JJ’S FAN FEATURE: Bringing ‘Shadows of the Empire’ Back Into STAR WARS Canon

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Greetings, Hashtaggers, and welcome to the second edition of JJ’s Fan Feature! Last Thursday saw the beginning of this new, weekly column in which we’ll feature concepts and theories straight from you, the fans. We kicked off by examining the possibility of Grand Admiral Rae Sloane appearing in Star Wars: Episode IX. This week’s topic comes to us from Star Wars Fanatics fan Walter Hendrick: Is it time for Shadows of the Empire to return to canon?

Shadows of the Empire

For those unfamiliar, Shadows of the Empire was a multimedia campaign Lucasfilm created in the mid-nineties. It consisted of the simultaneous launch of the Shadows video game and accompanying Steve Perry novel of the same title. Set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Shadows of the Empire follows two, intersecting story arcs. The first focusses on Leia’s attempts to rescue Han Solo from Boba Fett. The second delves into the power struggle between Darth Vader and the sinister head of the Black Sun crime syndicate, Prince Xizor. Caught in the middle is none other than Luke Skywalker.

Can the Shadows of the Empire Story Arc Exist in Canon?

We’ve talked a bit lately about characters from the old Expanded Universe fans would like to see in canon. Bringing individual characters back is more easily accomplished. (See, for example, Grand Admiral Thrawn.) But how about bringing back an entire story arc? Disney declared the Expanded Universe to be “Legends” when it acquired Lucasfilm six years ago. It did so for good reason: The EU had grown unruly and it was too difficult to reconcile so many stories and maintain continuity. Shadows of the Empire, however, remains one of the very few EU story arcs that could exist in the new canon timeline with little to no alteration whatsoever.

Shadows of the Empire

Although the story could easily slip into the current canon, the more difficult question is how to present it. Due to its time setting, and its focus on the core characters of the original trilogy, making a live-action film would be nearly impossible. Disney already recast Han Solo once for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Unfortunately, it did so with an actor ill-equipped to truly capture the Han Solo character. Can you imagine trying to recast Han Solo again? And how do you replace the irreplaceable Carrier Fisher? Some say Sebastian Stan could pull off a younger Luke Skywalker for a Shadows of the Empire film. Notwithstanding, his doing so would be pointless if the rest of the cast isn’t believable.

What about a Shadows of the Empire Animated Feature?

A better, and far more easily achievable alternative, is a Shadows of the Empire animated feature.  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams and James Earl Jones are still available to reprise their roles in voiceover. Likewise, voice actress Caroline Hennesy provides Leia a more than reasonable voice likeness in Star Wars: Resistance. Further, there is certainly precedence for successful Star Wars animation and animated feature films in general.

Look no further than the fact that The Clone Wars is literally back by popular demand. Likewise, the recent success of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse proves that animated features have cinematic staying power. Whether or not Shadows of the Empire would succeed in animated form is, of course, speculative. I, however, know a lot of fans who wouldn’t hesitate to buy tickets to see that story arc on the big screen. Besides, if there’s one thing Star Wars canon needs, it’s Dash Rendar.

Thanks to Walter Hendrick for this week’s topic. Join us Sunday nights for Star Wars Fanatics to discuss all things Star Wars and for a chance to have your ideas featured here at That Hashtag Show!