Forget About What Star Wars Is, What Is The High Republic?

Forget About What Star Wars Is, What Is The High Republic?
Image: Joseph Meehan/Del Rey Books

There isn’t a franchise that feels in constant strife as much as Star Wars. What success and acclaim projects like The Mandalorian receive almost get drowned out by endless debates about everything else in George Lucas’ space opera. Character development, semi-sequels, the validity of CGI, you name it – there’s always something to talk about, particularly since it doesn’t look like Disney has any interest in exploring the post-Rise of Skywalker future.

The one generally consistent bright spot about the franchise as of late has been The High Republic, a line of novels and comics winding back the clock to hundreds of years ago. With a collection of writers such as Daniel José Older, Cavan Scott, and Justina Ireland fleshing out the galaxy long before the Skywalkers, the High Republic has been a surefire success ever since it began in early 2021. And like Supreme Chancellor Lina Soh, Disney wants their Great Work to expand: not only is the upcoming video game Star Wars Eclipse (developed, regrettably, by Quantic Dream) set during the High Republic era, there are now rumblings of a second TV series set during that time period to join the already announced The Acolyte.

Set aside the simple notion that each new piece of High Republic merely needs to be good, and ask what exactly it adds to the larger franchise, what it says about Star Wars. What the franchise is and could be has been hotly debated for years; you can’t have a lightsaber that’s an umbrella or has a crossguard, there can’t be space Vespas, but there can be an endless supply of clones and a cult with a jacked up promotion structure. Suspension of disbelief is extremely critical to the franchise, but for some, that’s something they haven’t been willing to fully meet Disney and Lucasfilm halfway. There can only be one kind of Star Wars.

Returning to the past has always been a crap shoot for Star Wars, to be kind about it, but High Republic has so far managed to avoid the narrative trappings that have made the Skywalker Saga so polarising. Through various valiant Jedi, villainous Nihil, and members of the Republic looking to protect the stars, the galaxy sketched out by High’s various creators feels as big as this franchise has always wanted it to be, but could really only do fairly recently. Repeating themes, inserting discarded canon into new canon, and retcons of dubious merit have yet to be found here, and this arm of the brand is all the better for it.

High Republic doesn’t care whether or not you get on board: its first novel, Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi, is shamelessly a disaster movie transposed into Star Wars. In its first half, our new Jedi are equal parts humanitarian aid trying to save as many people as they can before a catastrophe strikes, and an army of demigods using their connection to the Force to try and cut that devastation off at the pass. Similar to Star Wars Visions, this new era of Star Wars is just borrowing the visuals and iconography to tell its own fun, pulpy adventures with joyful freedom, and it seems to have paid off. Fans have really taken a shine to this new batch of characters, particularly the Jedi, quicker than they did those of the prequels. In a lot of ways, it feels like the best of what this universe can be when bloodlines aren’t at the forefront of its stories.

Image: Jama Jurabaev/Del ReyImage: Jama Jurabaev/Del Rey

All that’s missing now is a supposed end point or goal in mind for the story these writers and artists want to tell in this new era. As detrimental to the franchise the Skywalker Saga ultimately was, it succeeded in being a suitable anchor by which to explore multiple battlefronts and fallen orders. However clumsy the execution has been, its ultimate thesis via a succession of tragedies remain potent to this day: institutions can and will happily let you down, and they must fall, so something hopefully better can take their place.

Or maybe High Republic doesn’t need to be anything more than what it is. There’s a chance it’s just happy as is being as a series of strong interconnected adventures not undone by public creative clashes. October’s “Quest of the Jedi” plans to go back even further in the timeline come October, with presumably new Jedi to love and tales to tell. But sooner or later, this story will have to come to a bittersweet end. The regality and awe of the Jedi at their supposed best and the Republic who enabled them will blow up spectacularly, and the galaxy at large must later pay the price for their hubris and arrogance.