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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

John Boyega is the Star of Your New Star Wars Trilogy

Posted by Bobby Roberts on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 9:55 AM

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Everyone's had a day to catch their breath. Arms are probably a little tired from all the muppety flailing they were doing after the Star Wars casting news was released, along with this photo of a table read with most of the main players.

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The questions started flying almost immediately: Is Max Von Sydow going to be a bad guy? Who the hell are all these kids? Will Andy Serkis get to be Andy Serkis or will J.J. Abrams shove him in a body sock and glue ping-pong balls to his dick in the name of mo-cap? Does Han Solo just not wear deodorant?

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And then, as the information got processed, the articles were launched from keyboards like a squad of X-Wing fighters; articles that rightfully pointed out that in the three-plus decades of Star Wars existence, there has been one major role for a black man, and only two major roles for women. Now, not all the cast has been announced; the Hollywood Reporter wrote there's still a major female role to be cast (likely the one that Lupita N'yongo was reading for, the one she might have lost to Maisie Richardson-Sellers), but looking at the picture of that table read, it's hard to argue against the perception that Star Wars is still, overwhelmingly, a big boys club. A White boys club, at that.

About that last bit, though...

If you haven't seen Attack the Block, go do so. It's a mean little blast of sci-fi fun, calling to mind the reckless energy of early John Carpenter. The lead of that ensemble was an unknown named John Boyega, who had charisma for days as Moses, the ill-tempered leader of a group of snotty British punks.

Between 2011, when Block was released, and yesterday, nobody heard much about Boyega. There were occasional scattered comments from film nerds that they'd like to see that dude in a movie again, that it was a shame he hadn't gotten more chances to captivate audiences the way he did as Moses.

It appears now that not only has he finally gotten that chance, he's gotten the chance. In the 21st Century, your Star Wars trilogy belongs to a Black man.

Star Wars is often thought of as an ensemble, and it is. Moreso with the prequels than with the original films; one of the prequel's structural failings is that they never established a solid point of view to help carry the audience through that knotted plotting. But while Han Solo brought the smarm 'n' charm, and Leia brought the fight, 1977's Star Wars was the story of Luke Skywalker.

It appears John Boyega is this trilogy's Luke.

That announcement hasn't been officially made yet, of course; the mystery box at Bad Robot is still operational, and the fact a basic cast listing ground large swaths of the internet to a complete halt shows how effective it continues to be. But not all of Hollywood operates within that box, and industry rags like Variety and Hollywood Reporter have been lifting the lid ever so slightly off the top, allowing thin wisps of news to come streaming over the sides.

First, Variety reported the news in February that Adam Driver was in as the villain of Episode VII, and then followed that up the next month with this report, listing the names of five actors being considered to face off against Driver as the lead of the movie.

Even though the article mentioned the role had not been locked down due to "whether execs and creatives want someone of a different ethnicity from the previous Caucasian leads", general assumption was that one of the White kids, probably either the chisel-chin dude from Downton Abbey, or Landry from Friday Night Lights, would get to be the son of Skywalker, and one of the Black kids would be the best friend, or maybe even Lando's kid. But there was no confirmation or denial from Lucasfilm either way, and so the report, even from an entertainment outlet as reliable as Variety, stayed in the shady realm of rumor.

Yesterday, Lucasfilm posted that picture, and by doing so, provided the confirmation. There's Adam Driver. And sitting right next to him is John Boyega. The villain, and the lead.

That gets me excited about this movie. Because of the cultural implications, articles about which will be written by much finer minds than myself; because there's a new group of children who can more easily imagine themselves growing up to save the entire galaxy; but most simply, because John Boyega is really fucking cool.

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Moses is running this Star Wars thing, bruv. ALLOW IT.

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