Monday, October 19. The day everyone else in the world caught up to Star Wars fandom.
As pointed out by Scott Mendelson at Forbes, this is not the trailer for the die-hard fan who’s been gathering every bit of news, rumor, innuendo, and gossip that’s been on the web since Disney bought Lucasfilm. This is not the trailer for those of us who were seven when Star Wars first hit screens.
…tonight’s trailer is presumably the general audience sell. It will probably be a more conventional trailer, with character reveals, and a few story beats that explains to those barely paying attention that there is a new Star Wars film, it’s a sequel to Return of the Jedi, and yes some of the old cast will be back alongside some new heroes and villains.
So… not for us. And yet, it was. Sort of.
Placing the trailer in the midst of Monday Night Football on Disney-owned ESPN was a marketing move designed to get the attention of everyone else. Those people among the general population who have a passing interest or a vague familiarity with this thing called Star Wars. Something about laser swords and teddy bears fighting robotic dinosaurs, or something…
The latest trailer does everything it needs to do: introduces the main characters (Rey, Finn, Ren, Phasma, Poe) while re-introducing some classics (Han, Chewbacca, Leia, R2) and giving us all glimpses into a few action sequences very reminiscent of the original trilogy.
So, in breaking down the trailer shot-for-shot, we get a little over 50 images. They’re in the gallery, but let’s eat this elephant properly, shall we?
1. Rey the Scavenger – assuming it’s the wreck we’ve seen already, and if you blink you miss the very first item: the transition. Remember that Star Wars films (and the TV shows) use wipes to transition from one scene to another, and it appears we have a little of that here in the flash before we see Rey. It looks like stars panning left to right, and it looks very much like the movement of the stars we saw in The Empire Strikes Back just after Luke tells R2 they’re going to Dagobah.
The Star Destroyer has seen better days, obviously, and it looks like Rey is scavenging to collect anything of value. In the meantime, we hear a voice — sounds like Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma — asking “Who are you?” Rey’s response: “I’m no one.”
It’s easy to assume this is actually a conversation between the two, but it might not be. But let’s assume for a moment it is. The combination of this snippet of conversation with the images of Rey moping on Jakku give the impression that Rey is in the “Luke” position — stuck on a backwater planet with no future, knowing there’s got to be more out there — and the “no one” line adds to that. She longs for something more, but is resigned to the fact that she’ll never get it.
2. Finn the Deserter – we’ve seen the First Order demonstration before, and now we hear Finn say, “I was raised to do one thing…I’ve got nothing to fight for.” What is that one thing? Be a Stormtrooper? Be a soldier? Fight for a just cause? It feels like there’s something missing from this sound bite, like something was cut out of the middle. “I was raised to do one thing: fight (for ____). But now I’m on the run. I’ve got nothing to fight for.” Maybe.
He’s sweating when he takes off his helmet, and his armor has clearly seen some action, so let’s juxtapose this with earlier footage: Finn goes to a planet, following Phasma, where the Stormtroopers burn a place to the ground (we see this in footage from earlier teasers and later in this one). He steals a TIE fighter (we’ve seen part of that escape already), and the TIE still demonstrates a solid capacity to come apart and crash well. (And did that red on the eyeball remind anyone else of Baron Fel’s squadron?)
We next see Finn on the planet (sans armor, so he’s either bought or stolen some clothes) before going into a settlement, where he presumably meets Rey.
Just before the whole thing goes south and explosions abound.
3. Ren the Worshipper – Kylo Ren has a shrine to Darth Vader on the bridge of his ship. We know it’s not his name, that the Knights of Ren are a group of Sith-wannabes who may or may not have some sensitivity to the Force. Many are speculating that Kylo Ren is actually one of the Solo twins, but that’s still pure speculation (the other twin being Rey).
“Nothing will stand in our way. I will finish what you started.” This feels a lot like Darth Vader’s “There will be no one to stop us this time.” in Star Wars. What Vader started was the elimination of the Jedi and the Republic, so this line likely takes place after the reveal that Luke Skywalker is still alive.
And then we see him torturing Poe Dameron. Hm. That’s going to be interesting. I wonder if Ren will ask any questions…
While this shot appears as we hear Kylo Ren talking to Darth Vader, it appears to be Captain Phasma from the shape of the helmet. The red laser beam — could this be the Starkiller weapon in action?
Next up, we have a flash of a forest being flash-burned — maybe this is the forest world where we’ve seen Rey and BB-8?
More footage of the Millennium Falcon chase through the wreckage of the Star Destroyer. The marketing folks at Lucasfilm are being very clever, in that they’re not revealing too many pieces. The battle sequences all look like they’re connected — just three locations in all, and we’ve seen them before in previous teasers.
