Does a picture tell a thousand words?
Lucasfilm released today the slate of the main cast for Star Wars: Episode VII and the above photo. Writer/Director/Producer J.J Abrams (top center right) with (clockwise from right) Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Producer Bryan Burk, Lucasfilm President and Producer Kathleen Kennedy, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Andy Serkis, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver, and writer Lawrence Kasdan. Defying the convention of not wearing the band shirt to the concert is our favorite gentle giant Peter Mayhew sporting a rebel-logo golf shirt.
The studio previously revealed the new film would take place 30 years after Return of the Jedi, but considering nearly the entire main cast for the original trilogy is in England’s Pinewood Studios for this cast read-through, the idea that they will be trivial to the story seems to be out the window. And after a lot of eyeball-rolling from fans across the globe, this is starting to get a bit exciting.
Maybe we were looking at this wrong. Disney let Marvel Studios make some good movies with The Avengers, Iron Man, and Captain America, right? And J.J. Abrams made two Star Trek movies that could easily fit in the Star Wars universe. Heck–they could have served as auditions for getting this directorial gig. Lawrence Kasdan is one of the best moviemakers ever, with Silverado and The Empire Strikes Back in his portfolio. You cannot say enough about John Williams, back yet again for another score. And George Lucas was solely responsible for the prequel trilogy. ‘Nuff said there. But we won’t let Disney off the hook until they prove that they won’t ruin the greatest franchise of all time.
But more details were released. Max Von Sydow, Emperor Ming from the 1980s Flash Gordon, will have a key role in the film. Recall the original Flash Gordon serials inspired Lucas’s original vision. Von Sydow is perfect for a role here–right up there with classic Star Wars veterans Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, and Christopher Lee. The original R2-D2 actor will be back, too: Kenny Baker will return as the guy in the droid suit, joining Anthony Daniels as C-3PO.
It’s fanboy speculation time…
Can we glean anything from the fact that not every actor has a script book? Note that Abrams is sitting with Ford, who has a book, yet Hamill and Fisher do not appear to have one. Maybe they are sharing? Maybe General Han Solo–the one of the three who is still a full-time blockbuster film actor–will get to be a leader in the new Galactic Order. And maybe what enticed Ford to return was the fulfillment of his earlier desire with Return of the Jedi–an actual death scene. Leia and Luke appear as holograms as part of a Jedi counsel like the World Security Counsel scene with Jenny Agutter in The Avengers? Or they appear as ghosts like Ben appeared to Luke in the original story? And that’s Gollum himself in that photo–The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit’s Andy Serkis! Maybe he’ll give us a new take on that other cool bounty hunter as a CGI motion capture Bossk. Note to Abrams: We can’t have another Fett family member show up! Enough Mandalorian helmets already.
Last week we learned the Star Wars Expanded Universe–everything in print and video that wasn’t in the six films–is now wiped away as if it never happened. Like “canon” in Star Trek, this was no surprise. Although great characters like Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn will be sorely missed. Is Dark Horse Comics burning a pair of mouse ears in effigy and flying their rebellion flag at half mast yet? But wait–then there is that silver lining. The best part of wiping away the Expanded Universe? Chewbacca isn’t dead. And maybe they’ll just surprise us with a Mara Jade cameo.
Let’s look at the new cast members. If you took our advice and watched the brilliant Brit sci-fi flick Attack the Block, reviewed here at borg.com back in 2012, you’ll know John Boyega as the tough young street kid star of the movie. He’s rumored to play a Jedi in Episode VII. Oscar Isaac, who played Prince John in the latest Robin Hood film and the title role in Inside Llewyn Davis, is rumored to be playing a Darth-league villain. Also starring in Episode VII from Llewyn Davis is Adam Driver. Somebody must have been a fan of that film. Domhnall Gleeson was Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter movies. Daisy Ridley, who will be featured in an episode of Mr. Selfridge this season, looks to be a ringer for Natalie Portman, and may have the top role in the film’s story. Should we ask yet where the rest of the female cast is hiding? Abrams wouldn’t make the same mistake as Lucas, would he?
As much as the early looks at Disney’s Star Wars Rebels looked less than dazzling, I’m still trying to keep an open mind. If I was making Star Trek sequels, I probably would be making the movies Abrams has made since 2009. My inner kid who walked, disappointed, out of the premiere of Return of the Jedi on May 25, 1983, would make a sequel featuring Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2, and 3PO. And he would have loved to see Ming as a villain of the Empire. Star Wars: Episode VII is looking like it could be that fun future if Abrams can just stay on target.
Star Wars: Episode VII is scheduled for release December 18, 2015.