Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why Starkiller should be a major part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe

     Warning: This essay will spoil the events of The Force Unleashed and The Force Unleashed 2.

    Star Wars is a franchise with hundreds of heroes but only a few who matter. Luke Skywalker, Obi Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Amidala are the heroes everyone remembers. Why? Well, the obvious answer is because they're the ones in the movies. Star Wars is always going to be remembered chiefly for the films and those heroes of other media aren't going to make as large an impression.

    However, does that mean their stories are any less important to the greater saga as a whole. Some of my favorite stories in the Star Wars Expanded Universe star characters outside of the "Big Ones." Mara Jade, Nomi Sunrider, Ulic Qel-Dromel, Darth Revan, Bastila Shan, Corran Horn, and Kyle Katarn are all characters who you will have only heard about if you're a fan of the SWEU. Still, I absolutely love them. Yet, out of all of them, I'd like to see one character make a return to the Post-Disney SWEU.

    Galen Marek a.k.a Starkiller.

Galen is very much the Anti-Luke Skywalker. However, the irony is that he's far closer to Luke than the vast majority of characters meant to represent the Skywalker legacy.
   Galen Marek is the star of the multimedia The Force Unleashed project. He is the star of two games, two novel adaptations of the aforementioned games, a similar comic book adaptation, and almost nothing else. It's a curious situation as Darth Revan has been referenced in multiple books, games, and continuity guides. Part of this may be explained by Lucas Arts keeping him to themselves but Starkiller is conspicuous by his absence in the larger SWEU.

    I believe this is because Starkiller is a character whose importance to the Star Wars continuity is so considerable he's hard to just causally "plop down" in a story. A bit like Ahsoka Tano, Anakin's padawan, he's got important relationships with a lot of characters.You need to think about these relationships before writing him.

Whether accidental of deliberate. Darth Vader killed Galen Marek's father. He is also Galen's father.
     The Force Unleashed has Starkiller playing a pivotal role in the foundation of the Rebellion. As Vader's foremost apprentice and, in a sick-sick way, surrogate son--there's a lot of interesting conversations that could be had with Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. Yet, with the unlikelihood of there ever being a Force Unleashed 3, it seems we'll probably never have these conversations.

    It seems silly to want to see the protagonist of a video game deal with issues like, "how well did you know my father" but it's no more silly than worrying about the importance of midiclorians and whether Endor is doomed due to falling Death Star wreckage. But why? Why do I like Starkiller? Why do I think he's important to the Saga?

Well, for one, Starkiller has a LOT of issues. Ones which make him an interesting character.
    For me, the reason I like Starkiller is he helps answer a number of interesting questions about both Lord Vader as well as Luke Skywalker. The first question is what sort of plans was Vader making before the arrival of his son? Well, it turns out he was plotting to kill the Emperor even before he met Luke Skywalker.

    What sort of mentor would Darth have been to Luke if he'd corrupted him to the Dark Side? Unsurprisingly, a brutal one. We get a sense of Vader's self-loathing being projected on his chief student. The more heroic Starkiller or Luke would have acted, the more Vader would want to disabuse him of those impulses. God help Luke if he ever fell in love.

    Conversely, we get a sense of Luke Skywalker not only as a Sith Lord but as a Jedi Knight. The brutality and power Luke would develop under Lord Vader's tutelage would give him an immense advantage but his innate goodness would win out over the Dark Side. Starkiller might have ambitions to be the most powerful Sith there is but when called to endanger the lives of those he cares about, he discovers that takes a secondary importance.

Let's hope Juno isn't secretly his sister.
    You may wonder why I am bringing up Galen Marek to illustrate What-Ifs about Luke Skywalker and Vader. After all, they're different characters. Right? Yes, they are. However, what I enjoy about Galen is that he's a very well written foil for Luke and Vader. A man who grows up knowing very little about his father but developing an idealism about him which serves as his beacon to become a Jedi. A man whose love for the wrong woman threatens his position in his order and drives him to betray it.

    They're all three immature when they start their galaxy-changing crusades but rapidly grow into the roles  they've been assigned. They also have rebellions against their mentor figures as they realize they fundamentally disagree with them--Starkiller, obviously, more than Luke. Much like Ahsoka Tano, Mara Jade, and even Siri Tachi--Starkiller helps illustrate a different side to our protagonists. He also manages to be an interesting character in his own right.

    For me, the best SWEU characters don't just serve as the protagonists of their own stories in the Star Wars universe but have something to add to the tapestry. You can sit them down with the cast of the movies and it would be an interesting scene where the newbies can hold their own weight. As the heretofore only known "Light Sith" to serve as a protagonist, he adds a number of interesting dimensions to the Saga. Not to mention he's also a character who, as mentioned, would be darn interesting to sit down with the better-known heroes.

