Whatever your opinion is on the Star Wars sequels, it cannot be denied that they caused further division within a fandom already prone to infighting and discord. To this day social media and online forums are still rife with numerous debates about the future direction of Star Wars cinema. One particular direction that many fans are in favour of is for Disney to base their next slate of mainline movies on the Old Republic era from the critically acclaimed Knights of the Old Republic (henceforth referred to as KOTOR) video games.
It’s not hard to see why, as the KOTOR games have the rare distinction of being universally loved by both Star Wars fans and the larger gaming community as a whole. In fact, it was recently confirmed that the first KOTOR game is getting a modern-day remake as a timed exclusive on the PS5, and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has hinted at internal discussions about KOTOR in the past. On the surface it seems a no-brainer from both a creative and financial standpoint for Disney to bring such a beloved property to the silver screen.
However, in this article I will put forward my opinions on why Disney should not attempt to bring the story of the protagonists in the KOTOR games to the silver screen, as well as providing my suggestions on how to create a KOTOR movie adaptation in a way that remains true to the spirit of the original games.
MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC 1, 2 AND THE OLD REPUBLIC FOLLOW.
From a Certain Point of View
The first KOTOR game was set approximately 4000 years before the events of A New Hope and puts you in the shoes of a Republic soldier, later revealed to be an amnesiac legendary Jedi named Revan. Produced by Bioware, KOTOR masterfully weaves familiar Star Wars themes together with a compelling story and a creative setting to build a narrative that is cohesive, engaging and true to the spirit of the original Star Wars movies. Hence, it is of no surprise that a large section of the Star Wars fandom wants to see an Old Republic movie centred around Revan, with many even touting Keanu Reeves for the role.
There is a slight issue with this however. While some players might identify with a Revan that looks like John Wick, other players might see their versions of Revan differently. For example:
As you probably have guessed, Revan can be either a male or female character. In true RPG fashion, you begin your KOTOR journey at a character creation screen, where you decide how Revan looks as well as the skills he/she specializes in. Unlike in a movie, you are not being told who Revan is, you are deciding who Revan will be. Most importantly, throughout the course of the game you are constantly required to make decisions within conversations ranging from the seemingly inconsequential to monumental choices that could determine the fate of the universe.
These decisions would then go on to shape the overall story as well as the way other characters react to Revan in-game, and thus the story of KOTOR is in reality a reflection of the player’s personal choices rather than a predetermined narrative being fed to the player. All of this comes together to provide every player with their own unique KOTOR experience that is tailored specifically to them, and the game never hints at a ‘true’ choice that Revan is supposed to make or a ‘correct’ way to play the game.
Depending on the player’s choices, Revan can either be a paragon of virtue, a villainous sadist or someone in between, all of which provide gaming experiences that are equally as valid if different in tone. Whichever direction the game progresses, the player is constantly being reminded both actively and passively about the choices they made. Player agency is the core element of the KOTOR games, and I would argue that no singular KOTOR experience should be elevated above the rest as the ‘Canon’ choice.
If Disney does decide to make a movie starring Revan as the main character, deciding on a canon Revan is exactly what they will need to do. Just taking the most basic choice of deciding Revan’s gender as an example, Disney will in a way be relegating all Revans of the opposite gender to the ‘Non-Canon’ section of Star Wars. What does this mean for players that decided their Revan should be a female character? This disconnect becomes even more difficult to reconcile when you factor in the choices that Revan makes throughout the game.
The main reason why Revan is so unique is because we are Revan, and the choices that Revan ends up making are choices that we personally made. And so being told that your choices matter less to the Star Wars mythology compared to another person’s is not only akin to taking a blaster bolt to the behaviour core, but it completely runs against the spirit of the original KOTOR which upheld freedom of choice above all else. The same concept also applies to KOTOR 2 where you play as The Exile, a Jedi who served as a war general under the command of Revan, and like Revan he/she is a blank canvas upon which players can project themselves onto.
