The idea of watching the new Star Wars trailer over a dozen times to scrutinize it seemed a little wacky, but I have to say, after the first few times (or, okay, after the eighth time or so), you get past the nitpicking and engage in dialogue with fellow fans and cinephiles in a way that feels pretty cool. I was invited to sit in on a panel discussion at the Alamo Drafthouse with Eric Vespe and Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News, John Gholson of Movies.com, author Owen Egerton, and Kevin Williams, who won the Drafthouse's superfan contest. In front of an audience of eager fans and moderated by Drafthouse CEO Tim League, we watched the trailer for The Force Awakens over a dozen times, pausing in between to dissect every frame of the trailer like the giant nerds we are.
It's basically what a bunch of you were doing at home when the trailer hit iTunes, but we had an audience.
I'm a bit of a lapsed Star Wars fan - like many of you, my fandom exhausted itself during the era of the prequels, and while the original trilogy still holds a special place in my heart, I've had little interest in a new trilogy or series of films until very recently. The casting announcements and the talent behind the scenes have slowly been building my excitement again, and this first trailer admittedly has me full-on stoked. I'm ready, Star Wars. Let's do this.
Now, I have nowhere near the level of expertise on Star Wars as some of the guys I was seated with on that panel. I haven't kept up with much of the rumors or spoilers surrounding The Force Awakens, although in my line of work, a few are unavoidable. I am a fan of the original films, and I do know the difference between the Millennium Falcon and an AT-AT and a TIE Fighter. That being said, it was interesting to hear them discuss how the Millennium Falcon no longer had a circular radar attachment, which had been replaced with a rectangular piece. Or that shots on Tattooine clearly included Ralph McQuarrie designs, things which I would not have noticed.
There was some debate during the panel among all of us over a few key things: the opening voice over, for instance - is that Andy Serkis? I tend to think it is. If you compare the inflection in that voice to his Caesar voice from the Apes films, there's a deep, gravelly similarity. There was a suggestion that it could be Benedict Cumberbatch, who met with the studio but ultimately didn't take a part in the film. Perhaps he only provided a voice over for the trailer. I find this unlikely. Another possibility is Adam Driver, who is likely playing a villainous role, and the voice sounds too young to be an elderly character, but being the huge Adam Driver fan that I am, I don't hear anything in that voice that sounds Driver-esque at all.
Another point of debate was over the cloaked figure in the snowy woods in the final shot - Harry firmly believes this is Driver based on what he's previously learned about the film and about the character's description. If you look at the right hand, it's bulkier, seemingly obscuring that it could be robotic or false. Based on one of the only rumors I have read, I thought this might be Luke, but the body type isn't correct for Mark Hamill. So the only possibilities are Adam Driver or, as someone later suggested, Gwendoline Christie. I liked Owen's idea that maybe this isn't just our first introduction to the character in the trailer, but also in the film, and that we meet them from behind. Imagine the surprise when they finally turn around and it's a woman, wielding that badass three-tipped lightsaber. I really hope someone gets disemboweled with that lightsaber.
The opening shot was a huge talking point, but here's what I think: I think we can take the title almost literally. I think Boyega is a Stormtrooper, and the Force awakens within him, snapping him out of his soldier-programming. There was discussion about how the Stormtroopers were never really clones in the original trilogy - that was a prequel idea. So maybe Boyega isn't a clone, or at least not a physical clone, but he's still programmed in some way, and the Force awakens him from being a Stormtrooper. I like the idea that he has this great power within, and that a battle will be waged over which path he'll ultimately take, very similar to the battle over and within Luke.
We also discussed the shot of the Stormtroopers getting read to get off their ship - where were they going? Kamino? The snowy mystery planet? A rainy area? Were they preparing to enter battle? It's interesting to note that we're seeing this from their perspective, which is something that's never really been done before. I'm a big fan of that shot in the trailer. There's something very jarring about it.
And of course, the little soccer ball droid, whose head looks very much like R2-D2. So much of the designs in this trailer look weathered and lived-in. There's a ton of attention to detail. We spent a lot of time analyzing the shot of Oscar Isaac in the X-wing. Everything from his helmet to his seat is scratched and worn. This isn't a shiny new universe like the one in the prequel trilogy. This is a universe that's been around for a long, long time, and J.J. Abrams and his team have given a lot of thought to every tiny detail.
You would think after watching this trailer so many times, I would be exhausted and maybe even resent the thing by now, but I think I might be a Star Wars fan again, guys. Sitting there in front of an audience, it wasn't as if I felt pressure to be something I'm not. I went in this morning ready to watch a trailer for a film that I felt sort of OK about. I wasn't that excited, but I was more on board with it than I was a year ago, when I felt absolutely zero interest in diving back into this universe at all. But as of now, having watched the trailer over a dozen times and dissected it with my peers in front of a room of people who are bigger fans than I am or ever have been - even when I curled up to watch the original trilogy with my dad on the couch when I was little, or dragged him to take me to see the re-releases, or, I hate to admit it, saw the prequels more than once in the theater - I can officially say that I am genuinely excited for Star Wars again.