Three huge thumbs up for Harrison Ford's announced return as Han Solo for the next entry in the Star Wars franchise! But, I would also strongly encourage the producers to bring back Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrrie Fisher as Princess Leia, and Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian to make the next episode truly memorable. And, of course, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2 should also definitely be included.
Now, a possible problem exists with respect to three of the most intriguing characters,namely, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Darth Vader, who were last seen at the conclusion of The Return of the Jedi(1983) as mere phantoms. For Obi-Wan and Yoda, they could continue as spirits who offer advice and commentary, such as to Luke...this was carried out most effectively with Obi-Wan(Alec Guiness) in The Empire Strikes Back(1980). Unfortunately, Guiness has passed away, so a substitute actor will be needed for this role.
And, a more serious logical obstacle pertains to Darth Vader, who wound up as essentially a reformed Anakin Skywalker without his fear-inspiring black helmet and outfit, which would appear to render it difficult to restore him to his former evil incarnation. Yet, every fascinating serial (which is what Star Wars essentially is) depends on having a key villain in a recurring nefarious role. Indeed, how can you have Star Wars without Darth Vader?
Ignoring that ending and proceeding as though he never died is one potential solution. Indeed, that approach was basically taken for the Flash Gordon serials, where the malevolent Ming The Merciless (superbly portrayed by Charles Middleton) apparently died at the end in the 1st installment, Flash Gordon(1936),when he entered a cave to supposedly be devoured by a sacred dragon. Yet, he appeared in the sequel, Flash Gordon's Trip To Mars(1938), without any explanation as to his survival. There, at the end, he was apparently vaporized in a disintegration chamber.
But, he returned as forceful as ever in Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe(1940).In the finale, an armed spacecraft slammed into a tower where he and his comrades had taken refuge in, supposedly bringing about his demise. Interestingly, for the 1st time, a brief allusion was made of a possible escape route he could take, allowing for his appearance in a 4th serial(which, sadly,was never produced).
On the other hand, embracing Darth Vader's death and working it into the plot of the next chapter is a distinct possibility. This was actually carried out most effectively with the Dracula franchise involving Christopher Lee. At the conclusion of his first appearance as the celebrated bloodsucker in The Horror Of Dracula(1958), Dr.Van Helsing (ably portrayed by Peter Cushing) in a battle with Dracula, opened a drape exposing the sunlight and used a pair of candlesticks contorted into a cross to subdue him. Dracula, paralyzed, gradually dissolved until he was utterly transformed into dust particles which blew across the floor, for the ultimate in final decimations!
Perhaps the production company (Hammer) did not plan on a sequel and thus opted for such a dramatic demise. But, the sequel, Dracula-Prince of Darkness arrived on the scene some 8 years later in 1966, and opened with that final death scene. Then, a servant not seen in the original, gathered Dracula's dust particles, deposited them in a pit, and hung a wayfarer over that pit, with his blood dripping down onto Dracula's remnants, whereupon he rematerialized to menace humankind once again!
A comparable solution could be enacted with respect to Darth Vader. One scenario I have prepared a treatment for would be to first resurrect the Emperor (who had been apparently slain by Vader),who would then employ his paranormal powers to reanimate Vader and transmogrify him once again to the evil entity we so enjoy seeing (with,of course, the voice of James Earl Jones). Remember, for entries in the sci-fi/horror genre, anything is possible!
--The original title for The Return of the Jedi was The Revenge of the Jedi, but the powers that be felt that the Jedi were too noble to be exacting revenge, so the title was altered!
--In what many fans consider to have been an unfair move, the actor, David Prowse, who had embodied Darth Vader in the first three films was not seen when he removed his helmet and revealed his human form, instead being replaced by actor Sebastian Shaw.
--In Bela Lugosi's 1931 version of Dracula, he simply slumped back when he was staked, but did not suffer any deterioration, avoiding any problems for a sequel. However, John Carradine, not Lugosi, essayed the role in 2 of Universal's sequels, The House of Frankenstein (1944) and The House of Dracula(1945). Lugosi did not reprise the role on-screen again until 1948's Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein.
--In 1954's Japanese monster classic, Gojira, and the 1956 American version,Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the creature was utterly obliterated, being converted to molecules by the oxygen destroyer. In the numerous sequels, no mention whatsoever was made of how he was reconstituted.
Some related video links:
Cosmic Theatre:"Flash Gordon's Trip To Mars"
Cosmic Theatre:"The Satanic Rites of Dracula"
Follow Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drruehl