Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is more than just an RPG. What started as BioWare’s earnest attempt to bring CRPGs to consoles has effectively become its own franchise. There are numerous tie-in materials to the iconic setting within a setting. Even as the original Expanded Universe was thrown under the “Legends” branding, with every in-progress project canceled, Star Wars: The Old Republic persisted and is still receiving new expansions. The new canon has been careful to both acknowledge and not disrupt the setting’s iconic characters and themes from being able to integrate into the Disney continuity. With Lucasfilm exploring script treatments of a KOTOR film, it’s enough to get every fan of the setting excited.
However, to avoid another Solo-sized mishap and to present KOTOR successfully to new audiences, the best thing would be not to make Darth Revan the main character of such a film. Setting aside Revan’s ambiguous status as a customizable RPG character, Dark Horse Comics has actually already created a better person to introduce more casual fans to the KOTOR era: Zayne Carrick.
In a previous article about the origins of the Mandalorians, John Jackson Miller’s Knights of the Old Republic comics run was referenced. For over 50 issues, Miller and a staggering array of artists at Dark Horse explored the Mandalorian Wars and the growing darkness within the Jedi Order through the eyes of the galaxy’s worst Jedi, Zayne.
Zayne Carrick is not a master of the Force or a skilled duelist. He can’t even use a mind trick. He’s just an empathetic dork with absolutely terrible timing as he walks in to find his Jedi Masters slaughtering his fellow students, only for them to pin the blame on Zayne and accuse him of being the next Sith Lord rising. Now his only hope is to rely on the criminals and ne’er-do-wells he used to fail at arresting on the city-planet of Taris.
Zayne is the perfect audience stand-in for KOTOR. The young Jedi combines the raw innocence of Luke Skywalker with genuine compassion. He displays more emotions in a single comic issue than Cal Kestis does in an entire video game and always strives to find the least violent resolution to threats. Even when it comes down to his former masters, he struggles to try to save them from a fate they’ve doomed themselves to.
Even better, Zayne and his closest allies, the pint-sized Snivvian Gryph and Arkanian Offshoot Jarael, are constantly Gilbert and Sullivan-ing through major and minor conflicts, organically exploring the setting in a digestible manner. The three of them all undergo substantial arcs, with Zayne trying to prove his innocence and his masters’ betrayal of the Jedi way, Jarael racing to escape her past life among a slaver collective, and Gryph always on some new get-rich-quick scheme. An array of bounty hunters, Jedi cultists in league with Zayne’s masters, and even greater dangers provide a vibrant, breathless background of action and drama.
Zayne’s band of misfits always pull out a win by the skin of their teeth as they survive the Jedi Covenant, a Nazi-esque Arkanian eugenist, the Mandalorian Neo-Crusaders’ relentless advance, and a rampant Sith-made biological plague let loose on Taris, just to name a few of the bigger highlights. Zayne even comes to befriend future Sith Lord Malak before his fall, then known as Alek, granting a great deal more complexity to the villain of the first Knights of the Old Republic game.
Miller’s storytelling adds dimension to all sides: While a Sith is at the heart of the initial conspiracy within the Jedi Order, the Sith in question simply enables the Jedi’s own worst instincts. The Neo-Crusaders are an array of people from all walks of life, some voluntarily joining Cassus and Manda’lor in their fight. The Republic Navy aren’t categorically heroic do-gooders either, sometimes presenting as far more antagonistic, especially to our heroes.
Zayne ultimately meets and helps save not only Cassus but a family of Mandalorians during his journeys. Through Jarael’s dealings with Lord Adasca and Arkania, what was once just flavor text in the games is an entire story arc built around racism, one of many heavy themes the comics weren’t afraid to explore far more readily than any Star Wars film has.
The Jedi Covenant are also a far stronger criticism of the Jedi exceptionalism seen in most media, raising several points echoed by Kreia during the second game, Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. Revan and Malak’s descent into galactic conquerors isn’t immediate, the two’s passion dragging them both into the Dark Side long before their journeys into the Unknown Regions. The comic even deftly avoids canonizing Revan as male or female, allowing any player’s personal Revan to be the “true” Revan.
It’s this graceful integration into the greater story that makes Zayne, Gryph, and Jarael all perfect for one or several Knights of the Old Republic movies. While obviously the adaptations would change things, that’s fine. The core guiding principles that made this comic so well received are what need to be carried over. While not as massive a hit as the games, the comic ran for well over 10 volumes, outlasting comics set in the Dark Times around Order 66 and during the Galactic Civil War.
I haven’t even touched on the Mandalorian that the team recruits, an early nod to fan-favorite assassin droid HK-47, or how the series’s Vector arc led to the first major multi-generational crossover event, which saw Zayne’s actions leave their mark on the galaxy over thousands of years later.
By the end of the series, the Knights of the Old Republic comic has perfectly captured the hat trick of balancing sci-fi, western, and fantasy in equal measure. Zayne is a sloppy but well intentioned knight errant. Jarael manages to be the team’s tank and emotional center like Hera Syndulla in Star Wars: Rebels. And Gryph might just be the best grumpy uncle/wannabe gangster in all of Star Wars.
Adapting even a handful of these story arcs to film would be a windfall to everyone, both Disney and their audience. Not only would this avoid the contrivance of escalating scale that hampered The Rise of Skywalker, but it fits an episodic TV format perfectly. You can gently introduce the ideas of things like Revan, the Mandalorian Wars, the ancient Sith, and more without overwhelming your viewers with buckets of lore. Indeed, you can read Miller’s comic and have never played the games — hell, you might not have even seen the movies — and it all still works.
This is what you want in a great piece of tie-in material — something that stands on its own, introduces your audience, and builds upon what already exists. If Disney truly wants to go back to the Old Republic, there are few better wells to draw from. They’ve even collaborated with Miller in the past on Star Wars: A New Dawn, so — a nerd can dream.