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Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson

Star Wars Episode VII cast announcement: What I want to see

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After a year and a half of rumours and speculation, the principal cast of Star Wars Episode VII have finally been revealed. Included are some welcome familiar faces, some not so surprising new choices and some completely unexpected ones. I’ve decided to take the opportunity to discuss what I would like to see incorporated into the new movie, based on the cast members that have been confirmed.
The purpose of this article is not to tell you what I would like the plot to be, because to be honest I have no clue where the story should go – which is actually an issue I have with the announcement of a new trilogy, the ending of Return of the Jedi wrapped things up too perfectly. But that’s really a whole other discussion.
While I am well versed in post-Return of the Jedi expanded universe material, I will not be drawing on that when talking about what I would like to see in the next episode. Disney have made it quite clear that the only source impacting the story that they’re going to tell are the films themselves. With that in mind, all of my thoughts will be based around the confirmed cast and what we know of the Star Wars universe solely from what has appeared on screen to date.

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Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker will all be returning to a galaxy far, far away and there are no prizes for guessing who each one of them will be portraying. The real question is, what will our favourite heroes be up to three decades after defeating the Empire at the Battle of Endor?

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Personally, I want to see Luke as the Grand Master of a new Jedi Order, essentially occupying the same position as Yoda in Episodes I – III. I’d like to see a reformed Jedi High Council with Luke at its head. I am not a prequel hater, I prefer to embrace all six movies as a whole, so I want to see some continuity with Episodes I – III.
From the victory celebration montage at the end of Return of the Jedi, we know that the old Jedi Temple was still intact at the end of the Galactic Civil War. Was there a reason Palpatine didn’t burn it to the ground, or did Lucas simply put it in for some familiarity in the cityscape? The why is not important here, the fact is that even if it was just an Easter egg, its appearance means that canonically it is still standing.

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I see no reason why Luke, the first of a new generation of Jedi Knights, would not have returned to the seat of the old Order and attempted to restore the building to its former glory. I would enjoy seeing Luke and a new High Council sitting in the same chambers where we saw the Jedi Council sit in Episodes I – III. It would also be a nice touch to have a nod to old Jedi characters by having statues or holograms of icons of the Order such as Obi-Wan, Yoda, Mace Windu and Qui-Gon Jinn on display somewhere in the temple, even if they only appear in background shots.
I think Luke’s new Jedi Order should be a reformed one though. One could argue that the old Order was flawed and that the constraints it placed on its members led directly to Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side. Perhaps if he were allowed to marry Padmé and not forced to keep their relationship a secret, he would have been able to seek more help and better advice from Obi-Wan and Yoda. Certainly, it would have meant that he wouldn’t have had a secret marriage for Palpatine to exploit as a weakness.
You could say that the downfall of the old Jedi Order was their unwillingness to allow their members to embrace their basic natural instincts. And given the fact that the Jedi recruited their members in infancy, it’s not as if they were given much choice. So perhaps Luke’s new Jedi Order allows its members to marry and is not quite as monastic as its predecessor. The purpose and general attitude of a new Jedi Order could be the same, but the restrictions it places over its members could be looser, reducing the risk of emotional conflict leading members on a path towards the dark side.

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I’d like to see Leia play a role in the political sphere. I know that she has the same Force potential as Luke and that Luke told her in Return of the Jedi that in time she’d learn to use that power, but seeing her as a Jedi Knight doesn’t feel right to me. Before the Galactic Civil War, Leia was a senator, so it seems fitting that she would have returned to the world of politics to help establish a new system of government following Palpatine’s downfall.
If we need someone to represent the political side of things in the new trilogy, better it be Leia who is established and loved by fans, than some new character we’ve never known. I’d be happy to see Leia as the Supreme Chancellor of a re-established Republic when Episode VII begins.
It seems more than fitting that Leia should be running the Senate, while Luke is running a new Jedi Order if you consider where their parents might have ended up had tragedy not struck. Anakin had the potential to become the most powerful Jedi the galaxy had ever seen. It’s a distinct possibility that had he not fallen to the dark side, he would have eventually led the Order. Padmé was an outspoken and publicly popular member of the Galactic Senate and may well have risen to the chancellery had she and the Republic not both met with an untimely end. It would seem incredibly apt that the Skywalker siblings successfully rose to the positions that fate stole from their parents.

