Today, Star Wars: Episode VII attempted to break the internet by finally releasing the casting of seven new players, and the return of the main cast, sans Billy Dee Williams’ General Lando Calrissian. It’s hard to argue with the talent assembled, though ultimately, what do we know?
The curveballs were the addition of Andy Serkis and Max Von Sydow. Most of the casting rumors focused on younger performers like Jesse Plemons or Adam Driver (who was confirmed today), but this suggests that Serkis will have a main role as something mo-capped. As much as people might like him as a performer, he’s undoubtedly playing someone’s sidekick. Von Sydow, who’s played good guys in films like The Seventh Seal and Conan the Barbarian, and bad guys in films like Flash Gordon and Strange Brew, could be a kindly old master something or other, or an old evil bastard. What’s fascinating is the he was often hired to play a Darth Vader type of character in the late seventies and eighties, perhaps hired as Peter Cushing was in genre fare.
Then there’s the returning cast members: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, and Harrison Ford. That’s the core cast from the 1977 film and the core of many’s love of the series. We’re going to guess that if Ford does actually have a larger role, then he’s going to make a hundred million dollars making this movie. And here we’re torn. It’s great that they got everyone back, but we’ve seen Ford do late-in-the-game sequels, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is best forgotten. Should sequels reflect the passage of time? It depends if Abrams can get good work out of Ford and the gang, and that’s definitely a question mark. None among them seem all that hungry (and that’s not a weight joke).
Perhaps the most exciting part of the announcement were roles for John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, though it also points out the problems with race and sex in modern cinema. Hopefully both have good roles, perhaps the lead roles, but of the new cast members there is one woman and one person of color, which makes it seem like the film is trying to show it’s diverse by doing the minimum amount of work. Boyega has been waiting for the right role post-Attack the Block (and it looks like he found it), while Ridley has worked in television and is going to be a blank slate for almost all viewers. We’re happy for the performers, but their inclusion points out their specialness in good and bad ways.
As you may have noticed, the entire internet made jokes about how Inside Llewyn Davis cast members Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac have reunited in this film, and with both, there’s a sense that they’ve very good actors and it’s not worth complaining about their casting. The same goes with Domhnall Gleeson, who was able to transition out of the Harry Potter series into some good work over the past couple years in films like About Time and Anna Karenina. These are all good (or basically unknown) actors, but there was never a real fear that the film would get stacked with — say — Disney kids, so it’s good that there are talented performers in the film.
Here’s the bad news: This casting tells us nothing about Abrams’ plans for the series, nor what the film is about. And with shooting about to commence it’s likely the film will mete out little details here and there (like Simon Pegg getting a small role or whatever), but with Abrams able to keep the casting a secret until almost days before the start of the shoot, it’s likely that we won’t get much out of him for the next year and a half. But we’d expect the first teaser trailer to hit this Christmas, and the first full trailer to premiere in front of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. But plot details will likely be sparse, which is going to make the internet a very annoying place for the next year and a half.
What do you think of the casting?