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Was Force Unleashed Better for Star Wars Lore?

In celebration of Star Wars Day, we take a look back at The Force Unleashed, which promised to introduce Darth Vader's secret apprentice (Starkiller) to the franchise lore. The game was meant to embrace video games as a storytelling medium for Star Wars before it got pushed away in 2012. Did the Star Wars canon lose more than a badass character in making Starkiller's story irrelevant?

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WARNING: Article contains spoilers for The Force Unleashed.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed introduced Starkiller (Galen Marek) to the galaxy; a powerful Force user adopted by Darth Vader at a young age as a secret apprentice. With the blessing and encouragement of George Lucas, Starkiller was meant to show what a Force user could do without any restrictions, using powers that rival and possibly exceed those of Yoda and Darth Vader. It was an exciting addition to the universe at the time. One that was meant to show a full embrace of video games as a storytelling medium. Furthermore, it bridged the two movie trilogies with lasting implications.

Dubbed Starkiller as an adult, his mission was to wipe out the Jedi remnants as a means of preparing for a greater goal: helping Darth Vader kill the Emperor, thereby elevating himself to a full Sith Lord. However, his existence was discovered by the Emperor, and Darth Vader had to fall back on Plan B: form a resistance group and use it to destroy the Emperor. The Emperor would be so distracted by the ensuing civil war that he'd forget to watch his own back, giving Vader the opening to take a shot.

Then something happened. No, we're not talking about how the whole "start a rebellion" thing was actually a plan thought up by Vader and the Emperor as a means of ferreting out traitors. Nor are we referring to how Starkiller pulls a reverse Vader by discovering the Light side, falling in love, and sacrificing himself in a battle against the Emperor - an act that marked the beginning of the Alliance to Restore the Republic (later shortened to Rebel Alliance), which uses the Marek insignia as its symbol. We're talking about September 2012, when it was announced that everything that happened in the Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU) didn't count as canon. That meant no video game, including The Force Unleashed, Knights of the Old Republic, or Republic Commando, had any real bearing on the Star Wars universe, thus negating all of video gaming's contributions to the Star Wars lore.

As it stands, the official story of the Rebel Alliance's origin is a little more organic. As depicted in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series, the last remnants of the of the Jedi Order join forces with renegade members of the Imperial Senate. Together, they create an alliance group with the goal of fighting a war of attrition against the Empire. Neat, understandable, and totally boring.

On the one hand, not being counted as canon allows for all the crazy events that happened in The Force Unleashed 2, especially its ending. If it doesn't count toward anything, then you can pretty much do whatever you want. On the other, using Starkiller to found the rebellion as part of some plot to find traitors among the Empire is so insane that it's worthy of a true mastermind. Hey, it makes more sense than space bacteria being responsible for Force sensitivity.

When you think about it, Starkiller's founding of the Rebellion can be looked at in one of two ways. Firstly, as the ultimate power grab by Darth Vader. Up until then, fans knew him as either the impetuous (and whiney) Anakin Skywalker, who betrayed the whole Jedi Order. Or as Darth Vader, the guy could Force Choke you to death via video phone. But training and using Starkiller (and the Rebel Alliance by extension) to kill a master he can't beat in a straight fight demonstrates that Vader is also capable of great patience. It took the Rebel Alliance a long while, but it ultimately gave him the opening he needed to take out the Emperor. Vader might have fired a bullet that took decades to hit, but doing so would solidify his role as the galaxy's ultimate badass.

Alternatively, Starkiller's storyline could be seen as the Emperor committing suicide, he originally cooked up the complicated plan to further secure his own power. But the plan backfired and ultimately destroyed everything he built. Or, perhaps the Emperor wanted to see if Vader would take advantage of his schemes and prove himself by killing his master in the traditional Sith way. Either way would essentially amount to suicide.

Using Starkiller's storyline opens up a wealth of different questions and makes the Star Wars events richer. What does it mean for the Alliance's identity if it was founded as part of a secret Imperial plot? If it was a suicide, then does that mean the Emperor was the only person in the galaxy who could take himself down? No matter how you use slice it, and whether or not you use a lightsaber to do it, Starkiller's involvement adds an air of complexity to an otherwise straightforward story, not to mention video games' involvement in the franchise canon. Star Wars lost something significant when it denied Starkiller's involvement.

Managing Editor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    May 4, 2015 2:00 PM

    Steven Wong posted a new article, Was Force Unleashed Better for Star Wars Lore?

    • reply
      May 4, 2015 2:01 PM

      in a word? Yup.

    • reply
      May 4, 2015 2:34 PM

      Absolutely. The whole idea of the Alliance being founded by the Empire but subverted and protected by Starkiller is awesome, something more mature and believable than whatever Disney XD shit they're pushing as the real Rebellion origin story. I can understand the whole 'what if' nature of the game made it a little more difficult to keep as canon, but I don't see why they couldn't just keep the ending where the Rebellion leaders survived as canon. It eliminates Starkiller from the story, so there's no need to bring him back, and it explains Vader's 'errand boy' routine in RotJ.

      I think Disney was really rash in basically wiping the entirety of the EU. There's a ton of worthwhile things they could've adapted into the new universe.

    • reply
      May 5, 2015 11:08 AM

      I think Star Wars Rebels is doing a good job filling in the same period of time, but yeah, I pleasantly surprised by TFU's story and am sad it's no longer part of the lore.

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