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The Star Wars teaser is out. You may have heard.
When I first watched it I was mostly just confused. Was it fan-made? Was it real? Had they already started filming? I haven’t been keeping up with the gossip, and was under the vague impression the film wasn’t coming out until 2017 or so, so the fact that existed at all took me by surprise. It wasn’t terrible, but it was just… ehh.
But after brooding on it for a day or two, and suffering the deep emotional trauma of learning that a family member by marriage (not Helpdesk Man) actually got excited about it, I have decided that actually, I’m mad. Because it was terrible.
Because the purpose of the Star Wars teaser – arguably any teaser, but particularly this teaser – shouldn’t be to give us plot hints or show off fancy ship designs or introduce a bunch of new characters. The purpose should be to reassure us. Its job was to show us the tone of the new film in a way that said “It’s OK, people; I get Star Wars. I’m not going to muck this up. It’s going to be fresh and character-driven and exciting and funny and gritty and a little bit cheesy. I know why you loved the films, I know why you hated the prequels, and I agree with you. Trust me.”
And instead, JJ Abrams gave us a billion reasons yo expect the worst.
What does Star Wars need? Lightsaber duels that don’t rely on ever-more-ridiculous, fanciful lightsaber designs (or lightsaber quantities), but which work because they’re character-driven and emotionally-charged. Did we get that? Nope, we got Absurd Lightsaber Hilt Guy. Great.
What does Star Wars need? A core group of characters bound together by love and loyalty and scrapping and laughter and danger and mutual trust. What did the trailer show us? Pretty much no two characters interacting. In fact, pretty much no characters showing character. ‘Voicerover Guy is probably evil’ doesn’t count. And for the record, slowly voicing portentous statements of doom in a creepy voice isn’t cool any more. Didn’t work in the prequels; didn’t work here.
What does Star Wars need? Realism. Grittiness. Textures. Some assurance that the new films won’t suck the life out of every scene with greenscreen and sharp-edged CGI. What does the trailer give us? A bunch of clean-looking CGI shots.
What does Star Wars need? Action sequences that are, again, character-driven and emotion-fuelled: but also creative. The Falcon hiding inside a space worm on an asteroid and floating away with the garbage. Han Solo shooting blind while Leia strangles the Hutt to death with his own chain. Star-Lord ripping open a necrocraft with a mining ship, dropping down inside and flying the ship with a ship – OK, not Star Wars, but if you want a blueprint for how to make the new Star Wars awesome, Abrams, take a long hard look at Guardians of the Galaxy and then hire that director instead. And in the teaser trailer? Generic shots of CGI ships flying fast and stormtroopers marching. Creative.
What does the new Star Wars need? To stand on its own two feet, not clinging desperately to past glory in an effort to gain nostalgia points. What do we get? A shot of the Falcon, reminding us of the rather depressing fact that the young and beautiful Han Solo is going to appear craggy and old and cameo-ed. (Because Indiana Jones 4 worked so well.) Look, we don’t need to see Han and Leia and Luke. They had their time. Let them go. Do your own thing. It’s a vast universe, and the prequels made it amply clear that shoehorning once-beloved characters into someone else’s story does nobody any favours.
Now, of course it’s possible the film will be infinitely better than the trailer. Pixar makes awful trailers and fantastic movies; the thing can be done. Kasdan’s involved. Abrams did a good job on Star Trek. So I’m not entirely giving up hope on Star Wars VII just yet. But the fact remains that the teaser isn’t promising, and given that the prequels’ major problem was Lucas being surrounded by yes-men, and given that fans have an unprecedented ability to influence movies – even after principal photography has wrapped! – by voicing their opinions, I think the worst thing we can do is decide that the teaser’s cool simply because it’s Star Wars. The last thing JJ Abrams needs is to see thousands of fan comments saying “Wow, this is so awesome!” over a mediocre trailer. He needs to be constantly pushed to include more heart, more fun, more humour and more Star Warsiness into the movie.
Then again, maybe I’m just jealous they didn’t use my teaser trailer idea. Which, incidentally, would have been awesome. Picture this:
Space. Calm and quiet. A battered X-wing spins across the screen. It’s out of control, sparking. Suddenly it ignites, and you realise it’s hit the atmosphere of a planet.
The camera follows the craft as it falls to earth, twisting and flaming. It crashes, shuddering, on a barren and hostile planet. We catch a glimpse of the pilot’s face as it goes down; he’s crying quietly.
The camera moves away across the landscape. It is night. There has been a battle here. Small fires are burning; the earth is scarred and bloodied; the carcasses of large creatures mix with droid parts and the occasional piece of human. It is eerie and still.
Then suddenly, in the distance, muffled laughter. The camera follows it to a glowing hollow at the base of a cliff. A small group of fighters are sitting around a campfire. They are filthy, bloody and exhausted; draped over each other, passing a bottle and drinking. Despite everything, they are having a good time. Their little campfire casts a warm light on their faces.
One of them reaches forward with a bandaged hand to poke the fire, and that’s when you see it – roasting on a spit, dinner for the hungry warriors. The head of a Gungan.
Cut to black. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. 2015. Done.