So the final trailer has broken out for what is the most rabidly anticipated film since Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.
Which is to say that the final trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens has sent fandom, film buffs and the Internet into a frenzy unseen since… since, well, the first and second teasers for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
Interestingly enough, it doesn’t reveal that much more than the previous trailer did; but reveals just enough to fascinate and lure us in that little bit further. And, yes, we just saw Princess Leia for the first time since 1983 (think about that).
This is how you do trailers; you don’t show us everything, don’t give away key plot details, and – apparently – you pretend Luke Skywalker isn’t even *in* the movie at all. Which is genius; because everyone is wondering where Luke is and it simply adds even more to the intrigue and anticipation. Three trailers and we’ve not had one clear view of the older Luke Skywalker; meaning we’re going to go into this movie in December having no idea what to expect when it comes to the central hero of the Star Wars mythology. That’s genius marketing. There’s actually less of Luke (or none, as it happens) in this trailer than there was in the second teaser a few months ago.
Exacerbating this new, itchy, rash-like fan-boy condition known as ‘Why-isnt-Luke-in-the-trailer-itis’ is the fact that he isn’t on the official poster either! Who makes a Star Wars movie with Luke in it and then doesn’t put him in the poster? It is both troubling and very clever at the same time.
It’s a good poster too; it maintains stylistic continuity with the previous Star Wars posters (as I’ve illustrated below), which is a good sign.
And the trailer is excellent. The more I see, the more I’m lured further and further away from my initial anti-new-trilogy stance from two years ago and the more I’m genuinely excited, at least for now. This trailer raises so many thoughts and considerations that it’s difficult to process them all in one post; there aretwo specific subjects relating to this final Episode VII trailer that are so interesting that I’m going to cover them in two entirely separate articles that will appear some time over the next week or so; one being entirely about Luke Skywalker, the other being about that fascinating moment in the trailer where Han Solo tells Rey and Finn “it’s all true”, in regard to the Force and the Jedi (with the implication that the entire reality of the Force and the Jedi has already passed into ‘myth’ in this new trilogy era).
That being so, I’m mostly going to avoid talking about Luke or about the “it’s all true” line for now and just focus on everything else.
And this trailer does the business. I wasn’t expecting to be quite so stirred by it, having already been won over by the second teaser a few months back. At least one person I know told me they actually shed tears when they watched this new one the first time. John Boyega and Daisy Ridley both posted their own reactions to the trailer on their Instagram accounts; and it’s pretty priceless and also infectious (a bit reminiscent of Ewan McGregor’s glee at being cast as Obi-Wan Kenobi years ago). Ridley bursts into tears while watching the trailer on her iPhone, while Boyega throws himself over a couch and onto the floor, screaming “WHAT?”
They’re excited, we’re excited, and we’re all set for an epic winter of ‘Star Wars Steals Christmas’.
I still have some reservations about gambling with Return of the Jedi as the already-perfect end-point of the saga and about possibly changing our perception of Luke Skywalker forever (if the rumours and speculations prove to be true); but you can’t watch this footage and not be both very excited and also immensely happy that we’re about to experience a brand new Star Wars movie with our old heroes (and some new ones), complete with John Williams music, the Millennium Falcon, a whole bunch of Tie-Fighters, and everything else.
A cynic might rightly point out that we were all equally excited about The Phantom Menace and most people were left bitterly disappointed (I, however, still maintain that The Phantom Menace has numerous redeeming qualities). But it is patently evident this new entry-point for the new trilogy is going to be a lot darker and more intense than A New Hope or The Phantom Menace and a lot more adult in tone than both its predecessors. Also, given how extraordinarily dark the last Star Wars film was, The Force Awakens doesn’t look like it’s going to lighten the mood at all. Like ROTS, it is also to be rated PG-13.
And we’ve seen enough now to be pretty confident this film isn’t going to be flat-out ‘bad’ either. But we still know surprisingly little about the key details, which is no doubt by design and is absolutely the correct approach to previewing/promoting this movie. We still don’t know much about Kylo Ren. We still don’t know for sure where Luke is or who ‘Rey’ really is. And the rumour mill is still in full flow, though by now many of the more baseless rumours have fallen away. But this differs a great deal from the prequel films in that regard; unlike in, say, Revenge of the Sith (which still had a jaw-dropping trailer, by the way), where we knew what the ultimate end-point of the story would be and knew what needed to happen, going into Episode VII there is no certainty, no pre-destination. To paraphrase Spock, “it’s Star Wars, but not as we know it”.
