Knights of the Old Republic: Can Star Wars make a watchable video game movie?

Traditionally, video game movies haven’t been very good, but Disney is going to make one anyway — and it’s bringing Star Wars along for the ride. The same week that Timothy Olyphant trashed his own Hitman adaptation and the Sonic the Hedgehog flick was delayed to give filmmakers time to fix its nightmarish main character, Buzzfeed broke the news that writer Laeta Kalogridis (Altered Carbon, Shutter Island) has almost finished a script based on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

Knights of the Old Republic, a role-playing game by Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Baldur’s Gate studio Bioware, came out for Xbox and PC in 2003, and it takes place about 4,000 years before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope. In the game, you play as an amnesiac Jedi who’s drawn into the war between the Galactic Empire and the Sith Lord Darth Malak. The game quickly became a classic thanks to its creative use of familiar Star Wars tropes, its well-rounded characters, and one of the best plot twists in Star Wars history.

Knights of the Old Republic was followed by an excellent but unfinished sequel as well as an MMORPG, Star Wars: The Old Republic, which launched in 2011 and is still receiving regular updates. It also spawned a handful of tie-in novels and comic books.

Buzzfeed claimed that Kalogridis’ script is the first of a planned trilogy, although it didn’t specify whether the Knights of the Old Republic spin-off is a film, a TV miniseries, or an animated project.

Previously, Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, whose Star Wars trilogy will begin in 2022, were rumored to be working on Knights of the Old Republic. It’s not clear whether Kalogridis’ script is related to Benioff and Weiss’ movies or not, although Buzzfeed noted that Kalogridis began writing in 2018 when Game of Thrones was still in full swing.

Going to the video games for inspiration is an interesting move by Disney. On one hand, with Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker set to end the Skywalker saga, going back to the Star Wars universe’s distant past opens up all kinds of new story opportunities, and doesn’t risk contradicting established canon.

On the other, it’s a video game movie. While series like Tomb Raider and Resident Evil make enough money to warrant endless sequels, they’re critical punching bags — and that’s before we even consider lesser efforts like Max Payne, Warcraft, and Super Mario Bros.

Novelty is a factor, too. One of the reasons why Knights of the Old Republic is so beloved by Star Wars fans is that it took a well-known franchise and did something new. That’s no longer the case. On the big screen, the prequels have already shown us giant battles featuring the Jedi in their prime. Knights of the Old Republic 2‘s deconstruction of familiar Star Wars tropes has echoes in both The Last Jedi and also Star Wars Rebels.

But there’s hope. Star Wars video games have a better-than-average track record when it comes to storytelling, and often finds ways to make the well-trod ground feel new. TIE Fighter offered a glimpse at day-to-day life in the Galactic Empire, while Jedi Knight chronicled the arduous process of becoming a master Force user. Things are looking up for video game movies, too: Detective Pikachu was great.

If Knights of the Old Republic can buck video game movie tradition and succeed, it could open up a whole new timeline for Star Wars to explore and could pave the way for game-exclusive characters like Kyle Katarn and Galen Marek to hit the big screen. If it doesn’t, well, there’s plenty more Star Wars on the way — and besides, the games themselves aren’t going anywhere. They’re still great.

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