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.
But then last night, I saw the new trailer.
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.
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.
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:
And here’s 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:
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:
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:
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.
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.