UTF Looks at the STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Trailer

Look, I’m not gonna pretend you haven’t seen the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet. Of course you have. You’ve probably seen it a few times by now.

…HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean you can’t see it once more!

Good, isn’t it?

You’ve likely also seen a bunch of shot-by-shot analyses popping up all over the internet, and since you’re here you’re in for another! Well, this one will be a lil’ different. This trailer has impacted me profoundly today, and there’s much more to unpack in the montage of stunning visuals than just what’s on the surface.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Rey star destroyer

These opening images are incredibly important, because it’s setting the scene for the film – as well as this new era of Star Wars. Like the previous trailer, we’re supposed to understand that this isn’t a bright and happy post-ROTJ world. It’s decayed. Filled with the remnants of the past. This sense of scale between Rey and the Star Destroyer she’s exploring says a lot. Something which used to be such a titan, a force for evil, is wasting away in the sand. Rey, a new kid on the block (unless she’s a Solo-Skywalker…), is still completely insignificant in comparison to this juggernaut.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Rey

And now her character is cemented (even if you could probably gleam it from common sense). Rey is stuck there on Jakku, scavenging the past, yearning to leave like the ship she’s looking up to is. We’re seeing a strong mirror of where Luke Skywalker was in A New Hope – wanting to get out and explore the world. Hell, they both live in the desert. Rey is just a lot more proactive about achieving her goals, and seems to be much more of a badass straight-off-the-bat. It’s this kind of storytelling which is smart. J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan haven’t just taken the character archetypes we’re already familiar with and slapped them into a new movie. They’re inspired by what came before and take elements from Luke, Han and Leia, but they are still completely new people.

“Who are you?” “No one.” Pfft, sure.

And now we meet our second lead: Finn. The previous trailers and promo materials had us believe that he was the main character, although this trailer and the poster put Rey front-and-centre. If we had to compare, Finn looks to be the new Han Solo.

But that doesn’t mean they’re anything alike. Finn is clearly a child of war: “I was raised to do one thing, and I’ve got nothing to fight for.” He’s lost in a galaxy that is in itself lost, seeking to forge a new life for himself but not quite knowing where to start. The character arcs established for he and Rey would both work for a main character. The audience needs someone to identify with in this completely different world (we need a Luke), who can learn and discover things along with us. They’re both clearly working towards their destiny – could it be to become Jedi? – so I’m guessing they’ll serve as dual protagonists.

Finn is perhaps the most exciting character to me, because he represents something we haven’t seen before in any of the movies. We’ve never followed a villain-turned-hero (only the other way around) or explored the idea that the lines between good and evil in this galaxy aren’t quite as black and white as we expected. It’s awesome that Lucasfilm went in this direction and I can’t wait to see how Finn grows over the course of the three movies.

Then we finally meet Kylo Ren. The dialogue pretty much lines up with what we already knew: he’s a Vader-obsessed First Order leader. The trailer suggests that Kylo is speaking to Darth Vader’s burned and shrivelled mask as if it were some sort of shrine, although trailers can be cut in all numbers of ways. There isn’t much more to learn about his character and motivations, although there is some interesting plot stuff.

The red lens flare is blindingly beautiful, but if you look closely you’ll see that it’s moving. The interior of the room would suggest a First Order base, and the red looks incredibly similar to what we saw on the recent poster – the thing that everybody thought was a third Death Star.

That’s Starkiller Base, the name of the snowy planet we’ve seen so much of in the footage. It looks to me as if Kylo Ren and General Hux have taken it for a test run.

Here's a Shot-by-Shot Breakdown of All the Goodies in the Final Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer

Yup, they have.

Hey – it’s Poe Dameron! His role in The Force Awakens is, surprisingly, the most mysterious of all. We know he’s a Resistance fighter pilot, and now we know that he’s tortured by Kylo Ren. We saw in the Comic-Con video that he gets captured by the First Order, but when that takes place is still a mystery. Putting that total-wipeout clip with Poe would suggest there’s some sort of link; it’s not just for a transition, as the trailer then immediately fades to the Millennium Falcon on Jakku. Disney could easily have cut out the Starkiller test shot, but it’s there. After Kylo does something to Poe’s head with the Force. Perhaps he’s showing him a vision of what’s going on elsewhere, and he’s crying out in pain because he thinks his friends have been killed or whatever. It’s interesting, and I’m keen to learn more.

None animated GIF

“There are stories about what happened.”

“It’s true. All of it.”

Strong words coming from a man who famously dismissed all hokey religions.

In fact, those words are incredibly important for Han Solo in the movie. He obviously knew the Force wasn’t just a bunch of crap by Return of the Jedi, but aside from his utterance of “may the Force be with you” to Luke in A New Hope, this is the first time he’s truly cemented how wrong he was. From what we’ve seen of Han in both trailers, he’s no longer a cocky hotshot. When we see him here he looks burdened, haunted, and somewhat sentimental. He’s certainly changed from where he left off. However, that can easily just be a product of editing – I expect we’ll still see some of his dashing charm and snark on display.