Rey: “There are stories about what happened.” – OK. Maybe the battle of Endor wasn’t the actual end of the Empire, and maybe the remnants of the Empire did their dead level best to cover up what happened. I can buy that. Rey’s line implies that the events of 30 years ago have fallen into legend, maybe. Or, like so many of us when it comes to history, no one bothered to teach it very well.
How many of you know what happened at the Battle of Midway during World War II? What about Ho Chi Mihn City in Vietnam? Or even further back, what happened in the Korean War? Unless we have a direct connection to something, it’s all just stories. Facts and figures in a textbook, at best. I think that’s what we have here, with Rey (remember, she’s on the Outer Rim) not knowing how much of the stories are true.
And then Han Solo tells her: “It’s true. All of it.”
Enter the Knights of Ren. The group of acolytes with their leader wielding what the toy packaging has called a “plasma blade” — so maybe not a proper lightsaber? — just before more X-wing goodness (again, from the same scene we’ve had before). Interestingly, some are carrying rifles, while others look to be carrying some kind of staff weapon. Maybe the electrostaff from Clone Wars?
We hear Han say, “The Dark Side” as we see the remains of a fortress — could this be Maz Kanata’s castle? Or could it be where Luke has been hiding out? My guess is the former, as we see it intact later in the trailer. More on that presently. The battle rages, and it looks like this could be connected with the X-wings over the water that we’ve seen previously.
Then we hear Han say, “The Jedi.” just as we see Finn looking after Poe. The juxtaposition of those two could be a coincidence, but it could be implying that Finn may be Force-sensitive. In this shot we also see various Rebel/Resistance personnel prepping to head into a skirmish.
(It’s been pointed out that Finn is wearing Poe’s jacket, and that the two may have encountered each other while Poe was a prisoner.)
More explosions after that. The X-wing chasing the TIE looks a lot like the reverse of that from Star Wars, and the explosion in front of Rey and Finn looks to be a ship. You can see an engine fly off to the right before the trailer cuts to their reaction. It’s a “We’re doomed” moment for sure, and this could take place just before they manage to somehow get aboard the Falcon.
The castle looks to be guarded by a droid we’ve not seen before. Plenty of flags flying overhead, including one from Mandalore dead center at the top. I’m guessing this is Maz Kanata’s place, and here’s where Han and the new Scooby Gang start piecing together where Luke may be hiding. Either that or they get their first hard intel about the Knights of Ren, just before the First Order swoops in.
Again, we have the shot of the mysterious figure putting his mechanical hand atop R2’s dome, and we assume this is Luke, especially since “They’re real” is heard right on top of it. (Note, also, that we do not see Max von Sydow in this trailer, either.)
And now we get to the other parts of the assignment that flips Finn from dutiful Stormtrooper to deserter. Phasma leads an attack on a place, and Ren is there — without the other Knights? — and there’s slashing of his plasma blade and fires burning, and I’m guessing it was too much for Finn to take.
Next shot: Rey’s crying over a body? Some are already speculating that this looks like Chewbacca, and it does seem as though there’s fur. Maybe. Could be someone else.
Chewbacca seems to have a bandage on his arm in the next shot, as he appears to be getting captured along with Han and Finn.
The battle on the ice planet (Starkiller Base, probably) looks so much like the massive FX shot in Return of the Jedi when the Millennium Falcon dove into the middle of a phalanx of TIE fighters. Remember that? And what’s that trench? Could it be part of the giant starkiller weapon?
Montage of shots: Stormtroopers coming down the ramp to burn a village, Rey in the forest firing her blaster, more battle sequences from the castle and burning village, then another shot of the Falcon chase with the ship smashing through fire as she did in ROTJ just before the Death Star 2 blew up.
This is followed by an explosion on the bridge of a ship. If you look closely, you see a mouse droid in the middle of the shot, suggesting this is a First Order ship. So we have a battle over water, a battle over snow and ice, and a battle in space, plus the burning village.
Perhaps the most interesting shot of the whole trailer: Han embracing Leia. She looks worried. And if rumors turn out to be accurate, she has reason to be…
Our last sequence is the lightsaber battle in the snowy forest. It appears Kylo Ren does not have his helmet, and you can clearly see the hair. It’s a giveaway, if there’s any to be had in this trailer. And Finn looks quite unprepared to do battle. He’s not had very much, if any, training in the ways of the Force.
“The Force. It’s calling to you. Just let it in.” This is Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata, but there’s nothing to indicate who’s hearing this, if it’s Rey (and thus reinforcing that she’s a Solo twin with the Force) or if she’s talking to Finn, who winds up with the lightsaber.
We’re in the home stretch. Advance tickets are on sale, and many of the theater and ticket outlet web sites are burning as servers crash and transactions time out. Selected theaters in selected cities will be running a marathon of all six films leading up to the release of Episode VII. Are you planning to stand in line to start watching movies at 4am?
May the Force be with you, then. You’re gonna need it.