When the sneak peak, or teaser, or whatever they call the shorter version of a trailer now, aired last December I was understandably cynical; it had a weird soccer ball droid which seemed to be trying way too hard to be cute, and I was terrified this was going to end up being the new Jar-Jar Binks; most of the trailer was set on Tatooine (or at least a similar desert planet) one of the most objectively boring locations in the Star Wars universe; there was a goofy looking lightsaber that used other, smaller lightsabers as a cross guard; and finally there was overwrought dialogue from a voice-modulated villain. To me this seemed like the movie was trying to copy the prequel films and not the much better originals. To me, it seemed like doom.

My god...it's boring...It's nothing but boring for as far as the eye can see!
My face upon seeing the original teaser.

But then last night, I saw the new trailer.

And guys…

I think this is going to be amazing!

Now let me give you a long, verbose, overly complicated list of reasons why:

4. The Battles Make Sense

The prequel trilogy featured several huge battles, and I mean huge, with thousands of combatants on screen at once. The problem was that they were all mind numbingly  boring to watch. Bigger does not mean better. Thousands of combatants who we don’t know shooting at other combatants we don’t know was utterly pointless. Worse yet, even visually these scenes weren’t interesting. Yes the graphics were impressive, but that was it. There was so much going on that you couldn’t tell who was winning or losing, there was no ebb and flow to the battle. It was all just lights and explosions that amounted to nothing.

Look at this noise. What the fuck is even happening?
Look at this noise. What the fuck is even happening?

Even the Battle of Endor at the end of Return of the Jedi suffered from this (though to smaller extent than the prequels did), until the actual run on the Death Star, most of the time you can’t tell what’s actually happening in terms of who is winning or losing.

Now obviously this is all speculation considering we only see like fifteen seconds of actual fighting, but just based on those few seconds, it’s clear that the battles are not only gorgeous, but we’ll also be able to see who’s winning and care about what’s happening.

Star Wars Battle

Look at how clean that battle looks: X-Wings on one side, Tie Fighters on the other. Two sides, two distinct ship designs and a clear, but interesting backdrop to frame it. They’re not lost amid a clutter of thousands of X-Wings and Tie Fighters with giant cruisers in the sky shooting at each other while below them a thousand nameless CGI clones shoot at a thousand nameless droids. The shot attracts your attention to the battle at hand, framing it beautifully so that it remains visually interesting but also comprehensible. It’s a scene that looks like it will actually serve the story and move it forward, rather than make the story wait in the corner until the battle is finished like what the Prequels tended to do.

3. Lightsaber Fights have Emotion Again

Revenge of the Sith ended with a 45-minute lightsaber waltz that succeeded in turning one of the coolest and most iconic sci-fi weapons in history into one of the most boring things imaginable. What the Prequels failed to understand about the original trilogy was that lightsaber fights were never really about the lightsabers themselves, they were a way to explore the characters and highlight the emotional duel that was taking place. From Obi-wan’s calm acceptance of his death at the hands of his former student to Luke’s final rage-filled confrontation with Darth Vader, what made those moments amazing was watching the emotional interplay both between the characters and within the characters themselves.

The Prequels on the other hand, were so devoid of emotion that the only really interesting thing about them was how over-choreographed they were. Here’s what Darth Maul looked like:

maul

And here’s Qui-Gon Jinn:

Qui-Gon_Jinn

Both calm, cool and collected. And utterly fucking boring. If everyone is just a badass with a lightsaber then there’s no real point in watching it, real fights are all about emotion whether it’s a brawl at a bar or a boxing match. Without that, we’re basically just waiting to see who makes the first technical fault. We’re just a bunch of Olympic judges waiting to see which of the amazing, world-class performers makes a near imperceptible mistake we can grade them on. It can be interesting from a technical point of view, but utterly fails as a storytelling method.

Now here’s the look on Finn’s face when confronted by the villain’s lightsaber:

giphy

Thanks to one of my readers, Gabbendi, you can see why this scene is so much better than all the prequel lightsaber fights. The villain activates his lightsaber and Finn visibly flinches and steps back. He’s feeling an actual, genuine human emotion: fear. Look at how his eyes are locked onto the blade of the enemy’s lightsaber, you can almost feel the dread washing over him.

