NOTE: There could be SPOILERS ahead, but this is largely my speculation, so be warned:
Another day, another watching the Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer another dozen times. The trailer has really started to grow on me with each subsequent viewing, especially as I started to analyze what the trailer is telling us about the state of the galaxy, and delve a little deeper into thematic elements revealed in this brief 88 second preview.
1. John Boyega – Hero On the Run
As the trailer opens we reveal the desert sands of Tatooine (I don’t buy for one minute that we are going to be introduced to yet ANOTHER desert planet), as ominous music rises and a menacing voice says: “There’s been an awakening… Have you felt it?” Suddenly, Boyega jumps up in distress, clearly disheveled, and on the run.
One of the reasons I believe this is a revisit to Tatooine is that like many legends, and a number of the world’s major religions, they are all born out of the wilderness; or the desert to be more specific. In the Star Wars universe, Tatooine is that vast wilderness in which our myth finds its genesis. The story of Anakin, and later his son Luke, all originate from the desert wastlands of that planet that is farthest from the “bright center” of the universe. So once again, our hero will emerge from the wilderness to take on his/her task.
I also believe there is a specific reason John Boyega is the first person we meet in the trailer; it will be his “Hero’s Journey” we follow throughout the Sequel Trilogy. Somehow the Force has chosen to return through him. As we’ve seen in both the Prequel Trilogy and The Clone Wars, the Force is not simple some inert energy field surrounding all living things which is passive and is simply a tool to be used by someone with a connection to the Force. It is in fact an active agent; a sentient thing with its own will which it reveals to those who are willing to listen.
Somewhere in the galaxy there is a growing malevolence, as our dire narrator reveals later in the teaser; so it is very like the Force is calling out for a champion to restore balance to the Force once again. This of course begs the question, where is Luke, the Jedi who restored balance to the Force? As I speculated in an earlier piece, I believe Luke probably came to some realization that the Jedi way, while noble in its goals, was not necessarily the right way. The Jedi taught that attachment was forbidden, but Luke’s unconditional love for his father, which is an attachment, ultimately saved the universe. So clearly, something about the Jedi Code as we know it is amiss.
I never once bought the Expanded Universe notion that Luke would immediately set out to recreate the Jedi Order we saw in the Prequels; he would want to do something different. Even after Jedi (back when we thought the Empire was destroyed), I wondered if Luke would be more like Sanjuro Kuwabatake, the ronin Samurai we saw in Akira Kurosawa’s classic films Yojimbo and Sanjuro, dispensing justice and defending freedom throughout the galaxy. He would probably pass on that knowledge to another, like his sister, but would be looking to the galaxy at large, standing up to evil wherever he finds it. Maybe this is the reason Luke is largely absent during this 30 year period of civil war; there are other injustices in the universe to be fought than a seemingly never ending war. But this raises more questions…
2. The Dark Side – They Always Have the Coolest Lightsabers:
Who exactly is the hooded figure with his red bladed lighsaber longsword (affectionately called “Excalisaber” by Lazy Padawan). Could he be a fallen pupil of Luke’s? We’ve established in The Clone Wars that there is no life after death for the Sith. So this is not some resurrected Sith Lord, and if Luke is the last of the Jedi, and the Sith were destroyed in Return of the Jedi, then Luke has to be the catalyst for bringing about the reemergence of the Dark Side in some way.
This of course makes for some classic mythological storytelling, recalling the story of Lucifer and his expulsion from Heaven, Maybe this dark agent is the son of Luke who has chosen another path, once again echoing the fall of Anakin, but in this case it would be the father who redeems the son. There are many exciting story telling possibilities here which completely fit in with the type of modern myth George Lucas was trying to tell.
And while I was fairly ambivalent about the villain’s new lightsaber with its mini-saber cross guards, the design has really grown on me in the last few days when I view it in the context of a larger story. The design is a call back to the classic broadswords/longswords prevalent in Medieval lore. While Lazy Padawan jokingly referred to it as “Excalisaber” the name is very appropriate. The sight of the red blade igniting in a wintery forest setting evokes images of knights and castles… a feeling of something ancient; something that was lost to the mists of history, but has been found again. This Black Knight lies in wait, ready to pounce on our heroes, armed with his sword imbued with the power of some dark magic. It’s a great visual which really works in the Star Wars setting.
3. Daisy Ridley… Luke Skywalker was once a girl:
I really love the design aesthetic of Daisy Ridley’s character as it very reminiscent of early Ralph McQuarrie designs for Luke, back when George Lucas was toying with the idea of making his lead a young woman. Daisy jumps on her speeder bike in an outfit which closely resembles some early production paintings, right down to her riding goggles.
What I really love about this sequence is the determined look on her face, and this feeling I get that she is one who is quick to action. Whether or not she is the child of Han and Leia, I think she serves a similar role as Han, and both literally and figuratively drives John Boyega’s character into the fray, and really kick starts his Hero Journey.
I really do hope she turns out to be Han and Leia’s kid, but even if she’s not she will be a crucial player in the events of the Sequel Trilogy. But I appreciate the efforts of Abrams and Kennedy to go back and use some of McQuarrie’s discarded designs for inspiration. To me McQuarrie, John Barry, Norman Reynolds, and Joe Johnston were the key figures who created the visual language of the Saga from a production level. Their work inspired and informed the work of Gavin Bocquet, Doug Chiang , and Iain McCaig for the Prequel trilogy.
4. Music – How Could I Forget John Williams
One of the aspects of the teaser trailer I forgot to mention in my previous reports was John Williams brilliant music. There are some wonderful new bits of music for the first minute of the trailer before a new re-recording of the Star Wars theme takes over. it’s a very interesting mix of an older Williams style from the 70s mixed with a more familiar sound from Williams work over the past two decades.
The trailer begins with dissonant strings playing as we look at the Tatooine skyline. The piece sounds very similar to a short bit of music he wrote for Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Special Edition during the Gobi Desert sequence. Then we cut directly into the action with a very busty bit of music which felt like an action piece from the Prequels. The tone takes an ominous turn with the appearance of our villain. The Falcon and the Star Wars Main Theme bring us home to a rousing conclusion.
While it was just a short snippet of music, Williams once again demonstrates that his compositions for the Saga are almost like a character unto itself. It’s the Greek Chorus, informing us how we should feel as an audience, who we should fear, and who we should cheer for. He has built an enduring legacy with the Saga, and the film composers who take up the baton from this music icon for the spin off films, and future episodes of the Saga will be hard pressed to fill the enormous void his absence will leave.
Overview: That should about wrap it up for my analysis of the trailer for now. I may take another analytical look as more information about the film is revealed, but for now, until we get a full blown teaser trailer, I’ll just be satisfied watching this teaser a few more times.
May the Force Be With You