If there’s one thing that’s been particularly surprising about the kerfuffle surrounding a new Star Wars trilogy starting in 2015, it’s been the excitement surrounding the idea that said new trilogy would include appearances by Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, reprising their roles as the franchise’s original core cast.
It’s not that Ford, Fisher or Hamill would be interested in appearing; with the exception of Ford, their careers have been as such that this would be a step back towards the mainstream spotlight that they may not have been expecting otherwise, after all (Ford, too, could fall into that category; it’s not like Morning Glory was such a massive smash). Instead, it’s the wholehearted embrace of the idea by fans that seems somewhat unexpected.
I mean, sure; there’s definitely the nostalgia aspect that appeals, I understand that. Getting the team back together is one of those things that always rings bells for those who grew up with the original movies; there’s a romance to that idea, a sense of it being a “true” Star Wars in the sense that the prequel movies and Clone Wars weren’t. It’s not just offering a return to familiar worlds and concepts – like the prequels – but literally offering familiar faces to underscore the appeal to those who want the same Star Wars that they grew up with. Theoretically, the prequels did that too by re-using characters like Darth Vader, Yoda, C3-PO, R2-D2 and Chewbacca, but none of those characters were actually human, and so the “familiar face” thing seems… weird and not-quite-right when you’re talking about masks (Sure, there was the Emperor, but he was only in Return of The Jedi…).
And I understand, too, that the new movies feed the “But what happened next?” impulse, too, in a way that the prequels couldn’t. That, perhaps, may be the best argument for them – that anything could happen in them, and they weren’t headed towards a place we were all familiar with, one of the many things that robbed the prequels of any sense of urgency. But this, in a way, also explains the danger of the follow-ups, as well: Whatever “happens next” is unlikely to live up to the story that fans (who haven’t read the novels or comics, I guess) have built up in their heads over the last three decades, and seem like a disappointment as a result.
That’s the thing: Although it seems like a good idea, actually watching a sixty-plus year-old Han Solo, Leia Organa Skywalker Solo (Seriously, I’m guessing. Is that her name by the time this’ll take place?) and Luke Skywalker just seems like the kind of thing that is going to not live up to fans’ expectations. I mean, does anyone actually want to see these characters being either (a) older patriarchal/matriarchal figures in the background, or (b) active but failing to live up to the way we remember them from decades earlier…? The temptation for fans, I think, is that seeing the three actors and characters return would mean “more of the same,” but that’s just not possible… and the alternatives that remain don’t seem particularly exciting or worthwhile, either.
Not only that, but am I the only person who finds themselves nervous over the idea of the characters being active participants in a story centered around their offspring, as the new movies are rumored to be? It’s one thing to have the family connection in some distant way – Something that the expanded universe’s Star Wars: Legacy exploits very well, I think – but having our central characters be the kids of the original cast and keeping that original cast in the story as well is, at best, a risky move and at worst a reductive one that either undermines the new characters (Hey, our favorites are still here!) or minimizes the appeal of the old characters by making them ineffectual and unnecessary when compared with the new.
I could be alone in worrying about all of this, and not trusting the powers that be at Lucasfilm and Disney to work out some way to satisfy all audiences and expectations that come with the idea of bringing back the original cast. In fact, looking at the excitement online, it feels as if I am… But I can’t shake the feeling that this is one of those things that is far, far better in theory than in practice. Guess we’ll find out in 2015…