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Heroes Shouldn't Be Allowed To Get Old

by Samuel Marlow. Published 12th May 2013

Amid the announcement that Star Wars will be returning to England for the production of the new movie series, recent rumblings are that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford have been implicated in the sequels. This coupled with seeing Ford in Cowboys and Aliens and in the new Ender's Game trailer has left me with mixed feelings.

Harrison Ford in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Apart from the many horrible script problems, plastic locations and lack-luster performances from some of the new cast, my biggest problem with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was seeing a shuffling Indi. I know we all get old (if we're lucky!), but in my mind Indiana Jones was a vital adventurer in his 30s, not a granddad in his 60s.

I know we are shown a younger Obi-Wan in the prequel Star Wars movies, but he was already old in my mind, we are shown him in his youth.

I'm not arguing that we should only have young actors or young characters, or even young heroes - an already mature hero is fine, and many of the best and most important characters in fiction have been at least a generation older than the hero. What I do want is the characters to stay that age in my imagination. I do make an exception for stories that are structured to cover a hero's life from youth to maturity and old age as is the case of Henry IV in Shakespeare's Edward II, Henry IV, Parts I & II and Henry V.

Jeremy Irons in the Hollow Crown

No, I am talking about the young heroes who's stories we follow from naive youth to adulthood, or a timeless hero who seems to be one age forever. The idea seeing a leathery Luke, puffy Leia or shuffling Han makes me feel a little sad.

As I said earlier, I don't mind the actors who play these characters ageing. Having seen Ford in Cowboys and Aliens, I think there should be a law that every American actor of a certain age should make at least one Western. Ford's grizzled face and abrasive demeanour perfectly suited his character. He seems to be well suited to his role in Ender's Game, too. It may be that Ford's career, after a dip in the 90s, continued beyond Star Wars. While Hamill carved out a decent career as a voice actor and Fisher has made a few comedies over the years, neither of their careers seemed to last as long and as well as Ford's.

So why is this a problem? I'm glad you asked.

See, I think that, regardless of our own age when we see these tales, we still identify with the young hero, because their story is a metaphor for all life. The acknowledge that they will get old and, by implication, eventually die, is to acknowledge on some level that we will get old and eventually die - a fact that many of us may be aware of, but understandably don't dwell on!

If we are, in our minds at least, the hero of these stories, then the other characters are members of our own family. The Wise Old Man is a grandfather, for example. It is far more appealing to imaging a sleepy pensioner dashing about and having adventures in their youth than to imagine a dashing youth sitting hunched in an armchair falling asleep in front of Countdown.

Carl Fredricksen in Up

It is interesting, then, that although The Hobbit predates The Lord of the Rings both chronologically and in publication that they have been reversed in the movies.

Without wanting to be too down on the man who started it all, I take some comfort from the fact George Lucas will not be helming this outing, as I don't think he understands the archetypal nature of the films he created. JJ Abrams, currently contracted as director-producer, has done good things with the Star Trek reboot, but he is revisiting characters in their youth, rather than projecting into the future. Yes, we had a very elderly Nimoy-Spock in Star Trek, but he was offset against a shiny new Spock in the form of Zachary Quinto.

Star Trek Spocks

Hopefully the writer of the new series will be sensitive to my concerns!


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