Thoughts on ‘The Force Awakens’ Trailer

When September passed by and we hadn’t gotten a proper trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I knew that Lucasfilm had chosen to treat this movie differently.  The teasers we had seen up to that point were extremely minimal, providing no real glimpse into the actual story of the film.  The latest and, purportedly, the last trailer before the premiere, which aired this week during Monday Night Football, was an internet sensation (as we all knew it would be), but it followed in the footsteps of the teasers by keeping its cards very close to its vest.

The “trailer” isn’t really a trailer: it gives us no real insight into what the actual plot of the movie will be.  Which makes a certain amount of sense.  This is Star Wars, after all; they could have never released a trailer and gotten away with it.  J.J. Abrams & Co. clearly want audiences to go into the film with as few preconceived notions as possible.

Here are some of my thoughts, in bullet point form:

  • The big news is: still no Luke.  Or so we think.  It’s obvious that they’re saving Mark Hamill for the premiere.  Two things are important to note, however.  First, we may indeed have seen more of Luke than we think.  The same shot of a hooded figure placing a robotic hand affectionately on R2-D2’s dome was used in the teasers and used again here: it seems clear to me that this is Luke Skywalker, thirty years later, his artificial hand having been replaced or upgraded, touching his old companion in friendship.  R2 was Luke’s droid, after all; he rarely left his side during the original trilogy.  It would make perfect sense that he would accompany Luke into the exile that production rumors have hinted was his destination after Return of the Jedi.

    Secondly, those same production rumors have strongly suggested that Mark Hamill’s participation in Episode VII is minimal–that, in fact, the central thrust of the plot features the new characters (Rey and Finn) seeking out the now-legendary Luke Skywalker in (apparently) self-imposed exile.  Several reports have stated that Luke Skywalker only appears near the end of the movie, and not for very long.  If this is true, and Luke’s character features into The Force Awakens only at its conclusion, then it follows that they wouldn’t include him prominently in the initial marketing (the poster and the trailers), particularly if they also wanted to keep his character’s involvement a surprise.
  • The shots of Rey hunting amidst the ruined Star Destroyer on Jakku were gorgeous.  The entire film looks gorgeous.  I can’t wait to see it for this reason alone.
  • Rey and Han Solo’s interchange in the trailer (“There were stories…” “It’s true.  The Dark Side, the Jedi.  They’re real.”) indicates that the events of the original trilogy have faded into legend, which is both more interesting from a storytelling perspective than the alternative, as well as consistent with the original films.  Despite the fact that they’d been wiped out only twenty years before, Luke Skywalker barely knew what a Jedi Knight was when he met Ben Kenobi.  It appears that has once again become the status quo, meaning that Luke apparently did not bring the Jedi back to the prominence they had before the rise of the Empire.
  • As much as we all want to see what happened to the original cast, I think we’re going to be pleasantly surprised by the new story that’s obviously being told here: this is a new generation of heroes, guided by an older one.  There are a lot of parallels to be made here to the generational change in the real world, I think.  George Lucas has compared the recent history of the Star Wars universe as being similar to ours in some respects: the Clone Wars were like World War II, while the Rebellion was like Vietnam, at least in the consciousness of the people living through these eras.  In that since, you could call Luke, Han, and Leia’s generation the Baby Boomers, just as you could call their children (literally and figuratively) the Millennials.  It’s been said that Baby Boomers had the chance to change the world but failed to do so: wouldn’t be fascinating to find that, like in the our world, Luke Skywalker’s generation similarly failed?  The new canon that has been established since the Disney takeover has begun to make clear (primarily through the novel Aftermath) that the Rebels’ victory on Endor was only the beginning of a larger war.  Whether or not the Rebellion was able to successfully establish a New Republic in the long term, the idea that there is no true end to war and suffering (except, arguably, through the Force) would certainly make for a powerful new chapter in the larger story.
  • The emergence of a new superweapon of some kind, as evident from the poster and the trailer, indicates that the First Order truly is picking up where the Empire left off.  Whether the First Order is already a major power in the galaxy or merely a re-emergent threat (which is distinct possibility, given hints seeded into Aftermath), clearly they’ve come to conquer.
  • We really have gone back to the settings and feel of the original three films, here: every shot takes place either aboard a spaceship or on some backwater planet.  Not a city-planet to be found.  Which begs the question: what happened to Coruscant?  Is it simply not relevant to this story?
  • Since I started writing this (a couple of days ago), the Internet has blown up with rumors that Luke is, in fact, Kylo Ren, the black-cloaked, helmeted villain from the trailers.  The problems with this theory are legion and obvious, the biggest being that Ren is played by Adam Driver, who has been shown as the character in photos and the teasers.  The idea that Luke Skywalker might have turned to the Dark Side, however, is not a new one, and the most compelling argument I’ve heard for why Abrams might try this can be found right here.  Of course, any theory saying Luke goes evil has to take into account the leaked photo that’s been floating around the Internet, with Mark Hamill dressed in what is clearly Jedi (i.e., good guy) attire.
  • The music is fantastic.  You can here a new take on one of the classic themes in the trailer, when the Millennium Falcon is flying through the Star Destroyer wreckage, and it’s very moving.
  • Overall I’m impressed by what I’ve seen so far, and even more impressed by the restraint they’ve shown with the trailers and marketing.  They clearly want us to be surprised and impressed by whatever they’ve cooked up, and let the film speak for itself.
  • The footage we’ve seen has undeniably felt like Star Wars, to me, in a way the prequels never did.

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