First off, it should be noted that I am a huge Star Wars fan. I have seen the first and second movies countless times, cry whenever someone mentions what happened to Boba Fett at the Sarlak pit, compare all great loves to Han and Leia, and my Reddit handle is SexyIG88. My point is that I’m kind of an easy mark for the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer and, more generally, for a new Star Wars movie starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and the Lord All-Father Harrison Ford. So how was it really?
Though I admit I’m a cheap cantina date, I don’t think that Star Wars is infallible. By the time we got to the prequel trilogy, I suffered from the affliction that a lot of people had trouble diagnosing during The Phantom Menace. I’m was in my 30s and all the joy and magic from my childhood had disintegrated into the hard realities of being a boring old guy. George Lucas didn’t steal your childhood, fanboys! Time did. On my inevitable re-watches of the prequels, I mostly focused on the parts I liked, Liam Neeson, light sabers, Ewan McGregor, Yoda, Palpatine, Sir Christopher Lee. But that is not to say that the horrible parts of the movie for me weren’t the favorite parts of the movies for a whole generation of young people. I know lots of people who were kids in the early 2000s who think that Jar-Jar Binks is as hilarious as I think he is not. Maybe there’s a kid out there who is a huge Dexter Jettster fan. It’s difficult to imagine. But I loved Twiki on Buck Rogers, which older Buck Rogers fans probably hated.
And in a very real way, I haven’t seen my Star Wars in years. Fool that I am, I was excited for the special editions. The effects of Star Wars needed an upgrade and I was all for it. If you remember the first theatrical release of the film in 1977, the X-Wings had a gray blob around them in flight against the black of space. I thought that they were going to fix up stuff like that — and they did. But the special editions also added very dated looking ’90s CGI, as if the goal was to jam as much crap as possible into any shot. And of course, it went farther than that and Lucas changed a lot of content that had nothing to do with effects. So I probably haven’t seen my Star Wars since the heyday of video tapes. Much has already been made of Han shooting first, so let’s talk about the biggest problem with the DVD release of The Empire Strikes Back.
The Empire Strikes Back was the moment when Star Wars went from the beautiful to the sublime. Every idiot in the world can misquote it, “Luke, I am your father!” It’s part of our shared Earth heritage. And on a personal note, it was a stunning moment for 10-years-old me. Darth Vader! Luke’s father! Ben! Aunt Beru! Why didn’t you tell him? I don’t think I could have articulated this at the time, but it was the moment that made the idea that Luke could actually join the Dark Side of the Force real. Well, in the DVD release of Empire, they blow the “No, I am your father” moment during an earlier exchange between Darth Vader and Palpatine, when Palpatine basically asks Darth Vader how his son, Luke Skywalker, is doing since blowing up the Death Star. I think Lucas was thinking, well, people would already know that Anakin is Luke’s father from watching the prequels. So Lucas took one of the greatest moments in cinema history and punted it for, as far as I can tell, no sound reason, ruining the movie for the entire DVD generation. For me, that’s worse than Greedo getting a shot off.
From that, I think we can safely conclude that the management of the Star Wars franchise hasn’t been very good recently. For those of you that don’t know, Disney bought the Star Wars franchise a few years ago for a few billion dollars and immediately ramped up production on six (six!) new movies, four in a new trilogy and three stand alones that — I don’t think we know who’ll they’ll feature yet, although money is on a young Han Solo, Boba Fett, and I keep hearing maybe a Yoda movie, which would be weird. And I think it’s great. We’re getting creative people who loved Star Wars all their lives to make Star Wars movies. I look at them akin to Bond movies, meaning that just because a lot of the people involved with the original Casino Royale are dead, and Bond creator Ian Fleming has been dead since 1964, doesn’t mean that we haven’t gotten some great Bond movies since then.
So what are my thoughts about the trailer?
1. My favorite part is that it starts with a visual joke, which shows a sense of fun in the Star Wars universe. “There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?” And then John Boyega’s head pops up like he’s the thing that just woke up. I keep hearing that you hear an Imperial probe droid when he sticks his head up, but what I hear are Jawas. I was really scared of the Jawas when I was a kid and maybe they are finally going to live up to their sinister appearance. Hell, I don’t think we’ve ever seen what one looks like under that hood. I might like that!
