Preview: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (teaser trailer)

Here we go again…

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In the bygone days of pre-high speed broadband, reading too much into a film trailer was seen by most as silly and a lofty height of geekiness. To be honest, despite the fact that it’s now fairly standard practice for every keyboard warrior to do it, it’s still silly and a lofty height of geekiness. But this is different. This is the height of geekiness. This is Star Wars; a franchise so entrenched in fan loyalty and passion that it was the original inspiration for analytical teaser trailer-related lunacy – with die-hard fans paying actual money for tickets to 1998’s A Bug’s Life, only to leave the movie theatre once the teaser for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace had finished playing. All just to catch a glimpse of what awaited them the following May.

Thankfully such pointless lengths were not required to be reached in order to witness the opening salvo of the third coming of our beloved space opera. However, as expected, the clamour for intense theoretical analysis and debate began within minutes of the trailer appearing online. Now I’ve done my best to avoid the vast majority of fanboy forum interpretation. Nevertheless, being the hypocritical Star Was nut that I am, I of course choose to exercise my right to contribute to such interpretation, albeit with a little more restraint (you know, without the racism and childish name-calling) than many of my galactic brothers and sisters.

So, now that we’ve had a day or two to take it all in, what does the debut footage of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens tell us? Well, in short, we can be cautiously optimistic. But, before we get to that, let’s quickly and calmly discuss how FUCKING AMAZING we all felt when we watched it. It takes balls to mute Radio 1, then tell everyone in the office to please be quiet whilst you fire up YouTube and stare more intently than you have in years at something those present roll their eyes at, but my word it was worth it. I mean, seriously, who didn’t well up a bit when the Falcon went screaming past accompanied by the main theme? That ninety seconds of pure, full screen, 1080p high definition emotion, briefly reverted most of us to a childlike state that can only be achieved by some sort of lustful fiction infused release. Just for a moment, we were at one with the epicness, before rapidly coming down and immediately wanting to sustain the high, wanting MORE. Which of course meant most proceeded to watch it again before babbling excitedly about it to anyone within earshot, the majority of whom didn’t give a shit.

As I was saying, cautious optimism is the name of the game. Director/writer J.J. Abrams sensibly wets our fanboy appetites by producing a trailer with classic throwbacks at the forefront (wisely minus Hamill, Ford and Fisher), propped up by the visual-only introduction of our new lead heroes. After the monumental clusterfuck of the prequels, we needed to be wowed, but also gently persuaded that things are heading in the right direction. Whilst witnessing the familiar no doubt comforts us, the mostly subtle hints of fresh material, both in terms of the Star Wars universe and the manner of the production itself, are enough to warrant the statement that Abrams and co. clearly mean business.

Because it is in no way uncool to do so, let’s take a look at the trailer scene-by-scene to help emphasise this point:

The Voiceover – Serkis? Cumberbatch? Sydow?
The deep-throated narrator, supplier of the only dialogue in the trailer, doesn’t reveal anything of note story-wise, but the vocals have generally been accepted as confirmation of the long-term rumour that Benedict Cumberbatch will be playing the main villain of the piece. Whether or not he supplied the voiceover (motion capture specialist Andy Serkis and Seventh Seal legend Max Von Sydow are other likely candidates), his presence, if true, will hopefully prove to be a useful piece of casting.

Opening Scene – A Dune Sea of Racism
Fade from black, desert, fretful dude in a stormtrooper uniform minus helmet, immediate controversy.

That’s right, before anyone with a normal mind-set had a chance to post their thoughts about the trailer online (probably because they were busy watching it a second time), the internet was awash with racist plum, declaring in rather derogatory terms that a stormtrooper can’t be black. The primary reason given by the racists wishing to discuss Star Wars, as opposed to those standard YouTube commenters who were just being racist, was that a stormtrooper couldn’t possibly be black as that would mean he isn’t a Jango Fett clone. This prequel-esque reasoning of the unfortunate souls posting naughty comments online suggests, hopefully, that they’re perhaps too young to know better. Somehow I doubt it.

Whilst it depresses me to draw attention to, or even acknowledge such crass, mindless viewpoints, I can at least use them as a platform to discuss the character in question, played by John Boyega of Attack the Block fame (rumoured to be the main lead). Is he even a stormtrooper? Of course there’s no physical reason as to why he couldn’t be. It’s plainly obvious to most that the actions, reactions and various accents of the stormtroopers in the original trilogy mean, regardless of the bollocks peddled in the prequels, that a number of them certainly aren’t clones twenty years on. They’re just normal chaps working and fighting for the Empire, graduates of the academy a certain Luke Skywalker was so desperate to join at the start of A New Hope.

Indeed, as a friend of mine suggested, it would very interesting if the characterisation of a stormtrooper was a major part of the film. He could be a rogue trooper gone AWOL, on what could be Tatooine, our old favourite. Or he could simply be in disguise, à la Luke and Han, and on the run. Either way the eerie and cool-as-fuck presence of Imperial Probe Droid chatter in the background probably confirms that whatever remnants of the Empire exist, our hero is unlikely to be on good terms with them.