And that’s both exciting and a little unsettling; we have no guarantees about how much screen-time Mark Hamill or Carrie Fisher are going to have, not even any guarantees that our old heroes are even going to *survive* the film (and according to persistent rumours allegedly from good sources, at least one of them isn’t going to survive), and no guarantees that the big Luke/Han/Leia ‘reunion’ or interaction that we’re expecting is even going to happen – there’s no evidence so far that guarantees any Luke/Han/Leia scenes where they’re all together and there is, in fact, every indication that this isn’t going to be a nostalgia-fest at all.
However, we have now finally seen Han and Leia together in an embrace that does bring back all our nostalgic memories of Return of the Jedi; but more broadly speaking, it’s all a total unknown entity we’re now dealing with, being handled by new custodians. And that genuinely is fascinating. Yet of course there’s just enough to put us at ease, such as the presence of John Williams; when the newer variation of the familiar ESB music kicks in about halfway through this trailer, the eternal moisture farmer in me reacts like it’s a homecoming of the soul, much the same way as the initial shot of the Millennium Falcon did in the first teaser or the sight of Han Solo and Chewbacca did in the second one.
That’s new music Williams has composed, even though its playing on the familiar, old themes; and yes, that was the moment that got me most in the gut, though visually speaking the most resonant moment of this trailer is the simple, early shot of Rey walking in the desert with BB-8 rolling along beside her (it’s such a quintessentially Star Wars image).
It’s clear that this film isn’t going to try to ‘top’ or match previous Star Wars benchmarks in terms of action-sequence concepts or lightsaber duels or even the epic, mythic settings or scenarios; but instead is going to go its own route, perhaps a more ‘realist’ one than the epic, Shakespearean/Greek romance/tragedy of the Anakin Skywalker story. One senses from what we’ve seen in the trailers that the epic/mythic style of the prequels is done and dusted and that a more street-level, less idealised tone and style is coming (for better or worse). We already know that there’s less reliance on excessive CGI (which admittedly harmed the prequels in places, but less so in ROTS than in AOTC) and more of a return to the OT-style effects/visuals, and this is in evidence in the limited footage we’ve seen.
This also looks like it’s going to be a much faster-paced movie than either The Phantom Menace or A New Hope. The Abrams-isms are already evident in these trailers, both in terms of the un-Star Wars like pacing of shots and, for example, the noticeable use of lens-flare (like in the “Nothing will stand in our way” bit when Kylo Ren looks out the window at what may be the firing of the ‘super-weapon’ – it’s a very Star Trek/2009 moment, which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your disposition). I’m even suspicious that we might not have the classic Lucas screen-wipe transitions anymore.
What we do know is that we’re going to get some intense action sequences, probably grittier, smaller-scaled and less epic than in the prequels; of course we are – it’s Star Wars. But the Jakku desert dog-fight/chase scene is looking more and more bad-ass the more we see, while the dark, grim, moody lightsaber showdown with Kylo Ren looks bewitching already, shrouded in mystery and esotericism.
John Boyega’s Finn, we can now see, has a showdown with Kylo Ren in that sketchy location; like most of what’s in these trailers, it’s a tantalising snapshot of something we don’t fully understand yet.
Although Luke is of course glaringly absent, we also get our first proper glimpse of Carrie Fisher as Leia this time, which, though not as emotionally charged as the Han/Chewie reveal from the second teaser, is nevertheless reassuring. Little BB-8 gets cuter every time, perhaps intended to match Artoo’s cuteness-level in A New Hope. The shot of the ball-droid rolling along beside Rey in the desert is a nice image, and the indication of that same master-companion dynamic with Rey/BB-8 that was so central to the OT with Luke/Artoo is a nice echo.
Speaking of Rey; as with the previous trailer, I have a really good feeling about Daisey Ridley’s character.
