Something’s awakened in me, everybody! No, it’s not the ol’ herpangina, thank the Lord. It’s my excitement over a bunch of stuff that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Just over a week ago, our man J.J. Abrams released this wee note on his personal stationery:
First of all, let me just say that I love J.J. Abrams’ movies. Did you know he got his start working with Mike Nichols as a screenwriter for “Regarding Henry” and then worked with Michael Bay as a writer for “Armageddon”? You really couldn’t think of two more opposite directors, could you? But when you look at Abrams’ expanding body of work, you often get some wry humour, insightfully layered characters, and of course some ‘splosions. Who knows how much of that comes from the mentoring he received in the early days? I guess we’ll never get a Mike Nichols/Michael Bay collaboration now, but maybe the closest thing we’ll get will come from J.J. Abrams. He has also described himself as growing up on Spielberg and Lucas (who between the ages of 35 and 45 haven’t, I wonder aloud?), and his movie “Super 8” looks and feels like a love letter to E.T., Jaws, and Close Encounters. When he was handed the Star Trek reigns back in 2009, the biggest complaint I heard was that it was “too Star Warsy”. Which I don’t really get why that would be a criticism. I mean, it would be like saying, “this bagel has TOO MANY sesame seeds”. I suppose if you were allergic to sesame seeds, or suffered from “The Sprue” then maybe I could understand your aversion to sesame seeds, but otherwise “Star Wars” the hell out of this franchise, baby! So when I heard he was “jumping” the Star Trek “ship” to direct the new “Star Wars” movie, I thought to myself, “Perfect.”
(Just between you and me, I always kind of found the Star Trek universe dull compared to the Star Wars universe, even though my younger brother and his friends were HUGE TNG fans. It just never captured my imagination in the same way that Star Wars did. I had ALL the Star Wars toys and played with them endlessly [until G.I. Joe inevitably took over]. I DO remember one birthday when some weird aunt gave me a “Captain Kirk” doll and I honestly didn’t know what to do with it. As a rule, Star Trek toys didn’t really exist in the same way as Star Wars toys did. It was like the Star Trek people didn’t honestly think kids were watching it, and from my experience they were right. This “Captain Kirk” doll was about the height of a Ken Doll, but dressed in a cheap yellow top and black trousers. He didn’t come with any accessories or weapons. He just stood there like a doofus. It was totally the wrong size to even try to “work into” my Star Wars play, even if I wanted to pretend he was the cantina owner or some rando doomed citizen of Alderaan. I think I just neglected to ever pick him up again once the aunt left and resumed playing with the properly sized Star Wars figures. FYI, I was always a Hoth man, myself, trying to collect every last toy that belonged to that planet, whereas my friend Ed was an “alien and bounty hunter” man. We would often collaboratively play and there wasn’t much overlap between what he had and what I had, and it worked out, as long as we wanted to play the “let’s have all the aliens and bounty hunters fight it out on Hoth” scenario, which we often did.)
But back to this letterhead. Aside from the fact that I kind of love that J.J. Abrams still uses paper letterhead to make announcements, I was excited to know that by the end of the week someone will have probably leaked the new teaser trailer online, and I’d be that much more knowledgeable as to what to expect a year from now.
Last Thursday, someone posted a link to what claimed to be a bootleg copy of the trailer, furtively recorded during an advance preview screening at Disney HQ. “Holy SHIT!!!” I thought to myself and eagerly clicked on the link before the Disney lawyers took it down. We got to see a shakily held camera in the back of a full theatre that focused in on the Disney and Lucasfilm logos, before the screen went black……Rick Astley appeared singing “Never gonna give you up”. SHIT, man. I was Rickrolled and I totally fell for it. What is this? 2011? Who does Rickrolling anymore? I was so mad, you guys.
But then it got me to thinking: maybe the trailer DOES exist out there somewhere already, and all I needed to do was find it before the lawyers did. I spent the better part of an afternoon checking out sites “online” and although there were a bunch of what were clearly “fanmade” trailers out there, I came across the following that I thought was real:
I loved the tone of this trailer, and the fact that they tied it into the last scene of “Return of the Jedi”. I also liked that you heard Han Solo but didn’t see him. It was all very hopeful, UNTIL I FOUND OUT IN THE COMMENTS THAT THIS WAS A FAN MAKE FAKE AND THAT THE HARRISON FORD LINE WAS TAKEN FROM HIS CAMEO IN “ANCHORMAN 2” A MOVIE I HAVE NOT SEEN!
