Star Wars has often been called a “sandbox,” meaning it is a place where creators can come in and create anything their imagination can come up with. This is true now more than ever with regards to the films.
The only Star Wars film with an actual release target is currently Episode IX. There are allegedly two sets of movies in the works and an indeterminate number of spin-offs planned, although the spin-offs may be stuck in developmental hell themselves. But, again, the only thing we know for sure is that Episode IX should be released somewhere around Christmas 2019.
So now, take everything else off the table and ask yourself this question: what would you like to see?
A Mara Jade story might be the Star Wars movie we nerds (nay the world) really needs: intense lightsaber combat, a post fall of the Empire timeline, and potential to open up the entire universe. Using a character firmly established in the Expanded Universe creates a connection for anyone dissatisfied with the relegation of those adventures to the dustbin of our memories. Creating another strong female lead helps meet the criteria that Disney seems to require and has implemented successfully in three out of four of their movies.* And, making her either a protagonist or antagonist could leave copious room for one Mark Hamill to return to his role as Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master, in the type of power and presence everyone hoped to see in Episode VIII.**
A creation of Timothy Zahn and a central character in his Thrawn trilogy of novels, Mara Jade’s character was trained by Emperor Palpatine and tasked with assassinating Luke Skywalker. Even after the Emperor’s death, she still intended to carry out her mission , spending years tracking down the fledgling Jedi Knight. However, after finally catching up to him, Mara and Luke connected and formed a relationship that would develop into a marriage and even birth a child. However, she would meet her untimely demise at the hands of Darth Caedus, formerly known as Jacen Solo. in his attempt to solidify control of the government under his own rule he struck her down.
Mara Jade provided the readership a foil to Luke. Luke’s character developed, within the Expanded Universe, into a sort of overpowered and under-stated super master where his decisions were always perfect and his Force powers unbelievable. He had become sage-like and lost much of his connection with the audience. Whereas Luke from the Original Trilogy was meant to represent all of us who feel like adventure was out there, Expanded Universe Luke became a walking deus ex machina: he would swoop in and undue all the bad that had been done without consequence or cost. Mara Jade was helpful in curtailing that issue a bit. She was more engaging, more entertaining, and certainly less beholden to the pacifistic light side training that Luke’s academy on Yavin 4 (and subsequent locations) proliferated. Mara Jade demonstrated that emotion was not all bad and that sometimes, to get the job done, the Jedi might need to be less afraid of getting their hands dirty. While it did not eliminate Luke’s near-deity status, it at least made the stories more entertaining and a bit less predictable. While she indeed went from full-blown dark side to loving disciple of the light side, she maintained her personality: feisty, ambitious, self-assured.
There are some interesting facts about the character that make her stand out among the rogues gallery of the Expanded Universe:
- She was the first character originating from the Expanded Universe to have a likeness hired in Ms. Shannon McRandle (commissioned for the Star Wars Collectible Card game; Enhanced Jabba’s Palace set for you nerds keeping score).
- She won the Fan’s Choice Poll Winner in 2011/2012 and had a Black Series 3.75” action figure produced.
- A 1997 Star Wars Insider poll had her as the most popular character that never appeared in one of the films.
It seems a long shot to expect to see Mara Jade in Episode IX. Granted, no one from Lucasfilm called to get my take on it. So difficult to see the future doth remain. However, it feels fairly safe to presume she will not be present then. So what might be the best setting for Ms. Jade?
Mara Jade: A Star Wars Story
Mara Jade may be what Lucasfilm needs in order to salvage the anthology films. As of this writing, Rogue One was a great success, but Solo is widely regarded (in financial terms) as less than successful. But what if Lucasfilm began to fill in some of the gaps between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens with this? While some of the novels help with this time period (Lost Stars, Bloodline, Aftermath trilogy, etc.), there exists an information hole gaping enough to drive a sandcrawler through it: what has Luke been up to?
While the major beats were fleshed out a bit in the sequel movies, we can account for those major beats alone. We know Luke traveled the galaxy, rediscovering the ways of the Jedi. We know he settled and founded an academy for new Jedi Knights. We know that it ended tragically and he withdrew to a self-imposed exile. Lastly, we know that he passed into the Force with one last terrific exertion in order to save the floundering Resistance and stick it to Ben Solo one final time. Mara Jade could be the key to unlocking what happened in the meantime. Who did Luke meet to learn about the Old Republic and the Jedi Order? How did he discover not just the lost home of Ahch-To, but also the sacred Jedi texts themselves? How far had he really fallen in order to think that killing his nephew would prevent the rise of the dark side?
The key to understanding Luke in ye old Expanded Universe was intrinsic to enjoying Mara Jade’s character. The two were intertwined such that to experience one was to experience both. So what better way to understand the rest of Luke’s journey than through the experience of his greatest foil? It provides us the entry of a new (to Disney) character, while also pulling in one of, possibly the, greatest Expanded Universe character. It takes the audience out of the time of the Empire vs. Rebellion ground trod by both anthology films to date and allows us to experience something the other anthology films could not: uncertainty as to the outcome. We knew the Rebels would get the Death Star plans, and we knew Han would win the Falcon from Lando. But what will happen to Mara Jade? How does her encounter with Luke go? What impact does she have on Luke’s academy?
And how can we reinterpret what we know from Episodes VII and VIII in light of all that potential? Doesn’t all that sound so much better than a Boba Fett stand-alone?