This has been a big week for old movie franchises: first, Jurassic World got its official trailer, and now Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens has an official "teaser." With J.J. Abrams at the helm, what do we make of this new journey back to that galaxy far, far away?
First of all, I have to admit that I didn't even find the right teaser at first—a classic YouTube search issue. What I did find was a very convincing, but totally fake, fan-made trailer. It features some great Photoshopping of Harrison Ford into a suit labeled "H. SOLO" (using a scene from Ender's Game), along with a bunch of other footage that mixes old Star Wars footage with enough new stuff to trick me. Rest assured, though, it is not a real trailer. I mean, there is a guy wearing a regular suit and tie. Definitely not Star Wars, but a good effort!
The real trailer is here:
Just like with Jurassic Park, J.J. Abrams and crew have made sure to include plenty of fan-friendly nostalgia beats here, but I would argue that this feels a bit more unexpected and original overall.
Okay, so let's break a few things down. We can surmise from the title that the movie has to do with the force coming back in some way. We know that the Jedi were a pretty big deal originally, then Vadar and Palpatine nearly eradicated them, then Luke defeated those guys, so the galaxy should be good to re-populate itself with Jedi awesomeness. Right?
It's hard to not consider some of the "Extended Universe" (EU) stories that cover this topic: Han and Leia having force-ful children, Luke starting a Jedi academy, etc. But Disney has said that it's going clean-slate with Episode VII, so what "awakening"might this be? Well, if we consider the only proof we have (the teaser), here's what we know. A deep voice says:
I don't know who he's talking to, but John Boyega, outfitted as a Stormtrooper on a desert planet that looks a lot like Tatooine, sure pops up on screen pretty quickly as if to answer that question. We know that he's one of the new cast members, and not likely the villain, so I have to assume he's a good guy, despite the outfit (Luke and Han know the drill).
However, my guess is that he's not just disguising himself like Han and Luke did in A New Hope. It seems a little too lazy to just re-use the same old trick again. Is it possible that Boyega is an enlisted Stormtrooper who has some kind of change of heart? Some "awakening" inside to switch sides? Could he be the big force disciple for Luke to train?
But, let's pause a moment: Stormtroopers? Didn't the whole gang get rid of these guys in Return of the Jedi? Not only is Boyega donning the white-and-black, but we get a glimpse of a whole ship full of Stormtroopers ready to deploy. Why are there still Stormtroopers?
Well, we know that the Death Star got destroyed at the end of Return of the Jedi, but it's certainly possible that there are remnants around the galaxy of the Empire (it was a pretty huge organization, after all). Or is it possible that the Stormtroopers are just "under new management" with Princess (Queen?) Leia now running the galaxy and repurposing these formerly bad boys?
Given the strong association that both fans and fictional galaxy citizens likely have with the Stormtrooper uniform, it's hard to believe that they could ever be trusted to be a positive military force. Let's just assume, for now, that they're still bad. If that's the case, then who is in charge?
We certainly need some political strife for a good Star Wars plot, but it's hard to say what opposing force remains that could rally support of so many Stormtroopers. Either someone kept cutting paychecks for a gigantic army after the Death Star got obliterated (along with every major Empire official), or another evil organization found a bunch of old Stormtrooper gearing in a warehouse and decided to go "vintage" with their outfits to save a dime.
Either way, it seems like we'll be spending more time in the sand in Episode VII—and more time with droids! We're treated to a new type of droid that uses a unique "rolly ball" approach to locomotion but has an R2-style head (complete with the requisite beeps and bloops). I think this might be an offshoot of the Dyson vacuum cleaner line.
Original Post: While this is certainly a CGI character model, it has a good weight to it and fits in with Abrams' commitment to make things feel a lot more physical than Lucas' prequel trilogy. Edit: This droid is apparently not CGI! It's a practical effect, according to Mark Hamill himself. It's hard to say from this angle if we're really still on Tatooine, but the mixture of desert environment and run-down crap in the background certainly evoke some memories of everyone's favorite two-sun planet.