Finn is  afraid of his opponent, and that’s an emotion I can actually relate to. And I think the lightsaber fights have emotion again because…

2. People Have Emotion Again

What the hell do I mean by that? I mean they don’t look or act like this atrocity:

maxresdefault

They don’t act like the unemotional drones of the Prequel trilogy where everyone (including Academy Award winning actors) delivered every line with a completely flat affect.

Here’s a range of emotions we never saw in the prequels:

Grief

Grief

Fear

FinnFear

Anger

Anger

Despair

SadLeia

Each and every one of those faces is telling us a story. We have no context for what’s specifically going on in any of these scenes, but those faces tell us everything we need to know about what’s happening. Leia’s face in particular really drives home how utterly helpless and sad she’s feeling. Why is she feeling that way? What’s going on?

I have no fucking idea, but I want to know. Which leads me to the best part of the trailer:

1. I Have No Idea What the Story Is

It’s true, I’ve seen every trailer they’ve released so far and I don’t know any more about the story than I did before I saw them. And that’s the best kind of trialer. They didn’t ruin their story in the promotional material like so many movies tend to do. I have no idea what the guy with the weird lightsaber wants, I don’t know how Finn goes from being a Stormtrooper to a lightsaber wielding Jedi, I don’t know who the girl is or why she thinks she’s no one.

A girl is not ready to be no one...
“A girl is not ready to be no one…”

That has me more excited than anything else, so much so that I’m almost afraid that the actual movie won’t be able to live up to the amazing story I’m starting to imagine in my head. But I’m still excited because this 2-minute trailer told a greater story than the entire prequel trilogy combined. If the movie is even a fraction as good as the trailer, it will blow my mind.

So yes, my original thoughts on the initial teaser was totally off-base. Never let it be said that I’m not big enough to admit my mistakes.

That said if the movie still somehow turns out to be awful, I’m deleting this entire post and taking credit for totally calling it way back in December.

And hey, look on the brightside, if it does turn out to be awful we all get to call this guy Jar Jar Abrams for the rest of his life.
And hey, look on the bright side, if it does turn out to be awful we all get to call this guy Jar Jar Abrams for the rest of his life.
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Written by John Stevenson

I'm a freelance writer based out of Seattle, Washington.

16 comments

  1. I’m still pretty skeptical, but one good spexk of news is the writers. JJ, whom I’m not sure about, but then you’ve got Kasdan (Empire, Jedi) and Arnt (toy story 3).

    I agree, Jedi is where it started going downhill, but I’d put that on kucas rather than Kasdan. The writing was still great.

    My cynicism is more a product of the last 5 years of movies. I think the dark knight and no country for old me were the last two great movies.

    Also, I’d like to pitch an article to you – email me 🙂

    1. Yeah, it’s probably a good idea to keep your expectations low. Like really low, that way even if the movie is only okay, it might still seem better than the prequels.

      Jedi is where Lucas had the most creative control and thus was probably the worse of the original trilogy. Luckily he still had some people willing to challenge his stupid ideas, just not enough to get rid of the Ewoks…

      I’d like to hear your opinion on No Country for Old Men… I didn’t really care for it. Especially that ending where sad, old Tommy Lee Jones starts rambling about his dream and then the main villain gets in a car accident, borrows a t-shirt from a kid and disappears. Just seemed to come out of the blue.

      It still had great writing and acting, just that ending…

      I’ve sent you an email. 🙂

    1. You know, as pissed off as I would be… that would actually be kind of impressive in “how big of a troll can you be to your own fanbase” kind of way. I’d also look forward to reading all the theaters that burned down when the audiences rioted at the reveal.

      1. I still have no idea how Lucas can go from making the great movies that were the original trilogy to those things we call the prequels? Did he run out of good ideas? Did he not actually have that much control over the writing process for episode 4-6 or what? WTF went wrong?

        1. I think it was a combination of forgetting that movie making is a collaborative effort and starting to believe his own legend.

