What does the casting of 'Star Wars Episode VII' tell us about the new film?
It seems like only yesterday I wrote that we would most likely see a "Star Wars" casting announcement soon.
Oh, wait, it literally was yesterday. And while many of the names I mentioned in that piece did indeed end up being part of this morning's official casting announcement made via the official "Star Wars" website as well as Facebook, there were still some big surprises.
Can we talk about Andy Serkis first? His casting would suggest that there's going to be a major performance capture character in the film, but that doesn't have to be the case. I think people forget that Serkis has made plenty of appearances in films as himself. Now, would I be excited if he was performing a major performance capture character in the film? Absolutely. Serkis has proven himself to be the gold standard of breathing life into digital creations, and while I think Ahmed Best became the target of untold oceans of fan hatred for doing exactly what he was asked to do with a character, I'm also sure that having a character in your film that has to be brought to life via digital effects must give all producers the shivers any time they think of Jar Jar Binks.
It's great that Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker are all listed as part of the cast, although I have questions about the physical demands on all three of them. Mayhew hasn't been healthy in a while, and Chewbacca is such a physical role to play. I wonder how much longer Daniels is going to be able to strap on the suit and actually physically bring C-3PO to life. And with Baker, it almost seems counter-intuitive to actually try to stick him back in the can considering how much easier it would be to simply build a remote controlled R2-D2. Still, those guys are part of the history of the series, and I am pleased to see them return.
John Boyega's inclusion makes me happy, and I think Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac are both exciting talents who will make tremendous additions to the cast. Domhnall Gleeson, the lead in one of my favorite movies that no one saw last year, is another young actor who seems to have a strong handle on who he is, and I would think that anybody who is signing on to appear in something like "Star Wars," something that will end up under a cultural microscope more intense than anything any of them have experienced before, would need to be strong and grounded and ready for that level of scrutiny. And as far as that goes, I think Max Von Sydow's probably got it covered, considering the already legendary shadow his work casts over film culture around the world for the last 40 years.
Have you seen the photo that they released via Facebook? Check this out.
I love seeing Lawrence Kadan right there next to JJ Abrams, and I confess that the sight of R2-D2 in that box behind Abrams also makes me pretty happy. But you know what that photo says to me more than anything?
It's a movie. And when I see people already melting down over this thing or that thing or freaking out because of who is in the picture or getting angry because of who is not in the picture, it seems like many people would do well to remind themselves that, at the end of the day, no matter how invested you feel in the outcome of this thing, they are just making movies. They're telling a story that will hopefully entertain and excite and provoke, and that I hope builds off of the already existing world of "Star Wars" in thrilling ways.
The only thing that truly wears me down about "Star Wars" these days is the almost unspeakable level of entitlement displayed by "Star Wars" fans, and while I certainly played my part in cultivating some of that online, I've noticed that it's a lot easier to whip them into a frenzy than it is to ask them to address things in a mature and even manner.
The quote from Abrams today is a heartfelt one. "We are so excited to finally share the cast of 'Star Wars: Episode VII.' It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud."
And before you start drawing battle lines and demanding things, take a deep breath and think about that last line. "Everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud." If you think anyone involved with this film is giving it anything less than 100% of their efforts, you're crazy. The only rational way to approach something like this is to set your own personal checklist aside. They cannot reach into the skull of each and every "Star Wars" fan and pull out their dream movie to release, and because of that, there is a percentage of fandom that is guaranteed to be disappointed, no matter what happens.
Look, I love that we know basically nothing about Daisy Ridley aside from what she looks like…
… and a list of a few roles she's played. She must have a major role if she was part of today's announcement, and I'll be excited to see how she fits into things. We may have a clue in that table read photo above, though. You'll see that Harrison Ford is sitting next to Abrams. Then we've got Daisy Ridley, and on the other side of her, Carrie Fisher. Could Ridley be playing the daughter of Han and Leia? Based on that headshot, I'd buy it.
Truth be told, John Boyega is just as unknown as Driver to most people. He's been working since the release of "Attack The Block," and he was up for the role of Jesse Owens in an upcoming biopic, which he had to turn down because of this film. I've been told that he and Adam Driver have been in London for a while now training, and it sounds to me like both of them are going to be wielding lightsabers of their own in the new film.
Now begins the process of taking that scripts that Abrams and Kasdan have been working on for the last few months and actually bringing it to life. For the rest of the summer, somewhere in the world, we're going to have new "Star Wars" playing out, laying the groundwork for what Disney and Lucasfilm hope will be a massive new expansion of the series. There are billions of potential dollars on the line as well as the hopes and dreams of fans everywhere. But set all that aside, and it's just a group of talented people making a movie. Somewhere between the crushing expectation and the mundane reality, they've got to make this thing live and breathe.
I look forward to seeing them pull it off on December 18, 2015.