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Similarly to the Jedi Temple, while Palpatine may have disbanded the Senate in Episode IV, the building was still standing in the Coruscant cityscape at the end of Episode VI. So it makes sense that a new Galactic Senate would be based in the same location with which we are familiar from Episodes I – III.

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Ironically enough while Han Solo is the character I’m most looking forward to seeing again, he’s also the character for which I have the least amount of ideas about what his role should be in the post-Imperial era. There are, however, three definite things I do want to see with his return: that he’s married to Leia; that Chewbacca is still his right hand man (which seems all but certain considering Peter Mayhew’s return); and that he still travels the galaxy in the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.
We all know that Han was a smuggler before the war and I can’t see him returning to that life afterwards given his character arc in Episodes IV – VI. Last time we saw him, he was a general of the Rebel Alliance so maybe it wouldn’t be a great leap to imagine him in a militaristic position of some sort.
One thing I do not want to see in Episode VII though is any kind of Imperial remnant. I think that thirty years after the fall of Palpatine, a new Republican government should be firmly in control. Let us not forget that the Empire didn’t topple the Republic, the Republic was reorganised into the Empire. The Imperial military was once the Grand Army of the Republic, in theory loyal not to Palpatine per se, rather to which ever political body happens to be in office.
While I don’t deny the possibility that some of the Imperial military may have continued the fight after his death, I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that by this point in galactic history, the Imperial military has been reorganised back into the Grand Army of the Republic. Palpatine ran the show. He was the evil one. Not those who signed up for military service. The end of the Clone Wars and the rise of the Empire were shrouded in propaganda that made the Jedi look like the antagonists and Palpatine look like the hero.
A lot of Imperial officers may have been ignorant of the fact that they were even serving a Sith regime. The average officer was just following orders and not necessarily a bad person. Of course there were exceptions, such as Wilhuff Tarkin. My point is though that not every officer would necessarily have objected to serving a new Republic administration in Palpatine’s wake. So by the time Episode VII takes place, I would like to see the Grand Army of the Republic re-established and ships like Star Destroyers serving the good guys.
How does all of this relate to Han Solo? Well maybe he could be serving as chief of staff of the Grand Army. Although, it could be a position more likely to go to a more clear cut service man such as Wedge Antilles, Crix Madine or Ackbar. It’s really just a thought on what Han could be doing with himself when we catch up with him at the end of next year, not what I think he absolutely should be doing.

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Of the confirmed returning original cast members, we are left then with Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker. I have no real thoughts on where I’d like Chewie to be other than at Han’s side.
Artoo served Anakin throughout the Clone Wars and during his time as a Jedi Knight, so it’s no stretch of the imagination to assume he could well still be serving Luke. Likewise, Threepio served as Padmé’s personal droid while she attended to her senatorial duties, so it seems plausible that he could be serving Leia if she’s in office.
I have no problem with the iconic droid duo’s return, but I would prefer that subplots for them aren’t shoehorned in just for the sake of it. Their antics in the Geonosis droid foundries in Episode II were completely pointless and far too CGI-ed.
Based on the original cast members who have been confirmed, I also have an idea on how I would like the movie to open. It will doubtless begin with the iconic opening crawl, but here’s what I would love to see next:

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Camera pans down. Star Wars theme transitions into a quiet rendition of the Force theme. Empty space. Suddenly a ship drops from hyperspace. The Millennium Falcon. The Force theme picks up to announce the return of the iconic vessel. The Falcon flies towards the screen, allowing the camera to pan into the cockpit to reveal Han and Chewie in the pilot and co-pilot seats with Luke and Leia seated behind them.
Listen to the first 50 seconds or so of this and it will give you an idea of the musical cues I’m imagining (it’s around the 26 – 50 second mark that I’m picturing the sequence of the Falcon blasting onto the screen and the camera panning in to reveal our heroes):

That’s really more of a wish than a genuine hope on my part but I think it would be an amazing way to re-introduce the original heroes of the saga and immediately get everyone excited for what’s to come.