2. They got the Star Wars look right. It’s obviously a new director. For how great Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back are, they are very, very classic films modeled after 1950’s Air Force movies with a lot of steady David Lean long shots. Whoever edited Empire was a young Turk who did a lot of crazy Batman ’66 style spinning edits, but otherwise the film is very timeless in the shot style. I’m not complaining. The shots in the trailer are very kinetic and different, but somehow still the same. When John Boyega’s head pops up into the desert, it reminded me of Kurosawa, interesting static background, frantic motion. And of course, the original trilogy has a lot of Kurosawa going on.
By the way, there’s been a little bit of static report on CNN about how there weren’t black Storm Troopers? I honestly can’t think of anything stupider than that. Hell, they could all be black for all we know. They are garbed from head-to-toe!
3. Also, it’s an old saw, but the idea of Star Wars has always been that the technology are things that are used. So the space ships are scuffed, the blasters worn, the clothes not new. I was a little bit afraid that the new movie might go crazy with this and I was very pleased to see that the X-Wings, Stormtroopers, and especially the Millennium Falcon don’t look like they’ve been sitting in George Lucas’s attic since 1983.
4. I don’t love the soccer ball R2-head droid, but I love everything he is motoring past. The world is stylish and very Star Wars-y. So I’m willing to give the goofy droid a pass. And it does seem like an effective way for a droid to get around on a desert planet. I actually thought R2-D2 would have a lot more trouble getting around just about anywhere there wasn’t some kind of walkway. It doesn’t look like the droid is on a 300-style green screen landscape, but rather on a set, which is what I want from my Star Wars.
— Star Wars (@starwars) December 6, 2014
5. I keep hearing that the desert planet is probably Tatooine, and it would be weird if it wasn’t, but doesn’t the planet that the X-Wings are on look like the moon of Endor or Yavin? Perhaps the Force resonates on these places and so that they must be revisited because of this “awakening?”
6. I am not bothered by the broadsword light saber at all. There are very few swords that don’t have some kind of guard for your hand to not get cut off. And we know nothing about it at all. I saw on Colbert Report where some Internet trolls were showing how it would just get your hand cut off more quickly. But there’s all sorts of ways where that could not be true, so maybe let’s wait until after the movie to criticize that. I’m pretty sure that guy with the light saber is a Sith, so he’s probably been trained how to use his sword correctly. Does anyone remember that Count Dooku was supposed to be an expert fencer in the prequels? I think that they finally decided that it just didn’t look right and made him fight like everyone else. But there’s still a few fencing moments in there if you watch him. I remember a similar idiotic controversy when the trailer for the first X-Men movie came out and people were questioning with math the radius of Wolverine’s claws and if they could clear a guy’s neck. He does it in the comics constantly!
7. And dammit, my heart soared when the Millennium Falcon flashed on the screen. Frankly, if the movie turned out to be a bunch of crap and five minutes of good Falcon fighting, I’d probably call that a win. But it feels like it’s going to be better than that.
Once again, we should all temper our expectations. We aren’t kids. At least, if you’re reading this article, I’m assuming you’re not a kid. So this movie will never have the ability to move us the way something we saw when we were kids can move us. But there is a deep connection between me, R2-D2 and the rest of this crazy world, so they’d have to go pretty far afield to make me hate it.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, trailers mean next to nothing. I hope the movie is good. But we’ll only know that when we see it.
8. I waited until the end of this post to go to crazy conspiracy theory land, but I do have one. What do Endor, Yavin, and Tatooine all have in common? I’m going with Darth Vader. There could be some residue of Darth Vader using the Force there. And we’ve established that cloning happens in the Star Wars universe. I’m guessing that we’re going to see some form of Darth Vader. I love Han, Leia, Luke, Lando, Chewie and the whole gang. But Darth Vader is one of the most popular creations ever. I wonder if more kids would recognize him than Donald Duck. When Disney bought the Star Wars franchise, I’m betting that the first question was, “How do we bring back Darth Vader?” Remember when Spock died in Wrath of Kahn? And the next movie was called The Search for Spock, as in, “Don’t worry, Spock is in this one! Please come and see!” Or hell, they could just throw someone else in the outfit. Wouldn’t it be a gas to see Luke become Vader?
I hope to like this movie. The trailer certainly gets a lot right. What is Star Wars? It’s TIE fighters and the f**king Millennium Falcon shooting them down. It’s Storm Troopers and light sabers. I’m in.