Boyega and the droid aren't alone in the desert, though: we're treated to a second newcomer, Daisy Ridley, on some kind of new speeder bike. Of course, she looks a little concerned with getting it started, evoking the classic "used galaxy" approach that the original Star Wars trilogy executed so well.
Her outfit here is slightly reminiscent of the Tusken sand people who attacked Luke in Episode IV, but I suspect they just shop at the same desert outfitter shop. Also, doesn't that speeder bike handle look like a lightsaber? A good example of consistent universe design!
With a good turn of the ignition, the speeder fires up and she's off, speeding toward some kind of settlement in the distance. From what's shown (below), this doesn't look like Mos Eisley or any other locale we've previously seen on Tatooine, so it's quite possible this is a different planet altogether.
I love the sound that the bike makes in this clip. It's a great whirring noise, coupled with a nice use of the Doppler effect. Just feels very Star Wars-y.
Our final look at a new cast member comes from Oscar Isaac, who's donning Rebel pilot outfit and racing across a lake in an X-Wing. "Stay on target" comes to mind.
The Rebel symbol still being used should come as no surprise since it's the insignia of the "winning" team from last time around; it makes sense that it would be the badge of the new republic.
We don't know much about what he's doing or where he is, but it's pretty clear this is not the same desert planet that Boyega and Ridley were on earlier in the teaser because there's no way this lake would survive in the middle of all that sand.
What is clear, however, is that the special effects in this movie are gorgeous. Look at the three X-Wing fighters below. If I didn't know this was a still from a trailer, you could have fooled me into believing it was concept art!
Okay, so we've got sand planets, Stormtroopers, speeder bikes, X-Wings, Rebel pilots. We're off to a pretty good start, and the teaser is only halfway done at this point. Of course, now the other foot drops and we got some "dark side" voiceover accompanying footage of a hooded figure in a snowy woods.
Gotta be a Sith lord. (Note: the voiceover also says "The dark side...and the light." Maybe it's a new Jedi/Sith combo?)
Of course, they'll need to do some explaining around this. If you recall, there are always supposed to be two Sith lords: a master and an apprentice. Since both of them died in Return of the Jedi, who's this guy? Did someone just pick up a copy of Dark Side for Dummies at the local book shop and decide to take up the mantle?
Did anyone else get a Voldemort vibe from this scene? Just sayin'.
Anyway, the biggest takeaway from this is the NEW LIGHTSABER OMG.
This new design, now with 100% more crossguard, fixes a major design flaw of earlier lightsabers. However, it bothers me that the two mini-blades leave a little metal base exposed. If someone really were to try to use these to block another lightsaber, wouldn't the base pieces just get lopped off by the other blade? Maybe it's ultra-reinforced.
To me, this is an unnecessary callback to Episode 1's "dual-lightsaber" idea; do we really need a new lightsaber for each new Star Wars film? I say no, but the internet seems to be exploding over it, so what do I know? I will be interested to see the toy version of this, though.
From this darkest of spots in the teaser, though, we get a return of John Williams' triumphant Star Wars score to accompany the Millennium Falcon! We all knew the famous ship would make a return thanks to a number of Abrams-released videos and stills in the months leading up to this teaser, but it's seriously awesome to see her in action. And there really is some action, because she's maneuvering against some T.I.E. Fighters!
Again, I'm not sure how or why there are imperial T.I.E. Fighters in business, but here they are (apparently, also near the desert planet from the beginning of the teaser). Regardless, the ships look great, and I'm definitely ready for some more dogfights in space.
And, that's it! From there, we get the logo and the "December 2015" release window. It's a long time to wait, but you can be sure we'll see a few more trailers between now and next year. For now, though, I think this is an excellent taste of what's to come and shows, overall, a return-to-form for the franchise.
Did you love it? Hate it? Are you also concerned about the functionality of this new lightsaber? Be sure to leave your opinions and thoughts in the comments!