Monday, February 18, 2013

Let’s Talk About Those Harrison Ford Returning for New Star Wars Rumours!

So the other day at Latino Review a scooper, with a solid track record for getting it right, broke the news that Harrison Ford is allegedly signed up for Star Wars Episode VII. Whether that comes as a surprise to you or not, it’s actually a far more pivotal piece of information than you may at first suspect and, if true, creates a ripple effect which will help craft many of the decisions made about the sequel trilogy. Because that means the whole thing is set some 30 years after Return of the Jedi and that means a giant leap forward for our favourite characters.

What ramifications does such a decision have? As always we’ll wildly speculate... after the jump!

Personally, I would prefer to have seen events pick up just a year or two after Return of the Jedi with the core characters played by a new and younger cast. There’s fertile ground there for storytelling and I think that events such as Luke reforming the Jedi, or Leia beginning to get in touch with her own force abilities, are too important to simply skip over. Assuming that either of these things even happen. It’s quite possible that they don’t and things haven’t panned out as easily or well as we may have originally thought.

And there’s certainly a precedent set for this kind of jump through time. A similar period elapses between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, with Obi Wan, for example, morphing from a young Ewan MacGregor to an old Alec Guinness, so admittedly there’s a kind of symmetry there. It will certainly feel like a whole new series as opposed to an addended epilogue. I wonder too, if there might be a tiny bone throne to the diehard fans here, many of whom are attached to the expanded universe novels that take place soon after Jedi. By jumping ahead thirty years it could be implied that some of those written events still took place, rather than pick up where Jedi left off and trample all over them with new material. Unlikely though, in my mind, because then the film going audience is cheated out of major developments for these characters.

And this jump forward works for Han Solo, who is an important character to the audience, but not quite so important to the fate of the galaxy. He’s always just kind of been along for the ride so I don’t think we’ll miss much about his backstory. And, of course, there’s a practical/logistics element to all of this, and luckily Harrison Ford still looks good enough to return to the part as an older man.

But it’s these practical concerns that make things far more difficult for Luke and Leia. The common thread through the first six movies is that they focus on the Skywalker clan, so it makes a lot of sense thematically to continue to explore the future of this midichlorian clogged bloodline. The new Star Wars is bound to have a primarily younger cast, so new Skywalker children could certainly be a factor. But how do you deal with the more dramatic physical changes in Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher?

Now I say all this with the utmost respect to both Mark and Carrie. I saw Carrie Fisher’s solo show a couple of years ago and she said something along the lines of, “when I signed up I didn’t realise that I was signing a contract to have to be able to fit in a gold bikini for the rest of my life”. I’m no doubt mangling what she actually said, but it’s hard to disagree with her sentiment. Neither Carrie or Mark owe Star Wars, or for that matter the fans, have both excelled in additional fields (writing and voice acting respectively) and should be able to age in comfort and private along with the rest of us. But it does make things a little logistically tricky for the film.

If Leia never became a lightsaber wielding action hero and instead spent most of her time as a politician, then Carrie Fisher is a little easier to accept in the role. She may have a voice like a rock golem these days, but she can still put on the Leia voice when she has to (which is mostly when she’s poking fun at it). The only problems I see here is that we miss any potential Jedi action of the past with her, and if Han is still with her then he’s kind of neutered as well. He’s too fun a character to have spent the past thirty years hanging around politicians.

But Luke is the far bigger problem. He has always been a character of action and, as the last known Jedi, he is probably the most pivotal figure of Star Wars’ future. Hamill would need to be whipped into incredible shape to do it. Because the sad truth is - and we see this all the time on dvd when stars return for the special features of pop culture classic releases - although everybody ages, it shouldn’t be distracting. If, for even a moment, Luke Skywalker appears on screen and the first thing the audience thinks is, “Jesus! He didn’t age too well...” then you’re taken out of the movie. You’re losing the incredible impact that should be there when Luke Skywalker returns.

It feels like a battle that’s impossible to win for the filmmakers and I really look forward to how they tackle it. If they cast someone else then we’re still taken out of the movie. If they hide him away under a large robe and give him zero action, then it feels like a waste of the character and we’re taken out of the movie. If they kill him off before the movie takes place then it’s an ever bigger injustice to the character. I have no idea what they’ll do, but I’m curious to see it.

And where does the 30 year jump forward leave the bad guys?

I still contend that we need some sort of Sith or dark side Jedi to create some requisite lightsaber battles, so I guess their rise from the ashes could have been percolating for 30 odd years while the galaxy rebuilds. I don’t think that this rules out a return of the Emperor either. He plotted out everything for decades so I’m sure he had a contingency plan for his death - assuming he even died - falling down a shaft was probably just a setback. He could have engineered something magnificent in the past thirty years, and if you want things to be seamless then Ian Mcdiarmid can portray him just as well now as he did all that time ago. He’s the actor that people should be questioning if they want to know what Disney has planned.

Hopefully we’ll hear more casting info soon!

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