Why Force Unleashed Deserves to Be In the Star Wars Canon
The Force Unleashed is a strange piece of Star Wars history, but it's a piece that absolutely belongs in the current canon.
The conclusion of Star Wars Celebration 2023 ushered in a new era for the franchise with plenty of thrilling projects announced and highly-anticipated productions finally being previewed. Lucasfilm is finally taking some risks with its storytelling and is finally beginning to incorporate the Legends timeline as part of that.
The video game side of the Star Wars universe is expanding as well with Jedi: Survivor, Quantic Dreams’ Eclipse, and Ubisoft’s open-world Star Wars project. The expansion of the Star Wars game universe is welcome, though it makes it easy to think back on the Star Wars games we’ve lost to the franchise’s canon reboot. Yet, one particular project remains notoriously absent from the canon despite its popularity: The Force Unleashed games from LucasArts.
The Force Unleashed, and its crucial protagonist, Galen Marek, could return to the current Star Wars continuity if the powers that be willed it to be so. More importantly, there are many reasons why The Force Unleashed should return to the Star Wars canon.
The Force Unleashed’s Star Wars Mythology Is Complex
Before breaking down whether the video game series should or could return, it’s important to look at the barriers preventing The Force Unleashed from being embraced by the Disney era of Star Wars (aside from the company’s previous stance on “expanded universe” materials, of course).
Most prominently, the games focused on Darth Vader’s secret Sith apprentice: Galen
“Starkiller” Marek. Recruited as Vader’s apprentice in an attempt to overthrow the Emperor, The Force Unleashed sees players embark on dangerous missions designed to empower Galen Marek. Much like the Sith Inquisitors of current canon, the series’ plot saw Starkiller hunting down former Jedi and notable Force users in an attempt to remove any other obstacles in the galaxy and hone his own dark craft.
The likes of Yoda, Shaak Ti, and original characters such as Rahm Kota and Kazdan Paratus all act as boss battles intended to test Starkiller’s might. But along the way he learned to trust many of those he was forced to fight, beginning to see the corruption at the core of the Sith. However, the impact of The Force Unleashed and that compelling narrative shift was never fully felt elsewhere. The game existed in a bubble, with only direct comic and novel spin-offs telling the story from alternative angles. There were no mentions of Vader’s secret apprentice, and Marek’s existence seemingly had no effects on the galaxy’s history.
At the climatic finale of the first Force Unleashed, players are given a choice: embrace the Light Side and attack Emperor Palpatine or walk the path of darkness and turn on Darth Vader. If they chose to fight Palpatine, they would perish, continuing the canon timeline. However, if the player chose to fight Vader instead, they would win and thus become Palpatine’s new apprentice (albeit a reluctant one) grafted with the kind of cyborg enhancements Anakin Skywalker had previously been kitted out with. This massively departed from the continuity of the films, with the following DLC picking up on this thread.
The Force Unleashed II follows the Light Side ending, which saw Marek vanquished. Starkiller is replaced by a clone who begins to trace his predecessor’s journey. While he may begin by training under Vader, he remembers the betrayal of his master from his former life and attempts to piece together his past. With Marek embarking on a redemptive path, the game once again offers the players a choice at its conclusion, which throws further doubt on what’s actually considered a part of Legends continuity.
It’s a messy scenario, even within the context of the already messy proposition of restoring something from the Legends’ continuity. Yet, with those complications come wiht multiple storytelling opportunities. If Disney wanted to, they could make a variation on the Force Unleashed story (and its protagonist) a key part of their larger tapestry.
Galen Marek Could Be a Vital Star Wars Character
Galen Marek is reason enough for Force Unleashed to be given the chance to return, especially within the current continuity.
The character isn’t universally beloved by the fandom, but he is compelling. Galen Marek’s story is one full of tragedy and redemption. As the apprentice to Darth Vader, he represents an interesting parallel to Anakin Skywalker’s own transformation. The inner turmoil he has surrounding the ideologies of the Sith makes him a truly compelling protagonist to play as, with his romance with the well-rounded Juno Eclipse bringing further dimensions to the character. The parallels to Anakin continue, with Star Wars’ poetry in full force, as Eclipse gets through to Marek in a way that Padmé simply couldn’t for Vader. For modern audiences, Marek proposes a juxtaposition to Ahsoka Tano too, providing a further reason to run back this story under the current continuity.
The player is made to feel truly invested in Marek’s final decision, after seeing the Light and Dark sides played out through his choices throughout the game. More than many other Star Wars character, Marek is genuinely affected by every individual that he meets, no matter which side of the Force they worship (an idea that the brilliant Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 also explored). That makes each interaction absolutely crucial for his development. The transformation of Marek’s clone in the sequel, to the assassin known as Starkiller, continues the parallels with Anakin Skywalker, and his own eventual absolution. He’s a truly cinematic character whose arc should play out on screen again for new fans.
