Oh, man. The second trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is pure fan-bait. And it's perfect.
If you haven't watched it, do so now:
While the first trailer released earlier this year gave us glimpses of Episode VII, this second trailer really starts to give us some hints of the plot. Let's break it down.
We don't see him, but this trailer starts with our first taste of the original, returning cast: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) provides the primary voiceover for most of the trailer.
He starts with what sounds like a quote from Return of the Jedi about his family being "strong with the Force." But where his original quote ended with the revelation that Leia was his sister and also had the Force, this quote continues with "You have that power, too." Clearly Luke is speaking to someone new, presumably in his family, who also has the Force.
In the Extended Universe (EU) books, Han and Leia have three children: Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin. All of them are strong with the Force. While Disney has said that it's not adhering the EU for the new trilogy, it's still possible that they will use the idea of Han and Leia having started a family (but perhaps streamlining it to a single child to avoid over-burdening the film with extra characters). Of course, it's also very possible that Luke ended up having a child of his own. Maybe it's someone else altogether.
In any case, the idea of the Force continuing and spreading to at least one other person will be part of the plot. Was that really a surprise with a subtitle like "The Force Awakens"? No, but it's nice to get at least a hint that the Skywalker (and/or Solo) family might have grown, spreading the Force along with it. And it's tantalizing to imagine seeing an older Luke teaching his own pupil in an echo of Obi Wan before him.
GETTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER
We still don't get to see Luke directly, of course, but we do see (presumably) his robotic hand touching R2-D2. And, of course, we know what Mark Hamill looks like these days. But hearing him was more than enough for this early look.
If I haven't said it before, I'm so glad that Disney recognized the opportunity to have the original cast reprise their roles as part of the franchise's future. In one of the special features on the first VHS release of George Lucas' "Special Edition" films, one of the producers remarked that they had restored the films at the perfect time before they were lost to the destruction of time.
In many ways, this is the perfect time to bring back Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2-D2, and C-3PO. Everyone's still healthy and acting, and Disney apparently has a big enough checkbook to get them all to participate. It's really the story continuation that I always hoped might happen but never thought would.
REMNANTS OF WAR
With all the major space battles in the original trilogy, it's not surprising that the galaxy would be filled with some really large debris, but it's a great visual touch that helps establish continuity between the old and new films. Plus, seeing a ship of that size to scale on a planet is a great reminder of how incredibly powerful the Empire had been, which will likely serve as foreshadowing for the new threat (more on that later).
It's hard to argue that Darth Vader's helmet endures as one of the most iconic images from all of Star Wars lore, so getting a glimpse of its charred remains is nostalgically chilling. However, the way it's shown in the trailer looks like it could be enshrined in a museum (per the Indiana Jones rule of thumb) or perhaps a gravesite.
Seeing a crashed Star Destroyer in the desert is one thing, but it's fascinating to consider the inevitable memorials and exhibits that would spring up in the wake of such a galactic struggle. I suspect that scene will involve Luke visiting a physical place to consult with his father; I just hope that doesn't mean we have to suffer through more of Hayden Christensen's wooden acting as a Force ghost.
A NEW STRUGGLE
The end of Return of the Jedi has the Rebel Alliance celebrating the ultimate victory over the "evil" Empire. It even has Anakin Skywalker fulfilling the prophecy of restoring order to the galaxy. Everything was wrapped in a neat, celebratory bow (even if George Lucas did ruin the original Ewok song in his Special Edition re-releases).
So what's going on now?
I asked that question in my piece reacting to the first trailer for this film; and, while we still don't have an exact answer, we're given far more clues.
We already knew that Stormtroopers were back (with updated armor), but this is the first time we see evidence of a new organization, complete with a black-on-red logo. There appears to be a central leader figure in black robes (sound familiar?), but Ian McDiarmid, who played Emporer Palpatine, has confirmed that the Emperor is dead. Let's hope so, as I think it would be more exciting to get a new villain.
Also, note that they're on an ice planet: could Hoth now be playing host to this growing threat? The Rebel base there got fairly obliterated, but there may have been some usable foundations for a new group to build its headquarters. Having this notable Rebel locale get flipped into a villain's lair would certainly shake things up a bit. But, then, it's a big galaxy, and there are likely many icy planets.
We also get a healthy dose of T.I.E. fighters, so it's just hard to not draw the conclusion that some form of the Empire has survived. Or, alternately, a new group may have inherited the symbols of the old Empire (uniforms, spacecraft, etc.) as a means of getting instant credibility in the fear department.
There are a number of definitely-bad guys shown in the trailer—most notably that crossguard-lightsaber-wielding fellow who's apparently named Kylo Ren. I have to assume he's a new Sith lord based on his red lightsaber, crazy mask, and Force-using hand motion. I'm not sure his character design is as intriguing (or divisive) as his lightsaber design, but maybe he'll have a little more personality than the ultimately boring Darth Maul.
We also get a look a new type of Stormtrooper, who might be called a "Chrome Trooper" (but I can't find hard evidence of that, just some Google search results). This guy looks far more menacing than your standard Stormtrooper, for sure, and I hope he's some kind of loner/sniper threat trailing the heroes.
HAN AND CHEWIE
Of all the really cool stuff shown in this trailer, it's hard to beat the closing scene:
Harrison Ford's voice over a black screen: "Chewie..."
[Fade up to Chewbacca and Han Solo aboard what appears to be the Millenium Falcon.]
Han: "...we're home."
Chewie: [Chewbacca noise]
And cue the Star Wars logo and fanfare.
How do you beat this trailer's ending? You don't. This is pure movie magic that sends a surge of nostalgia straight to the vein of every Star Wars fan. These two characters really represent the element that the prequel trilogy completely lacked: the rough-around-the-edges tough guys (with hearts of gold, of course) that offset all the mystique and intrigue of the Jedi/Sith struggle with good, old-fashioned action. They helped Star Wars bridge the gap between space opera and western and helped established a grounded quality that none of the prequel films were able to match.
I think it's very telling that the first returning characters we see are Han and Chewie, not Luke and Leia. That's not to say that Star Wars films can't be successful without them, but that they represent an important character type essential to the Star Wars fabric.
So it's only April, and this movie releases in December. There's no doubt in mind that we haven't seen the last trailer for this film before it opens, but I really only want one (maybe two) more.
I hope we don't get inundated with near-monthly trailers before then, but I'm not optimistic. This film represents an incredibly important re-launch of a franchise in new hands for the first time...ever. Disney needs it to succeed in a big way and can't afford all the negativity that surrounded, say, The Phantom Menace. Getting long lines and a ton of hype is key to that success.
But I also hate having such important movies spoiled by trailers that needlessly overshare. I don't know about you, but I'm definitely seeing this movie, regardless. Isn't everyone who had even a passing interest in the franchise going to as well? I would think so.
As excited as I am by this trailer, here's hoping that Disney can show a little restraint in the coming months.