Han Solo Star Wars: the force awakens

If I had to guess when this scene takes place, I’d say it’s the beginning of the second act. That’s clearly the escape from Jakku, and both the characters and viewers will be right-on-time for a good ol’ exposition-dump.

Kylo Ren Star Wars: the force awakens

The mysterious Knights of Ren. Lots of thunder and rain – so much so that it’s hard to make out what’s going on, but we’ll give it a shot. They’re clearly facing off against some enemy, and judging from Kylo’s position at the front there, they’ve won. It’s also interesting to note how he’s the only one with a lightsaber. Just what the heck are these guys? New Sith? Old Sith?

That word is also important: Sith. It’s not mentioned at all in the trailer, with Han instead referring to “the Dark Side” (keeping it in line with the Original Trilogy), and J.J. Abrams has explicitly confirmed that Kylo Ren isn’t a Sith. I think it’s pretty obvious that term has no place in the future of Star Wars. Jedi? Sure. But the new villains in town are going by the name of Ren.

Here's a Shot-by-Shot Breakdown of All the Goodies in the Final Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer

We’re seeing even more of that awesome battle sequence over the water which we first glimpsed wayyy back last year. The question is: where is it? It seems likely that it’s Takodana: the planet Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’O’s mo-cap alien) is based on. Whenever her character has been brought up it’s been in accordance with her “castle,” so I’m gonna take a wild stab in the dark and say that that’s where the First Order and Resistance are coming to blows – and they’ve shot up her place. Fucking Stormtroopers.

Maz Kanata's castle Star Wars: the Force Awakens

It was so pretty too!

Here's a Shot-by-Shot Breakdown of All the Goodies in the Final Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer

This is my favourite shot in the trailer. It looks straight out of every fan’s dream for how Star Wars should look. Dammit, it’s so beautiful.

Here's a Shot-by-Shot Breakdown of All the Goodies in the Final Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer

Wait, no – I like this shot!

Harrison Ford’s delivery of “the Jedi,” coupled with the awesome whip-around and John Williams’ triumphant score has given me chills each time I’ve watched the trailer, which must have been around fifteen times by now. That’s clearly the Resistance base and looks a hell of a lot like Yavin IV. Finn’s expression also tells us a lot: he and Poe are friends at this point, but it looks to be more of a mentor/student relationship rather than one of equals. This is still a big new world for Finn, who days ago was fighting for the other side.

Here's a Shot-by-Shot Breakdown of All the Goodies in the Final Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer

Aaand we’re back to Takodana. What’s coming to the rescue of Finn, Chewbacca and Han? Is it the Falcon? Poe Dameron? Luke Skywalker? Whatever it is, they look pretty surprised.

Notice Chewie’s arm – it’s got a bandage around it. Poor Chewie.

Here's a Shot-by-Shot Breakdown of All the Goodies in the Final Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer

I. Need. This. Movie.

Quit being distracted by all the flashy TIE Fighters and X-Wings and notice how the ground appears to be opening up. It’s clear now that the First Order have completely one-upped the Empire. You don’t build a planet-destroyer and leave it out in space where it’s vulnerable to attack (from a thermal exhaust port).

You build one inside a planet. Except, this does more than just destroy planets. Early on we heard rumours that the baddies had a super-weapon they were planning to use, and we know that the whole thing is called Starkiller Base after Luke’s original surname. What happens when you blow up a star? It either goes supernova or turns into a black hole, depending on its size. Either way the outcome is the same: bye bye solar system.

Here's a Shot-by-Shot Breakdown of All the Goodies in the Final Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer

I love this shot. Finn ignites the lightsaber of Anakin and Luke Skywalker with determination, but as soon as a helmet-less Kylo Ren advances towards him he shits himself. He clearly has no idea what he’s doing, or how to use the Force yet, but if we’re to trust the trailer then Finn is set to become a Jedi over the course of the trilogy. It’s a gradual journey, and it kicks off with battling Kylo.


(thanks to io9 and /Film for the images and GIFs!)

Yes, the visuals were awesome and it was nostalgic as hell, but the thing which excites me most about The Force Awakens from this trailer is the characters. Rey yearns for a life beyond scavenging Imperial relics; Finn wants to create a new life for himself after his days as a Stormtrooper; Poe Dameron… well, I dunno. But Kylo Ren is very clearly stuck in the past, worshipping Vader and the Empire and wanting to “finish what they started.” There’s lots of good material here for growth and development over three movies, and this is the first time it’s actually sunk in that these are our new leads and that they’re worthy of the title.

P.S. that score was fucking class

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I have been reborn amidst salt and smoke to lead UTF against the darkness. I'm also an amateur writer and filmmaker as well as having played the 16th Doctor and invented penicillin. Also, deceased.