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Commentary TV and Movies

Hate 'Last Jedi?' The Star Wars Expanded Universe is worse

Commentary: Star Wars was a bloated, cheesy mess long before Rian Johnson's new film came along. You know it to be true.

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This is the cover of Dark Empire, Dark Horse's simultaneously awesome and ridiculous Star Wars sequel comic

Dark Horse

After the success of "The Force Awakens" and "Rogue One," it's hard to imagine "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" would become one of the most divisive films in the franchise. Yet, here we are. The film has been in theaters for barely than a week and there's already a Change.org petition asking Disney remove it from the official Star Wars canon and "re-make Episode VIII properly."

Even the petition's creator admits the demand is patently ridiculous, though its absurdity lies not in the petition itself, but in its justification -- that "The Last Jedi" needs to be culled from the Star Wars timeline because it doesn't live up to the expectations of fans of the comics and novels that make up the now defunct Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU).

Guys. I grew up reading those books too. They were pulpy, ridiculous fun, but that doesn't mean they were good. In fact, a lot of the Star Wars EU was really, really bad.

Here are some our favorite terrible stories from the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

spoiler-warning

Remember that time Luke fell in love with a dead woman?
In the novel "Children of the Jedi," Luke gets trapped on an Imperial Dreadnaught, where the spirit of a long-dead Jedi living in the ship's computer helps him open doors and hide from his attackers. Luke falls in love with the possessed spaceship computer and eventually starts dating her after she transfers her consciousness into the body of one of Skywalker's dying students.

By comparison, Han and Leia's romance was pretty straightforward: Boy rescues girl, girl calls boy a nerfherder, boy gets frozen in carbonite, girl rescues boy. You know, a classic love story.

How about when Emperor Palpatine cloned himself dozens of times?
Luke's girlfriend isn't the only Jedi who made a habit of leaping from body to body. In the "Star Wars: Dark Empire" comics, Darth Vader's final sacrifice was rendered moot when it was revealed the Emperor had a stronghold of cloned bodies to transfer his soul into after the destruction of the second Death Star.

Oh, and Luke was so impressed by Emperor Palpatine's immortality he turned to the dark side for a while. Neat.

What about the endless march of Death Star clones?
Did I mention both of the above stories revolve around Death Star-like super weapons? They do. The EU is littered with planet-killer wannabes.

There's Centerpoint Station's planet (and star) destroying hyperspace tractor beam, the particle disintegrator warheads fired from the planet killing Galaxy Gun, the Mass Shadow Generator's ability to crack a planet's crust through gravity manipulation and the invincible, solar system destroying Sun Crusher. There's dozens more, too -- and that's not even counting weapons like the Darksaber or Conqueror, which just cram the original Death Star's laser onto other spaceships.

And you thought "The Force Awakens'" Starkiller Base was uncreative.

Speaking of the Death Star, did you know it was secretly a sentient bounty hunter droid?
In "Empire Strikes Back," Darth Vader hires bounty hunters to track down the Millennium Falcon, and says he wants the Rebels alive, famously telling Boba Fett: "No disintegration."

Tales of the Bounty Hunters

Star Wars Expanded Universe novels were almost always fun, but they weren't always great.

Bantam Books

Next to Fett is a weird-looking droid named IG-88. This accidentally sentient bounty hunter droid is actually kind of cool. Here's what isn't: his side story in the short story collection "Tales of the Bounty Hunters" that portrays him downloading his brain into the Death Star in a two-bit ploy to take over the galaxy. Giving the Death Star a personality doesn't make it better. Let's all just be thankful that Lando blew it up at the end of "Return of the Jedi," killing this storyline forever.

Did you know someone grew a clone from Luke's severed hand?
That's right. Luke's hand didn't just fall down a random shaft in the bowels of Cloud City, it was recovered by Darth Vader and eventually used to create an evil clone. Named Luuke Skywalker. No, that's not a typo.

There was that one time Luke's girlfriend had to kill him so she could date him.
No, not the dead force-ghost girlfriend who possessed one of his students, but Mara Jade -- the one brainwashed by the Emperor to kill Luke Skywalker, but who accidentally fell in love him with instead. She compromised and satisfied her Skywalker bloodlust by killing off Luuke instead. That's what he gets for spelling his name wrong, I guess. Silly clone.

Remember Skippy, the force-sensitive droid?
Ever wonder why the little red R5 droid Uncle Owen almost bought in "A New Hope" malfunctioned just in time for him to buy R2-D2 instead? Neither did anybody else, but if you really want to know, read issue 1 of the comic "Star Wars Tales." Spoiler alert: It was a suicidal Jedi Droid. Named Skippy.

(OK, I actually love that last story, but it's terrible.)

But what about the good EU stories?
It's true -- not all of the stories in the EU are terrible. Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy is one of the earliest and best works to look beyond the movies, and one of the few to create characters so compelling that they survived Disney's purge of the EU. The titular Vice Admiral Thrawn lives on in the "Star Wars: Rebels" TV series

The compelling story of Revan from Bioware's Knights of the Old Republic video game is beloved by fans and critics alike, even getting some shout-outs in canon Star Wars fiction.

Some of the books even fix issues left over by the films. Still can't stand midichlorians? Try reading "Darth Plagueis." Not only does it recontextualize one of the worst parts in the "Star Wars: Phantom Menace," but it offers a far more satisfying backstory for Palpatine than we ever saw in the prequel trilogy. 


The truth about Star Wars is that it is, always has been, and always will be a mess. For decades it has entertained us with stories spanning from epic and inspiring to embarrassingly cheesy. It's told those stories through films, comics, novels, video games and theme park rides. Most of those stories haven't been good. A few have been great.

You don't need any reason to hate "The Last Jedi." You don't have to like how it portrayed Luke Skywalker in his old age or how it decided to wrap up (or outright dismiss) the mysteries left over from "The Force Awakens." If the film wasn't for you, that's the only excuse you need -- but if your foundation for that excuse is the quality of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, you're standing on shaky ground.

But what do I know? I think Tag and Bink is the best Star Wars adventure ever told

Star Wars at 40: Join us in celebrating the many ways the Force-filled sci-fi saga has impacted our lives.

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