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That leaves us with the newcomers to the saga. Not knowing their roles yet, I can’t outline too much about what I’d like to see them do, but I do have some thoughts.
It’s been long rumoured and assumed that this trilogy will feature the next generation of the Skywalker family line – the children of Luke and Leia. It would make sense. Episodes I – III focused on Anakin Skywalker, IV – VI focused on his childen, so it would seem appropriate for VII – IX to focus on his grandchildren. It’s also been long assumed that those children will be the son of Luke and the son and daughter of Han and Leia. It’s hard to know at this point if such an assumption has any basis in reality or if it’s due exclusively to the fact that in post-Return of the Jedi EU material, Luke has a son and Han and Leia have a twin son and daughter. But let’s look at which of the new cast members are likely candidates for portraying Skywalker offspring.
If one of the newcomers is indeed gearing up for the role of Luke’s son, Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson seems the most likely to my mind. He has the same kind of fair complexion as Luke and if this movie is to take place 35 years after Episode VI, then he is age appropriate. Presumably this would put him in the lead role among the new characters and I have no problem with Luke’s son taking over as the franchise’s protagonist. I don’t have any specific hopes for such a character at the moment beyond his being a Jedi.
As the only confirmed new actress, Daisy Ridley is the sole candidate for Han and Leia’s daughter at the moment. I’d actually have loved to have seen someone like Emilia Clarke or Mary Elizabeth Winstead in such a role, but I’ve no problem with Ridley taking it up. I’m unfamiliar with her abilities so I’m open minded about her. Again, I have no real thoughts on what a Solo child should be doing in the film, other than that I don’t want to see one of them fall to the dark side.
It would seem, then, that Oscar Isaac is the only actor left who could be a Solo son. This is all assuming that Han and Leia will actually have both a son and daughter. For the sake of argument, I’m just going with popular opinion until I know more. It does seem to me though, that if Luke’s son were to be the new main Jedi character, then any Solo offspring that may appear don’t necessarily have to be Jedi or Force affiliated as well. I have no interest in seeing the EU plot of one sibling falling to the dark side. A hero’s fall to the dark side has been done. We’ve basically had six movies about it.
Andy Serkis was the biggest surprise of the lot so I have no idea what to expect of him, other than assuming he’ll be hidden behind a motion capture suit and playing an alien, going by his track record. To be honest, I have no clue as to what kind of role John Boyega might be playing, so I’ll have to just wait and see on that one.
Max Von Sydow on the other hand; while he could be playing anyone really, it’s striking how much he resembles Alec Guinness from the original trilogy. Rumours have been flying around for a long time that Obi-Wan will make a spectral return. While I’d love Ewan McGregor to reprise the role, it might not make a whole lot of sense. Given that Obi-Wan no longer has a corporeal form, I suppose you could come up with some explanation as to how he can choose to appear however he pleases, but it might be easier to have someone resembling Alec Guinness take over. For that reason, it wouldn’t surprise me if they announce that Von Sydow will be appearing as everyone’s favourite Jedi mentor.

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I’m not saying I expect him to play Obi-Wan, just that I won’t be surprised if he is. Do we really need Obi-Wan back? No. But it would be nice, seems how he, along with Anakin, Threepio and Artoo, are the only characters to appear in all six episodes to date. Some might believe that Yoda would be the easiest choice if they want a Jedi spirit guide to play a role, but I actually think the most appropriate choice is neither Obi-Wan nor Yoda, rather Anakin Skywalker himself. And, while I risk being crucified for saying this, I think Hayden Christensen should reprise the role.
Like it or not, since the 2004 DVD release the spirit of Anakin Skywalker has been canonically portrayed by Hayden Christensen. Anakin may have been brought to life by a myriad of actors across the saga, but setting aside Vader’s iconic mask, Christensen is the face of the character. Bringing in someone else to play the role would be messy. You might ask why the character should return at all. Well, he was the central figure of the first six episodes. Until Episode VII was announced, the Star Wars saga was the story of Anakin Skywalker. So to cut him out completely seems wrong. I would love a scene, even a brief one, where he appears to impart some advice to his son or one of his grandchildren.

