Excitement mounts for Star Wars film with original stars

The Phantom Menace
The Phantom Menace
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I should have learned not to get too excited by movie news, hype and gossip but the announcement that Star Wars Episode VII will feature original stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford had me dribbling into my beard.

Fan sites, blogs and sundry entertainment shows have been agog in recent weeks as sets appear to have been built in Abu Dhabi, a full-size Millennium Falcon has apparently been constructed at Pinewood Studios and the notoriously grumpy Harrison Ford joined in the general fun with a jokey wookiee-orientated meltdown on a US talk show.

The Star Wars universe has long lost some of its magic with devotees. The rot began when George Lucas tinkered with his original trilogy to make it “better”. In fact all he did was incur the wrath of his fans.

There then followed the ill judged and poorly scripted episodes I, II and III. Boasting irritating characters, some dodgy acting and a revival 
of the “ropey dialogue” that Alec Guinness had complained about on the very first film in 1976, the trilogy of prequels were largely considered surplus to requirements.

What might be called “original fans”– Star Wars kids like me, now in their 40s and 50s – who saw the movies on first release yearned for some form of continuation of the three primary films. In other words Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

That would mean resurrecting the characters of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Harrison Ford.

Yet the stumbling block was Ford. In the 1980s and 1990s he was arguably the biggest American star on the planet. He didn’t need – and certainly didn’t want – to be thrust back into an ensemble when it was his name on the marquee.

As for Hamill, his career had nosedived. He became a voice artiste on animated shows. Fisher segued into writing scripts with the best being Postcards from the Edge.

And when I interviewed Ford back in 1999 and asked about both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series, he answered with a weariness that was palpable.

So what’s changed? Well, everything. George Lucas, equally praised as the originator of the series and damned as the progenitor of the poorly received prequels, has stepped down. The Star Wars brand has been sold to Disney. And JJ Abrams, the bright young thing behind the rebooted Star Trek movies, is in the director’s chair.

As for Harrison Ford, at 71 he no longer needs to stave off the taint of those long-ago extravaganzas with their Saturday Morning Serial vibe. His status as an icon is secure. And, perhaps, he knows he will never again enjoy the sort of success he experienced post-Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Hamill and Fisher, I assume, are glad to be back in the fold. It’s been a long 30 years out in the cold. And fans like me are thrilled at the notion of Luke being reunited with his lightsabre.

Does it matter that Luke Skywalker is now 62? Nope, it doesn’t. Not a jot.