Rey’s Hoth-esque garb is particularly good here, it being very reminiscent of the early sequences in Empire Strikes Back, and very in keeping with the rustic feel of some of the most iconic Star Wars ‘looks’. She’s looking – albeit only via glimpses – like a potentially great Star Wars character already, and judging by the brief action shots, she’s probably more suited to Star Wars than Natalie Portman was (and Daisy Ridley appears to have embraced her new Star Wars life with total enthusiasm and pride).
The evidence from the three trailers suggests to me that Ridley’s character is the central hero of this new trilogy and that John Boyega’s character is more of a supporting character in spite of his prominence in the trailers; much the same way that Artoo and Threepio were not the most important characters of the original Star Wars but were nevertheless the audience’s primary ‘eyes and ears’ for that first movie (or perhaps also the same way Qui-Gon Jinn was the principal character in The Phantom Menace but had very little significance beyond it). A lot of what we’re seeing might be marketing misdirection and the sight of Boyega’s Finn wielding Anakin’s blue lightsaber in this third trailer may be designed to make us think Finn is the principle Force-sensitive character, when the real central hero is probably Ridley’s character. Or they’re both Force sensitive; the first teaser’s reference to “an awakening” suggests there are multiple Force-sensitive people emerging. But I think it’s obvious Daisy Ridley’s character is the primary protagonist.
The way we see her looking up at the sky as a spacecraft takes off is tellingly reminiscent of the famous Luke/sunset image from the 1977 original and may suggest that link; she seems written to emulate or echo the way Luke and Anakin were at the start of their respective trilogies. The character is apparently a scavenger in a ship graveyard, described as ‘self-sufficient and solitary’ (we even see her in a dusty workshop, reminiscent of Anakin in Episode I). She really does look the part; but I’m resisting the temptation to start referring to her as ‘Rey Skywalker’ yet.
It would also make sense that after two trilogies with male central characters, a third trilogy would revolve around a female protagonist; but essentially one who is still part of the Skywalker line, as Star Wars, like I Claudius, is basically a long family saga.
Meanwhile ‘Captain Phasma’ looks a lot like Vader when marching around with the troopers, cape billowing behind in a Vader-esque manner. Really hard to glean anything at all about Phasma, aside from that; the immediate sense is that the character might not that important in the long-run and might be a disposable figure, like Darth Maul was in the first prequel.
One of the most fascinating things hinted at in this trailer is, as previously mentioned, the idea that the Jedi and the Force have already become a distant myth in this time period. That’s a subject I’m going to cover in another post soon, but looking back across all three teasers/trailers, the implication is very pronounced that the Star Wars era we’re entering into now is one in which the events of the past are very far away from people’s consciousness or understanding. We’re seeing a galaxy that, even thirty years later, is very much a post-Empire and post-Republic setting, where there’s a vacuum of sorts, not unlike the European Dark Ages that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.
Like classical Roman ruins dotting the landscape in Europe for centuries while less sophisticated societies toiled about in ignorance of the epic events of the past, we see downed Star Destroyers half buried in the sand, and in this trailer we see Daisy Ridley’s character exploring the buried ship like a fifth century scavenger wading about amid the Mausoleum of Augustus or something similar.
This theme is further touched on by the first teaser’s dialogue about there being “an awakening”, almost like the beginning of an Enlightenment, where old knowledge is going to return to the present. That’s all fascinating stuff to think about, potentially imparting a new dimension to an old mythology.
Still, despite all the footage we see, there are still more questions than answers, and it’s still all so vague and tantalising – which is no doubt what it is designed to be and what it should be. If the aim is to raise the intrigue levels more and more, it is being decisively accomplished; and a Star Wars movie was going to have a supremely high anticipation and interest level anyway, but this very clever ratio of constantly revealing just a little bit while always holding back much more is proving incredibly effective.
We still haven’t seen a single shot of Luke in any of the trailers. Max von Sydow’s unnamed character is also still absent from all footage. Why is Rey crying in this trailer? Why does Leia look so sad when she’s being comforted by Han? I have a hunch about what the answer to both questions might be, but I’m going to keep that to myself for now. We don’t know what Leia’s position in this era is for certain, nor do we know why ‘The Resistance’ should even exist, given that the Rebel Alliance supposedly overthrew the Empire thirty years ago. So many questions, so few answers.
