This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
This article contains spoilers for the Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic game.
As if thousands of fans’ wishes were suddenly heard and acted upon, a Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic movie could finally be happening. Shutter Island writer Laeta Kalogridis has been tasked by Lucasfilm with penning a script for the first film in a potential trilogy of KotOR movies.
Although Kalogridis’s Star Wars project is said to be inspired by BioWare’s iconic RPG from 2003, we don’t yet know how closely her script will stick to the plot beats of the game. As with a lot of game-to-movie adaptations, cramming everything from Knights of the Old Republic into a film (or even a trilogy of films) would not be an easy task. Lest we forget that you could easily sink 40+ hours into the original KotOR game.
Indeed, making Knights of the Old Republic into a movie could prove to be a tough nut to crack for Lucasfilm and Kalogridis. Perhaps more so than your average game-to-film transition, adapting KotOR‘s core story and its colorful cast of characters will throw up a fairly massive challenge. Here’s why…
KotOR is inspired by the original movies
Although Knights of the Old Republic is set thousands of years before the “Skywalker saga” that is depicted in the main episodic Star Wars movies, the creators of the game took inspiration from George Lucas’ original trilogy of films. Alex Kane recently interviewed the BioWare team for his book about the making of KotOR, and a lot of these people openly told Kane that the original movies were their main inspiration.
Employing a somewhat similar strategy to how J.J. Abrams would later tackle Star Wars: The Force Awakens, BioWare infused Knights of the Old Republic with familiar themes and plot points from the original Star Wars films. They crafted KotOR as an experience that felt inherently Star Wars-y, despite the game having an all-new cast of characters and a previously-unexplored spot in the overarching Star Wars timeline.
Instead of witnessing the adventure of a farm boy from Tatooine, Knights of the Old Republic invites the player to take control of a similarly low-status individual: an amnesiac patient who feels like a total nobody at the start of the game. You set off on the Ebon Hawk (an unashamed Millennium Falcon ripoff), pick up a trusty droid (T3-M4 instead of R2-D2), witness a huge show of force from the baddies (Darth Malak blasts a town in Taris to smithereens, similar to how the Death Star destroys Alderaan), learn a shockingly huge truth about yourself (instead of finding out Darth Vader is your dad, the player discovers that they themselves have a history of villainy), and ultimately you battle the big bad in a lightsaber battle at a massive space station.
Taking those beats from the Knights of the Old Republic game and running through them as a 2-hour movie could feel a lot like a rehashed version of the original trilogy movies. And, given that The Force Awakens came under a fair amount of criticism for repeating so many plot points from those classic films, it’ll be interesting to see if the KotOR movie script branches out into new story territory instead of repeating what’s in the game.
KotOR’s influence has already been felt
In amongst the familiar plot points, Knights of the Old Republic did cram in a lot of original ideas. However, in the 15-plus years since the game’s release, these original elements that KotOR introduced have inspired the wider Star Wars universe in some fairly massive ways.
Take HK-47, for example. This sarcastic assassin droid, voiced brilliantly by Kristoffer Tabori, felt like a brand new breed of Star Wars character when he first showed up in Knights of the Old Republic. Today, though, mouthy droids with a bit more attitude than C-3PO are so commonplace that they’re in danger of becoming a trope among Star Wars writers. Since Disney took over Lucasfilm, we’ve seen/heard Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37 in Solo: A Star Wars Story and Alan Tudyk as K-2SO in Rogue One, and there have also been quirky droid characters in spinoff materials (such as Mr. Bones, a reprogrammed battle droid from the prequel era, who kicks a lot of ass in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath books).
And it’s not just droids, either. Other elements of the Knights of the Old Republic world have popped up in big screen Star Wars adventures. For instance, the visual similarity between Kylo Ren and KotOR‘s Darth Revan were certainly noticed by fans, and you could also argue that Rey bears a certain resemblance to KotOR‘s Bastilla Shan. These may seem like tiny things, but they all add up.
If you made a Knights of the Old Republic movie with Revan, Bastilla and HK-47 at its core, this iconic trio of characters may not feel as fresh and unique as they did back in 2003. Kalogridis has a challenge on her hands if she wants to create a film that pleases die-hard KotOR fans at the same time as offering something new that moviegoers haven’t already seen.
The core quests are very game-y
If you look at its nuts and bolts, you’ll see that Knights of the Old Republic is built around a fairly traditional game narrative: the player is tasked with visiting an array of different planets, each of which has its own mini-quests and side characters, with the ultimate aim of uncovering an ancient Star Map in each area.
Once you’ve travelled the galaxy and gathered all the Star Maps, they lead you to a powerful space station called the Star Forge. It’s here that you face off with the big bad, Darth Malak, before activating the game’s happy or sad ending (which one you get, and whether you’re perceived as a hero or villain, depends on the choices you make in the game).
The planets you visit in Knights of the Old Republic are a mix of old and new, with the game allowing you to visit the familiar dunes of Tatooine, the Wookiee home of Kashyyyk, the watery world of Manaan, the HQ for ancient Sith on Korriban, and a few other key locales. It would be neat to see some or all of these planets in a Knights of the Old Republic movie, but watching the movie’s characters travelling around and having hundreds of conversations along the lines of “Do you know where the Star Map is?”/”The what?!”/”Oh, never mind,” with a huge amount of unremarkable locals… well, that doesn’t exactly sound like a particularly thrilling night out at the theater, does it?
This kind of narrative works well in a game where you can spend hours exploring each planet, working out the nitty-gritty of each society and maneuvering your way to the Star Map and a well-earned pat on the back. Watching a movie is a very different sort of experience, and you’ve got to assume that the script for the film will cut away a lot of this admin and replace it with some action and excitement.
It’s all about you
The biggest challenge facing Kalogridis, or anyone that tries to translate the brilliance of Knights of the Old Republic into any medium other than gaming, is that BioWare built the entire game around its twist. The game lets you choose your character’s name and appearance, and make all their decisions for them (from cosmetic clothing choices to huge, universe-altering dilemmas). And because amnesia has made your character a completely blank slate, players can’t help but project their own whims and personalities onto this protagonist.
Around halfway into the game – when players have already spent ages developing their character’s traits, wardrobe, skills, weapons, and friendships – BioWare drops the bomb. As it turns out, you’re not just a random amnesiac who woke up on a spaceship. You’re actually Darth Revan, who’s a legendary Sith Lord and the former best bud of the game’s big bad. This twist plays out with such great impact, feeling like your own personal equivalent of the “I am your father” twist from The Empire Strikes Back. And it works so well because you felt like your character was your own creation, and then your expectations were torn down.
In a film, revealing that a forgetful hero character actually has a history of villainy may not have quite the same impact. Although film fans can relate to movie characters and identify with them, viewers aren’t actually in control of the people up on the big screen, which makes converting Knights of the Old Republic‘s big twist into a movie scene, while also retaining its impact, a very hard task indeed.
One thing’s for sure about this Knights of the Old Republic movie: Kalogridis and Lucasfilm will have a lot of choices to make regarding which parts of the game they keep in and which they remix or remove. It’s a very tough task they’ve got, and a vast galaxy of Star Wars fans will be watching. Let’s just hope they don’t end up crying out in terror…