It’s fair to say that Disney’s stewardship of the Star Wars franchise– courtesy of the House of Mouse’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012 – has generated considerable controversy. Easily one of the most contentious moves made by the powers that be at Disney/Lucasfilm occurred early on in proceedings was disavowing the vast majority of the Expanded Universe canon.
Admittedly, this actually makes a lot of sense. You don’t want filmmakers working on new Star Wars adventures shackled by decades worth of continuity from the novels, comic books, video games, and TV shows. On the contrary: you want them free to push the saga’s future (and past) in whatever interesting new creative direction they dream up. If that means hitting the reset button on the EU? So be it.
At the same time, it’s hard not to sympathize with fans dismayed at seeing their favorite material from the EU rebranded as non-canon “Legends." Many hardcore fans are upset by the revised direction in which their favorite heroes and villains have been taken during the Star Wars sequel trilogy.
Yet much like the Force – that mystical energy field that binds the Star Wars universe together – a lot of the backlash towards Disney and Lucasfilm suffers from a lack of balance. Indeed, there are more than a few characters who, rather than being harmed by changes to the canon, were actually improved by them.
To that end, here are 12 Star Wars Characters Hurt By Disney Changes (And 7 That Were Saved).
20 Hurt – Princess Leia
As portrayed in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Leia has never properly developed her mystical Force powers. What’s more, after her son Kylo Ren falls to the dark side and her husband Han Solo splits, she runs back to the front lines, forgoing her royal title for the role of general, instead.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of this, per se. It’s just less impressive than what Leia accomplishes in the EU.
In Legends, she rises to the rank of fully-fledged Jedi Knight, and is also a prominent figure in the New Republic’s political arena.
Better still, Leia and Han raise their family together - although one of their kids turned evil, too.19 Saved – Emperor Palpatine
Emperor Palpatine – otherwise known by his Sith alter ego, Darth Sidious – may be a real stinker, but he’s also a genius. Relying as much on his smarts as his dark side powers, Palpatine achieved the Sith goal of conquering the galaxy, carefully plotting his rise to power throughout the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
True, the Empire was eventually defeated and Palpatine was overthrown by his former right-hand man, Darth Vader. Still, the guy was galactic numero uno for several decades, which is an objectively impressive legacy.
That’s why we’re glad Disney struck the Dark Empire stories – where a reborn Palpatine nearly restores Imperial rule to the galaxy – from the official series canon. As all of his schemes failed, Palpatine was starting to seem like more of a “three-time loser” than a truly potent threat!18 Hurt – Luke Skywalker
The main protagonist of the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker’s fate in Disney’s continuation of the saga stands in stark contrast to how things previously played out.
In the Expanded Universe, our guy becomes a celebrated Jedi Master who successfully trains a new generation of Jedi Knights. He also settles down with love interest Mara Jade, with whom he has a son, Ben. Sure, it’s seldom smooth sailing for Luke – but he heroically rises to whatever challenges confront him.
This all went out the window in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Here, Luke is a bitter recluse after his own nephew succumbs to the Dark Side.
This decidedly more flawed take on the character is arguably more interesting than the straight-arrow of the EU, but for some fans, Luke was irreparably damaged when Disney took over.17 Saved – Chewbacca
Han Solo’s furry BFF Chewbacca is one of two characters on this list who quite literally qualifies as being “saved” by Disney. Why?
As of The Last Jedi, the towering Wookiee is still alive and kicking, but in the Expanded Universe, Chewie bit the dust years ago!
Admittedly, Chewbacca went out in a blaze of glory – rescuing Han’s youngest child at the cost of his own life. There’s no getting around the fact that in the Disney canon, Chewie is able to go on having new adventures, whereas in Legends, he wasn’t.
That said, Chewie has been increasingly relegated to the periphery in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Even sidelined, it’s still a thrill to see this legendary sidekick on the big screen – something that fidelity to the EU would never have allowed.16 Hurt – Han Solo
Since taking the reins on the Star Wars franchise, Disney hasn’t been shy about offing beloved characters – even Luke Skywalker departed in The Last Jedi. The first major exit – and perhaps the one that hit hardest – was Han Solo's, when he was bumped off by his own kid in The Force Awakens.
Prior to finding himself at the mercy Kylo Ren’s lightsaber, this old space pirate was estranged from Princess Leia and had returned to his old smuggling ways.
This isn’t exactly how fans thought things would pan out following Return of the Jedi – and compared to Han’s future in “Legends” canon, it’s downright depressing. There, he’s a respected member of the New Republic, and a devoted husband and father. Sure, one of his children still breaks bad, but at least Han wasn’t whacked by him!15 Saved – Yoda
Ever since The Empire Strikes Back, diminutive Jedi Master Yoda has established himself as one of the wisest figures in the Star Wars universe. The little green guy’s sage advice to Luke Skywalker was instrumental in transforming the former farmboy into a powerful Jedi Knight.
At the same time, once series creator George Lucas wound back the clock with the prequel trilogy, Yoda’s reputation took a bit of a hit, as the Jedi Master’s fabled decision-making proved pretty suspect. To be honest, Yoda – along with the rest of the Jedi Council – were so thoroughly outmanoeuvred by Darth Sidious, it’s downright embarrassing.