And that’s great; I genuinely am perfectly happy for nothing more to be teased or revealed between now and December. As jaw-dropping as the ROTS trailer was 10 years ago, it told us way too much about what was going to unfold. This time we’re not going to have that problem.
A few more quick thoughts;
- I’m going out on a limb here, but the shot of the trees being blown up by a super-weapon (probably the ‘Starkiller Base’ weapon that some are complaining looks/seems too much like a rehash of the Death Star) suggests to me the planet Endor. I know the tree-heavy environment here looks similar to that of the Resistance’s base, so it might just be the same planet as that. But Endor would make sense, as Kylo Ren would have to go to Endor in order to retrieve the remains of Vader’s mask; so perhaps he retrieves the mask and then, when leaving, decides to eradicate Endor as an act of pure evil? Or even as revenge for the Ewoks role in the Battle of Endor? I’m just going to say right now – if they’ve written an Ewok Genocide into this film, I am going to be suing Disney for emotional damage.
- That super-weapon (being referred to elsewhere as the ‘Starkiller’ base weapon, the name incidentally being a nice throwback to Uncle George’s original treatments for the first Star Wars) is the new Death-Star type thing depicted on the official poster and might be some kind of technology that can destroy worlds or even entire Solar Systems. This was of course also a central plot device in Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot, where a super-weapon was used to destroy Vulcan; except this super-weapon, from what I’ve been reading here and there, may be a planet itself, necessitating an assault (probably the X-Wing assault glimpses in all three trailers) to destroy it, which will of course be hugely reminiscent of the A New Hope and Return of the Jedi attacks on the Death Stars, albeit with a different twist (as this super-weapon, it is suggested, is actually a planet itself).
- Also if ‘Rey’ is, as many seem to believe, the daughter of Han and Leia (which is still just a rumour, even though some are reporting it as fact), you have to wonder why she appears to be a lonesome scavenger living on some isolated, backwater world? What the hell happened? I’m not sure she is the daughter of Han and Leia. I wonder if she might be Luke’s daughter somehow; and given Luke’s absence from the previews and his alleged isolation in this new story, it would make more sense that *his* daughter would be isolated and alone (which would also beautifully echo Luke’s own isolation from his true family/parents in A New Hope). Just a thought.
- On the other hand, maybe she is Han and Leia’s daughter. Another strong theory being circulated is that Rey and Kylo Ren are *both* Leia’s children, with the implication that Luke tried training both of them at some point but that it went wrong and that’s why Luke went into exile. There’s also the heavy implication that there is certainly something tying Rey and Kylo Ren together, which is possibly hinted at on the official poster. Also the fact that both characters are only being referred to by first names – Rey and Kylo – might imply their surnames are being deliberately omitted to avoid revealing their real identities; although Boyega’s character ‘Finn’ doesn’t have a second name either yet.
- I have to make the point again: there’s still no evidence whatsoever that we’ll see Luke, Han and Leia together in this film. If we see Luke at all, I suspect it might only be right at the end. There’s also a strong suggestion going around that Han and Leia are not the close, happy couple hinted at in Return of the Jedi (or in the later novels), but that they may in fact be largely estranged, which is something I never imagined would be the case and is actually a little disheartening. I mean, what else? Are we going to find that Artoo and Threepio had a big row sometimes after ROTJ and haven’t spoken in thirty years? There is also a major possibility, as previously discussed, that Luke, Han, Leia and Chewie might *all* be done with after Episode VII. We can’t assume they’ll be around for the whole trilogy. And if you think the filmmakers wouldn’t do that, bear in mind that JJ Abrams killed off the entire existing Star Trek timeline in his first Star Trek reboot movie in 2009. Can any of you even *imagine* what it’ll feel like to watch Luke, Han, Leia or Chewie killed off? I’m not sure any of us Star Wars kids could handle that. But all of us – all Star Wars fans – should go into this film emotionally prepared.
