Episode VII Trailer Analysis

OK, maybe you were expecting this. I know that the internet just exploded upon the release of the first teaser trailer for JJ Abrams’s The Force Awakens, but Star Wars has been such a huge part of my life since childhood that I can’t help but add my two pennies’ worth to the flood of opinions that greeted the trailer’s arrival. So here goes nothin’:

For all of his playful hinting from the set in the wake of spoilers, Abrams’s choice of first shot in the teaser can be read as a reminder that there’s still so much about Episode VII that we don’t know. For example, here’s John Boyega, whom we knew was cast of course, but it’s as though Abrams is intentionally confronting you straight off with the fact that you don’t know the character’s name, whether or not he’s actually a stormtrooper, why he’s so panicked in the sequence… even whether that’s Tatooine.

Secondly, it feels like we’re very deliberately being shown a man in the uniform, sans helmet, Abrams playing up the fact that this isn’t a faceless clone - a subtle way to differentiate his film from the clone-filled prequel trilogy in the minds of people who have a problem with those films.

There’s also a probe droid-esque noise in the background, which—along with Boyega’s outfit—raises some very interesting questions. Remember how Luke et al destroyed the second Death Star, and Vader threw The Emperor to his death, and there were dancing Ewoks and fireworks and everyone celebrating the end of The Empire? Yeah, well so how come ~30 years later there’s still all these stormtroopers around?

Feels to me like that guy in the middle is, as Princess Leia would say, a little short for a stormtrooper. Cue wild speculation about why Boyega (5’9”) is hiding out amongst the Imperial ranks, and who is pulling a blaster on whom in the kerfuffle teased here.

Wait - we missed a shot. And it’s the cutest shot too.

Look at that guy! He’s like Artoo meets Wall·E! It’s amazing how much personality this little dude has for less than three seconds of screen time. Jalopnik has a neat tear-down on this spherical droid which includes discussion of where he might fit in the R-series, and a potential explanation for that head bobble he’s got going on. Also, check out the background for what looks to be a somewhat worse-for-wear podracer engine. Again, not a sure sign we’re on Tatooine, but a possible hint nonetheless.

And here’s Daisy Ridley as… well, everyone’s calling her Kira, though that’s unconfirmed right now. Her character is also rumoured to be the daughter of Han & Leia (so long Jaina, Jacen & Anakin Solo), but again: speculation at this point. Here’s what is confirmed: she’s in a rush just like that little sphere droid (again, rumoured to belong to her); she looks scared like Boyega; those shades are probably made from a salvaged stormtrooper helmet; that speeder is cool!

And then we get to see Oscar Isaac in an X-Wing! Rebel symbols, tinted orange visors, but blue stripes down the sides and S-foils that tilt up at the ends? Also, glorious nerds have translated the Aurebesh on Isaac’s vest as ‘PULL TO INFLATE’!

This is my favourite shot in the trailer: a squadron of X-Wings skimming the surface of a body of water, backgrounded by mountains - this looks like an entirely different environment to all of the action of the trailer so far. At this point it’s clear that Abrams is using his year-ahead teaser trailer to hit on all of the buttons Star Wars fans want pushed. In a little over a minute here we’re given shots of multiple new characters, a new droid, a couple of familiar-seeming but also new vehicles, and a glimpse at a couple of the planets we’ll visit in twelve long months’ time.

And then this:

Who’s this guy? Is this Adam Driver? Is it his voiceover we’re hearing throughout (or is that Serkis? or von Sydow?)? Perhaps the only thing that’s obvious is that he’s bad news before he even ignites that lightsaber, and when he does we’re left to speculate about how best to reconcile that leaked concept image of the alleged Sith Inquisitor with the (now pretty legitimate) leaked image of this masked dude. Also, where is he? Looks too snowy to be the desert planet, and whilst it’s possible we’re in the foothills of those lakeside mountains we just glimpsed, it’s equally possible we’re somewhere else entirely.

So, add a villain to the list of what we’re teased with and it feels like a full house. It seems like such a smart decision at this stage to focus on what’s new and keep the reveals of the returning cast members for later. (Watch the internet melt the day we see frame one of Han Solo!) Intrigue, excitement, new stormtrooper helmets… what more could you want?

Oh…

The longest single shot in the trailer is pre-empted by a beat of black, and then that John Williams score, the looping arc, the scream of TIE Fighters. It’s amazing how much power some symbols retain. Star Wars holds a unique place in popular culture, certain elements of its mythology seemingly so deeply ingrained that even those who have no interest in it know the names of central characters and may be able to quote a line or two. It’s perfectly plausible that people who have never seen one film from the series will still recognise the Millennium Falcon. For those of us who grew up with and love Star Wars this shot is enough to bring tears to the eyes (whilst sat alone in a Regent Street branch of Starbucks). Who’s at the controls? What’s with that new-shaped radar dish? Are those TIEs shooting at each other? We’ll have to wait a while to find out.