I was so mad, you guys! But I wasn’t daunted. If anything, my resolve was even firmer than before.
So I kept clicking past the obvious jokes, like the one that had Yoda sleeping and then you just hear an alarm clock going off and you see the title card “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. Very cute, guys, but not worth linking to, I’m afraid.
I came across this one that I thought, almost KNEW was the real thing. So much so that I showed it to my wife and a couple of co-workers the next day (the Friday that it was supposed to “go wide”). I was telling them all it was the real thing.
Looking back on it, this one looks even faker that the first one I posted, but I was willfully blind. I wanted to believe it was real, but there were many things that troubled me. The first was the use of James Earl Jones’ voice. I mean, Vader is dead, we all know that, but it seemed like it was a character with a similar breathing apparatus to Vader’s, which I thought was kind of cool, but still? And the trailer had speeder bikes and I’m a sucker for the Scout Troopers. I also didn’t like the mention of the emperor and the “children of the Jedi” talk. Jesus, are we going to have to deal with Han and Leia’s kids like we did in the EU? And although I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to show Harrison Ford (Look everyone: he isn’t dead. He’s actually in this damn thing!), something troubled me in that scene. He wasn’t wearing Soloesque wardrobe, and his tone seemed too serious and dour. It actually prompted me to come up with my own Han Solo impression, which I’ve performed on at least one occasion to the slight bemusement of a small group of friends (and several times in front of my wife until she finally had to say, “Okay, that’s enough”). And you know what? Again, they used a clip from Ender’s Game, I movie that I fell asleep in (but which my wife, oddly enough watched to the end even though it wasn’t her thing or her choice).
But this one too proved to be just a fake, and when I broke the news to my wife, she said “I knew it was a fake because they were using music from Harry Potter at the end”. Now I didn’t want to contradict my wife at this point, but it clearly wasn’t Harry Potter music, it was the Imperial March, but played on a harp or something, so my wife was wrong on her reasoning but correct in her result, so we were back to square one.
I’m happy to say that by Friday night the actual trailer was readily available and I finally watched it. I had to confirm this with a number of independent sources before I felt confident I was right. If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is:
So this is it. There are the 88 seconds that JJ Abrams mentioned in his personal note to us a week ago. And you know what? I’m freakin’ stoked. No one can say this is too “Star Warsy” because IT IS FUCKING STAR WARS you guys, and from what I can see they are not tying themselves to the EU and the thing just looks gorgeous, doesn’t it? A disoriented stormtrooper in the desert? Stormtroopers that give off a decidedly “Cybermen” vibe, that breathtaking shot of those x-wings gliding over the water? That bone-chilling image of a sith lord in the snowy forest igniting a red, almost Excalibur-looking light saber? (which is now my facebook background, everybody!) and of course that stunning acrobatic shot of the Millennium Falcon turning about and facing two TIE fighters head on. But even more than the visuals, it was that familiar sound of that Falcon’s engines that really shot me back 35 years. I knew then that the Star Wars universe was in good hands. The best possible hands, I think, for this point in time.
I don’t know what any of it means right now and I almost want to go into “radio silence” mode from now until next December and just let the thing work its magic on me (and my daughter). A side note about taking my daughter to see it. She’ll be six and a half when it comes out. I was six and a bit when I saw “The Empire Strikes Back” in the theatre with my Dad for the first time. I have not yet watched a single Star Wars movie with her yet, although she and I have been making our way through the very excellent “Star Wars: Rebels” animated show currently airing on the Disney Channel. There’s a part of me that thinks “She’s too young” but a bigger more selfish part of me that just wants to experience this with her. A dear friend of ours got some troubling, potentially life altering medical news a couple of weeks ago, and when he got home from the doctors he said to his three daughters, “We’re watching Star Wars tonight” without saying why. He didn’t want to worry them, but he too was harbouring this secret yearning to watch these movies with his kids but just didn’t know when the right time would be. Sadly, life doesn’t allow for things to play out as we imagine sometimes. After watching the first one (episode IV, obvs) he was about to show them “Empire Strikes Back” when his wife intervened and thought his youngest daughter was too young. HIS YOUNGEST DAUGHTER IS NINE, EVERYBODY. So they stopped after the first one, and I hope and PRAY that he gets to show the entire trilogy AND the disappointing prequels to them when all his kids are old enough. Hell, I hope he gets to show them to his future potential grandkids, but we just don’t know how everything is going to play out. But we never do, do we?
Like the voice in the trailer says, there is the dark side…..but also the light. And I’m trying to stick to the light, despite the potential for being blinded by lensflare.