- Speaking of that though, the indications really do seem to be that Carrie Fisher/Leia are not a major factor in the movie and that Leia may in fact have very little screen time; which would also be disheartening. But we know so little. Is Leia even a Jedi by this point? Has Luke trained her in the ways of the Force? There are lots of things like that we might’ve taken as given, but which we can’t really take for granted at all. Not very long ago, we would’ve also taken it as given that the Rebel Alliance would’ve formed into a New Republic after the fall of the Empire, but we now know that that hasn’t happened either, but that they’re instead called the ‘Resistance’ – which doesn’t sound like a government or a ruling power at all, but by definition sounds like it’s still a ‘rebel’ organisation. Confused? Me too.
- The rubble – some sort of temple or hideout – that Han leads Finn, Rey, and BB-8 into may have some relationship to Boba Fett. Eagle-eyed fans have pointed out the Mandalorian symbol on a flag towards the top of the screen and some fans take it as a clue that Boba Fett might still be around. I find that very doubtful. I doubt they’d go that sort of fan-pleasing, revisionist route, and besides that, I doubt Fett (even if he did crawl out of the Sarlaac Pit) would still be alive after another thirty years. There is a rumour going around, however, that the veteran screen star Max Von Sydow – thus far absent from all trailer footage – might in fact be playing an elderly Boba Fett.
- I STILL think Hayden Christensen may be returning, if not for this film then for one of the next ones, and I still think Anakin Skywalker may have a real role in these films. I made this point after seeing the second trailer a few months ago – and was dismissed as being ridiculous, but a subsequent rumour seems to possibly reinforce what I was suggesting. I wrote back then; ‘The other fascinating prospect for me, being an unashamed ROTS fan, is that the very next shot looks very much like the Lava planet of Mustafar from Episode III. Assuming that it’s Luke we’re seeing in this shot with Artoo-Deetoo (which the mechanical arm would strongly suggest), what would he be doing on Mustafar? Is there something there on that world he is looking to retrieve – something perhaps to do with his father, Obi-Wan, Padme or the events of ROTS? Or is he there on some sort of pilgrimage to somehow ‘connect’ with the spirit or the Force-resonance of the place where Anakin Skywalker ‘died’? The fact that Artoo is in this shot may even indicate that what we’re seeing is either (1) Luke being taken back to Mustafar by Artoo – remember Artoo was on Mustafar with Anakin in ROTS, or (2) Luke somehow engaging in some kind of mental time-travel to revisit what happened on Mustafar in ROTS‘.
- RE, Anakin, I also wrote about that 2nd trailer; ‘Does Luke’s present-tense reference to his father in the teaser – “my father has it” – indicate Anakin Skywalker’s Force-Ghost being alive and active in this new story? That would be a fascinating possibility; it would also raise the question of whether Hayden Christensen will be appearing in these films? Remember, the newest revised ROTJ edition has Hayden Christensen’s ghost in the famous ending – that *should* in theory therefore be the form any subsequent Anakin-Ghost should have; and also given that Christensen is still around, still relatively young and still looks like that, it would be insane to have anyone else come on board to do that.’ Some fans balk at the idea of Christensen returning, but I don’t. It would make sense that Anakin Skywalker, now redeemed to the Light Side of the Force, would potentially be around in ghost-form for Luke to commune with. In theory, Obi-Wan and Yoda should still be around too, but somehow I doubt we’ll see them.
- It may even be possible that the brief image we see in the second teaser that everyone takes to be Luke touching his artificial hand up to Artoo-Detoo is in fact not Luke at all, but Anakin. Could this be a flashback sequence somehow to ROTS? That background looks a lot like the lava planet of Mustafar. Artoo was on Mustfar with Anakin. And crucially, Luke’s artificial arm/hand has synthetic flesh on it, but the hand we see in the teaser doesn’t – but Anakin’s artificial arm *was* entirely mechanical. I still think it’s possible Episode VII is going to feature an Anakin/Episode III element.
- If you pay very close attention to the shot where Kylo Ren stands in the rain with his lightsaber (along with the rest of the ‘Knights of Ren’), as the lightning flashes, there are dead bodies around them. The following thought occurs: we know that Kylo and his people are Sith fantasists/obsessives and we have the line “I will finish what he (Vader) started” – so what if Ren and the others are slaughtering young or would-be Jedi here? It might be that there are a small group of young Padawans Luke has been tutoring at some point, and what we’ve glimpsed here are the ‘Knights of Ren’ murdering them. This might even be a flashback sequence within the film, showing us something that happened in the past and explaining who Kylo Ren is and possibly why Luke has gone into isolation.
