May the fourth be with them…

star wars castSo only those living under rocks would have missed the biggest entertainment story of the week, nay month, even possibly year. After months of speculation, random predictions (some wrong, some bang on the money) and then concern that maybe they weren’t as organised as they should be – the makers of the new Star Wars movie, which is due to start filming imminently in London, announced the new (and old) cast. Never before do I think there has been such a furore about the casting of a movie. Indeed, when the first Star Wars movie was announced, there were just a few short articles in trade magazines about the casting of unknown Mark Hamill as ‘Luke Starkiller’ (yep, either they got that name wrong in the papers or George Lucas realised ‘Starkiller’ was a really stupid last name). Instead – this week – the news was covered by not just the trades but also TV news and mainstream print media. Why? Because this is kind of a big deal.

In 1977 – the year, incidentally, when the world became infinitely more awesome when I was born – people didn’t really know what to expect of this ‘Star Wars’ thing. Now, though, I think you would struggle to identify a movie franchise with as much pop culture love and general attention grabbing respect as this one. Indeed, today is – rather tidily for me – May the fourth. Star Wars Day. If you don’t get WHY May the Fourth is Star Wars day…I don’t think we can be friends anymore 😉 I am pretty sure no other movie in the WORLD has a day devoted to it – though if you know of one please tell me! Marvel may be the current crème de la crème of blockbuster movies – but they still can’t hold a flame to Darth, Luke, Leia and Han. Time will be the test of that of course, if we are still referencing Loki, Thor, Iron Man and Cap in referential terms in 37 years then I will stand corrected.

Of course – news that a new Star Wars movie was to be made was met with a mixed reaction last year. Sure – great news that there could be something new and excellent, but we didn’t want to live through the pain of the Prequel Debacle (if you don’t know what I mean here – don’t worry about watching THOSE movies – your life will be better if you don’t, trust me). But, safe in the knowledge that JJ Abrams – the man behind reinvigorating Mission Impossible as well as creating great original TV shows like Alias, Felicity and Lost – was helming it, confidence began to build that maybe this new one wouldn’t be shit. Seeing what Abrams did with Star Trek built the confidence of some further, and shattered that of others like me, who fell asleep during the new Star Treks. But, I love me some galaxy far far away action, and I love Abrams work generally, so I continue to have a base level of confidence.

So, the casting announcement this week was pretty massive. They did it in a classy way – releasing a black and white pic showing the full cast, both old and new, sitting around and chatting Star Wars. For those who missed it, here is the main gist. Obviously Luke (Mark Hamill), Han (Harrison Ford) and Leia (Carrie Fisher) are back – along with their robotic and furry friends. But also – given this film will be set 30 years in the future, there are newcomers. The new cast are a really interesting mix of fresh faces and experienced types – with some real indie street cred amongst them. The young lead will apparently be played by Brit John Boyega – most famous for small alien film Attack the Block. Also along for the ride is Girls’ Adam Driver, Drive’s Oscar Isaac, About Time’s Domhnaal Gleeson, and veteran Max von Sydow.  Rounding out the cast is motion capture expert – and LOTR favourite – Andy Serkis, along with a complete newcomer (aside from a few TV credits) Daisy Ridley. Given she was sat between Ford and Fisher in the released photo, speculation is rife that she will play Han and Leia’s daughter.

Generally then – I am pretty happy with the cast. A really interesting mix with some enjoyable character actors like Isaac and Driver who I think will bring something different to the franchise. This isn’t beef cake alley by a long stretch. That said though – it is a bit of a sausage fest. One girl in the new cast? ONE? Sure, there was only one main female character in the originals – but that was a long time ago in a galaxy far far away (the 1970s). Even from a purely biological perspective, surely more girls are needed in the universe just to keep churning out more jedi knights, no? There are rumours that there is one more big announcement to come – and it will be for a female role. But even then the odds are still stacked in the boys favour.  Some could, and probably will, argue that science fiction is more of a ‘guy’ thing and that to suddenly populate the cast with strong female leads would be tokenism just for the sake of it. To those people I say ‘pfft’. Girls can be JUST as big sci fi fans as boys – and as recent cinematic experience has shown us, girls can kick just as much butt, churn out just as many laughs and bring in just as many punters, as the boys can.

So, that would be my one – albeit pretty massive – reservation about this announcement. That said – I am generally looking forward to seeing what Abrams can do. And if he makes Ridley’s character a well rounded, interesting and empowered one – unlike both of his female leads in the last Star Trek film (one of whom took her top off at one point for NO REASON WHATSOEVER) then maybe I will forgive him. In the meantime though, I am off to prepare for Star Wars night. Do do, do do do dooooo do, do do do dooooo do, do do do do. Peace out.

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