The Force Awakens Teaser: Impressions and Speculation

For the purposes of this, I’m going to assume you’ve already seen the trailer. I’m including it here for your benefit, in case you’ve somehow missed it, or want to see it again. Certainly not so I will watch it again. However could you think such a thing?

The trailer opens with a shot of Tatooine, a backwater world of little importance in the Galactic scheme yet a prominent feature in both previous trilogies. It looks to fill a similar role here. I’m not really complaining, I like Tatooine as much as the next guy, but it is weird, isn’t it, that they have an entire galaxy worth of venues to visit but continue to return to Tatooine? If there was a place with all the world’s best restaurants collected under one roof, would you continually leave to go to McDonalds? Tatooine has cool toys, for sure: Hutts and Mos Eisley and strange partially-buried dinosaur bones. But when your primary crop is moisture harvested from the air, you’ve got some serious problems to overcome as a tourist destination.

Tatooine is sparsely populated

But whatever: if JJ means to kick the sand off Harrison Ford’s flagging tires, I suppose I can’t fault him for playing the nostalgia card here. Tatooine goes hand-in-hand with Skywalkers, so as long as they’re around, Tatooine will be too. And, being fair, the brown dust ball has featured in the initial movie that kicked off the other trilogies, so there’s that symmetry to consider.

Hello, what have we here?

Boyega_Stormtrooper

I don’t think it discredits me as a man to admit I jumped a bit at Boyega’s sudden appearance. I did not see that coming somehow. Let’s move on.

Who is he? I don’t think he’s posing as a Stormtrooper, and Halloween was months ago, so that leaves only one option: Boyega is an Imperial. I love that the Empire is still around in this future. I’m hoping we get to see what it’s like for the faceless grunts inside the white armored suits, before Boyega’s eventual (inevitable?) defection to the Rebel / Republic side.

I love the panic on his face. Something is going down and he is not happy about it at all. Just barely audible in the background is the unmistakable sound of an Imperial probe droid. Is Boyega being hunted by his own forces? That might explain the look of terror. Or it could just be that he’s sweating profusely on a planet so arid it must harvest moisture from the air and he left his canteen back on the shuttle.

As for the actor himself: I’ve only seem him in the latest season of 24. It was a small role, but he didn’t fumble it. There is more emotion in these few seconds then we got out of Pinocchio Hayden Christensen through 2 entire movies, so we’re firmly in the credit column so far.

And yes, he’s black. Get over it people. If you want to hide your racism behind continuity, fine – I’ll play. The Empire phased out the use of clones long ago because copies of copies don’t make for effective soldiers. I haven’t read Star Wars EU stuff in a decade or more so I’m not 100% on the details, but there are no more clone soldiers and that is official.

Here we go again.

Soccer_Droid

What the hell is this? Did Lucas bust into Skywalker ranch and splice the video with some CGI foolishness? Like this? Good heavens.

The droid’s top is reminiscent of R2-D2. The body-ball makes sense for navigating Tatooine’s sand dunes, but I’d rather have spent these precious few seconds looking at the backside of a Dewback than yet another ‘cute’ character. Moving on…

Maybe it’s another drill.

Stormtroopers

Ho boy – this looks sweet! I love the gritty feel, the dark tone. Something is about to go down.

The new-look helmets are awesome. Not as fond of the new white-on-black blaster rifle, but whatevs. It’s encouraging to see that the galaxy has continued to evolve in the past 20 in-world years.

One of these dudes is too short to be a Stormtrooper. It’d be kinda amazing if Skywalker is chilling in that suit. More likely it’s Boyega.

Open the blast doors!

Stormtroopers_Dropship

Can’t really tell where they are going, but I don’t think it’s a social call. These boys are going into battle.

I’m reminded of Star Wars: Republic Commando, a FPS that came out way back when for the original Xbox. This shot has the same vibe I remember from that game, that sense of squad-based tension.

To this point, when I first watched the trailer, I was feeling cautiously pumped. It looked like a decent sci-fi movie, something akin to the Halo Forward Unto Dawn movie, but it didn’t feel like Star Wars yet. I see Stormtroopers and hear probe droids, and yes, that’s all for the good. But it is a knowing of the head, not the heart.

