When the teaser for Star Wars: The Force awakens, Comic Booked published a very short article about it. But, as was done across the country, the trailer lends itself to repeat viewings and intricate analysis, despite it being merely a teaser. That’s what makes being a geek so much fun!
Since there are only a few shots in the trailer, I can actually list them and tell you what I think.
Shot One: When the character appears on screen, not only is it surprising, but profoundly more emotional than you’d expect. Not only do we wonder why he is wearing stormtrooper armor (yes we want to know his story) but he is sweaty, he concerned, he is fearing for his life. I like the prequels a whole lot actually, but in one wordless shot, JJ captured so much more genuine emotion than we got in those films. I care about this guy more than the characters in the prequels.. I can’t help it. Also, we know there’s a probe droid nearby, because we can hear a transmission that is identical to the one in The Empire Strikes Back. Also Jeremy Jahns pointed out the camera move here, and how it just felt large and cinematic, and more like a “movie” than the way George would have filmed it.
Shot Two: The roller droid might be Daisy’s companion, and it certainly lets us know that Star Wars isn’t supposed to be all dark. I like this droid. It vaguely reminds me of the droids in the brilliant cartoon short “Technological Threat (look for it on YouTube)
Shot 3, 4, and 5: One scene of stormtroopers getting ready for battle. For the prequels, the clonetrooper armors were never built.. they were all CGI. They actually looked pretty good. My favorite bit was (in Revenge of the Sith) when they were attacking that spider-droid, and the one clonetrrooper gets on top of it and starts going to town. But it’s one of those things where “you can’t beat the real thing.” CGI troopers just don’t look as good as real ones. The troopers here look more menacing. Even in A New Hope, they were terrible shots.. imagine if JJ went into this project with the idea of making these guys bad-ass.. and why not make them good shots.. and have them truly be feared by everyone? This shot .. something about the lighting and the energy of the slight camera movement, is the most “JJ”-looking shots of the entire trailer in my opinion.
Shot 6 & 7. How cool is it that a main character in the film might be female. Ridley is an interesting choice.. she is very pretty and she definitely looks like someone who could be Leia’s daughter. Here, her acting seems quite good. She seems afraid, but she doesn’t overdo it at all, she doesn’t play it broadly. I love her speeder. Star Wars is so notable because some of the technology looks crazy but it all seems to be of a piece. Love it.
Shot 8 & 9: Before the shots fade in, we hear the rumbling engines, and are treated to a fantastic shot that says Star Wars is back. From here till the end, because it’s a teaser, JJ is giving us the money shots.. and for once it actually works. The shot of the X-Wings are filmed from the side and (especially with those engine sounds) reminds us of similar shots of X-Wings from A New Hope, specifically the trench run bits. The ships feel like they have real weight and heft to them. I watched the prequels today and there is no comparison.
Shot 10: Wow. It’s a shot, sure, would be at home in a cinematic of a new MMORPG, but it definitely works here, because they wouldn’t want all the fan-made trailers to top this one! The idea that there are more Sith than we thought is fascinating. I loved the real, gritty and cold environment he’s in. By setting fantasy characters in real places really has an effect on me (which is why Fellowship is my favorite LOTR film.. not the battle with the Urukai takes place in words and hills that, aside from a few ruins, looks like it could be near my house, and it helps to draw me in and it feels real). I like the fact that, unlike Darth Maul, this guy is not super graceful. While obviously very deadly, it looks like he is stumbling. He looks like he would act on impulse (a Dark Side trait that has been talked about ad nauseum in the original films but, alas, we’ve never seen it) and that maybe his lightsaber (which I’m guessing he did a rush-job construction of it) is meant to intimidate his enemies, hence the two additional blades that would otherwise not make much sense. Fear is his ally, over grace, and even knowledge.
Shot 11: Watching Empire again recently, I loved the scenes near the end where Falcon is being chased by TIE fighters shooting green lasers at it. It’s so iconic.. so Star Wars to me.. so I am thrilled that JJ closed this trailer with that image.. and here we see some maneuvers that envies the fantastic flying Han pulled of in Empire. I love this shot, but I wish the lasers looked a bit more like the green lasers in Empire, and I am still trying to decide if the CG Falcon is as good as the model that they did some amazing things with in the original trilogy. It’s impressive, but, man, so was the original model.
What I like is that there seems to be less fantasy in the settings.. no green screens of CGI palaces or cities, just gritty, real-world places. And the tone, it feels lean and mean and it feels like Star Wars, dammit. That tone is what sets this franchise apart form any other, and compels me to return. It’s all artificial.. everything in Star Wars, and yet it all feels tangible, and of-a-piece.