          For instance I’m a good writer and I can tell good stories, but if I tried to make a video game based solely on my abilities it would be a disaster. I’d need coders, graphic artists, sound engineers and all the rest. And most importantly, I’d need to remember that they know what they’re doing and not constantly override their decisions. I think in the prequels Lucas lost sight of that fact and every decision had to go directly through him. If you watch some of the behind the scenes stuff in the special features, you see that he his hand in pretty much everything. One scene I remember in particular is him carefully analyzing a model of one of the Gungan leaders, and while I can’t read his mind, it seemed like he was making sure everything lined up with his creative vision. Like he didn’t give any of the character artists room to use their own creativity and initiative when creating the characters. And that’s how we ended up with the horrible looking Gungans and whatever the fuck the Trade Federation things were called.

          You had the same thing with the actors too, he was overdirecting them. He didn’t give any of them the ability to use their acting abilities to explore the characters, which is why in the end Oscar winners Natalie Portman and Liam god damn Neeson ended up acting like planks of wood.

          And I think that all happened because he started to believe in his own greatness. I think he started to think he really was the genius that invented Star Wars all on his own, except he didn’t.

          The iconic look of the original trilogy, from the X-Wing to the Mos Eisley cantina were all made by Ralph McQuarrie. Meanwhile, the original cut of Star Wars was a slow, plodding mess. So Lucas hired experts in film editing, Paul Hirsch and Richard Chew. Lucas had an amazing vision, but he wasn’t solely responsible for making that vision reality, for that he needed other people.

          The Empire Strikes back is the best one of the trilogy because that’s the one where Lucas had a legion of other people helping him with every aspect of the film. He had professional writers do the script, he hired a new (and quite frankly better) director, who in turn let the actors explore their roles and get great performances (with Harrison Ford adlibbing his famous “I Know” line).

          I guess after 20 years of people telling him what a genius he is and how amazing his movies were, Lucas just kind of forgot that he needed an army of talented people with amazing creative minds to make Star Wars. He began believing the hype about himself.

          Wow I didn’t mean that response to be that long. If you want a better explanation, I’d highly recommend watching the Red Letter Media’s review of the prequels. It’s both hilarious and incredibly insightful:

          http://redlettermedia.com/plinkett/star-wars/

          1. You would think though that after 2 piss-poor movies Lucas would be like “hey maybe I should make Star Wars 3 like I made the original trilogy and not try and do it all myself because that has turned out terribly.” I hope JJ Abrams didn’t listen to any of Lucas’ advice while making this because he has lost the right to be involved in Star Wars. Nonetheless the movie looks amazing and I can’t wait to see it.

    1. Well first of all that guy is a great writer and it’s a fascinating theory. However I think it’s giving George Lucas way too much credit, his writing lacks the subtlety needed to pull something like that off. As is evidenced by the fact that Jar Jar was so fucking annoying, even if the theory is correct and George Lucas just chickened out, I don’t think the reveal would have been as mindblowing as the article assumes. More likely that would have been just another enormously stupid part of the prequels we’d all be criticizing. In order for it to work, Jar Jar would have had to have been toned down significantly. They played him up as an idiot and comic relief too much to suddenly reveal him as the Big Bad.

      The other problem with the theory is that there’s no way Disney is going to risk negative reaction to their new Star Wars movies by including the most hated part of the prequels. They bet a ton of money that Star Wars would pay off for them financially, they’re not going to risk just to try and make the Prequels acceptable.

      1. There is a chance they could include Jar Jar as the villain in one the anthology films coming up (which are stand alone Star Wars spin offs starting late next year). One them is about rebels stealing the Death Star blue prints between episode 3 and 4 and another is about Han Solo. Being that by the time ‘Force Awakens’ is set Jar Jar would be an extremely old gungan. You could make a movie set after episode 3 where Palpatine has made Jar Jar prime minister of Corosant or something in return for his assistance destroying the republic and he can be the big bad there.

  2. I just saw the movie (it went on today in France). Twice.

    Only one thing to say: best fucking lightsaber fight ever. With a lot of emotion. I won’t tell more, but I really think you’re gonna love the show.

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