Friday, November 28, 2014

With a Teaser Trailer, The Force Awakens (As I see it)

So I didn't bother posting when the title of the latest Star Wars was announced a few weeks back, as I felt that like all Star Wars sequel titles (Revenge of the Sith notwithstanding), it won't really be judged until after the film has been released. It is interesting to note that they're not pushing the Episode VII emphasis, just Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Yet one more way in which they are harkening back to the original trilogy, as opposed to the prequel trilogy.

But the teaser trailer, well, that definitely requires some discussion and analysis.

My first impression... well, to be perfectly honest, I was hoping for more. Which is not to say I didn't like what I saw, nor am I suggesting that it's a valid indicator of the quality of the film to come. I just wanted, well, more. And not more in the way of specific plot details, but more in the way of content. If you go back to the original teaser trailer for The Phantom Menace, there was a LOT packed in that one. Did it spoil the story? Not at all. But it gave the fans plenty to chew on for several months.

Regarding that issue, my pal Steve Sansweet raised a valid point on Facebook, which is important to keep in mind:
Not commenting on the substance of your feelings, but we need to remember that the Episode I teaser trailer was released 6 months before the opening (and it was difficult even then to get all the footage that LFL marketing wanted). This is nearly 13 months in advance and it is a true tease, rather than a full teaser trailer, which I'm looking forward to seeing.
That said, I do still think the TPM teaser uses John Williams' music more effectively. In that, right away we got the Force theme—and goosebumps. For The Force Awakens, we get some subdued, original Williams music over a fair amount of black, an ominous voice-over, a barren landscape... and then a musical sting as our protagonist (wearing Stormtrooper armor—his? Or someone else's?) pops into frame. Listen closely for the mumbling of an imperial probe droid on the soundtrack.

Our next introduction is to an R2 unit. He's 'cute' of course, and while there's surely more to him than meets the eye, I can't help look at him through my Ralph McQuarrie-tinted Star Wars glasses and ask, how does that work. Form and function should always trump looking cool for cool's sake, and this concept seems to be firmly in the cool for the sake of looking cool school. The background elements in this shot bring to mind the prequel trilogy (looking a lot like pod-racer engines, though more likely just scrap machinery).

Next up, some revamped Stormtroopers, 30-years post Return of the Jedi. When I first saw this concept, I was thrilled to see them taking an OT concept further, rather than regressing to make it look MORE like one of Ralph McQuarrie's original concepts. Right now, this is my favorite design from TFA.

This is followed by a sequence with another protagonist on another prequel-era looking speeder, which pans to include the only McQuarrie concept that makes an appearance in the trailer, a structure Ralph painted in the late 90's depicting an entrance archway to Jabba's palace (not what I'm suggesting it's being used for here).

We then are treated to another taste of original trilogy goodness in the cockpit of the new split-wing X-Wing (with the single nacelle, like Joe Johnston's original concept, as seen in Ralph's painting).

We then get our money shot of the villain, dressed in tattered black robes, with a requisite red lightsaber.

And to up the ante from Darth Maul's double-bladed saber from the prequels, we get what is already being described by fans as the broadsword saber. Cool for cool's sake? Time will tell.

Finally, we get the John Williams fanfare with the return of the Millennium Falcon. Note the radar dish has been replaced with a new style...

...following the loss of the original radar dish in the assault on the second Death Star in this shot from Return of the Jedi.

 To bring things home, for the first time in 31 years, we see TIE Fighters firing upon the Falcon.

To recap, while I was hoping for more, there are several things I really like in this teaser trailer, and I'm certainly remaining optimistic that the best is yet to come. And frankly,  it can't come soon enough!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

It's officially official. Officially.

So after what seems like years of speculation, we finally have an official Disney/Lucasfilm confirmation this week that our original trilogy heroes—Han, Luke and Leia (not to mention Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2) will all be back for Episode VII. Sorry Lando, unless they're planning to play the parallel game and have you return for Episodes VIII and IX.

Of these, the only one that I was particularly relieved to hear was the return of Anthony Daniels as C-3PO. He is one of the few principle actors whose name hadn't been bandied about so freely in the ages leading up to this announcement. While his inclusion would appear to be a no-brainer, I can't imagine his negotiation would have been the smoothest. But let's face it—the thought of anyone else trying to fill the golden protocol droid skin causes a great disturbance in the force.

And then all the others... yeah. Whatever. The most exciting announcement outside of the returning characters is that we get Max Von Sydow as what everyone assumes will be the token elder statesman evil guy. Of course how cool would it be for JJ to have cast him against type as an unlikely hero. Time will tell.

So as the dust settles, let's take stock of things. The Expanded Universe fans are heartbroken that their tales are being cast aside (though not erased, or worse yet, being made to shoot second). The prequel deniers are sitting pretty, thinking they'll finally get the characters they were denied in the prequels. And the Crystal Skull haters are complaining that they'd much rather see new stories than the geriatric adventures of our original heroes (um, how about the prequels...).

And how do I feel, you ask? I'm still in a positive mood following the previous announcements I've discussed on this here blog. To recap:

John's Top 5 reasons to embrace the new Star Wars films:

  1. Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back)
  2. Music by John Williams
  3. The return of the principal cast (Ford, Hamill and Fisher) and key supporting players (Peter Mayhew/Chewbacca and Anthony Daniels/C-3PO)
  4. An amazing executive in producer Kathleen Kennedy
  5. Did I mention Lawrence Kasdan?

Until next time, May the Force be with you. 

Or May the 25th be with you. (Because if you really MUST celebrate Star Wars day, for god's sake celebrate the original one.)