Fortunately, Disney brought Yoda back in The Last Jedi, where his ghostly form reminds Luke of the wisdom to be found in failure – and we realize how fully the Jedi Master has learned from his own.14 Hurt – Jar Jar Binks
It’s hard to imagine someone as reviled as Jar Jar Binks could sink any lower, but changes to the character wrought by Disney prove this was indeed possible. A painfully unsuccessful attempt to introduce a slapstick sidekick to the franchise, this bumbling Gungan was loathed by fans and critics alike from the moment he first reared his head in The Phantom Menace.
Jar Jar’s subsequent appearances were mercifully brief – although the part he played in Attack of the Clones would have serious consequences. Here, Jar Jar unwittingly sets into motion the Senate vote that indirectly leads to the rise of the Empire.
How could things get any worse for Jar Jar? Well, the Disney canon reveals that Binks was openly blamed for his actions by the people of his homeworld Naboo, living out his days as a penniless busker!13 Saved – Darth Vader
We know what you’re thinking: surely Darth Vader doesn’t need saving! Certainly, Vader as depicted in the original Star Wars trilogy is in little need of rehabilitation.
Actor Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of Vader in Revenge of the Sith was poorly received by fans.
The general consensus is that Christensen’s wooden performance made Vader come across as a petulant man-child rather than the terrifying (yet tragic) figure he needed to be.
It would have been a real shame if this had been Vader’s last proper big screen appearance – so thank goodness Disney featured him in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Vader’s role here is relatively minor, but moments such as when he cuts down a corridor full of Rebel soldiers do a lot to restore his reputation as one of cinema’s greatest baddies.12 Hurt – C-3PO
Along with friend and comedic foil R2-D2, protocol droid C-3PO is one of the most recognizable supporting players in the original Star Wars trilogy. He may have a reduced presence in the prequels, but thanks to the Expanded Universe, Threepio is a mainstay of the saga’s past, present, and future.
Not so once Star Wars became the property of Disney, and the EU stories were largely dismissed as non-canon. Now, not only have most of Threepio’s off-screen adventures been wiped from the record, but he barely figures into the plot of either The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi.
It also doesn’t help that other, cooler protocol droids – like Solo: A Star Wars Story’s sassy L3-37 – have since debuted as well, further undermining poor Threepio’s stature in the franchise.11 Saved – Darth Maul
Full disclosure: the Expanded Universe had already officially resurrected Darth Maul – who was seemingly permanently dispatched by Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Phantom Menace – long before Disney got involved. This happened in the Clone Wars TV show, which the House of Mouse wisely didn’t discard from canon when nearly everything else was being jettisoned.
Even so, Maul’s survival was something only fans familiar with Clone Wars and follow-up series Rebels were aware of, and more casual audiences still believed him to be long gone.
By having Maul make a surprise cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story, Disney made his return that little bit more official.
It set the stage for further big screen appearances by the one-time Sith Lord.10 Hurt – R2-D2
In many ways, R2-D2 is the unsung hero of the both the original and prequel Star Wars trilogies – always on-hand to bail our protagonists out of whatever scrape they find themselves in. This behavior extends to the Expanded Universe continuity, where Artoo continues to loyally serve Luke Skywalker and his allies for decades after Return of the Jedi.
This all changed when Disney scrapped most of the EU adventures, and Artoo saw himself pushed out of the spotlight during the events of the sequel trilogy. In fact, in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, not only does Artoo have precious few moments of screen time, but the role of “plucky droid sidekick” has been usurped by newcomer BB-8!9 Saved – Lando Calrissian
Admittedly, it’s disappointing that an older version of Billy Dee William’s Lando Calrissian hasn’t shown up yet in Disney’s Star Wars sequel trilogy. It’s especially galling when you factor in just how prominently Lando figures into the non-canon “Legends” stories set during this time period.
Everyone seems to agree that Donald Glover’s take on a younger version of the character in Solo: A Star Wars Story is pretty much the best thing ever.
Lando’s exploits here rank amongst his finest – making the prospect of a sequel to Solo starring Glover very tantalizing.
Indeed, we’d go so far as to say that all Disney needs to do to completely “save” Lando is bring back Williams in the upcoming Episode IX!8 Hurt – Boba Fett
The funny thing about Boba Fett is that – in direct contrast to his incredible popularity within the fanbase – he doesn’t actually do all that much in the Star Wars movies. Indeed, on the big screen, his biggest achievements amount to tracking the Millennium Falcon to Cloud City (good!) and later being knocked into the carnivorous Sarlacc by a vision-impaired Han Solo (not so good).
When you get right down to it, Fett’s biggest moments and greatest achievements actually take place in Expanded Universe stories – almost all of which have now been labelled non-canon “Legends” by Disney.
Stripped of these accomplishments, the saga’s most feared bounty hunter is reduced to a guy with a cool-looking outfit, an awesome profession, and not much else, really.7 Saved – Mon Mothma
Some Star Wars characters never really seem to get the amount of screent ime in the movies that they deserve – and Mon Mothma is a prime example of this.
