Nearly 16 years after the release of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the universally acclaimed video game may be about to find new life, and a new audience, on the big screen. That's if we can believe a report last week that Disney and Lucasfilm are developing the stories of Bastila Shan, Darth Malak and Darth Revan for its expanding film franchise. But what is the Old Republic?
Many fans treat LucasArts' 2003 role-playing game and its sequels, and the era of Star Wars history they depict, as the franchise's Holy Grail. Why, nearly eight years after the release of the third and final title, Star Wars: The Old Republic, are fans still clamoring for more? To understand, one needs only look at the game's world, from its iconic cast of characters to its unforgettable set pieces.
Four thousand years before the Galactic Empire, Darth Malak, a former Jedi turned Sith Lord, unleashes war upon the Republic, hurling the galaxy into chaos and fragmenting the Jedi Order. Many Jedi are dead; others join Malak to form the new Order of the Sith.
The former apprentice of the notorious Darth Revan, Malak turned against his master. The Jedi Council captures Revan, and, rather than kill him, decides to erase his memory and re-train him to use as a weapon against the growing threat of the Sith.
A World Divided
The original film trilogy presents the Sith and Jedi as opposing sides of the Force; the Jedi are good and the Sith are evil. However, in the Old Republic, the Sith and Jedi are at war. While the Sith are feared, they are a rejection of an equally stifling Council of Jedi of Dantooine, which wants to rein in all Jedi to follow a conservative, radical philosophy that eventually shapes the entire order: no children, no love. Further, many of the actions the Jedi undertake are just as underhanded and cruel as those of the Sith -- most notably, the brainwashing of Darth Revan.
However, that doesn't mean the Sith are the good guys; they're instead corrupted by dark desires. Revan's story is less one about taking a side so much as finding their place in this war -- whether he will defeat the Sith or rule them. There's also the usual system of Republic politics, bounty hunters on the fringes of society, and corporations that exploit the conflict for their own benefit.
Although the old order is in disarray, the planets are largely familiar, only in different states. You go to Kashyyk and Tatooine, sure, but you also encounter the Sith home world of Korriban.
What makes Knights of the Old Republic so fascinating is its diversity of characters. There are a great deal of aliens and droids, yes, but that's only on the surface. The true diversity is one of thought: The Star Wars films are defined, in part, by their black-and-white morality, but these stories take place in a gray area.
Beyond that, mix of genders, ethnicities and sexualities makes the game a radical departure from typical Star Wars fare (that is, until the Disney era). Revan's gender is determined by the player, for example. We meet characters like Carth Onasi (a Republic pilot), Mission Vao (a teenage Twi'lik), Bastil Shan (Jedi), Jolee Bindo (a Gray Jedi) and fan-favorite HK-47 (an assassin droid that was a precursor to Rogue One's K2-SO). All of them offer their own viewpoints on the galaxy, enriching the world with diverse perspectives on what's right.
Knights of the Old Republic was followed in 2004 by a sequel, set five years later and featuring a Jedi Order that's been all but eradicated by the Sith. An exiled Jedi Knight known only as the Exile must find a place in this new world, and try to piece together what happened after Revan's quest.
Several spinoff novels and comics were later published to expand on elements not given enough attention in the games. The developed Revan's history, and the events of the Mandalorian and Great Sith Wars, two major 20-decade conflicts that reshaped the temperamental Old Republic. With so many perspectives, the setting is ripe for examination onscreen.
Yet, for whatever reason, after the initial two games, interest in the Old Republic seemed to cool. That is, until the third and final game in the series, Star Wars: The Old Republic, appeared in 2011. However, rather than a stand-alone adventure, it was an open-world MMORPG, offering players a chance to experience the world of the Old Republic from the perspective of an original character.
Disney declared the Old Republic non-canon following its purchase of Lucasfilm, but fans never lost interest in seeing their favorite era of Star Wars become part of continuity again. This is especially true, given how the beloved Star Wars Rebels animated series actually referenced to events from The Old Republic games. Now, with the report of a movie is in the works, it seems the Old Republic may rise again.