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While we’re on the subject, I also don’t think Padmé should be forgotten about. I want some sort of acknowledgment of Luke and Leia now being aware of who their mother was and what she stood for. Even if it’s something as simple as a portrait of Natalie Portman in Leia’s senatorial office or in one of their homes. It’s also worth noting that Luke and Leia have first cousins on Naboo who were still children at the time of Padmé’s funeral, but that’s not necessarily something I think needs to be addressed. I just want even a throwaway line that alludes to Padmé’s existence. But I digress.
The only new actor left to be addressed at this time is Adam Driver. This one came as no surprise given his name has been floating around as a likely candidate for a long time now. Popular opinion is that he will be playing the next main villain of the franchise. While Palpatine is going to be an extremely tough act to follow, I have no objection to Driver taking on the mantle of the next big bad, but one thing I do not want him to be is another Sith or dark side Force user.
If the Sith return, it completely undermines the legacy of Anakin as the prophesied chosen one of Jedi lore, who brought balance to the Force by killing Palpatine, the last of the Sith lords. And if you undermine that, you also undermine the entire story of Episodes I – VI. How does it make sense that no one will ever fall to the dark side of the Force again, you might ask? Well, why doesn’t it make sense?
Consider that Anakin’s fall to the dark side and the destruction of the old Jedi Order was all part of the process of bringing balance to the Force and stopping anyone from falling to the dark side again. I mentioned earlier that Luke’s new Jedi Order should be a reformed one in which members are not forced to suppress their emotional desires and it could be argued that the constraints the Jedi Order placed on its members led to Anakin’s fall. So maybe the old Order had to be destroyed in order to prevent more Jedi straying from the light.
I’m not disputing that the Jedi were heroic characters in Episodes I – III, but they were complacent in their ways. They were following an ancient code that seemed flawed. If they’re allowed to embrace emotions such as love, it could make for a better, healthier balance of feelings in general, both positive and negative. So if Luke starts a fresh new Jedi Order that embraces the basic ideals of the old one but places fewer restrictions on its members, it might make for less pent up problems and emotions that could lead to darker places.
And Luke is in a unique position. He was trained by the legendary masters of old, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, but he is also the son of Darth Vader. He can learn from the mistakes of both his father and his mentors to build a better functioning organisation of peacekeepers. Indeed, we have already seen him learn from his father’s mistakes when he chose to lay down his arms and embrace the light side rather than kill Vader and turn to the dark side at Palpatine’s behest.
By destroying the Sith and the old, flawed Jedi Order, Anakin paved the way for his son to start anew with a better, more enlightened way that will ensure the Force is balanced for ever more. Therefore, I don’t believe the villain(s) of the new trilogy should be a new breed of Sith lord. And even setting aside all of that, if the Sith can keep returning and any Jedi can turn to the dark side at any time, how can there ever be a definitive end to this saga?
Anyone who doesn’t agree with me – and I’m sure there are many, which is fine – will surely ask if the new villain isn’t to be a dark sider, then who should it be? And the honest answer is I don’t know. That’s one of the problems I have with the story continuing beyond Return of the Jedi. But as I said, the purpose of this article isn’t to suggest a plot or story for the new film(s), just to offer the thoughts I have based on the casting announcement. If Adam Driver is to be the new villain, I wish him nothing but the best with the role, I hope he’ll be great. I just have no suggestions as to what kind of character he should be, I can only say what I’d prefer he isn’t.
That about concludes my ramblings about what I’d like to see in Star Wars Episode VII based on who we now know will be bringing its characters to life on the big screen. Whether any of it will even be close to the reality is anyone’s guess. We’ll have to wait and see what we get when December 18th, 2015 rolls around. Either way, I can only hope that we’ll be treated to an epic return to that galaxy far, far away which is befitting of both the characters we all know and love and the new talent that will be sharing the screen with them. Thanks for reading and may the Force be with you!

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2 comments on “Star Wars Episode VII cast announcement: What I want to see

  1. Green
    May 11, 2014

    Awesome article man, I love meeting people who share my passion for this universe!

    • Dave Simpson
      May 11, 2014

      Thanks, I appreciate it. Yeah, likewise. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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