Some quick background: I am the self-proclaimed Star Wars expert of WIUX. I think my peers would back me up on this, albeit with some eye-rolling. I know the backstories. I know the names of starships. I know the best order to watch the franchise in (4, 5, 2, 3, 6), and I’ll go on and on about why it’s the best way. I don’t so much have conversations about Star Wars so much as I talk at people about it. Essentially, the instant a snippet of a John Williams score comes on, I turn into an oversized 6-year old boy. More on that later.
I didn’t get to see the new (and technically first full) trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens when it aired during Monday Night Football on ESPN (ESPN is owned by Disney, who also now owns Star Wars). That’s a shame, because events like this don’t really happen anymore and I wanted to be a part of the experience. It was the most in-depth look we’ve had at the new movie since last April. The two teasers that preceded this trailer told us virtually nothing plot-related, which I appreciated. This trailer still didn’t reveal much in the way of plot, but it really opened up some interesting talking points.
Bad guy Kylo Ren, who is not a Sith but rather a Force-sensitive being, views Darth Vader as something of a martyr whose work must be finished. The shot of Vader’s charred helmet was chillingly juxtaposed against the sleekness of Ren’s own headgear. Similarly, the First Order is not a fragmented Imperial remnant, but rather an organization inspired by the ideals of the Empire. Rogue/dashing hero/scruffy-looking nerf herder Han Solo is now a true believer in the Force. New protagonists Rey and Finn share some sort of connection and are likely to learn the ways of the Force, although it’s unclear from whom or where. R2-D2 is still rolling around but now has to split the “Adorable Droid Hero” billing with BB-8 who quite literally rolls around (it is a ball). There’s still no Luke (although we can assume that robot hand on R2 is his), but there is Leia. And it sounds like, for whatever reason, the events of Episodes IV-VI have been relegated to the stuff of myth or legend. When Han growls, “It’s true; all of it,” the sheer amazement on Rey and Finn’s faces indicate a degree of disbelief existed before.
The looks on their faces mirrored my own as I watched the trailer for the first (and second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth…) time. I imagine the same can be said for anyone else that watched it. The trailers we’ve seen so far have helped us eradicate our own disbelief in the idea that Star Wars could be great again. The idea that, nearly 40 years on and 10 removed from the disastrous prequel trilogy, it can engender childlike wonder and excitement. That it can turn jaded cynics into little kids for just a moment. That the mere sight of the Millennium Falcon barrel-rolling across a planet’s surface, the shriek of a TIE Fighter as it screams into combat against X-Wings, the ignition of a lightsaber can put us on the edge of our seats and make our eyes well up. It’s all there in this trailer, and it should all be there in the film.
I was asked by one of my peers last year what I found so enthralling about the teaser trailers that had come out. She was having trouble understanding just exactly what it was that made me so hysterically excited. She had also never seen any of the films, which is understandable and made the question fair. I told her that watching those trailers made me feel like a wide-eyed little kid again. Like I was 6-years old and watching an Imperial Star Destroyer slowly crawl across the screen, or watching Luke Skywalker ignite his lightsaber for the very first time. That always used to make me jump, no matter how many times I’d seen it. I felt like I was being taken to some wild and beautiful place I’d never been before, and into an adventure that I would never forget. I think that’s the real beauty of these movies, at least at their best. They have the power to transport you. Not just to a new planet or galaxy, but backwards in time to when this was all brand new to us. It’s sheer excitement and romance and discovery.
Nothing that has come so far has made me think this movie will be bad, or that the future of the franchise is in question. Director J.J. Abrams has a good track record with reboots (the 2009 Star Trek movie was insanely fun and held so much promise), and the fact that he’ll be passing the baton off to other directors is encouraging (his Star Trek follow-up Into Darkness was uninspired fan service). December 18th can’t come soon enough, because I can’t wait to feel six-years-old again. And if this movie delivers like I think it will, we’ll all have plenty more opportunities to feel like kids again.