The New Star Wars Trailer and What We Learned From It

It’s been over two years since George Lucas announced that Disney was taking over the galaxy far, far away, and we’re still over a year away from the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. What a rush it was to finally get a short glimpse of what new director J.J. Abrams has in store for us.

The teaser trailer for The Force Awakens spans just 88 seconds. To put that in perspective, the first trailer for the much-maligned (rightfully so) Episode I: The Phantom Menace was 123 seconds long, and significantly more confusing. Indeed, the Episode VII trailer is shorter than its prequel counterparts, and gives away far, far less in the way of plot or spoilers.

The response has been mixed. Many have reacted with suspicion, or even disdain, stemming from Lucas’s perceived mishandling of the prequel trilogy and tampering with the original trilogy. Many are also weary of Abrams’ track record as a director with little to say in terms of plot substance. Some are already giving the film (again, a year away from release) poor ratings.

But for many others (including myself), this trailer served its purpose to perfection. It gave us just enough in the way of style, showing some subtle changes while retaining some old familiar sights. It was legitimately exciting, and I’d bet that a good chunk of other views thought so too. It did exactly what a teaser trailer is supposed to do: whet our appetites in preparation for the full length trailer, and eventually the film itself.

So what exactly did we learn from the trailer? The answer is a bit complicated: a lot, and nothing at the same time. Here’s what we did find out:

  • THERE HAS BEEN AN AWAKENING. Have you felt it?
  • THERE WILL BE A DESERT PLANET. It’s not clear whether this is familiar old Tatooine (home to Skywalkers, Hutts, moisture farmers, and space scum), but there is sand and there are dunes and it looks hot.
  • THERE ARE STORMTROOPERS. Despite being set 30-40 years after the events of Episode VI, it appears as though remnants of the Galactic Empire are still active. The stormtroopers, the Empire’s iconic, white-clad foot soldiers, have undergone a subtle redesign and look more menacing than ever. We see them briefly during what appears to be a landing operation, their helmets flickering in and out of sight in the darkness.
  • THERE ARE NEW DROIDS. This one looks like someone took R2-D2’s head and attached it to a huge soccer ball. It’s wacky, though perhaps not as wacky as the robots featured in Interstellar (which were nuts).
  • THERE ARE X-WINGS: The Rebel Alliance’s old stalwart starfighter is back, although slightly redesigned. The S-foils (“lock S-foils in attack position”) are a bit different; they fold together instead of atop one another. We briefly see several them skimming across a lake, kicking up water in their wakes. An amazing image.
  • THERE IS A NEW SITH (?????) We have no idea who/what that cloaked figure in the woods is. All we know is that he/she/it looks extremely menacing and
  • HOLY SHIT THAT LIGHTSABER. Is it canon? Yes, a quick check into Wookiepedia (the all-encompassing Star Wars wiki; do not go there, you will never get out) verified that “crossguard lightsabers”, as they are known, are real but extremely rare. Is it practical? No idea. Is it badass? HELL YES.
  • THE MILLENNIUM FALCON IS BACK. In all its worn, grimy, legendary glory. Who’s piloting it? Is it Han? Has he bequeathed it to someone younger and more adventurous (hard to imagine) than himself? We have no idea, and frankly we don’t care. That was probably the most spine-tingling moment of the whole trailer. The Falcon, barrel-rolling over the desert, dogfighting with TIE fighters, as the Star Wars main theme plays over it. Breathtaking.
  • THERE IS A SCORE BY JOHN WILLIAMS. As composer of arguably the greatest (certainly the most recognizable) movie score of all time, it’s comforting to know that Williams is back on board for these films.
  • THERE IS LENSFLARE. It’s J.J. Abrams, after all.

So there are lots of little glimpses of things to come. There are, however, many things we don’t see.

  • WE DON’T SEE LUKE, LEIA, HAN, OR ANY OTHER FAMILIAR CHARACTER. They’re all on-board for this movie, but none of them are featured in the trailer. Not even C-3PO or R2-D2. That’s a little refreshing; they’re placing the focus on the newcomers. We see John Boyega in stormtrooper armor. We see Daisy Ridley flying across the desert on a bulky speeder. We see Oscar Isaac piloting an X-Wing, in a shot that is happily reminiscent of the starfighter scenes of the original trilogy. These are all relatively unknown actors, and it’s exciting to see what they’re going to do.
  • WE DON’T SEE ANY IDENTIFIABLE VILLAIN. Other than the guy with the insane lightsaber, but we still have no idea who or what he is. We do hear an extremely menacing voice (“there has been an awakening”), so we can assume that dude’s probably a bad guy. Good call, J.J. Abrams. Not showing me who the bad guy is only makes me want to find out more.
  • WE DON’T SEE/KNOW/HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT HAPPENED TO THE EMPIRE OR REBELLION. We know that they both still exist in some capacity (stormtroopers=Empire remnants? X-Wings=New Republic?). It’ll be extremely interesting to see what the post-Empirical galactic landscape is like.

Any Star Wars fan has probably watched the trailer far too many times to count already. There’s only so much we can glean from 88 seconds. But it certainly achieved its objective of getting everyone excited for The Force Awakens.

Just over a year. That’s far too much time. Hopefully, after over a decade of Lucas-helmed disappointments, Abrams can reinvigorate one of the most iconic movie franchises of all time. It’s time for Star Wars to be exciting again.