat of 2013.  That day was March 7th, the day Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season Six "The Lost Missions" premiered on Netflix.  It was a bittersweet moment, having to say goodbye to The Clone Wars again, but it represented a shift.  The cancellation of The Clone Wars in 2013 came as a blow to fandom, but the promise of a final string of new episodes kept us going through some of the darker periods of that year.  And Lucasfilm delivered in spectacular fashion with a premiere on Netflix and 13 stellar episodes. 

And that was just the beginning.  Shortly after that on April 29th the cast of Episode VII was announced.  Suddenly, the two main things we had been crying out for in 2013 had been given to us in a less than two month period.  And, if that wasn't enough, on May 16th we found out the new film had begun principal photography.  This set the stage for the summer of leaks.  Set pics and insider reports were everywhere and much to the chagrin of some fans and the delight of others (myself included).

When the fall hit we were off to the races once more.  Star Wars novels returned to shelves in the form of A New Dawn and Tarkin.  Star Wars animation was back on television with the premiere of Star Wars Rebels.  All of a sudden everything (well, almost everything, except video games and comic books) was back where it should be, with a few changes, and the landscape of Star Wars was back to where it was before the Disney buyout.  But there was one major difference.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, a film that is still over eleven months away as I write this, dominated the news anytime something happened around the production.  Whether it was the casting announcement, TMZ leaking set pictures, Harrison Ford being crushed by the Millennium Falcon (ok fine, he hurt his angle and took an unplanned six week vacation), the title reveal, or the trailer.  Star Wars was back in the limelight in a way it hadn't been since the prequels were released.  And the trailer, which was hands down the biggest story in Star Wars in 2014, may well have been the biggest story in all of entertainment in 2014 (sorry Guardians of the Galaxy and Kim Kardashian).

2014 was not without controversy.  The decision to re-brand the Expanded Universe as "Legends" brought it's share of issues.  As did the initial casting announcement for Episode VII, when fans (correctly) felt that the cast lacked in diversity.  Thankfully, this was rectified when more cast members were announced.  And who could forget the uproar from the racist minority (pun intended) when a black man appeared on screen in stormtrooper armor.  Mercifully, the voices of the majority spoke out in condemning the racist remarks. Yes, these were moments in time were reason to pause but as time went on they have, at least, begun to sort themselves out (with the latter two barely even being controversies anymore and the first one, well.... it wouldn't be fandom if someone wasn't upset over one thing or another).

I think it's safe to assume that 2015 will end up dwarfing 2014 when all is said and done.  And looking back ten years from now, it will seem kind of tame compared to what's coming.  A new Star Wars movie every year for the foreseeable future is something that has me excited about what's to come.  Instead, 2014 will be remembered as a turning point.  Those moments in time that set the stage for everything that happened afterwards.  2014 was an important year for Star Wars, if for no other reason than because it set the stage for 2015 and we all know what happens then.  

354 Days to go....

This article is an opinion piece and represents the views of the writer, and not the entire Star Wars Underworld organization.

You can follow Dominic on Twitter: @DominicJ25
Follow The Star Wars Underworld on Twitter @TheSWU for more updates about this story and other breaking Star Wars news.


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