The recent rumors about Harrison Ford returning to the Star Wars franchise to reprise his role as Han Solo have now extended to include Luke Skywalker, too. The Hollywood Reporter is reporting (as it tends to do) that Mark Hamill is currently in talks to appear in Star Wars Episode VII.
Though some industry insiders argued that Episode VII director J.J. Abrams would likely bring in just one member of the original cast — as he did with Leonard Nimoy in 2009′s Star Trek — it sounds like he’s interested in bringing back the whole gang, at least for limited roles in the sequel.
Nimoy’s presence in Star Trek made a lot of sense. His Spock character traveled back in time and provided a useful narrative bridge to the younger and re-cast version of Spock, played by Zachary Quinto. More importantly, it gave Abrams an excuse to branch out and take the franchise in a new direction, without taking anything away from the original Star Trek films or the fans who would have hunted him down and killed him if he didn’t throw them a bone.
Abrams’ Star Trek strategy worked because the 2009 film was a reboot, however. Star Wars Episode VII isn’t going to be a reboot; it’s going to be a direct sequel. Thus, recasting iconic roles like Han Solo and Luke Skywalker isn’t really going to be an option.
It still looks likely that Ford and Hamill, provided they reach agreements with the studio, will only appear in the new Star Wars movie(s) in a very limited fashion — perhaps only in a one-scene cameo. Return of the Jedi was released in 1983 and both actors have aged significantly since then. Devout Star Wars fans will surely want to see their heroes on the screen again, but selling a new generation of Americans on a movie franchise whose protagonists are in their 60s isn’t really a great idea.
Here’s hoping that Abrams doesn’t decide to go overboard and feature either character in more than a small role. Star Wars needs new life breathed into it and rehashing the past isn’t the way to do that. There’s an appropriate way to pay homage to the characters who built Star Wars into what it is today — and then to move on to the ones who will carry it into the future.