I even like the non-canon "Darth Stalker" character - what happens if Galen Marek falls to the Dark Side for a second time.
    Some individuals may say Starkiller subtracts rather than adds. That his pivotal role in the Rebellion's founding undermines Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, and Garm Bel Iblis' roles. That having another fully trained Force User around the time of the Rebellion makes Luke less pivotal. Indeed, you might argue that Starkiller's power level makes Luke and Darth Vader less impressive.

    I say thee nay.

    While Starkiller's story needs to be wrapped up so we know what he does from just prior to the Battle of Yavin to the Battle of Endor, I think there's plenty of reasons why he might not be able to carry the mantle of the Jedi like Luke can. For one, twenty-years of Sith training is going to be pretty hard to shake. Two, his intense attachment to Juno is unhealthy as much as redemptive. Three, we know it's Luke who redeems Vader--an infinitely more impressive accomplishment than defeating him.

    As for undermining Bail, Mothma, and Garm--I actually like the fact they were kind of treading water for twenty years. It takes the illusion of a Jedi, which Galen impersonates, to provide them the moral courage to put aside their differences and create the Alliance. Given the Alliance didn't achieve any victories until just before the opening crawl of ANH (The Battle of Topwara), the Alliance has to be a relatively recent event versus something failing for two decades.

Three Senators, a Jedi Knight, a Princess, and Darth Vader's apprentice. The Corellian Treaty is kind of out there.
    I don't think Galen's ridiculously impressive powers are cause for alarm either. For one, Darth Vader displays the exact same level of power in his battles with Starkiller. The opening mission for The Force Unleashed allows Vader to crush his opponents with the fully-charged abilities Galen eventually displays. No, Darth Vader doesn't pull down a Star Destroyer but we know Luke Skywalker levitates one down in Dark Empire. It was already in the atmosphere and out of control.

     Admittedly, if Galen Marek is around during the Rebellion, doesn't this mean he should be training Luke in the ways of the Force? At the very least, shouldn't they be doing some lightsaber sparring? For me, I think that just paves the way for new and interesting stories to be told. What was Galen doing during the latter part of the Rebellion? Did he and Luke swap stories? Was he uncomfortable being around the father-idolizing son of a man he knew to be a monster? Perhaps Luke taught Starkiller about decency while Starkiller taught Luke secrets of telekinesis in time for The Empire Strikes Back? There's a lot of ways to screw this up but equally a number of fascinating stories to tell.

    No, Galen Marek isn't the Other Yoda spoke of. Return of the Jedi is quite clear that's Princess Leia. Yet, the addition of another Jedi-in-training to the Rebellion period isn't as devastating as it could be. We've already got numerous Jedi survivors in the present SWEU and integrating Starkiller is a hell of a lot easier than those two dozen or so guys. Part of me would like to see Starkiller fail at being a Jedi while succeed at being a hero. The possibilities are endless if you think about them and that, to me, is a sign the character works.

I also think Samuel Witwer is a good enough actor to show up in any medium they choose to put Starkiller.
    We're undoubtedly going to be revisiting the Rebellion period with the post-Disney SWEU. There will be countless tales of Luke, Han, and Leia's exploits in a period already extensively covered. However, we can differentiate these new stories from the old ones by giving them a new supporting cast. The post-ROTJ SWU was always more interesting to me because of characters like Mara Jade and, later, the Solo children bringing out different sides to our heroes. Wouldn't it be interesting to see our heroes interact with their own new supporting cast in the Rebellion period? Characters like Juno Eclipse, Starkiller, and original creations will prevent repetition. It's one of the reasons I liked little-known character Deena Shan.

    Of course, there's nothing preventing Starkiller from never interacting with the mainstream heroes during the ANH to ROTJ period. In a hypothetical The Force Unleashed sequel, maybe he's a prisoner of Lord Vader for three to four years. Maybe he's killed again. It could be they just have different adventures which keep them from interacting much. If they wanted to go the Mysteries of the Sith root, maybe a wholly original character is required to bring back Starkiller from the Dark Side after Koto dies or something equally traumatic. That's not even covering the fact the majority of the Rebellion is unaware a founding member used to kill Jedi for the Dark Lord of the Sith. It's entirely possible the Rebellion wouldn't take too kindly to this revelation.

     There's also ample for Starkiller's story to diverge from Luke Skywalkers in an interesting way. The Force Unleashed 2 illustrates Starkiller's priorities when he chooses to abandon the Rebellion in order to rescue Juno Eclipse. Starkiller's loyalty is to his personal circle of friends, not any higher cause, so it's quite possible Luke and Starkiller's stories may diverge in profound ways. Barring something cataclysmic, Rahm Koto will have to die before A New Hope and this may be the straw which breaks the camel's back in terms of allying Starkiller to the Rebellion.

    Galen Marek has an infinite amount of stories in him and I'd love to see these tales told. While it's unlikely Disney will add the character to their stable of regulars--we can always hope.

    My .02.

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