Upon Further Analysis 'The Force Awakens' Teaser Trailer Still Rules
by Jeremy Kirk
November 30, 2014
Long ago – this past Friday – in a galaxy far, far away, the first footage from J.J. Abrams' maiden voyage to the Star Wars universe, The Force Awakens, was unleashed in 30 theaters across the country and on the web for the world to see. It was short. It was simple. It was to the point, and, through and through, it was utterly captivating. Even those completely underwhelmed by George Lucas' last three entries into the series were silenced by the overwhelming visuals Abrams and crew presented. And now, nearly 48 hours after its release, that teaser continues to stun and amaze from frame one to that final, breathtaking shot.
The backlash began before the trailer even hit, Twitter and Facebook running rampant with critics and film lovers of all kinds growing frustrated and even disgusted by the love begin generated for what essentially amounts to a piece of marketing. Their views were wait and be excited for the movie itself. Why blow your wad of excitement for this first minute and a half (*88 seconds to be exact) of footage when there's a whole feature film to follow? And, to a certain extent, they had a point.
Marketing has become a bigger business than creating the film itself. Not a week goes by that some gigantic piece of footage from some gigantic motion picture is released on the world, sometimes three or four trailers worth coming out before the actual release date. Let's not even talk about the ocean of TV spots that hit before a movie's release. More often than not these bits of marketing either misconstrue elements of a film or give away every high point the film has to offer, months before we can see them in context.
But something happened around 10am Eastern time on Friday morning when the trailer for The Force Awakens hit and was allowed to be analyzed. Some of the more cynical naysayers were silenced by the sheer uproar the trailer drew from its respective crowds. Some who weren't even fully sold before seeing it were finally convinced. Abrams knew what Star Wars fans wanted, and he knew precisely what to give us.
Breakdowns and shot-by-shot analyses of the trailer swept across the internet. So much so, in fact, that it seems almost trivial to go through it a piece at a time at this point. The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin even went a step further, playing the trailer for a packed house that included some dressed in Stormtrooper and Imperial Officer garb, having a panel discuss what they saw, play the trailer again, and discuss further. This exercise was repeated for a full hour, the trailer playing 17 times and the panel – including Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League, John Gholson of Movies.com, Britt Hayes of Badass Digest, Master Pancake's Owen Edgerton, Ain't It Cool News' Eric Vespe and Harry Knowles, and uber-Star Wars fanatic Kevin Williams, who won a contest to appear on the panel – deconstructing each and every inch.
"I have an erection the size of the galaxy," exclaimed Owen Edgerton after the trailer's first viewing, and even though it was a crude but funny way of expressing how he felt, he wasn't wrong. Nor was he alone in his excitement the 16 times the trailer played after. That bump in the music that makes you jump in your seat when John Boyega first appears on screen. The chills that came whenever the Sith lord we see brandishes his - or her - broadsword lightsaber with glowing hilt included. The awesome force of John Williams' classic theme kicking in as we follow the Millennium Falcon up, down, and around the skies. All of it hit with as much "Holy shit, that was awesome" power the 17th time as it did the first.
And that's probably why any backlash against The Force Awakens trailer has slinked back to whatever dark planet it originated from in the first place. The trailer is simply that good, and what it boils down to is this. J.J. Abrams went for quality where George Lucas went for quantity. Instead of giving us 20 or 30 single shots of CG shit flying at the screen (here's the teaser for The Phantom Menace for comparison) we're given seven distinct sequences, each of them richly created using both digital imagery and some clear understanding of artistic depth.
Unlike Lucas, Abrams doesn't have to create from scratch. He's able to improve on the blueprint designs Lucas laid down 20 and 30 years ago, and improve he does. Let's not stay too long with what Abrams didn't show us in this trailer but simply say he doesn't resort to shallow fan service. There's no Han, Leia, or Luke in the trailer - that we know. There's no C-3P0 or R2-D2, no Wookiees or Ewoks. Not even space.
All he gives us is Star Wars imagery presented in the most grounded way we've ever seen. It's in the weight felt in the figures he puts in the foreground, whether that be a sweaty Boyega in front of a desert landscape or an X-Wing sliding up from screen left while kicking up water from the lake underneath. It's in the glorious lighting in which he shades the Stormtroopers all lined up in their carrier. That Saving Private Ryan-esque shaky cam does wonders for that tiny sequence as well.
And, ultimately, it's in the way he moves the camera around the Falcon in that final shot, giving us angles and details on the ship we haven't seen in 30 years worth of trying. Every Star Wars fanboy and fangirl, excuse the term, lost their shit when that sequence hit, and you'd be lying if you said you didn't still lose it when you watch the trailer for the 75th time. Everything about that teaser was cool the first time you saw it, and it stayed cool every time after that. That's why the naysayers have kept quiet thus far, because anyone who ever called themselves a Star Wars fan is suddenly excited to see what else Abrams has to show us. And let's not forget, we're sure to have one helluva good story tying all of these wonderful images together.
Stay tuned this week as The Golden Briefcase will return briefly for a Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer breakdown episode with a very special guest. Thank you to Tim League, the Alamo Drafthouse, and everyone at Fons PR for allowing me to be a part of what is sure to go down in cinematic history.