Remember that first teaser? Good times.
I’m not a “collector” by any means (I lose important stuff on the daily), but the picture below shows one of my most precious possessions—cheesy, I know. The Empire Strikes Back shooting script, apparently in its fourth, and almost final draft. My mom gave it to me god knows how many years ago, having paid god knows how much for it at a Seattle movie, TV and comics shop: Golden Age Collectibles.
Now I don’t claim to be a bigger Star Wars fan than most of you out there… I probably am, but I won’t claim it! I used to take the blind adjuster sticks from my house’s windows for lightsaber fights with friends. We played Star Wars: Battlefront like nobody’s business. When I was sick from school I got giddy because I knew I’d be watching the original trilogy VHS tapes again, and again. I had this PC Star Wars game where you basically laid the Millennium Falcon’s dashboard controls over your keyboard… come to think of it, that one was pretty lame.
So keeping my past in mind, I wanted to write about a little independent film that’s absolutely sweeping Sundance called Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. I think it might be a contender for best breakout Indi-film of the year!
In all seriousness, this film has the power to either affirm or deny the dreams of my inner child. It’s a scarily dramatic notion if it doesn’t pan out (hey, there’s still Captain America: Civil War) but if it does… Let’s just say I’ll bring the 75% chance I’m having kids one day up to a 99% chance, just so I can show my kids the originals, the prequels, lie to them that it’s over, then one day burst into their rooms at like 2 A.M. and go: “SURPRISE! There’s more, and it’s amazing”.
Let’s rewind a little over a year. This little 88-second long teaser comes out over Thanksgiving holiday. Everyone’s reactions to this trailer are quite well-documented on YouTube. The experience we all had watching it could literally be summed up a series of, “Oh shit!”, “X-Wings!” and of course “THE FALCON!” moments. Once I wiped away my nerd tears and started giving it some thought, I realized the real standout quality of this trailer was: it didn’t tell us anything. Nothing. Not the name of a main character, what their goal is in the film or even who they are related to.
Zoom forward to April. I’m sitting in U.S. Politics class while we watch All the President’s Men. Not trying to knock the film, the Nixon scandal was big and all, but what was I to do when I checked my phone and a new trailer had dropped?—this time at Star Wars Celebration (like ten-minutes from where I was sitting in Southern Cali). I’ll tell you what I did.
I got up to “go to the bathroom” and then I “went to the bathroom” for about fifteen minutes. Translation for non-Star Wars fanatics: I went into the restroom, headphones in hand, sat on the floor and watched the trailer on my phone screen with the volume cranked. What glorious volume it was, the “Luke-staring-at-twin suns” John Williams track swelling in the background, accompanying beautiful shots like this one.
Why so beautiful? I think because right then, I started to trust director J.J. Abrams with our universe—the Star Wars universe that so many of us grew up believing in. His love for the series can be seen in his “Mystery Box” TED talk (he can’t stop geekin’ out), but for me, it didn’t ring true until I saw that shot.
The inner Film Studies major in me went nuts about how the crashed X-Wing in the foreground juxtaposed with the crashed Star Destroyer in the back represents the imbalanced galactic war of the original series; the rebels were always outgunned, but somehow toppled the empire—now all that’s left are two crashed ships in the desert. So much history and so many chills. To me, it showed that Abrams is ready to bring the series forward while respecting the hell out of the past.
Just like the first teaser, Trailer #2 only tells us that someone is related to Luke, because the force is strong in his family, and “they have that power too”. That’s it. Point TWO for secrecy! *dings bell*
Flash forward (one last time) to this October. A new trailer comes out, and what crazy thing did I do this time? How did everyone react to its secrets? What nuggets did I find by analyzing each shot to death? Nothing. I didn’t watch it.
I’m serious, I still haven’t watched it. Me, one of the biggest fans I know, did not watch the newest trailer (or any TV spot) for my most-anticipated movie ever.
Every time I’ve gone to a movie theater recently, I’ve waited out the previews standing (like an insane person) in the theater right next to the door that goes out to the lobby. If the trailer came on, (which it never even did), my plan was to walk out to the lobby, wait three minutes, then walk back to my seat. Sometimes I still ask myself: why do why vow to not watch these promotions?
I might be alone on this, so I’ll try to be like those very-religious people that are content to not try and convert everyone: I want to preserve the experience of really seeing The Force Awakens for the first time. I’m not talking about spoilers, because from what I’ve heard, the trailer doesn’t give anything away. I’m talking about images.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, movies weren’t advertised nearly as incessantly to people. Maybe you saw a few shots of an upcoming film in a campy trailer before another movie, but there was no internet. There was no Facebook or YouTube handing you three trailers, an international trailer and five TV spots. No clickbait culture trying to get site traffic by offering “leaked set photos” and concept art 24/7. That means that, by and large, when one walked in to see, say, Raiders of the Lost Ark, nobody had seen any of it before.
It may sound almost too simple, but think about the movies you had the best time seeing. The ones that you finished and then just exclaimed: “Wow… that was awesome”. Was it The Matrix in 1999? Was it Avatar in 2009? For me, it doesn’t get better than watching The Empire Strikes Back as a kid, seeing the visual splendor of the battle of Hoth, discovering Cloud City and finding Yoda in Dagobah’s swamp.
What do all these movie-going experiences have in common? It’s that, assuming you went in ignorant of advertisements, pre-Facebook and pre-YouTube, you saw something new! The sights were bit strange, and made you sit forward in your seat. Neo unplugs from the Matrix and first sees their ship, the grimy Nebuchadnezzar. The massive Na’vi’s Hometree collapses in an epic set piece. The Millennium Falcon flies out of a giant creature alive and embedded in an asteroid. These are must-see experiences that one truly must see—not glimpse at online. Not watch out of context. SEE. In the movie it’s actually from.
Is that such a novel concept?
Here’s my script again. Page 154. It’s the scene. Darth Vader is about to say the line we all know and love… but what’s that in my shooting script?
“Insert B – Dialogue added here”. Back in 1980, they were so worried about the big “I am your father” twist getting leaked that they actually cut it from the script, only to tell Mark Hamill the day of, “hey so here’s the real line”. If that’s not dedication to preserving the film going experience, then I don’t know what is!
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is almost here. It’s hard to believe critics have already seen the film I’ve wished for since I was three. Soon I’ll be among them! On December 18th, I’m taking a final exam, rushing to the airport and flying to Seattle to see it with my family. There’s a chance I’ll hate it, love it, or feel quite “meh” about it. Honestly, there’s a good chance I’ll feel each of those emotions in equal measure, which would be quite the confusing headache.
I hope I love it. I hope Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan and Kathleen Kennedy will keep this universe alive, and give me that movie I can show my hypothetically-possible future children, and say:
“In a way, this is the best one. It had so much riding on it, but they did it. You’re in for a treat, kids, because the best part was just seeing it for the first time”.