There’s one definite thing I would’ve done differently if I’d been formulating this teaser for Star Wars: Episode VII. I don’t know who it’s supposed to be doing the voiceover character-wise; but I would’ve got Mark Hamill to say those words. Imagine – imagine – fan reaction if it had been Luke Skywalker’s voice in this teaser! They missed a trick, man.
That voiceover was one of the not-so-encouraging things about the trailer, by the way. Moving on, I’ve chosen to react to this teaser promo (as much as I can) entirely on its own terms and without any reference to how much I didn’t want there to be a new Star Wars trilogy (not because I don‘t love Star Wars – but the opposite).
Also – and I cannot state this loudly enough – we just saw the fucking Millenium Falcon again!!
With all the excitement generated over the release of the teaser, what we got was very sparse, even for something classed as a ‘teaser’. But the idea might be that continuing intrigue over what this film is going to be like is better sustained with as little given away as possible (for as long as possible). There’s something to be said for that actually; too many film trailers give far too much away, trying to hard to sell a film by cramming all the best bits into a preview. Star Wars in general doesn’t need to do that – it’s Star Wars: people are going to get themselves into cinemas to watch that film next year no matter what.
In that sense, this teaser for The Force Awakens may be regarded as very well measured, offering just enough of a glimpse of the world we know and love, and just the right ratio of the familiar to the unfamiliar, but without telling us anything about the plot. That works for now; and we know there will be subsequent, more substantial trailers to come. Most of us would probably actually prefer not to see anything too substantial until at least six months before the film’s release. In terms of what we do see, here are the main observations;
- It struck me right away that some of it actually looks a little like a fan-made trailer (of which there have been a few doing the rounds). That was my first thought; that some of the footage doesn’t really mark itself out as distinctively Star Wars but more generic 21st century big-franchise cinema. Some of it does, however; you can’t see X-Wings or Stormtroopers without feeling like you’re returning to your long-lost friends.
- The bad news is there’s a tinge of pan-pipeyness to the atmosphere and a slightly Lord of the Rings-ish or Twilight Saga-ish feel in part; specifically I think it’s because of the dark, LOTR-esque, ominous voiceover and the dark-looking dude in the woods. I hope I’m wrong about that. I would prefer as little crossover as possible in style (and even casting) between the Star Wars franchise and those other franchises of the day. Nothing against Benedict Cumberbatch; but he seems to be finding his way into everything. One of the enduring mystiques about Mark Hamill, for example, is that he isn’t in a whole bunch of big films or franchises; therefore he was always definitively Luke Skywalker and there’s lasting power in that sense of exclusivity. I’m totally down for Max von Sidow though – that guy is epic (and he made a great Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told).
- Note there’s no feared Disney logo in this teaser. There isn’t a Lucasfilm one either, for that matter.
- We of course don’t see any glimpse of Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams or any of the familiar Original Trilogy faces. Which again is probably smart: build anticipation, don’t show everything too early. However, this could also be regarded as a signal of intent from the makers of the new Star Wars films: that message being that this new set of films isn’t about Hamill, Ford or any of the old guard, but about a new, non-Skywalker-centered Star Wars universe which will be about new characters, with the old guard being around just as a sort of passing-the-torch gesture. Similar, in essence, to Leonard Nimoy’s role in the current Star Trek film franchise. That’s just my working theory based on the teaser; I could be wrong.
- What do we learn from this teaser? We know new Jedi will arise; which we could’ve inferred from the title anyway. We know a Sith arises too. Which also means we know Return of the Jedi is going to be a lot less powerful to future generations from next year onwards. We know also there’s a good chance the movie will be centered on Tattooine, thus keeping with the tradition of both previous 1st films in their trilogies. We also see an evolved model of the classic OT-era speeder, which is pretty damn cool.
- One very positive thing I will say for the footage, however, is the discernible back-to-basics feel; there’s more of an Original Trilogy style nuts-and-bolts, rough-around-the-edges vibe. This is something I know has been openly talked about by JJ Abrams in regard to these films, so the indication may be that the new trilogy will take a more sparing approach to CGI and mark a return to the ‘dirtier’ style of effects that George Lucas was God and Master of in those early days. One of the criticisms levelled by some at the Prequel Trilogy was that the excessive CGI detracted from the believability in many instances. That probably was the case in some specific respects (Episode II probably suffered the worst of that); however, rather than being regarded as a failing of the Prequel Trilogy, I recall Uncle George saying in a 2001 interview that there was meant to be this marked difference between the feel and tone of The Original Trilogy worlds and technologies and the much more immaculate, polished settings of the Prequels – the latter trilogy was meant to show a galaxy at its cultural height, whereas the Original Trilogy was showing a more battered, scarred, war-torn galaxy whose culture was long in decline, therefore the more rag-tag, ‘second-hand’ feel to things.
