Should we get excited about ‘Star Wars: Underworld’?

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So the long-rumoured Star Wars TV series, while still no closer to production, remains in development and now even has a title; Star Wars: Underworld.

We’re still looking forward to this. Remember that. No matter what happens between now and the day its first episode is transmitted (which currently looks like being long after we’ve all moved on and become one with the Force) we’re still looking forward to it because it’s Star Wars.

And being a fan of Star Wars is to be like the Rebel Alliance: stupidly, hopelessly optimistic about the future, even in the face of overwhelming odds against anything good happening. Hey, it worked for Luke Skywalker and the gang – why can’t it work for us?

Yeah, the prequels were almost entirely rubbish. Yeah, the original films are being gradually cackified beyond recognition because George Lucas can’t stop fiddling with them like an adolescent with a colossal pimple on his nose. Yeah, Clone Wars is … actually, to be honest, we haven’t really watched much of the new version. Or the old version. It could be like Alvin and the Chipmunks for all we know.

But this live action television series set in the decades between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope is going to be brilliant. It’s going to be everything that was great about the original trilogy and nothing like all the turgidity that has waddled out of Lucasfilm since. How do we know? Because … because … No, you shut up.

The thing is: Underworld is probably going to be awful. When it was first mooted, back in 2005, it sounded amazing – a whole new series set within the existing mythology of the franchise but only occasionally touching on the events we’re all familiar with.

Yes, there might be brief appearances by the likes of the Emperor (tense excitement), Boba Fett (extreme Bounty Hunter squee) and C3P0 (nod of acceptance at the inevitable) but in the main, the idea was for new characters and new adventures set under the spreading darkness of the newly-formed Galactic Empire.

It was going to be huge and sprawling and incredible, and even though we were still reeling from the mediocrity of the final prequel film, we believed it was going to awesome.

Then … nothing. For the next half a decade, there were occasional references to it in the media – actors saying they’d like to be in it, actors saying they were definitely going to be in it, casting apparently beginning, locations allegedly being scouted, fifty scripts supposedly already written – but it was all ephemeral, nothing to latch onto.

The first definite statement in years came in 2011; and that was Lucas saying that the series was on hold indefinitely, because they couldn’t find a cost-effective way of making it happen. Now, out of the blue, producer Rick McCallum has popped up, announcing that the project is still ongoing; it’s actually about the criminals and gangs who are running everything during the formative years of the Empire; and it even has a working title: Underworld.

Of course, it’s a rubbish name. There’s already a film series, a Doctor Who story and a band called Underworld – although sadly the likelihood of seeing Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi going back to the bar they visit in Attack of the Clones, mashed off their midi-chlorians and bellowing ‘Lager! Lager! Lager!’ is a slender one – and in any case, it just doesn’t sound very Star Wars-ish.

However, that isn’t really a problem at the moment because the old budgetary concerns are still holding things back. The prequel movies cost $100m each to make and Lucasfilm want to maintain the same standard of special effects in the TV series whilst only spending a twentieth of that per episode.

‘Right now, technologically, there’s no way we can do them for that $5m,’ McCallum told IGN. ‘There’s so much digital animation, because we have so many digital characters. So I think the idea is just that we hold off, wait and see if there are any major breakthroughs in the next year or two, and once we can come up with some virtual set software that allows us to travel anywhere, we’ll revisit.’

Here’s a suggestion, though, Rick: why not, as it’s a live-action series, cut back on those expensive digital creatures and locations and concentrate instead on real actors and real locations, like a guy called George Lucas did when he made the original Star Wars films?

By all means, have some special effects – this is sci-fi, or space opera, or something – but they don’t have to be the super-expensive be all and end all. If Underworld is going to be a dark and gritty and adult, make it about characters and storylines that can be realised the old-fashioned way.

You never know, people might even like it. Just imagine: hundreds of thousands of fans looking forward to this new era in the Star Wars franchise, just like we are, and not being hugely disappointed when it finally arrives. In the words of Alvin and the Chipmunks in the episode where they brought the Berlin Wall down eleven months early, ‘It’s just a dream – but it doesn’t have to be.’

Are you looking forward to Star Wars: Underworld? Let us know below…

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