There are a number of persistent questions and theories about the upcoming Star Wars movie. Some of them are quite smart, like “why do people keep asking about Finn’s identity when Rey doesn’t have a last name either?” Others are bafflingly dumb, like “why haven’t we seen Luke yet?” (We have.) Many are in between. Without even getting into rumors, spoilers, and plot details gleaned from the packaging of The Force Awakens toys, we already have several trailers and TV spots to help us educatedly speculate about the upcoming film, answer some questions, and disabuse ourselves of others.
Let’s start at the beginning.
The first official teaser for The Force Awakens, published November 28th, 2014.
Message: Star Wars is back!
Underlying Message: And it is scary again!!!
Who we saw: Finn, BB-8, Storm Troopers, Rey, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren, and we heard the voice of Supreme Leader Snoke
What we learned about the movie: It has a sucky title, but looks really cool. TIE fighters, the Falcon, X-Wings, and a lightsaber!
What we learned about ourselves: Many of us are very excited about the movie. A few people chose to be awful and get upset that the ranks of the First Order may be more diverse than the US Senate.
Questions answered: This is not the Jar-Jar-kid-friendly Star Wars that Lucas settled into as he aged, this is the Stormtroopers massacre the crew and Vader chokes a guy Star Wars we remember from our youth. None of us wants to get disappointed again and this trailer broke through that wariness and gave us cause to get excited.
Official Teaser #2
Message: That’s no dune.
Underlying Message: This is going to be the Ozymandias of Star Wars movies.
Who we saw: Vader’s mask, Luke Skywalker with R2D2, Maz Kanata handing a lightsaber to General Leia, Poe Dameron, Rey, Finn, Captain Phasma, BB-8, Chewbacca, and Han Solo. Luke Skywalker provided the voice over.
What we learned about the movie: So things haven’t gone so well since Jedi, eh?
What we learned about ourselves: We are really pumped to have new Star Wars movies that have the original Star Wars characters in them. We are also, apparently, willing to accept that 30 years later Chewie is still wielding a skeumorphic crossbow-blaster. Come on, Chewie, time to start packing something more form-follows-functiony.
Questions answered: For reasons I cannot understand, a great many online commentators (and some nerds I know personally) continue to say “we haven’t seen Luke Skywalker at all.” Some even wonder if Kylo Ren is actually Luke in disguise. WTF, people? Watch the trailer from 0:45-0:50: there is Luke Skywalker, chilling with the Skywalker family astromech droid aka R2D2, in a white tunic and black cloak. And just in case you didn’t already know it was Luke from all that, he also says “I have it” right as he appears on screen, and then even shows us the remarkably-inheritable Skywalker robot hand. Have we seen Luke Skywalker’s face? No, and that is almost certainly for a particular reason. Have we seen Luke Skywalker? Yes, we have, and soon enough we will see Kylo Ren with a hood off looking decidedly not-Luke-Skywalkery.
Message: The struggle is being passed from dear old characters to fresh new characters.
Underlying Message: Minor key minimal piano and a bit of lens flare – basically the JJ Abrams version of tagging.
Who we saw: Rey, BB-8, Finn, Kylo Ren, Poe Dameron, Han Solo, the Knights of Ren, Luke yes Luke Skywalker with R2D2, Captain Phasma, and General Leia.
What we learned about the movie: It is going to involve a shit ton of fan service, a la Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot. Think about it: new guy with a blue lightsaber, epic badass with red lightsaber and awesome helmet, a desert planet (episode 4), an ice planet (episode 5), and a jungle planet (episode 6). And there is some kind of mega weapon involved in all this. This trailer simultaneously assures me the movie will be fun and concerns me that it might be a little too on the nose.
What I learned about myself: Lightsabers are my love language. Also, I lived long enough to see a Star Wars trailer premiere during a football game.
Questions answered: Kylo Ren is not Luke Skywalker. Look at 1:58 – 1:59: there is Kylo, about to face off with Finn, with no hood or helmet on. Does he have Mark Hamill’s wispy hair? No, he has Adam Driver’s voluminous do, kind of like this guy:
Can we please be done with the maybe Luke is Kylo thing now?
That’s all the official trailers. Now let’s do a quick review of the additional info gleamed from a handful of official TV spots and the international trailer.
Official TV Spot #1
Theme: Something about eyes. Also, “every generation has a story” sounds good until you realize that means the prequel trilogy kids are a lost generation.
New stuff: A couple of brief new shots of the Falcon flying, Kylo Ren waving his lightsaber around, and we also get to see Rey kick a little ass.
Official TV Spot #2
Theme: Fan service.
New stuff: Kylo Ren wants to show us his “Dark Side.” Also, Finn has a brief moment of melee combat using a lightsaber agains a Stormtrooper. The trooper apparently has something that can effectively tussle with a lightsaber.
Official Finn TV Spot
Theme: The Jedi with No (last) Name.
New stuff: Yes, that Stormtrooper totally has some anti-lightsaber weapon, and it looks a lot like the Lasat bo-rifle from Star Wars Rebels. Also Kylo Ren is good at blocking blaster shots.
Bonus: International Trailer
Theme: Family stuff
New stuff: BB-8 sounds adorable! General Leia looks cool in her war room. Kylo Ren apparently gets really close to killing Rey at some point, or maybe she just had a bug on her shoulder. Hard to tell.
Summary: We may or may not be home
The trailers make it clear that the movie is going to look awesome and be action packed. The theme of a generational battle between good and evil, not just for the galaxy, but for the Skywalker family itself, is on display and that is great. That is the definitely good news. The possibly bad news is that the movie seems to be jam-packed with fan service, which does not always make for the best story.
JJ Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek outing was an excellent reboot of that franchise, keeping many of the themes and qualities of the original Trek movies intact while moving the story into a new universe and powered by a new cast. Maybe that will happen here. In 2013, Abrams returned to the Star Trek franchise with the highly entertaining, but mythologically risible, Into Darkness. It was sort of like someone taking your favorite comfort food from childhood (The Wrath of Khan / polska kielbasa), putting it into a blender, pouring it into a glass, and serving it up like it was an homage instead of a vile transmogrification of a classic movie. But I digress.
My point is simply that the trailers look cool and confirm the movie will look cool, but The Phantom Menace trailers looked cool too, so we really don’t know anything. Except that the movie will at least be aimed at adult Star Wars fans and that is something. Oh, and we know we have seen Luke and he isn’t Kylo Ren. We know that.