- Not loving the ominous LOTR-style voiceover business. As I said, it seems more in-keeping with other franchises and not very Star Wars-like. I hope we don’t get a voiceover-laden film or intro next year; that’d be lame.
- One pleasing observation, however, that has been made by eagle-eyed fans: the Millenium Falcon’s radar dish, damaged by Lando Calrissian in the ROTJ Death Star run, appears to have been replaced (“Not a scratch”, Lando promised). Sweet. Do we know that it’s still Han Solo piloting that baby though?
- That specialised Sith lightsaber is a bit lame, by the way; you can’t match that Darth Maul double-bladed lightsaber reveal from The Phantom Menace trailer, seriously. Dooku’s curved-handle saber was cooler too.
- That classic SF God of another famous franchise – the inimitable William Shatner – made some quality Twitter observations regarding the Episode VII trailer. Among them, he noted the new ‘smiley-face’ design of the Stormtrooper helmets, as contrasted to the old ‘sad-face’ design of the past. It’s a good observation. Are the new Stormtroopers in a better mood? Surely they shouldn’t be: the Empire is in decline, after all – they should’ve been way happier in The Original Trilogy when times were good.
So does this first Episode VII teaser whet the appetite for next year? Yes and no. The main bit (consisting of all of two seconds) that did seduce the eternal fan-boy in me is of course the appearance of the Millenium Falcon doing what it does best – grappling with Tie-Fighters. I almost wet myself – every Star Wars fan across the globe must’ve had the biggest grins on their faces for those two seconds.
When I saw that, all my cherished memories of being a seven-year-old and watching (and rewatching and rewatching) Han and Chewie on the Falcon dodging Tie-Fighters, fleeing Star Destroyers and maneuvering asteroid fields came flooding to the surface at the possibilities of an imminent reunion.
That was the moment that got me, injecting a dose of involuntarily excitement into my otherwise cynical view of the new, post-Lucas trilogy. Just that two-second footage – the first live-action footage we’ve had of the Millenium Falcon since Return of the Jedi (unless you count that almost invisible appearance in Revenge of the Sith) was enough to remind me that I will always still be at the table when new Star Wars is being served up, regardless of my early objections. The glimpse of the Stormtrooper unit and the X-Wings were never going to go asmiss either (that X-Wing clip had a definite nostalgic ‘Hoth’ feel to it).
My overall reaction – probably the reaction of lots of other fans too – should be described as ‘intrigued and uncertain’. Anyone who reads this blog probably knows my attitude towards a new Star Wars trilogy has generally been a sceptical one: I don’t believe this new trilogy needs to happen, as I consider the Star Wars ‘story’ finished already – a complete saga, with a defined beginning and end. However, in the time now passed since Uncle George gave Disney the best Christmas present ever, I’ve had no choice but to accept this next generation of Star Wars; as such I’ve gotten more used to the idea of these new films and am open to the possibility that they may prove to be good films. Knowing that they’re coming is certainly exciting on the basic fan-boy level (I was much more excited about the prequels though).
What I maintain, however, is that, good or not, these films probably can’t ADD anything of meaningful value to the existing six-film saga – because nothing can be added by going beyond Return of the Jedi ; again, because the story is finished. I don’t see that anyone could dispute me on that point.
My view, therefore, of these new films is that they are simply an add-on; something along the lines of ‘Star Wars: The Next Generation’. And that’s probably what it will be. And just like you might’ve liked Star Trek: The Next Generation without ever having watched the Original Series (and vice-versa), the same will be true of these new Star Wars films.
Or another example: the current generation of JJ Abrams Star Trek films are largely divorced from the vast array of Star Trek material that came before, yet are entertaining movies in their own right and with their own fan-base and their own inner continuity – but they are broadly aimed at a newer audience and not at pleasing the existing/older Star Trek audience. That’s fine: within that framework there’s still plenty of potential for these new Star Wars films to be highly entertaining entities. I don’t – and never have – disputed the possibility that we’ll end up with some highly enjoyable movies.
At any rate, there will be further trailers for us to oooh and aaah over between now and next December. And probably with Luke, Leia and co in them. The plot will thicken.