Why the Knights of the Old Republic Film Won’t Work

Fans of the hit Star Wars RPGs have been underserved for many years, but giving the Redemption of Revan a film treatment isn’t the answer. It goes against what makes this story so magical.

Let’s state the obvious here: The main selling point of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic back in 2003 was the player choice — “CHOOSE YOUR PATH” reads the back of the case. And of course, this isn’t something that translates into films, but saying that, we’ve had a canon Revan for a while, thanks to the MMO, The Old Republic. So what’s the problem?

Putting this game to film goes so much deeper than not being able to occasionally making a good guy or bad guy choice; it’s our Star Wars journey. Another of the major appeals of this game is BioWare’s iconic conversation system. In fact I guarantee most of your memories of this classic involve sitting back on the Ebon Hawk, hearing war stories from Canderous or desperately flirting with Bastila.

Of course, in this rumored film, we’d be following a journey already written. This Revan would speak to who he wants to, for as long as he wants to. He’d make the decisions that the writers want him to make. In a two-hour flick, can they really spare the time to play Pazaak with Mission after every planet?

The big twist — the Revan reveal — isn’t just shocking because our protagonist was once a big bad Sith. It’s shocking because we were once the big bad Sith. When Carth is screaming at us about how untrustworthy we are, we’re really defending ourselves. All we know of Revan is just as much as our hero knows, from what others have told us. From now on, we’re treated like Revan, even though both the character and the player don’t remember a thing about being them.

So with all that said, why are Lucasfilm even considering it? Well, look no further than the breakout success of Detective Pikachu

It may have taken several decades, but video game films are finally becoming respectable. Detective Pikachu, sitting at 66% on Rotten Tomatoes, might not be an Oscar winner, but it’s still being taken seriously as a film. With over $300 million already in the bank, it’s fair to assume Lucasfilm — with a lot to make up for following Solo‘s disappointing takings — was paying attention.

However, what makes the lighthearted Pokémon flick work with fans is that it isn’t a retelling of any of the games; it’s a faithful interpretation of the universe, telling its own story. Imagine sitting through a retelling of Pokémon Red and Blue. You’ve already alienated two-thirds of the audience based on what starter the protagonist picks!

To take a guess, a KOTOR film seems more likely of sharing the same fate as 2018’s Tomb Raider — financially a sound investment, but critically an average bore. Critics of Tomb Raider cite rushed pacing, an inevitability when trying to condense a game into film, in this case, the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot. And that’s with a 15-hour, linear title! Imagine trying to package the 40-hour, multiple-choice space opera that is KOTOR into an acceptable run time! Either so much is cut that it’s a shell of the story it once was, or it becomes an incoherent mess that won’t bring in more causal Star Wars fans.

So how about a film set in the same time frame? After all, to avoid having Jar Jar in their game, BioWare set it almost 4,000 years before the events of the prequel trilogy, and the lore of this time period has been growing in the almost two decades since its release. Sure, we’d still have a canon Revan shoved in our face, but having him be a part of a new story set in this time period would be much less jarring than seeing our own adventure play out in ways we didn’t play it.

Despite this, as Buzzfeed point out in its article that broke the news, Kathleen Kennedy had this to say when MTV asked her about KOTOR: “We talk about that all the time. We are developing something to look at.” With this report dropping just a few weeks after this interview, it is likely we’ll be seeing the story of the games on the silver screen rather than a focus on new characters.

Am I bitter that I won’t be able to swoon over the undeniably epic romance between female Revan and Carth Onasi on the big screen? Sure. But that was never a possibility. Above all, I know that KOTOR just contains too much for a one-off film. Without the magic of decision making, chatting to the Ebon Hawk crew, and feeling like the star of the story, I fear we’ll be left with a poorly paced, cynical attempt to win back disgruntled Star Wars fans.

Video games and film are very different mediums to tell stories, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Redemption of Revan was a tale made for a video game. Bring these characters back into the canon all you like, but this is a story that will suffer from being retold.

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