It’s not just Marek, though. If done well, a reintroduced version of The Force Unleashed could strengthen many aspects of the current Star Wars canon.
How The Force Unleashed Could Enhance Current Star Wars Continuity
For Galen Marek to work in the current continuity and for The Force Unleashed to match what Lucasfilm is developing, there would have to be some significant changes. However, there are gaps in that continuity that would allow this story to fit perfectly and actually enhance the narrative.
The idea that Vader would take on a secret apprentice continues to be effective as well as an important part of the ongoing mythology. The parallels with Ahsoka write themselves and with the Sith Inquisitors hunting down Jedi, the work of Galen Marek could surely be masked by the ongoing threat of that institution. The name “Starkiller” has already been mentioned in the timeline as well, with the First Order commissioning Starkiller Base. It would be easy enough to describe that as a nod to the secretive assassin that served Vader so loyally, with the under-wraps nature of the base referencing how well the original Starkiller had been hidden from the galaxy. Plus, with The Mandalorian currently investigating whether Force abilities can be cloned, Marek might provide the perfect archetype to copy.
Current continuity could be further enhanced by The Force Unleased’s fascinating exploration of Star Wars lore via its supporting characters. Indeed, PROXY is a fantastic example. The prototype holodroid’s primary directive was to kill Marek. A cruel joke from Darth Vader himself, Marek’s best artificial friend was also intended to test him at every available opportunity. As a narrative structure its genius and holds great emotional weight. Star Wars could truly benefit from an arc such as this, and if the holodroid became a more common model, the tension within the galaxy would be enhanced. If the programming was to be applied to other droids, the audience would be kept on its toes, as to whether they were to become murderous at any second.
The Force Unleashed’s exploration of the Jedi and the Sith is also worthy of a mention. Rahm Kota’s arc for example is fascinating, as his connection to the Force is continuously questioned. The veteran Jedi had forgotten his faith, turned to alcohol, and seemingly lost his abilities. His story is one that discusses the very power of the Force. Many of his beats went on to influence Kanan Jarrus (both of whom were even blinded) but it would only be right to have the perspective of the original archetype as a parallel.
Kazdan Paratus’ story is equally as intriguing. With the Jedi becoming isolated after Order 66, he crafts a droid Empire of his own, protecting himself with disused robotics. The character’s sanity had long since gone, but from the visuals of his design to what he represents as a Jedi at the end of their tether, the figure deserves to be included in the wider universe. He could help provide an answer in the current Star Wars canon as to where all the battle droids went, with the potential to reframe conspiracies about robotic uprisings by linking them to Paratus.
Shaak Ti’s former apprentice, Maris Brood also represents the corrupting influence of the Dark Side. Her fall to the Sith, alongside the rest of her planet, is classically symbolic of the tempting nature of evil. The character provides a great starting point for the canon timeline to explore how Order 66 led to overwhelming darkness for those Jedi left behind. There are countless other characters, each of which can take their stories and what they say about Star Wars lore, into the current timeline. In doing so they would be enriching the world further.
Despite its deviations, The Force Unleashed had its finger on the pulse of many of Star Wars‘ most important ideas. More importantly, it brought up many ideas that have since become popular in the current canon. Thematically, it fits. The question is, “How would you ever actually bring it back into the fold?”
How The Force Unleashed Could Return to the Star Wars Canon
The very nature of the Legends timeline makes the return of a series like The Force Unleashed difficult. However, it’s not impossible. In fact, similar revivals are already happening
The in-development Knights Of The Old Republic remake offers one option for how Disney can bring The Force Unleashed back. The KOTOR follow-up is currently being developed by Saber Interactive, after starting at Aspyr. Lucasfilm is remaking the title from scratch, suggesting new narrative beats, voice acting, gameplay mechanics, and, yes, continuity. Rumors hint that this remake will help bring a bit of the lore we know from the Old Republic era back into canon.
KOTOR thus provides the model of what could be achieved with The Force Unleashed. It’s possible for Lucasfilm to completely remake the original title, and its sequel, in a canon-friendly way. It would pay homage to the characters and narrative beats that made the first games so popular, but can also be amended to sit snugly within the current canon. Alternatively, a straight-up sequel would be a welcome addition that allows fans to dive straight back into this continuity. The Force Unleashed II provides one ending that sees a mysterious hooded assassin kill Starkiller and take his position. Assumed to be yet another clone of the original Marek, a sequel could pick up from there, tracing the timeline further into the future of Legends.
Ultimately, there are multiple angles to introduce a newer version of The Force Unleashed and plenty of narrative reasons to want Marek and his supporting cast back in continuity. Whether this could really pan out remains to be seen, but as Lucasfilm continues to take risks, perhaps it’s time to consider repackaging something tested and familiar as something new and exciting. Historically, that’s what Star Wars does best.