If there is one word I would use to describe the Star Wars: Episode VII teaser trailer, it would be tense.
From the first moment of the first shot, the viewer is filled with questions, none of which are completely answered. We’re sitting in front of our computer screens pulling our hair and screaming, “It’s a desert! Is it Tatooine? It’s gotta be Tatooine! WHAT IS THAT VOICE? What is it talking about? Woah! Who’s the guy in the Stormtrooper gear?!” and the questions go on and on.
J. J. Abrams is known for holding his cards close to his chest but letting the corner of one slip every once in a while. While not the best poker strategy, this is great for building cinematic hype. We have been given very few details, but even with the limited amount of screentime and information, everyone seems to have plenty to say about the quality of the trailer and what it means for the next addition to the Star Wars saga.
One article by Evan Engel of Medium.com brings up a few interesting criticisms, namely that Star Wars is, at its core, a “space opera,” and this teaser does not seem to honor that legacy. He says the trailer has some “engaging shots, but they’re the stuff of sci-fi action-adventure films,” which this franchise is beyond.
He is right, up to a point. Characters like Darth Vader and Obi-wan Kenobi have become modern mythological giants with the same clout as Odysseus or Beowulf. But the key difference is that Beowulf comes from an ancient text. Vader and Ben are creatures of cinema, and cinema changes. I too want to see the space opera aspect of these films, but this is a teaser trailer for a modern sci-fi film. Movie-goers want action, and if that is not promised, interest will wane. Yes, Star Wars is a space opera, but it is also a spaghetti western, and what is a western without a few good shootouts?
Many viewers, Engel included, are also worried about Abrams’ work on the Star Trek reboot bleeding into the Star Wars franchise. This is also a valid concern. The two sagas, similar title aside, are very different sci-fi adventures. Bringing in the same director for both of them is making fans understandably nervous.
My opinion? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Abrams did great work on Star Trek and there is no reason Star Wars VII shouldn’t be a smash too.
Fans will also be relieved knowing Andy Serkis has been confirmed as the twisted narrator of the teaser talking about an “awakening”. There are even rumors that Serkis could be playing multiple roles. Nothing is confirmed, but I would have no problem with Serkis playing a dark Force-user. Adam Driver looks like he would be a great Sith, but Serkis, a tested and proven expert in voice-over and CGI work, has the potential to create a villain of limitless possibilities.
One detail I haven’t seen get a ton of attention is the shots of the Stormtroopers in the troop transport. In the past, Stormtroopers have seemed more like Saturday morning cartoon henchmen than trained soldiers, but the teaser makes this new brand of trooper seem cold, organized and deadly. It would be a nice change of pace to feel your gut tighten in fear when Stormtroopers enter the scene.
The other big change, the one that people can’t seem to stop talking about, is the crossguard lightsaber. Now, I’m not going to touch the conversation about whether the saber is useful or realistic. On this subject, I will defer to the disturbingly knowledgeable Stephen Colbert:
I will, however, speculate about this hooded character’s origins. After consulting my resident Star Wars expert (my equally nerdy roommate), I have landed on three possibilities for the explanation behind this character and his strange blade.
Option one is that he is a rogue Force-user turned to the Dark Side by his own curiosity. Maybe after discovering his connection to the Force he sought knowledge and found a Dark Side holocron or records of Darth Vader and the Emperor. Being a newcomer to Sith teachings and not having a teacher to guide him, it makes sense that he would create a lightsaber with a crossguard and a chaotic looking light. Maybe the weapon was shoddily put together and he has no one to correct his mistakes.
Option two, my personal favorite, is that the character is an ancient Sith Lord who was entombed long ago and, for one reason or another, has been awakened. This would explain the medieval look to the lightsaber and his stumbling into the scene in the trailer.
There are also rumors floating around that the hooded figure is an assassin of sorts, trained in the Dark Side by Darth Vader to exterminate the remaining Jedi. This would explain the prominence of the pale Inquisitor of the Star Wars: Rebels cartoon.
Whatever the case, I’m just excited that the Star Wars movie saga has been given new life. And hey, the next three movies can’t be as bad as the prequels, right?