Friday, November 28, 2014

Don't Tell ME What to Think About the New Star Wars Trailer...

J.J. Abrams dropped a 90 second bombshell on everyone today when he released a teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens in select theaters and also online, where the world suddenly ground to a screeching halt. Without even checking, I am confident that the Internet responded as it always does: DeviantArt users are even now painting Milennium Falcons with My Little Pony art stenciled on the side and slapping them on T-shirts; 4Chan users have drawn penises on the droid; Buzzfeed is currently compiling a list of 27 reasons why the Ewoks are still better than Wookies (and over one-third of the reasons will involve the word 'cute'); Reddit users have made gifs out of the images and leavened them into the other pop culture memes making the rounds this week, which means Dr. Who is flying the Falcon, now, as is Bill Cosby; and of course, the Geek-Universe-Blog Sites all have dutifully posted links to the trailer, along with some commentary.

They look like the cool aunt and uncle
now, don't they? I dig the beard.
I haven't read any of the other commentary, and I don't have to. I'm 45 years old. I was 7 when I saw Star Wars for the first time in the theater. I'm a card-carrying member of Generation X, you dig? I make the commentary about Star Wars movies. Not the twenty something who grew up watching Episode I. Not the thirty-something whose first Star Wars movie was Return of the Jedi. This franchise belongs to me as much as it belongs to George Lucas. I made him what he was. I propped him up, swallowed his Kool-Aid, and made him a billionaire. And I promise you this: me and my people have spent more time thinking about Star Wars than any of the blog sites currently operating, with the notable exception of The Nerdist and RevolutionSF, which are both run by fellow forty-something GenXers.

All of that was simply to tell you that I have a very different perspective on this. I've been a vocal and outspoken critic of the franchise over the years, especially with regards to the prequels. Despite all that, I took the news that Lucas sold his creation to Disney very hard. I knew it meant that we would get three more movies, because Disney doesn't leave any money on the table, ever. But I wondered and worried that what we got would be a watered down feel-good family friendly mess.

J.J. Abrams as director restored some of my confidence, as well as the recruitment of the old stars, now in the role of sending the youngsters out to do battle and have adventures. Smart. Very smart. And it's in keeping with what I thought the next trilogy should be.  And sure, we've gotten some teases along the way (no offense, but if you were worried that the Millennium Falcon wasn't going to make an appearance in the movie, you know nothing about Disney, merchandising, or modern movie promotion).

At first glance the teaser trailer appears to be just that; images, seemingly at random, with the only constant being a sense of movement. No pictures of the old-timers. Only these new guys. At the end, a familiar sight, but otherwise, what a bummer, right?

"Rogue Group? I've found them. Repeat. I've--oh, wait.
Wrong movie. Yeah, I need my line, please. Line?"
Not at all. What I found interesting was the number of shots in the trailer that seemed to evoke (and by that I mean, 'are lifted directly') from the original series. Whether it's the Speeder Bike chase sequence, or the Snowspeeder patrol looking for Luke and Han on Hoth, there's a real familiar feel to all of the shots. I suspect this is intentional and purposeful, to make us feel more comfortable.

Why do we need to feel comforted? Because for the first time since 1977, none of us have the faintest idea of how this will play out. This is something that didn't happen with the prequels. In fact, the problem with the prequels was that there was no way Lucas could make a Clone Wars saga that matched what the first generation Star Wars fans had cooked up in their imaginations over the course of 25 years. Unfair? Probably. But Lucas made exactly the movie he wanted to make, with zero apologies and quite a bit of derision. This pushed me and others like me away. And speaking of Lucas...

This droid literally encapsulates the fusion of the first
trilogy (Astromech head) and the second trilogy (rolling
droid bottom). Designed to appeal to everyone.
This is his creation (some would say "collection of other people's intellectual properties he cunningly appropriated") after all. And he shepherded six films through. This being the first Star Wars that won't have his name and fingerprints all over it, there's a real need to soothe some savage beasts right now. How better to do that than to show a collection of scenes that look like they are straight out of the George Lucas playbook?

It's a smart trailer, and make no mistake about it. Finished shots, the obligatory lightsaber gag, a flash of something familiar (but not necessarily integral to the story) and pictures of the newcomers. No hint of story, aside from some things we can guess. This is more than just a teaser. This is the teaser that brings two generations of Star Wars fans together for the first time since Episode I opened. We, together, will get to experience Episode VII with no pre-conceived notions, no expectations, and no baggage. Just pure fun and excitement.  This is as it should be.

Hi. My name is Mark. And I'm a Star Wars Fan.