Spend May the 4th getting to know the people that have suddenly made Star Wars Episode VII so exciting.
I used to be a hardcore Star Wars fan, but like so many others, they lost me after the prequels. I’ll admit that while George Lucas’ departure and the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney piqued my curiosity, I wasn’t that excited for the potential of Episode VII. Yes, a story taking place after Return of the Jedi feels like the most interesting unexplored avenue of the Star Wars universe, but neither Disney or JJ Abrams really rocked me back into Star Wars fandom.
But now, with this week’s reveal of our new cast, the project is finally starting to get me stoked. Yes, it’s a bummer that the new cast is once again very light on women, but this is a great group of talented actors, and I cannot wait to see what they bring to this new story.
I’m also fully aware that I’m the type of guy to get too positive a little too quickly, so maybe I’m jumping the gun by saying I’m now officially excited for Episode VII… but dammit, I can’t help it! Even other puzzle pieces that didn’t do much on their own– like the script coming from Lawrence Kasdan and JJ Abrams at the helm– are now seeming just a little more promising, knowing they will be writing for and directing this awesome pool of performers.
With that said, I wanted to help spread my newfound interest for this movie, so I came up with a movie playlist to help make you aware of why this cast of relatively unknown actors has me so stoked. This Sunday is May the 4th, so why not devote some time to getting a primer in your new Star Wars cast members?
1. Attack the Block
WHY? Because it’s a great movie, and one not nearly enough people have seen. Joe Cornish’s aliens versus inner city kids movie perfectly balances comedy and action, big fun and major stakes for the characters. More to point, it stars our new Star Wars hero John Boyega as the lead character Moses, who transforms from snotty street rat to legitimate hero within the span of the film. It’s an incredible transformation, and the subtlety of Boyega’s performance proved to me he had some serious acting chops. The idea of bringing that same talent to Star Wars is totally cool.
WHY? Adam Driver is playing one of the new villains in Episode VII, and while he’s done a lot of solid character work, I think HBO’s Girls best represents what this guy is capable of. Strange yet focused with a razor-sharp determination, Driver’s character Adam is incredible to watch. He actually starts off on the show as kind of the “bad guy,” before those jerky layers are peeled back and his true character comes through. Driver is great either way, and everything from his appearance, to his speech patterns, to his worldview are truly offbeat and fascinating to watch. The result for Star Wars could be a truly interesting villain, one whose motives may have logic behind them, but will likely keep us guessing.
3. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
WHY? Okay, I’ll admit it’s probably unfair to compare Episode VII to the very best installment of the Star Wars saga, but Empire was the movie written by returning screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. Kasdan’s movies since haven’t always been great, but his name being attached was the first news from this movie that actually left me with some cautious optimism. While Empire‘s young cast was confident to return after the box office shattering first movie, I feel our new young cast could bring a similar confidence based on their past individual successes.
4. Inside Llewyn Davis
WHY? Oscar Isaac was one of the biggest surprises to come out of the Episode VII cast reveal, and any franchise should be lucky to have this guy. Isaac has done lots of very solid work in everything from Drive to being one of the few good parts of Sucker Punch, but his starring role in the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis exemplifies just how great he can be. His performance is so subtle, so layered with frustration and loneliness and fear, and Isaac conveys all of that through body language, facial expressions and between-the-lines dialogue. It’s an incredible performance in an incredible movie, and another sign of evidence as to how much talent Episode VII is bringing to the table.
5. Super 8
WHY? Super 8 is not a very good movie, but what JJ Abrams does right, he does perfectly, and that’s tap into the visual and sentimental feeling of the classic Amblin movies of the 80s. Abrams’ projects tend to end on a mediocre note, but a movie like Super 8 proves his form and sense of style are perfect for a return to the Star Wars universe. Stylistically, he gets how important the look and feel of a movie can be toward creating movie magic, and even if that visual style is the only thing he brings to Episode VII, I have confidence that his writers and actors can do the heavy lifting. Super 8 proves to me Abrams can make the rest of them look pretty while they go to work.
That’s only scratching the surface– I haven’t even mentioned Andy Serkis or Max von Sydow or any of the returning Original Trilogy cast, all of which fills me with genuine geek anticipation for this movie. But it’s a nice day out, and I don’t want to spend too many of you 24 hours of Star Wars Day, so we’ll leave it there.
This playlist is basically my thesis as to why my negativity, turned cautious optimism for Episode VII has now transformed into full blown interest. I hope they can pull this off, but with a cast this good and a crew playing to their strengths, I really believe Episode VII can be something special.