All eyes are on Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015; the film was both our most anticipated of the year, as well as the film that fans voted their most anticipated. Director J.J. Abrams has no small challenge ahead of him, closing rifts within the fanbase created by George Lucas’ prequels, while also having to attract a new generation to the property and launch a shared universe, to boot. The Star Wars 7 teaser trailer certainly got the ball rolling, depicting mysterious new characters and an elaborate new lightsaber design that has had the zeitgeist buzzing ever since.
As Abrams and company continue the process of post-production work on the movie, we have a curious bit of late casting news – casting that could speak to the style of action Abrams is bringing to the Star Wars universe.
The Wrap reports that Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens has added three actors from The Raid 2 to the cast: stars of the franchise Iko Uwais (hero cop, Rama) and Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog from pt. 1 and Prakoso from pt. 2), along with Cecep Arif Rahman, who played the blade-wielding “assassin” sub-boss in pt. 2. In other words: some of the best martial arts stunt choreographers working in the business right now.
The same report mentions that a fourth (unnamed) actor from The Raid franchise is also in the film, and that **POSSIBLE SPOILER** one of the martial artists will die onscreen. Beyond that, we know little about their role in the film – such as whether they are playing actual characters (heroes? Villains? Assassins?); handling stunt work for some of the existing characters; or some combination of both.
The one question this does raise, however, is: What style of action is J.J. Abrams going for in The Force Awakens?
Image Source: DeviantART
I’ve debated it at length on our SRUnderground podcast since Star Wars VII was first announced: One thing that made the OT so strong (in my opinion) were dueling scenes which were packed with dramatic dialogue and character development, rather than superhero acrobatics.
By the time the prequels arrived (like the Episode I Darth-Maul final fight – or the Yoda fights in Episodes II and III) it was clear Lucas was more concerned with pushing into the “wire-fu” style of combat that had come into vogue with late ’90s/early ’00s Asian movie crossovers. While they were visually impressive moments, those battles (some of the most important in the saga) ultimately felt more hollow than the less technically-advanced duels of the OT.
Image Source: DeviantART
Which brings us to the point: Hopefully, Abrams and Co. can give Episode VII the necessary substance it needs so that the epic battle sequences – some of them apparently involving some of the best onscreen martial artists of the last ten years – actually have legitimate impact and depth.
As for the actual casting news: it’s pretty awesome, as it’s a clear sign that people have noticed what director Gareth Evans, Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian and the entire Indonesian team (and community) behind The Raid franchise have done. Pencak Silat (an Indonesian martial art) is coming to a galaxy far, far away.
NEXT: Updates on The Raid 3
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens will be in theaters on December 18, 2015.