The interesting thing is that this has all actually already happened before. After the first two KOTOR games, Bioware was drafted in to produce an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) that functions both as a sequel to KOTOR 2 and as a competitor to World of Warcraft. Like with World of Warcraft, Bioware sought to include major lore characters from the previous two KOTOR games, and the decision was made to give Revan and The Exile canon backstories and genders (with Revan being male and The Exile female) via both The Old Republic game itself and it’s prequel novel titled Revan.
Unsurprisingly, many KOTOR players (myself included) found ourselves severely disagreeing with this characterisation of Revan in particular, as it conflicted greatly with the personal image of Revan that we have created in our own image. Players were also left feeling like our choices in both games did not matter, as Bioware had decided there was an official sequence of events that happened irregardless of player choice. If a Star Wars movie was to be made centred around Revan, this will once again be an issue among KOTOR players.
The Way Forward
This might come as a surprise given how I’ve seemingly just argued against it, but I genuinely do agree with the sentiment that The Old Republic games contain a wealth of content that Disney would be wise to tap into. My issue has always been with the adaptation of Revan and The Exile specifically, rather than The Old Republic era itself. Hence in my opinion, a Star Wars movie set within The Old Republic era that avoids using these two characters is the ideal way to do a KOTOR movie. The Old Republic era is filled with rich stories and compelling characters, many of which can easily stand on their own 2 feet in a movie without having to rely on the more recognizable protagonists.
One possible way of doing this could be by having a KOTOR movie that covers the Mandalorian Wars (one of the major events set before the first game which had massive implications for the denizens of The Old Republic universe). The movie could explore the story of major side characters established within the games as they develop throughout the war into the characters that the player eventually meets in-game.
Exploring significant events through the eyes of KOTOR’s supporting cast allows Disney to avoid the conflict of player choice vs concrete narrative, as these characters’ histories were already set in stone independently of the games’ events. Since it is a prequel story, a movie like this would also work well as an introduction for audiences who are otherwise unfamiliar with the KOTOR storyline, while also providing fanservice to audiences who’ve played the games as they get to see these characters grow into the heroes (or villains) they are familiar with.
With that being said, Disney could still leverage on Revan for storytelling purposes should they proceed with the approach mentioned above by using elements of Revan’s story that are true regardless of the player’s choices in the games. Given how Revan almost single-handedly turned the tide of the Mandalorian Wars, Revan could have an indirect presence in a theoretical KOTOR movie in the role of an unseen, distant military commander whose presence is felt only through military orders and rumors’.
Throughout the KOTOR games many characters alluded to Revan’s charisma and strategic brilliance inspiring almost fanatic loyalty among his troops, and even leading to many Jedi leaving the Jedi Order to follow him to war. This reverence and awe that soldiers reserve for Revan could be a constant theme in the background of a KOTOR movie, where the legend of Revan exists and grows within tales whispered among rank-and-file troops in a way not too dissimilar to how real-life wartime urban legends propagate. This could be done without even referring to Revan’s gender, and it would lend weight to Disney’s adaptation of KOTOR by allowing us to witness Revan’s legend through the eyes of those under his command.
In conclusion, a movie adaptation of The Old Republic is a fantastic idea, and one that Disney should be seriously considering. However for reasons I have given above, Disney should resist the temptation to tell the story of Revan or The Exile and instead tap into other aspects of The Old Republic that Bioware have created that can be equally as compelling.
The success of Rogue One and The Mandalorian series has already proven that Star Wars media does not need to rely solely on a powerful, recognizable Jedi to succeed, and if the recent High Republic comics are anything to go by, this is a lesson that Disney has learned. While fans may feel disgruntled on first glance to hear about an Old Republic movie without Revan, to paraphrase Luke Skywalker: ‘The Old Republic does not belong to Revan. To say that if Revan dies, the Old Republic dies, is vanity’.