Enter Admiral Thrawn?

Thrawn
Thrawn – a kinder, more reasonable Imperial despot…

Fans of the extended “Star Wars” universe will get the titular reference, but for the uninitiated Grand Admiral Thrawn is a pivotal bad guy in Timothy Zahn’s follow-up trilogy of “Star Wars” novels which follow on from the climax of “Return of the Jedi”.

Thrawn is a popular villain in the great canon of despicable galactic ne’er-do-wells – Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, Jabba The Hutt – as in Zahn’s novels he manages to embody the all-conquering, militaristic might of the Empire whilst being drawn in shades of moralistic grey quite at odds with much of the established “Wars” canon.

Rather than immediately smote a lower-ranking officer for suggesting that his strategies are at odds with the overwhelming evidence of reality in front of them, Thrawn’s the kind of guy who knows when to pack up the fleet and head for hyperspace and save the fight for another day.

Hmm...villainous?
Hmm…villainous?

All of which preamble obscures the main, non-news of the last twenty-four hours – Benedict Cumberbatch is the latest name linked to J.J. Abrams and Disney’s 2015-bound “Star Wars – Episode Seven”.

Yep, a chip off the old Skywalker block alright...
Yep, a chip off the old Skywalker block alright…

It’s hardly surprising, really – if you throw a dart at a casting director’s wish list, the British actor’s name is probably near the top, near Tom Hiddleston’s – and this rumour seems to have as much basis in fact as last week’s feverish speculation over Rachel Hurd-Wood and Alex Pettyfer auditioning for the apparently pivotal roles of Skywalker offspring.

Until Abrams and Disney let some, you know, actual information loose and tell us something, any actor with a half-competent agent is probably angling to get their client linked to a role in what should be the all-conquering movie franchise for the next decade (the potential for lucrative spin-off movies, merchandise and theme-park tie-ins must have Disney’s board thinking that the $4 Billion cost of buying Lucasfilm is but so much chump change…).

I’d actually like to see Cumberbatch play a more heroic role, if only to offset the expectations of villainy which come with his being cast in a Hollywood movie. ┬áThe old ‘Posh Brit Actor = Dastardly Evil’ equation is getting rather wearing, wouldn’t you say?

Whilst a well-drawn villain is often more attractive to actors than the prospect of playing a Peter Perfect white hat with no moral grey areas to draw upon, I’d like to see Michael Arndt and the “Star Wars” writing team draw from the expanded universe and let these new “Star Wars” heroes and villains embody different shades of the character spectrum.

A geek can dream, I guess…

 

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