Combined with the classic John Williams brass jolt, the raw nature of the first human in the Star Wars universe for just under a decade (sweat, fear etc.), calms our nerves and allows us to predict almost immediately that this going to be better than the prequels. And we’re just getting started…

Scene Two – Soccerball-D2
No-one knows at this stage whether this little droid will play any sort of major role, but it made me :D all the same.

Scene Three – Stormtrooper Assault
Between this shot and Boyega’s entry, we have official confirmation that stormtroopers are very much active. Who do they work for? Are they still clones at this point, regular men (/women), or a mixture of both? What’s refreshing about the scene is the frantic manner in which it’s shot and edited with, again, dramatic realism included. Close-ups, low angles, the cocking/firing up of a blaster as the troops are plunged into a nighttime assault – it just looks good. Already there’s a vast improvement on what the stormtroopers were up to during the flat, lifeless battle scenes in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, granted that isn’t difficult to achieve.

Scene Four –Dusty Daisy
Not much can be taken from this, aside from the introduction of our leading lady, Daisy Ridley, a complete unknown. The planet could be anywhere. Thumbs up for a new vehicle, however farm/industrial-like it may be.

Scene Five – X-Wings Gon’ Wing It
Forty-five seconds in and shit starts to get real. Oscar Isaac, portraying another of the good guys, is revealed to be a pilot. Taking centre stage here however is not the pilot, but the craft he’s piloting. The X-Wing is classic Star Wars, and the sight of them whipping across the water at high speed is the first truly giddy moment of the trailer. The design, the engine glow, S-foils locked in attack position, that sound – bloody hell.

As with the preceding shots, we’re treated to Abrams welcome determination to get dug in, close up, and to make it all look as genuine as possible. Both Isaac and the vehicles themselves look authentically battle-scarred, with the spray adding an all-important organic feel. This might seem trivial at this point, but it really cannot be overstated enough how realistic application is vital if you want the average movie-goer’s mind to comfortably accept the world your projecting, enabling them to concentrate on the plot.

Scene Six – Sparking Up
For all the wonderful references to the original trilogy, this is the real money shot. I genuinely thought Abrams would skip a lightsaber reveal for the debut teaser, but like Darth Maul’s double-edged divulge in The Phantom Menace trailer, it’s almost impossible to resist putting it in there. It’s a fanboy’s dream and, with the villain’s identity absent, the weapon he’s wielding is the next best thing. Again, the location is nigh on impossible to decipher. Hoth is of course a possibility (a visual hint to go with the earlier soundings of an Imperial Probe Droid perhaps?), but that’s just speculation, as is our villain’s purpose there.

So let’s discuss what we do know, which is that there’s a shiny new lightsaber in town. From a design point of view I’m guessing it’s supposed to mimic a true old school great sword (think Ned Stark’s Ice from Game of Thrones), and what cooler way to do that than to have the extra section of the “cross” not an extension of the hilt, but of the blade itself. Opinion amongst fans will of course be divided, as at first glance it looks potentially lethal to one’s self once you start swinging it around. However, there’s also the great sword-related possibility that those little blades could actually be rather practical, as they may well prevent your hand from being cut off. If this is the case, is it a clue to our villain’s identity? Afterall, we all know which family specialises in getting their hands cut off, and I imagine Luke and Leia aren’t the only members of the Skywalker family present at this point…

To be fair, it’s probably Cumberbatch as a completely new villain, but at least it shows that those using our favourite space weapon, dark or light, seem to have finally learnt from the perils faced by their predecessors.

Final Scene – Climax
Having teased us for sixty seconds, Abrams goes all out for the finale. As if the Millennium Falcon and a burst of the main theme weren’t enough, he chucks a few Tie-Fighters in for good measure. This shot is indulgence at its finest and is there primarily to make us shit our collective breeches, whilst simultaneously trying to hold back a tear.

It of course succeeds in pushing our excitement levels through the roof, rounding the trailer off nicely in the process as the classic yellow text moves onto the screen, but also raising a few questions. For instance, the presence of Tie-Fighters, like that of Storm Troopers, suggests that in some way, shape or form, the existence of Empire-related activity. Having said that, some other force may have acquired the Tie-Fighters and is using them for their own gain, such as mercenaries or bounty hunters. On a similar note, who’s flying the Falcon? Of course we assume it’s Han, Chewbacca, or both, but you never know. Is it Han’s son? Chewbacca’s son?! Has Billy Dee Williams been secretly cast, ready to unleash Lando’s epic moustache on us once more? Because that, my friends, would be cool.

With a desert backdrop once again the setting for the final scene, it appears that this particular planet (Tatooine would be the obvious estimate) is likely to fairly prominent. Interesting also is the fact that, ironically, we see nothing of outer space during the trailer. There’s plenty of in-your-face, fast-paced, surface-skimming activity, but it’s all down on or another planet’s surface. This helps to get across the dirty, gritty nature of the respective worlds on show, something the prequels failed at miserably, and establishes the general tone of the locations, but leaves us all the more intrigued as to what we’re going to be treated to beyond the stars.

So there you have it. Like my first year history essays at university, these two thousand words are largely pointless, but until the next glimmer of the galaxy far, far away roles into view, followed by the full steak and chips thirteen months from now, we will simply have to park our imaginations in the docking bay of this mere ninety second journey. Man your ships…

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4 thoughts on “Preview: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (teaser trailer)

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