Well, the probably-final trailer arrived in the middle of a football game and broke many a theater-website. I barely snagged my own ticket before they sold out entirely, and it took me five tries. The hype train is, apparently, real.
The trailer itself is a bit of a unicorn in the world of trailers, though, and deserves a bit closer of a look on several levels.
There’s a theme going with modern-day trailers. They’ve basically become short-films meant to give you an entire summary of the movie, plot, settings, characters, and even sometimes hinting at the resolution of the story. A few recent films have been particularly good at keeping things vague. The storyline for Interstellar was a complete mystery nearly all the way up to the release-date, for example.
The Force Awakens trailer had its work cut out for it before it was even edited. JJ Abrams needed to convey the joy and wonder of the Star Wars universe, but also try to win back the hearts & minds of the core fan-base.
And yeah. He did it.
And he did it without giving away spoilers. In fact, I think Abrams gave us the minimum amount of information necessary to briefly spike our excitement. In fact, the trailers for The Force Awakens may be among the best teasers/trailers for a film I’ve ever seen and there is one moment in each trailer that solidifies this for me.
The first trailer ends with a short black screen, no music, and no sound. Then Han simply says “Chewie, we’re home.” It’s a fantastic line because it serves two purposes. It gave you the first look at Harrison Ford reprising his role, but it also implied that the franchise was returning to its roots. “We’re home” is what JJ Abrams wanted to say to every Star Wars fan who was concerned about the direction.
Following the first trailer, the second trailer’s most powerful callback to the original trilogy comes from Han again, this time saying “It’s true. All of it. The dark side. The Jedi. They’re real.” – a moving statement in and of itself, but particularly meaningful coming from a grizzled character thirty years after dismissing the Force as a “hokey religion.”
New characters are risky. We don’t know them, really, so it’s a bit like going to an ice-cream social. At the end of the day we might make some new friends but leading up to it, there’s some anxiety. However, the Force Awakens is bringing back some of the most memorable characters in the history of film.
But there’s something missing from the trailer, the posters, and the teasers. Something huge.
Where is Luke?
Mark Hamill has been to several events with the cast of the film, he’s credited on IMDB, and there was even a big hubbub around the announcement of the three actors signing on for this film, but somehow Luke is missing from almost all the marketing of this film.
Is this because Luke plays a minor role, or is this more JJ Abrams hype-train speculation-food? My money is on the hype-train. Abrams is a master of giving “just enough” information to pique interest and then keeping entirely silent.
[edit: since writing this article, JJ Abrams has addressed several Luke-based theories. Sort of. Read here.]
Music is an oft-overlooked aspect of trailers, but very important in this case. Remember, every piece of these trailers is chosen very carefully, and much of the time there’s a specific reason. You can actually see the structure of the trailer from analyzing the musical cues.
John Williams is returning for this score, so we know we’re getting authenticity, yet the structure and recording of the music is very modernized. It’s a completely new take on the same themes we know.
When JJ Abrams was answering questions at the Star Wars Celebration this year, one particularly forward fan asked him how they could trust him to not ruin the new film. Abrams asked the fan to remember that everyone who worked on these films wants the same thing the fans do and that the filmmakers pouring their own love of the story into the creation of the Force Awakens.
The first recognizable theme in the trailer is the love theme from Empire Strikes Back. Coincidence?
After this, the empire theme makes an appearance. It’s slowed, bigger, and louder, but the chord structure is slightly changed too. Again, it’s taken an old theme we love and turned it into something new, refined, but authentic.
Will The Force Awakens Be Good?
I’m fully on-board the hype-train, personally, but we’ve all been here before. The trailers for Episode I were full of hype too. These trailers could, of course, end up being the best part of the movie, but I really don’t think we’ll be let down. In fact, I think it’s going to be amazing, and that’s because I believe JJ Abrams has made a Star Wars movie before.
The two most recent Star Trek films were directed by JJ “Lens Flare” Abrams and while they were beautiful, exciting, well-acted, cleverly-scripted, and loads of fun, they weren’t really Star Trek movies. Star Trek was never really about the action or the space battles. It was intellectual and methodical. Pristine, even.
When Abrams rebooted Star Trek, he basically made them into Star Wars movies. And they were awesome. So, because he’s already made two really great films in the same vein, I contend that JJ deserves our trust on this one.
Because if we get hurt again…