trailer dropped (in a big way) and I feel it necessary to weigh in. Below I've included my thoughts on not only this new trailer, but a chronicling of my love/hate relationship with all things Star Wars.
I represent a middle ground, a group of Star Wars fans who have grown to be a bit more jaded and cynical about the Star Wars saga. A group of fans who hold the Universe created by George Lucas very close to our hearts. Well, maybe not the whole universe, a but a big part of it. A group who feels stolen from and does not want to acknowledge the prequels. It isn't that I don't love Star Wars, but like someone who was hurt in a relationship, I'm very weary of being hurt again.
My generation, keep in mind, did not have the simple pleasure of streaming our favorite movies and series whenever we wanted. We couldn't instantly share via social media. Yes, we could re-watch the original trilogy via Betamax, LaserDisc or VHS. We could tell our friends and family about what we saw, but nowhere in the capacity we can today. VHS was my drug of choice. It is easy to forget that not everyone had the luxury of owning a home video player in 1980s, unlike today where it seems everyone has a device that is able to stream. I remember my family having to rent both the player and movies at our local video rental store until 1988, when we got our first VHS player. By that time all three movies in the original trilogy were on VHS and available in a set. The pre-special edition Star Wars VHS set if you will. Friends and I would watch the movies daily. I recall a period of time where a friend and I would try to watch all three movies each day (or as many as we could on school days). This went on for months. Whether at my house or his, we'd watch the movies over and over and over. We learned the movies backwards and forwards. We developed our own language using lines from the original trilogy to imply our emotions. For example when a friend was upset over something, an easy quote would be "Cannot get your ship out?" taken from "The Empire Strikes Back." Another example of a communal bond through a shared love of Star Wars, this time with language.
The experiences created before seeing the re-releases is much different than the experiences after seeing the Special Edition re-releases. Each film featured updates or enhancements. New shots or sequences added. Some were minor, like the blur under Luke's landspeeder being replaced with a more accurate shadow, while others were very noticeable. For instance, having Han shoot Greedo first in the Mos Eisley cantina, altering one of the more memorable moments in Star Wars lore. Each of these enhancements played a small part in the Star Wars I grew up with changing from just being movies. More so, these re-releases represented me learning (as an adult) the branding of Star Wars and how it had little concern about my fandom. If George Lucas wanted to celebrate "Return of the Jedi" and Star Wars fandom, he wouldn't have added a whole new musical number with CGI performers to the Jabba the Hutt lair sequence. He took a scene that scared little kids (in a good way) and made it an eye-rolling moment.
The prequels represent a huge slide in the wrong direction. First and foremost, the films are overall bad. Fan or not, there's really no arguing this point. Even Lucas knows it. Second, I'm hard pressed to find what qualities they offer outside of branding new toys, school supplies, cartoons, video games, etc. Third, the prequels in three movies, unsuccessfully expand a 10 second lie Obi Wan tells Luke Skywalker about his father. We've all heard the saying "less is more" and the prequels are a blatant example of exactly that. I liked Star Wars better before George Lucas filled in all the backstory. Honestly, all the details about how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader take away from his villainy. Search your feelings, you know this to be true.
Thing about abusive relationships, it takes the abused a long time to realize how they are being treated. That moment for me came after all three prequels had released on DVD. I planned an all-day viewing party with friends, all six Star Wars movies in-a-row. During that all-day event, there was no hiding that the prequels offered no redeeming qualities to the original trilogy I grew up with. The prequels only diluted the original trilogy. They provided hilarious laugh track while you watch, but little else. It was then I decided that I would no longer consider the prequels "actual" sequels to the original trilogy. They are expanded universe that is there, but I do not acknowledge them. I believe it was Drew McWeeny over at Hitfix, that suggested we think of the prequels as nothing more than Luke's fever dream in between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but even that is being nice.
There's a turning point to this relationship. It begins with, no more George Lucas. That is such a weird thing to type. I don't like typing that. He's created (and tarnished) some of my all time favorite movies. Regardless, Disney came along and purchased the rights to Star Wars from Lucasfilm. In the process, Lucas stepped down having anything to do with future installments of Star Wars. Disney announced that they'd be making a new trilogy. A trilogy that would follow the events of Return of the Jedi. Disney also announced a world of new spin-off movies that would further expand the Star Wars universe. Truth be told, I remain extremely hesitant on all of this news. We are all still in major what if mode, but some strides have been made that seem to be awakening the force inside of this lifelong Star Wars fan.
That brings me to a second important step in the right direction, sequels. Prequels and our need to flesh out the origin of every character we love might be good for business, but it is bad for storytelling. The Force Awakens represents a new future for Star Wars and while the sequel does see a return of old characters like Luke, Han, and Chewie, the teaser released lets the audience immediately know we have new characters to follow. Something that is important to add here is the hiring of screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Kasdan feels like another stride in the right direction. He represents a logical bridge from the original trilogy pushing us forward into new adventures. Adventures that will hopefully create new iconic characters along the way.
Before talking the trailer itself, I want to address the idea of The Force Awakens teaser trailer premiering in theaters. I love this idea. It is awesome that Disney uses Star Wars fandom in a unique way. It calls back to when I was a kid. When trailers debuted in theaters for the first time, not online. It comes from a time JJ knows all too well also. When if you didn't see a trailer, the only consolation was hearing those who had describe it. Plenty complain of JJ's so-called Mystery Box approach. Rest assured he has the interest of fans at heart when he tries to limit what we know about a given film. Less is more. Unfortunately these days, where piracy is rampant, Disney chose to release the 88 second teaser online and theaters simultaneously. The decision did feel like a parent caving little by little after telling their child no, yet it was the right decision. Disney got ahead of any leaked versions and released a full HD version. Whether you made an extra effort to see the trailer in a theater with a group of Star Wars fans or caught it via your social media feed, you saw the best version in that particular format.
There's an ongoing communal bond Star Wars fans share that is very important. JJ Abrams and company are tapped in to that bond and on the right track. They created an avenue for fans to gather together and share seeing the first footage for The Force Awakens with an eager crowd. Will it payoff? Only time will tell. As stated earlier, I remain very hesitant. We've still got ourselves a year, so I'd pump the brakes. Still, as I've pointed out numerous times previously, Disney seems to want to tap into what made Star Wars great, not what has made Star Wars or Lucasfilm a great deal of money. Which is so freaking important. Partly because they want the Star Wars franchise to make money over a long haul. Also, because they want to excite their fanbase with what seems to be an equal amount of nostalgia and maturity.
More and more, I'm starting to think JJ Abrams is more than able to make a suitable installment into the Star Wars saga. I don't expect him to make a movie that lives up to my childhood. No one can. "That's impossible!" Though I do believe he's capable of making a film that will leave me with a more positive outlook towards the future of Star Wars than the prequels ever did. At least, let's hope so... otherwise