- I am not going to speculate on who’s body is visible in the shot where Rey is crying. Others have been guessing; I find that matter too upsetting to ponder. It had better not be an Ewok.
- I don’t buy – at all – the theory that bad-guy Kylo Ren is actually Luke Skywalker ‘turned bad’ and wearing a mask. I think it’s Jar Jar in that costume; look at Kylo Ren’s height – perfect match for Binks. Also, if we’re going to see the ‘Knights of Ren’, surely we should also see the ‘Knights of Stimpy‘ too…? I also can’t help thinking of Monty Python’s ‘Knights Who Say Ni’ every time someone mentions the Knights of Ren; that’s probably not a good thing. As for the Kylo/Luke theory, that’s going to be covered more in another post shortly.
- I’ve got to say something about the hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII, which was started by trolls angry over the casting of John Boyega, claiming the film was promoting “white genocide”. The same user also referred to director JJ Abrams as a “Jewish activist”. On a serious note, this almost suggests that racism is more prevalent now than it was ten or fifteen years ago, because I don’t recall anyone complaining about a black character being the second most important Jedi Master in the galaxy. Yet people are apparently objecting to a lowly Stormtrooper being played by a black actor? Of course I’m not shocked by such nonsense, as we see it all the time, and I was confronted with the “white genocide” nonsense when, for example, I wrote about the refugee crisis; I just think it’s incredibly depressing that the subject always find its way into discussions about Star Wars. You also have to wonder if people like that have ever actually understood any of the Star Wars story and mythology; it was a black character who came closest to defeating the ultimate evil in the galaxy and almost saved democracy and prevented tyranny (Mace Windu), and it was of course the Original Trilogy’s sole black character that was the one who blew up the Death Star. And the most popular (probably) character in the entire franchise was voiced by a black actor. And yet these nutjobs are suddenly offended in 2015 that there’s a black Stormtrooper…?
- It’s gone entirely unmentioned elsewhere, but surely the biggest shock/reveal in this trailer is that Han and Chewie appear to be Muslim converts now. Look at them – those are Muslim prayer motions they’re doing. I mean, I know Abrams likes to do the unexpected, but shit, that’s a big one! I guess a lot can happen in thirty years. Maybe that’s why Han and Leia are supposedly estranged; maybe she wasn’t down with his conversion. But if racist nutjobs are angry about a black guy being a Stormtrooper, just IMAGINE how angry they’re going to be at Han and Chewie’s new faith!
- Another big question: how on earth did Han lose the Millenium Falcon? And where’s Lando? Everyone’s favorite Cloud City hustler is almost certainly not involved in Episode VII, but there was a significant hint by Lawrence Kasdan in a Vanity Fair piece in which he said “Right now, there’s no Lando Calrissian in (Episode VII). But Lando I don’t think is finished in any way, shape, or form.” And still no sign of Mon Mothma, Admiral Ackbar, etc, with the implication being that they’ll only be minor characters, just as they were in the OT.
- There’s a theory – probably unlikely to be true – suggesting Kylo Ren is the grandson of Emperor Palpatine; this being largely based on an old ’90s Star Wars book series called Jedi Prince. I actually kind of like that idea; though it would mean we’d have to contemplate the idea of Palpatine having mated. And that’s kind of gross.
All in all, December 2015 is shaping up to be something epic. This final trailer simply adds to the fascination and anticipation already evoked by the second teaser. We know we’re going to get something spectacular and fascinating in two months time, and we have a lot of questions we’ll have to grapple with before then. Also, the two key areas I avoided in this post are being covered in more depth in separate posts that’ll be up soon; specifically, the elusive, troubling matter of Luke Skywalker and the fascinating implication in this trailer that knowledge of the Jedi and the Force has already become a vague ‘myth’ in this time-period of the Star Wars saga, which is a very interesting idea to explore in depth.
For now, as we count down the seven weeks or so until Star Wars: Episode VII is released, I feel like a kid again; and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
In the meantime, this was too cute not to show, so here’s Daisy Ridley and John Boyega reacting to the final trailer…