It sounds like she’s in trouble. I’d better play back the whole thing.

Padme_Look_Alike

I don’t know this actress from Sy Snootles, but I’ll say one thing about the casting: they did a damn good job. My very first, split-second thought when she popped on the screen was ‘Padme?’ She’s got the right look for the part of Leia’s daughter, assuming that is who she is meant to be.

Again, I am digging the tension in these scenes, the sense that something important is going on just off to the side.

Where are you taking this… thing?

Padme_Dumb_Speeder

This has got to be the most ridiculous speeder I’ve ever seen, if it is in fact meant to be a speeder. It looks neither slender nor fast. Maybe it’s some sort of farm equipment pressed into duty as a personal transport. I don’t know. Either way, it definitely looks goofy.

Cut the chatter, Red 2. Accelerate to attack speed.

Rebel_Pilot

Is this our new Wedge? I know nothing of the actor, but he looks suitably intense and focused.

Luke, at that speed do you think you’ll be able to pull out in time?

X-Wings

Holy wow.

Seeing the X-Wings skimming the water, S-foils firmly locked into attack position, is at once familiar and at the same time something we’ve never seen before. And then we get the sound, that familiar roar of the X-Wing’s engines. It’s amazing how much of the Star Wars experience is wrapped up in the sound design, but it’s there. Part of the failings of the prequels may have been that there was too few familiar things, including the sound. Well, besides the wretched script, wooden acting, and over-reliance on CGI madness.

This scene right here is when it really started to sink in. This is Star Wars, for real. The prequels were distant cousins at best. The first time watching the teaser, I may have started making fist pumping motions at this point, I can’t clearly recall as my brain kinda shut down.

Give yourself to the Dark Side.

Sith_Sword

A glimpse of the new Sith antagonist? Or merely his henchman?

His lightsaber sounds visceral, almost angry, in a way previous lightsabers haven’t. And the blade itself seems both thinner and more unstable than what we’ve seen in the past. Is this guy using really old tech, the lightsaber equivalent of Windows ’95? Or did he create his own weapon using half-understood designs? Regardless: I am intrigued. Yes please, can I have some more?

I’m a bit torn on the whole crossguard thing. On one hand, it’s kinda cool, and I could see how it would be functional. But I fear this is just another entry in the lightsaber arms-race, where the ante is continually bumped up until we are forced to confront the ridiculous. Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber was – and still is – amazing. But Grevious wielding 4 lightsabers? Not so much.

What we see here doesn’t quite look like a lightsaber so much as a glowing sword. Hopefully the guard is there for a good, functional, reason, and not just to make the poster art look cool. In JJ I trust.

She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.

Yeehaw

cue Star Wars theme

cue Millenium Falcon engine roar

cue lasers

cue scream of TIE fighters

cue tears

This shot, accompanied by the sudden swell of John William’s theme, is pure magic. Instantly I was transformed back into a grinning kid.

There is fluidity and grace in this shot, the likes of which we haven’t really seen in Star Wars before. Here is a use of CGI I can stand behind.

Falcon_TIEs

When I was a kid, it was the Millenium Falcon that my action figures boarded, racing from Imperial pursuit. And as a father, the Millenium Falcon was the first ship I bought my kid, right after he’d accumulated the principle characters. The importance of having her back in these movies can’t be understated. The Millenium Falcon is a character unto itself, and is core to Star Wars in the way that lightsabers and Jedi are.

I assume (and hope) that Han is in the pilot’s chair, with Chewbacca beside him.

Remember, the Force will be with you… always.

Logo

And… that’s it. Wow. Let’s run that back a few dozen times, eh?

I went in expecting something quite different, slow shots of the original characters in profile or something. This is much better. I actually don’t mind that we didn’t see Han or Luke or Leia. We got the Millenium Falcon!

Who’s the more foolish… the fool or the fool who follows him?

If you only came to recap the trailer, you can safely turn away now. From this point forward we enter the no-man’s land of speculation.

I’m going to spend the rest of this post considering the implications of the voice-over, which I’ve neglected to mention to this point. Here it is:

There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it?

The Dark Side. And the Light.

