Back in 2001 a Star Wars: Episode II trailer momentarily set the still infant internet ablaze. Here was a Star Wars trailer that promised The Phantom Menace was merely a misstep. It had drama, excitement; an awareness of what made Star Wars great. It had Gabriel Byrne looking conflicted, it had a squad of Boba Fetts, it had Christopher Walken with Man Who Fell To Earth eyes.
It of course wasn’t real. That mock trailer now seems very quaint and our gullibility part ignorance of what fans were doing out there in cyberspace and part willingness to believe that the next Star Wars instalment was going to be good.
Jump thirteen years. On Friday 28th November 2014, something rather special happened. A new Star Wars trailer appeared and generated the same excitement as that fan effort. More so, because this was real.
It looks like Star Wars. Not the prequels, but proper Star Wars. Rather than swamping the screen with wild new creatures and spacecraft, this teaser takes the cherished familiar and injects a fresh vitality.
X-Wing fighters skimming the surface of a lake in an attack run. The Millennium Falcon doing the fanciest bit of manoeuvring since piloting out of the imploding Death Star in Episode VI (and performing an attack run of its own on two TIE-fighters).
These two moments pack in more anticipation, excitement and wonder than any prequel trailer – or the films themselves…
Beyond this, the 90-second taster has that meta-quality of director and true fan J.J. Abrams addressing the like-minded.
Apparently the version playing at US theatres opens with the Lucasfilm logo. But, online the opening shot is of Star Wars’ spiritual home world, Tatooine, with accompanying malevolent gravel-voiced narration. Possibly delivered by Andy Serkis.
“There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?”
This speaks of something lying dormant. Not just the saga itself, but fans’ belief in it.
Then rising into frame is Attack the Block’s John Boyega, garbed in stormtrooper armour. Avoiding internet rumours, we do not know his character or why he is dressed that way. But, it’s perhaps a subtle reply to the valid criticism of Star Wars being a largely white universe that the first actor we see in the new teaser is black. And as an added bonus for UK Star Wars fans, Boyega is a Brit.
The ball droid that follows is worryingly prequel style cutesy, but may be a nod to Abrams’ Bad Robot logo critter. The next shots are of stormtroopers in upgraded armour preparing to disembark a landing craft. Framed in jerky close-up and menacingly strobe-lit these shots again suggest someone who knows what new to do with beloved characters.
Onto another Brit, Daisy Ridley, riding a type of one-person Batpod Landspeeder. She looks like a younger Aunt Beru, is she Luke’s daughter? Or Han and Leia’s? Again we’re avoiding internet rumours, but we liked this light speed reaction that appeared hours after the trailer landed.
Next, South American Oscar Isaac, seemingly leading the X-Wing attack run.
Then presumably Adam Driver shot from the back as the movie’s Sith big bad. He is packing a lightsaber with fiery cross guard. Cool, but don’t forget how excited we all were with Darth Maul’s double lightsaber.
More exciting here is the setting – a foreboding snowy wood, hinting at the fairy tale quality the original saga possessed but was absent in the airless prequels. Plus, it looks shot on location (or an impressive set) again promising a move away from the green screen anonymity of Episodes I-III.
Another voiceover dialogue sample, “The Dark Side. And the Light.” And into that Millennium Falcon shot that may only be included because of an prior internet leak, but ends the teaser on a triumphant note.
Add the Star Wars title (minus Episode VII) and theme, and a final sound effect of a lightsaber switching off and you have tens of millions of YouTube hits in under 24hrs. And the predictable message board trash-talking and vitriol that was merely burgeoning back when that fan-trailer hit in 2001.
It’s only 90 seconds and omits Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, plus plot hints or actual, you know, acting.
And we’re aware of the grip George Lucas has on us despite selling Lucasfilm to Disney. Every prequel was met with the faith that this would be the movie to turn it around. And pedestrian animated series did nothing to ease the disappointment of those inert episodes.
But, for the moment, in this minute and a half there seems to be a new hope…