Upon the announcement that we'd be getting our first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens by the week's end, I couldn't help but flash back to an earlier time in my life when I was counting down to a Star Wars trailer. It was another wintery November, but back in 1998. I was still going to college, and lucky for me, the dorms had been wired into the campus computer network over the summer...and it's high speed Internet. Thanks to that, it was absolutely no problem to download the first teaser for Episode I.
One of the main lecture halls had even been outfitted with a projector that summer, so I politely asked one of my professors if we could use it after class one day to see that trailer on the big screen. It still stands as an excellent trailer...which made the resulting film and the entire prequel trilogy just the tad more disappointing.
I've been saying for a few years now that I couldn't help but feel burnt out on Star Wars. After watching the abysmal Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie, I just threw up my hands and said, "I'm done!" I've been told that the resulting series gets better than the movie, and even though I tried to binge watch it on Netflix, I got bored and wandered off about halfway through the third season. It just seemed like Star Wars had nothing new to offer me.
And yet, when Disney bought Lucasfilm two years ago, and announced Episode VII for 2015, you couldn't help but feel a twinge of excitement. George Lucas had long been declared the scapegoat for how poorly the prequels turned out. Would new creative talent really be the answer?
From what I gather, a lot of directors actually turned down the job, fearing the pressure that would come with doing a new Star Wars films. One of my favourite directors, Brad Bird, was an early contender, but Bird's official reason for declining the offer was to finish up his new film Tomorrowland. The one who finally rose to the challenge was J.J. Abrams, whom many felt would be a good choice, as his Star Trek reboot had long been branded a Star Wars ripoff anyway.
Very little about the plot and characters has been revealed at this point. We know that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford are all back as much older and wiser versions of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. With five confirmed actresses in key roles, it already has more female characters than the entire original trilogy. Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi back in the day, is back, co-writing alongside Abrams.
Many are praising the look of the trailer for focusing on the new characters and not nostalgia, but I disagree. The nostalgia is there in spades. The familiar sight of X-Wing fighters, skimming across the surface of a lake. An R2-droid, but he has what looks like a soccer ball for a body. And many online are describing a swell of emotion upon seeing the Millennium Falcon fly again, taking on two TIE fighters, but this time over a desert instead of in the depths of space.
Much fuss is being made over the new lightsaber, and how it has two smaller blades shooting out the bottom, forming a hilt. Many question its practicality. But then, how practical was Darth Maul's double-bladed lightsaber? Would you not accidentally cut off your own arm if weren't careful with that?
So the nostalgia's in the trailer. It's taking the very familiar, and presenting it in new contexts and a new light. Unlike the prequels, which emphasized the new. This is saying, "Hey. This is everything you loved, but in a new light."
Yeah, I've watched this trailer a dozen times now. Am as I excited as I was on that wintery November night in 1998, when I was the Episode I teaser for the first time? No...I don't think anything will ever top the excitement I felt back then.
This feels new, and different, yet familiar. There's not so much excitment, but cautious optimism. I've been down this road before, so I'm trying to avoid heartbreak once again.
But seeing X-Wings in flight again just looks amazing.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theatres December 18, 2015.