Despite being one of the most influential founding members of the Rebel Alliance, Mothma’s part in the original trilogy is little more than a cameo, lasting less than 5 minutes.
Worse still, scenes filmed for Revenge of the Sith – where actress Genevieve O’Reilly portrayed Mothma, and which depicted her pivotal role in the formation of the Rebellion – were cut. The auburn-haired diplomat does still appear in the film, but again, very briefly and she doesn’t utter a word.
Disney decided to at least slightly redress the injustice shown towards on of the saga’s under-appreciated female heroes in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
In this spin-off, Reilly reprises her role – and Mon Mothma is given more to say (if not actually do) on the big screen than ever before.6 Hurt – Mara Jade
Regularly cited as the most popular Star Wars Expanded Universe character, Mara Jade was a big deal in a galaxy far, far away - until Disney bought Lucasfilm, that is. The moment the House of Mouse wiped the slate clean of any adventures set post-Return of the Jedi, Mara was immediately erased from the official canon.
Gone was her marriage to Luke Skywalker, along with their child together, Ben - and hher colorful career first as the Emperor’s personal assassin, then as a smuggler, and finally a Jedi likewise went up in smoke.
True, Mara came off second best in a duel with her own nephew in the EU – so you could argue that either way, she gets a rough deal. When it comes to choosing between meeting a sticky end or never existing at all? We know which we’d choose!5 Saved – Grand Admiral Thrawn
Another wildly popular Expanded Universe character, Grand Admiral Thrawn seemed destined for a similar fate to that of Mara Jade – fitting, as they both debuted in author Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy of novels.
Unlike poor Mara, it turns out that Disney was able to find a use for this cold, calculating, blue-skinned master tactician, despite wiping the Thrawn trilogy from the canon. Thanks to his appearances in the Rebels TV series – where Thrawn’s final fate is left ambigious – Thrawn has quite possibly been spared from his original, untimely demise!
This doesn’t just spell good news for Thrawn, but for fans as well, as it leaves the door open for this compelling figure to appear in future storylines – something that would have been impossible previously.4 Hurt – Quinlan Vos
Fun fact: Quinlan Vos started out as an unnamed background character in The Phantom Menace. Taken with Vos’ distinctive visual style, comic book writer/artist team John Ostrander and Jan Duursema named and established him as a maverick Jedi.
Vos’ dramatic reinvention in the Expanded Universe impressed series creator George Lucas, who included a brief mention of the Kiffar Jedi Master in Revenge of the Sith.
There were even plans to feature Vos in the montage of Jedi betrayed by their clone troops during Order 66, but this never materialized.
So clearly Vos is a special guy – and a lot of what makes him special was chronicled in comic books now branded with the non-canon “Legends” tag. Sure, it could be worse – Vos wasn’t erased from continuity, and his Clone Wars appearances still count – but he didn’t escape unscathed, either!3 Hurt – Starkiller
Galen Marek – better known by his codename, “Starkiller” – had it pretty sweet once upon a time. Not only was he the star of the hit The Force Unleashed video game series and its tie-in media, but he was the hand-picked secret apprentice of Darth Vader himself!
Then Disney acquired Lucasfilm, and pretty much every Star Wars video game under the sun was deemed non-canon – transforming Starkiller from antihero to zero. Not only was The Force Unleashed – which bridged the prequel and original trilogies – and its sequel disavowed, but any follow-up games were ruled out, too.
Intriguingly, Starkiller nearly received a last minute stay of execution prior to being deleted from the Disney canon.
Star Wars: Rebels producer Dave Filoni almost used Starkiller as one of the Inquisitor villains seen in the TV series, but ultimately abandoned the idea.2 Hurt – Admiral Ackbar
As countless Internet memes so gleefully point out, Admiral Ackbar is typically very on-the-ball when it comes to spotting a trap. Not even this celebrated military commander was able to foresee the havoc that Disney would wreak on his life, after taking over the Star Wars canon.
In the original Expanded Universe continuity, the Mon Calamari admiral lives long enough to resign his commission from the New Republic fleet and retires. He emerges from retirement when the Republic is threatened by new enemies the Yuuzhan Vong, and later passes away peacefully of old age.
In the Disney canon, Ackbar doesn’t get the opportunity to call it a day, much less bow out in bed. Instead, he’s yet another casualty of the war between the Resistance and the First Order, as seen in The Last Jedi.1 Hurt – Kyle Katarn
Kyle Katarn’s fate represents arguably the cruellest reversal of fortune suffered by any character on this list. Back in the day, Kyle headlined the critically and commercially acclaimed Jedi Knight video game series, and was regarded fondly enough by fans to merit his own action figure,
In-universe, as well as being a respected member of the New Jedi Order, Kyle was the guy responsible for stealing the plans for the original Death Star – so yeah, he achieved a lot.
Then Disney took the helm, and not only was Kyle no longer responsible for the Death Star schematics – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story makes that impossible – but he didn’t even exist anymore! Any way you cut it, that’s a pretty big step backward.
What other Star Wars characters have been hurt (or saved) by Disney? Let us know in the comments!
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