Friday, December 5, 2014

Never Trust a Trailer

(Originally Written for Jedi News)

Boy, I picked the right week to return from my sabbatical, didn’t I?

"I'm awake! I'm up!"

I’m sure by the time this sees print that you’ll have all read countless articles describing the minute details of the teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, not to mention the exponential times you all must have watched it already. But although I am certainly not the only Saga fan with a I-III lean writing a commentary out there, I figure it’s still a fairly rare point of view in mainstream geekdom circles.

When I was first sent the YouTube link for the first official teaser, I clicked not with anticipation and excitement, but with fear and nervousness. It’s little wonder, then, that my first impression of the piece was overwhelmingly negative:

"When did we arrive in Disneyland?!"

·         * “Okay, opening on Not!Tunisia.”
·         * “Weird voice over.”
·         * “Guy in a Stormtrooper outfit?! Why are there still Stormtroopers?! Jedi had a happy ending and you’re ruining it Goodbye!”
·         * “Weird little droid.”
·         * “This all looks like a fanvid from someone a little too obsessed with the EU.”
·         * “Practical Effects my backside. I don’t know whether to slap the filmmakers for making that claim or laugh at the haters who actually bought it.”
·         * “Lightsaber with…lightsaber…hiltguards? And it’s RED?! What did I just say about Jedi?! Does the Chosen One mean nothing to you?!”
·         * “Oh look, the Milennium Falcon looking like it flew out of Abrams’ Star Trek reboots. YAWN.”

I mean, I was really starting to rage. I guess it didn’t help that I was already on edge due to other issues (don’t you hate it when you go on vacation to de-stress and end up with MORE stressors?). But then I realized what I was doing.

"Besides ignoring what are clearly Podracer engines?"

I was doing, big surprise, exactly what I said I wouldn’t. I was judging the film and the trailer based on meta-information rather than judging just by what we’re shown. I was looking at this as JJ Abrams’ attempt at Star Wars – not thinking of it as a real Star Wars movie. And comparing to the feeling I got watching the teaser for Phantom Menace, one of the greatest teaser trailers ever made that nothing can be fairly compared to. Which of course is exactly the kind of thing I call haters out on.

"Is this gonna be another bug hunt?"

There’s a film I’m quite fond of called “A Time to Kill”, based on a John Grisham novel about a man (played by Mace Windu himself, Samuel L. Jackson) who kills the people who assaulted his young daughter, and has to defend himself in the US South, where race relations aren’t all that great. At the end of the film, his lawyer (played by Matthew McConaughey) asks the jury flat out to vote how they would were the ethnicities involved different.

"And I'm out of here before this gets ugly."

Now, obviously, that is a deeper and more serious issue than what one person does or does not feel about a series of silly space movies, and I would never be insensitive enough to compare the two. However, remembering this scene (which admittedly wouldn’t have worked in a real court but is powerful anyway) helped me put some things in perspective. If I was to truly give Episode VII’s trailer (and by extension the final film) a fair shake and not become a giant hypocrite, I had to go back. I had to watch it again, and again. Take in all the details, acknowledge that they happened. Now imagine it’s Lucas!

"Faster and more intense!"

After all, George himself wrote the treatments, and ostensibly the screenplays are supposed to follow his notes, right? I mean, we’ll see when all is said and done, but as far as we know right now, this is still George’s story.

So I watched it again with this mindset. And this is what went through my head the second, third, fourth, and fifth times I watched the trailer:

"It began with a bloody 'S'!"

·         * Hey, wait a second, that voiceover is Andy Serkis! How could I not have recognized it?!
·         * Okay, so this is a guy in a trooper outfit…that outfit could mean a whole lot of different things. If what this incredible article I just read (and that every Star Wars fan needs to read too, by the way) is true, then the story goes in cycles. Are there Imperial remnants  that could be the plucky underdogs to the New Republic? Intriguing…
·         * Ha! Beach ball astromech really is cute. Glad to see Star Wars hasn’t lost its sense of whimsy.
·         * Hmm, these new Trooper designs look like a believable evolution from Clone through Storm to whatever these guys turn out to be
·         * That speeder looks like a marriage of McQuarrie and Chiang sensibilities. It doesn’t feel too out of place, though it still strikes me as something out of the comics more than any of the movies.
·         * Still bored with X-Wings, but this shot has some nice atmosphere.
·         * Hmm, does “Awakening” mean the Force is once again out of balance? I mean, George loves his cycles. I wonder what the reasoning is…
·         * And really, the Broadsaber is no more ridiculous than the Doublesaber – and, if I’m completely honest with myself, no less awesome. In fact, though there’s greater chance of self-harm, it is an effective protection against disarming by an enemy.
·         * It’s a dizzying shot, but still a sweet move.

"Hey! There's one! I guess this IS a J.J. Abrams movie after all! Haw haw!....I'm so lonely..."

There are teasers that have gotten me far more excited about movies than this one has, but when I really sit and consider what it’s giving us I have to say I am truly intrigued. Awakened indeed!


  1. I may be wrong, but I think that the awakening of the Force has the opposite meaning: That it has awakened now that balance was brought back. One of George's original ideas was that this trilogy would deal with the dismantlement of Imperial Remnants, so I guess that idea was passed on. I'm more concerned with the rebuilding of the Republic and the restart of the Jedi since their isn't anything clear on this trailer.

    As far as the villain goes, my guess is that the guy is trying to restart the Sith-going after ancient weapons (after all that Lightsaber does have a strange sound)-but he's no Sith per say. I just hope that the end of Jedi isn't butchered and that the Prophecy is maintained.

    I have more to say in a post I'll upload later today

    1. You know, I noticed that - not just a strange sound, but a more firey look. It's not as...contained? a traditional lightsaber, if you catch my meaning.

  2. I'd just like to chime in to say that I think even if they do full Empire's-come-back, it doesn't necessarily "ruin" the ending of Jedi. Like, it's still there, we can still go back and watch it. That events after the film may make the happy ending only temporary is kinda just how things work, both in terms of narrative and real life.

    It makes about as much sense to criticize the original film for ruining the darkness of Revenge of the Sith by being so optimistic and happy in its events. As long as this series doesn't go all grimdark or gritty with things, I doubt we'll have to worry about Jedi being 'ruined' at this point.

    1. I get what you're saying, but Jedi always felt like "Happily Ever After," which is frankly what the GFFA deserved after all that.

      But the truth is that each new addition fundamentally changes the dynamic. As long as George is happy with the story's direction, I as a fan must be willing to unlearn what I have learned.

    2. The thing is, Sith clearly establishes in the end of the film the idea that a new hope will emerge in the galaxy when the time is right. This whole foreshadowing of the future materializes in the next film, so it makes sense that the elements in "Jedi" that foreshadow a return to democracy be materialized in Episode VII, including Yoda's dying wish to Luke to train the next Jedi. If it doesn't deliver on that then it's a disappointment and a giant cop-out to the story.

      I would simply hate to see another trilogy of the Rebellion against the Empire.

    3. I'm not sure if I would call any of it foreshadowing, given that Jedi as originally written didn't have anything to foreshadow to. It's written to be an ending pretty conclusively, so whatever happens afterwards is already going to be a change to that.

      I mean, I agree that if they just go for a straight Rebellion vs. Empire thing it'd be pretty boring, but I'm 100% positive the filmmakers agree as well. We might well see imperial factions against New Republic or some variation on that, but I really don't think having the Empire return in some fashion is going to necessarily be a cop-out or disappointment.

  3. "I'm not sure if I would call any of it foreshadowing, given that Jedi as originally written didn't have anything to foreshadow to."
    It has now.