By this point, every glimpse, shot, or tidbit of Star Wars: The Force Awakens we’ve seen thus far has been analyzed, dissected, and picked apart by anyone and everyone in the hopes of finding all of the clues to unlocking the story’s secrets. I’ve talked enough about my concerns about The Force Awakens as well as my feelings about how the film has been treated by the general populace, and I’m not going to go into that any more now. But I thought it’d be fun to take a look back at all of the trailers released for the film thus far with an eye not to solving all of the mysteries but instead looking at the larger picture. What I love most about trailers is the way they can evoke emotions with just a few images, a handful of musical notes, or the slightest bit of context. So let’s take it from the top with the very first trailer for The Force Awakens, which conveyed quite a lot from very little.
There are really only 7 pieces to this trailer, and they are all character focused. There’s no story, no explanation beyond the line “There has been an awakening. Have you felt it? The dark side, and the light.” It’s a trailer that is all about building suspense, even fear, and it’s music is partially derived from the cue that played in Return of the Jedi as Luke is about to be pushed into the Sarlaac. This first trailer gave us a look at the many characters who have dominated our discussions over the last six months, so let’s look at how they were first presented to us, without trying to figure out who might be a Jedi, a child of some other character, or someone we know in disguise.
First up is Finn. What a great image with which to start. Taking a familiar-looking planet and having a totally new character pop up, especially a stormtrooper on the run, was a great way to shake up everyone’s expectations. The fear and panic on his face sets the emotional tone of the trailer.
I doubt even the most optimistic toy manufacturer could have guessed how huge BB-8 would become in the months leading up to the film. We know relatively little about these new characters, and almost nothing of BB-8, and yet he’s on every conceivable bit of merchandise. The creative design, the adorable look, and the fact that he was at least partially a practical effect really captured our imagination, but this first shot of him fleeing continues the theme in this trailer of heroes on the run.
Rey’s running too, though this shot has more of a sense of determination and of being proactive rather than fleeing. Rey feels like she’s running toward something rather than from something.
Poe Dameron gives us basically nothing on his own…
but when combined with his x-wing, helps give a glimpse of the familiar, though in a way we’ve never seen before.
Ahh, remember the discussion of Kylo Ren’s light saber when this trailer came out? The cross guard, the spitting blade? There were so many questions. He really feels like he’s hunting these heroes, doesn’t he? All-in-all, it’s a pretty dark trailer until…
The soaring John Williams theme, the Falcon blazing into the sun, doing things we’ve never seen before, and even the TIE fighters remind us that we’re still getting a Star Wars film despite all of the new elements. It was a breathtaking end to a stunning and emotional first trailer, but it was just the beginning.
This second trailer is much higher on the excitement scale, with lots of action, a wider look at the universe, and that “Star Wars” feeling of adventure, bookended by a classic quote from Luke in Return of the Jedi, and the emotional return of Han and Chewie. While we don’t see much of our older heroes, the original characters or their ghosts loom large over the trailer.
The rest of the trailer is full of stunning imagery, exciting chases, and glimpses at new characters, but for me it was all about Han, Chewie, Luke, Leia, R2, and Vader’s shadow. I particularly like how spectacle and excitement is paired with images of character and emotion, particularly between Finn and Rey.
My favorite shot might be Rey offering her hand to Finn. The action sucks you in, but the characters and emotions are what stick with you, a theme that continues in the third trailer.
The third trailer spends much more time on each of the three new main characters before bringing them together, giving us a glimpse into their motivations and attitudes. First up is Rey.
The overriding feeling we get from Rey is isolation, which combined with her statement “I’m no one” give the impression of a woman who is lost and discarded, perhaps searching for meaning. Rey is followed by Finn, who is on a different, but parallel journey.
But the key moment in the trailer is Han telling Rey and Finn, “It’s true, all of it. The dark side, the Jedi, they’re real.”
The trailer then segues into a montage of action and emotion, set to a variety of musical cues including Han and Leia’s love theme, the Force theme, and the main fanfare at the very end.
But nothing is more emotional for me than this image:
Seeing Han and Leia reunited, and still connected no matter what has happened over the last 30 years, is a welcome sight indeed. As I said, I’m not going to speculate here, but it feels like a long overdue reunion.
But that’s not all of the trailers, there have been 7 TV spots so far, each offering something new.
This first TV spot is all about eyes, something I’m happy all of the trailers have focused on. Spaceships, aliens, droids, lightsabers, and explosions are fun, but it’s the eyes that really bring the emotion.
Still, that’s not to say that spaceships aren’t fun too!
The next TV spot actually has a lot of new, memorable tidbits. We get to see the formal introduction of Finn and Rey, who seem like they’ve already been through a few things before getting to this moment.
There’s a fun bit where Han offers Rey a blaster (which we’ll see more of in a later spot).
Not to mention Han and Chewie in action.
But the coolest is getting to see Leia seemingly back in charge of the rebellion (if she ever left), with Han and C-3PO alongside, complete with new red arm.
The next TV spot has a few new scenes, including Finn and Rey behind the controls (and guns) of the Falcon, along with some new action sequences, but doesn’t offer much new in terms of emotions.
Next up is a spot focused on Finn, and it manages to deepen the character in just 30 seconds. We watch him go from fear to hope,
get to see him kick a little ass with a lightsaber,
watch him band with Han, who asks if he’s ready and Finn replies, “Hell no,”
and finally get some enthusiasm and even fun from Finn as he takes out some TIE fighters.
Some of the TV spots are just retreads of what we’ve seen before, but this one was a big success.
The next spot gives the spotlight to Kylo Ren, both as a leader (complete with Nazi-esque imagery),
and facing off against Rey and Finn.
But we also get a solo moment for Chewie!
The last two spots are basically countdowns until the movie is released, although we do get an expanded look at the great exchange between Han and Rey, where he offers her a blaster, she insists she can take care of herself, and he replies, “That’s why I’m giving it to you.”
And then there’s one final spot, now that we’re only a few days away, that happens to be set to my favorite piece of music from the entire film series.
What do you think? Do you have a favorite trailer or TV spot? Are you tired of seeing ads and want to just get to the movie already? Do you have a favorite line or moment that you’ve seen thus far? How about a favorite character? Are you the sort of person who wants to pick every image and line of dialogue apart to learn all of its secrets, or would you rather just feel the emotion of the scenes? Do you build up the characters or story in your mind beforehand or would you rather watch with a clean slate? What’s your biggest burning question that still hasn’t been answered? Let me know in the comments!