I think we can safely assume some things from both the title and this monologue. In the 20-some years between Episode VI and VII, Luke is the only Jedi (yes, I’m putting aside Leia). Sure, there will always be people with latent abilities: backwater mystics and inconsistent psychics and whathaveyou, people who unwittingly call upon the Force on occasion. But true Force users, being those that can command the Force at will, don’t exist. And then something awakens the Force, changing everything. (I hope that something is both cool and realistic, and not a Lost-style Smoke Monster without substance. Pun intended.)

I had kinda assumed Luke spent the last 20 years putting together a Jedi Academy, as the EU books explored. But maybe he couldn’t find enough sensitives to train. Being a Skywalker, Leia’s daughter, she of the slow speeder, would presumably have latent Force abilities, but maybe she takes after her father and doesn’t put stock in hokey religions. Wouldn’t that be a fun call-back, and a frustrating obstacle for Luke? I can just imagine the Galaxy’s lone Jedi Master puttering around in his old T-16 Skyhopper, waiting for the girl to change her mind, all the while heckled by the ghosts of Obi-Wan and Yoda.

The Dark Side monologue suggests we’re to see the sudden appearance of a lot of Force Sensitives. Which could explain that DYI-style Sith lightsaber. And it also highlights a potential danger: if a bunch of people suddenly manifest Force powers, it could quickly go sideways as emotions take over and people start behaving badly, like a Jedi version of puberty. The first season of Heroes explored this concept, as everyday people suddenly came into awesome powers. Some used them for good, many did not. It’s an interesting blueprint to follow, so long as they only watched the first season.

I’m kinda hoping they do away with the rule of two, but it’s a tricky balancing act. If the movie introduces too many Sith and Jedi, it risks watering the conflict down into a Geonosis arena stylized light show. Still, it might be cool to see a 3×3 lightsaber fight. Or maybe a 3-on-1 battle (hey, Luke has to go down somehow).

There is one last thing to say about the monologue: the speaker himself. Not so much the actor, though the revelation that the voice belongs to Andy Serkis, the mo-cap master behind Gollum, does imply something interesting about the character he’s playing. But what is truly interesting about the monologue is the implied context. Serkis speaks not as one newly awoken to the Force, but as one already aware of it. “But I thought all the Sith died out with Vader and the Emperor”, you say, before inquiring about a trip to Tosche Station to pickup some power converters. Perhaps not.

It’s possible that Serkis is only an old Sith holocron, a kind of ghost trapped in a glass house, but not only would that be a gross misuse of his physical talents, it just doesn’t make sense. A holocron is little more than an interactive recording, and has no more ability to sense the presence or absence of the Force than I do. Who is Serkis, then? Let me run back some tape from Episode III.

Palpatine: Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise he could use the Force to influence the midichlorians to create life… He had such a knowledge of the dark side that he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.

Now, old Palpy goes on to say that Plagueis was struck down in his sleep, and the implication is that Palpatine was the one swinging the sword. But what if Plagueis didn’t truly die? Maybe he just went away, becoming a Force ghost or something else, and has since been lying in wait for an explosion of Force energy into which he could tap to regain his form. The previous Sith regime (Palpatine and Vader) subscribed to the rule of two and snubbed out any other competition. And in all the Star Wars canon (that being the movies), only one person has ever been said to conquer death: Darth Plagueis.

Making Plagueis the baddie is a nice call-back to Episode III, and it immediately sets up a very dangerous antagonist for our heroes, one that will tax Luke and perhaps destroy him. How do you kill that which can’t be killed?

Maybe I’m diverting too far into crazy town. But I think this has a ring of possibility to it that can’t be easily denied.

There remains one other question, of course. To whom is the speaker speaking? An apprentice? Luke? There are lots of interesting questions and theories to ponder, and we’ve a whole year in which to do so.

This teaser has awakened something in me, something so lost I’d neglected to note its absence. I’m excited beyond words for Star Wars again. I literally can’t find the words to express how excited I am. I’m even considering doing something I’ve not done in ~15 years: read a Star Wars novel. I’ve already picked one out: Darth Plagueis. It’s not canon, of course, but I look forward to reading it nonetheless.

May the Force be with you!

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