Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Reel Opinion: A Trailer Long Remembered

In one of the most unique events in cinema, last night’s Monday Night Football telecast became center-stage for the film industry, as Disney and LucasFilm debuted the third and final trailer for their upcoming STAR WARS – EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS during halftime. The premiere, which gave the game a ratings spike and enthralled old and new fans, was preceded by online ticket pre-sales which crashed major websites such as Fandago and AMC and shattered sales records. The trailer, which runs just over two minutes and thirty seconds, offered a galaxy-sized heaping of material to digest. Here are the notable moments…

The early moments of the trailer fully introduced the newest members of the STAR WARS universe, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega). Backstories for both characters were given, and in a few short seconds established who they are and what they’re looking for. This was a smart move to begin the trailer this way. The STAR WARS universe is chock full of beloved characters, and the first order of business should be to properly introduce the new ones.

A shift in gears, and the new Big Bad of the galaxy is introduced, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). STAR WARS has always had a great villain in every film, and the early goings show that Kylo is on his way to establishing himself on that list. With an iconic look and an apparent obsession with the ultimate Big Bad, Darth Vader, Kylo appears several times in the trailer and steals every scene.

A shift in gears, and the true meat of the trailer, and perhaps the film, arrives. Rey and Finn appear again, this time in the friendly and familiar confines of the greatest spaceship of all time, the Millennium Falcon, along with one of the most popular characters of all time, Han Solo (Harrison Ford). In this short clip, the new characters are questioning Han about the past (episodes 1 through 6); a past which has now fallen into myth. In a nice move, Han seems to be taking on a mentor role as he provides some explanation to the two newcomers. And then, the surprise of the century comes. Han Solo, long a doubter of the mystical Jedi and the Force, comes right out and tells Finn and Rey that it’s all real, that it all really does happen. This was a pleasant shock to fans as Han has apparently turned a corner, and the unanswered questions of how or why he changed are fascinating.

All this is interspersed with some glorious shots of the Falcon in hyperspace and being chased by enemy TIE Fighters, some aerial dogfighting, new character Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) piloting an X-wing and going through some sort of trauma under the hand of Ren, some lightsaber action, a beautiful shot of Han Solo and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) in embrace, Han and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) together again (not in an embrace), Finn facing off against Ren…and then a gentle ending as a voiceover, provided by Fisher, adds a warming quote which has already established itself as one of the best in STAR WARS lore. All this backed by John Williams’ new and glorious variations on the old themes, which sounds incredible.

The most talked-about element of the trailer is what’s not in there; specifically, the absence of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Hamill has yet to fully appear in any of the trailers or posters, as Disney and LucasFilm seem to be playing Luke’s storyline very close to the chest. While this has been frustrating for many fans, this is actually a brilliant move; when Luke finally does appear on-screen after all these years, perhaps wielding a mighty green lightsaber, the payoff will be tremendous. Good and great things come to those who wait.

Overall, the trailer is very effective and accomplishes a lot. It establishes characters and the new universe they inhabit while not giving away too much, answers a few questions while raising many more, and the footage looks stunningly gorgeous. The thirty-year generational gap between this episode and the previous is addressed directly, and that alone introduces a timeless and human element. The third and final trailer is a knockout, and now all that’s left is the wait.


THE FORCE AWAKENS on December 18th. See the trailer HERE

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