The Hype Awakens


Millions of people watch the Super Bowl just to see the commercials.  So it’s not surprising that millions of us watched a regular season game to catch a movie trailer.  Especially when that trailer was the final spot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  The Eagles and the referees did their best to draw out the agony, calling timeouts and throwing penalty flags and delaying halftime as long as possible, but finally Mike Tirico gave us the intro and got the hell out of the way and this unspooled before our eyes:

I’ve watched it half a dozen times, and now that I’m no longer bouncing around the room like an idiot, here are some reasonably composed thoughts on what we just saw.

  • I loved the understated, character-driven beginning of this.  It’s very clear that, for all the noise about the old characters returning, this is going to be the Rey/Finn/Ren show.  And their basic characters are nicely sketched out here:  loner questioning her worth; soldier wondering what there is beyond war; fanatic devoted to a fallen icon.  That’s a strong trio of plot threads right there.
  • As often as I’ve listened to the score for The Empire Strikes Back, it was still a thrill to hear the love theme from that film kick in over the first shots of the Falcon.  Between that and a stirring, epic version of the Force theme, this is the first new Star Wars music we’ve had in ten years, and it’s good to hear John Williams embracing the past after the prequels felt oddly reluctant to lean on those familiar themes.  And after the treatment his scores got in the prequels — routinely being hacked to pieces as George Lucas kept tinkering with the editing almost down to the last minute — it sounds like J.J. Abrams has given Williams the due he has earned.
  • It’s become a bit of a running joke about Harrison Ford phoning in his performances of late.  We saw a glimpse of it in the last trailer, but this one cements it:  he looks totally invested here.  Considering his last take on the character was to mostly sleepwalk through Return of the Jedi, seeing Ford embracing Han Solo again has been perhaps the biggest treat in the whole run up to the new film.
  • With the poster and the trailer now out in the wild, we still have no glimpse of Luke Skywalker.  We know he’s in this — Mark Hamill has second billing on the poster, although that may just be a hat tip thing, since Ford is first and Carrie Fisher third — but the question now is how much and in what fashion.  I’ve heard rumblings that he’s barely in it, and more and more I’m getting the feeling that he’s the MacGuffin in this, the person everyone is looking for, for good or for ill.  In fact, I can see him not even showing up until the very end, with Luke filling in the Yoda role in Episode VIII.
  • OMG SPACESHIPS!!!  Seriously, they’ve managed to give the Falcon and the various fighters a sense of speed and agility not possible with traditional methods but while still giving them the look of old-school model work.  And I will never get tired of hearing that distinctive TIE Fighter whine; it’s such an inherently iconic Star Wars sound.
  • For everything this trailer showed us, there’s still very little of the actual plot out there.  Granted, I’ve been on a bit of a lockdown and been avoiding any detailed descriptions, but this didn’t give away the entire story like so many trailers are wont to do these days.  It’s going to get harder to avoid specifics as we get closer to December, especially with the novelization and comics on the way, but I’m glad there’s still an air of mystery about this.

The best thing I can say about this trailer is what I’ve been saying about everything associated with this film since the first teaser last Thanksgiving:  it feels like Star Wars.  And in a way the prequels never did.  There’s light and real environments and familiar characters and beats that just feel like those Saturday afternoons in 1977 and 1980 and 1983.  Sure, we were all excited for Episode I, and were sure it was going to recapture that magic, and all got burned (even if it took some of us longer than others to realize it).  But this feels different.  This doesn’t feel like an old lion trying to find his roar again.  This feels like someone who’s been given the best box of toys in the world and is asking us over to play.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go to bed until December.

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