Grand Admiral Thrawn: The Real Reason to Be Disappointed About Star Wars: Episode VII

Categories: Film and TV

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Let me get this out of the way here before there is any confusion. I am nothing but ecstatic that Disney now has the rights to Star Wars. Yes, Disney makes some awful movies, and their live-action resume isn't without some truly glaring turds like John Carter or Race to Witch Mountain.

On the other hand... Pirates of the Caribbean and Avengers. Those are hard to argue against.

The upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII helmed by J.J. Abrams and with tentatively hopeful appearances by Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher possibly in the works is almost certainly going to be good. Better than the original trilogy? It's conceivable. Better than the prequels? It kind of has to be. So let's not worry too much, but we should take a moment to mourn someone who will definitely not be appearing, Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Before 1991 there weren't many Star Wars expanded universe novels aside from a few young adult titles. Alan Dean Foster was contracted to write a possible low-budget sequel novel that could be used as a less costly basis for a follow-up should Star Wars flop. The result is Splinter of the Mind's Eye, which is an amazing book that future films sadly have mostly exiled from canonicity. Now it's a sort of lost path of could-have-beens.

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The same fate is almost certainly destined for the greatest of the expanded universe prose, the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn, and his devastatingly powerful main antagonist Grand Admiral Thrawn. It's been well-reported that the new film will not be based on any existing material, which means the loss of what can pretty legitimately be considered Episodes VII - IX.

The first book, Heir to the Empire, takes place five years after The Battle of Endor. The Alliance has become a republic, and the last vestiges of the Empire are being mopped up. As the young government begins to try and establish peace in the galaxy, the Empire resurrects under a new tactical genius in the form of Thrawn.

Thrawn was one of 13 Grand Admirals, the highest rank in the Imperial military after Palpatine and Vader. He was also the only non-human, being a blue-skinned, red-eyed Chiss from the edges of known space. Thrawn's non-human status is used at great-length to establish an undercurrent of racism in the Empire, something that allows Zahn to give subtle nods towards fascism in their government. It may be a cheap trick, but it's an effective one.

It also helps illustrate how badass a soldier like Thrawn would have to be to rise in the ranks, and he without a doubt is badass. Culture and civilized, with none of the Dark Force junkie vibe that Vader and Palpatine gave off, he commands a broken armada into an unstoppable force with brilliance and charisma that wins him the loyalty of even the Imperial conscripts who were used to the fatal method of discipline.

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8 comments
Arble
Arble

The Thrawn trilogy was the only EU stuff that wasn't utter crap. I am not, at all, disappointed at a fresh take of things post Ep VI.

rb1012
rb1012

Which is part of the reason I won't care for the new movies. Ford, Hamill, and Fisher, great as they are, are too old for any next in line movie. If they skip into their later years, they will ignore everything from the EU canon, which is already established and which a great deal of has more appeal to me, Thrawn, Mara Jade, etc. We have more or less depending on how you really feel, have accepted new James Bond's, Dr. Who's, and A second Spock, Kirk and crew, we could accept new actors for Solo, Skywalker, and Organa, and used writing and direction from the writers who have contributed to the EU and make a better movie. Ford and them should have made a new trilogy twenty years ago, and it would have been better off, besides, I think Ford just wants his chance at having Solo killed off as he originally did.

David Clarke
David Clarke

Nope... The article made me interested though.

Paul Gasca
Paul Gasca

That article does a good job of explaining why Thrawn is one of the best Star Wars characters but contains spoilers. Have you read any of Heir of the Empire?

MadMac
MadMac

Agreed. Admiral Thrawn was a GREAT antagonist and Timothy Zahn one of the better writers in the EU. I'd hoped Disney would strip mines Star Wars. There is great material, from the Young Jedi Order, (TV series?) to Karen Traviss' EXCELLENT Mandolorian/Clone Trooper books.    

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@MadMac I more or less dropped off after Darksaber, but for a while their I was really into the EU,

MadMac
MadMac

Karen Traviss' war correspondent experience makes for great characterization. Reading her work was like hanging out with my jar-head uncles, but without the drunken violence and potential for testimony in criminal proceedings.  

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