The Star Wars: The Force Awakens title was announced to generally accepting adulation from fans, though there were a few detractors. Now, it has become a fixture in the franchise lexicon, and it's hard to image the 7th chapter in this longstanding sci-fi series being called anything else. But there was a time when it shared it's title with a book that is no longer considered canon. It would have been a title familiar to longtime fans, especially those who still believe in the acts portrayed in what has since become known as the Star Wars Legends series. Creative Executive for the Lucasfilm Story Group Pablo Hidalgo had this exchange with Jedi News editor Justin LaSalata.
"For the longest time, the TFA title was the same as an old novel. Thankfully it changed. :) With so many books, it's inevitable. It was Shadow (singular) of the Empire for a while."
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was announced as the title way back in November 2014, a little more than a year before the movie came out. And while it perfectly sums up the plot in less than a sentence, Shadow of the Empire isn't out of place as a title either. But that is only slightly different than the Shadows of the Empire title Steve Perry's 1997 novel received. The story in that book took place between the events depicted in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, and included such iconic characters as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Here is the synopsis for that book.
"Shadows of the Empire illuminates the shadowy outlines of a criminal conspiracy that exists in the background of the events in the movies, ruled by a character new to us. Prince Xizor is a mastermind of evil who dares to oppose one of the best-known fictional villains of all time: Darth Vader. The story involves all the featured Star Wars movie characters, plus Emperor Palpatine and, of course, Lord Vader himself."
The novel follows Vader's search to hunt down Luke Skywalker and turn him to the darkside. While that is happening, the rest of the heroes are busy trying to track down Han Solo, who has been handed over to Jabba the Hutt. The book was released in 1997, two years before the prequel trilogy came out, and arrived with its own Kenner action figure tie-in. There was even a Nintendo 64 video game crossover. The book is no longer considered canon. So the events didn't actually happen to the characters we see in the movies. And that's likely why the title was abandoned.
In the end, it's totally understandable why LucasFilm and Disney ditched this early title. It would have been more than a little confusing on a lot of levels, despite it tying in nicely to the events happening in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. With the Star Wars: Episode VIII screenplay already completed by director Rian Johnson, and principle photography to kick off this spring, there's no telling when we'll learn the title of this next movie sequel. But it doesn't sound like we'll be getting something that has been used before.