The first early trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released this morning, and boy has it got a lot of good stuff in it. We see – and hear – a fair bit more of Luke Skywalker than we have since the series restarted (I’m avoiding the term “reboot” as it’s a chronological continuation) in December 2015.
Here’s the trailer – after, I’ll dissect it some, and give my thoughts on what we’re seeing:
The frame opens on darkness, brightening through what at first appears to be a starfield, but resolving into volcanic rock. This is a very clever effect, using light and darkness, something that quickly becomes apparent is the theme of this trailer. Rey suddenly drops to the ground in front of us, supporting herself on all fours upon the stone, gasping for breath. Luke speaks in voice-over: “Breathe,” as the familiar Lucasfilm logo appears, and the familiar refrain of the soft horns from John William’s original score play in the background. Cut to a sweeping shot of the oceans of Ahch-To, the planet Luke has been living on. The camera pans up to include a pair of desolate islands in the early morning sun. The shot moves above the island we last saw at the end of The Force Awakens. Luke in VO again: “Just…breathe.” Cut to Rey in silhouette from behind, standing on a cliff overlooking the waves coming in. “Now,” cut to Rey’s hand with stones lifting around her, “reach out.” Cut to black. “What do you see.” We’re suddenly in the Resistance Control Room, with the camera approaching what can only be General Leia Organa from behind. Now Rey in VO: “Light.” Cut to Kylo Ren’s smoking ruin of a mask, and the music’s tone turns darker. “Darkness.” The camera moves in a lit platform, surrounded by what looks like lava flows, then cuts to a gloved hand touching an illuminated text as Rey finishes, “The balance.” The camera sweeps out from the island, where we see Rey practicing with Luke’s lightsaber, as he watches. Luke in VO: “It’s so much bigger.”
At this point, one minute in, the trailer drops into a fast paced action montage. We get a new kind of spaceship/landspeeder with an apparently unconscious Finn on-board; shots of Poe Dameron and BB-8 rushing to their X-Wing, only to be pushed back by explosions; the Millenium Falcon taking out Tie Fighters; a close-up on a determined looking Rey running with the lightsaber, with Luke in VO once more: “I only know one truth.” Cut to Kylo Ren, unmasked, sighting along his lightsaber; a shot of what is likely Luke beside R2D2, on a burning plane, overlooking a building in flames; Captain Phasma walking toward the camera, apparently coming from the flaming building; a frenetic space battle, with tiny fighters dodging between larger, more static ships, explosions everywhere. Cut to black, Luke in VO one last time: “It’s time for the Jedi,” fade in Luke, standing silhouetted in a cave entrance, “to end.” The music crescendos, and the title appears. Then December, and fade out.
The most interesting thing to me here is how much they were able to include, and what they chose not to. The obvious, maudlin choice, would have been to include a few shots of Leia, something they chose not to do. I think this was definitely the right way to go. Over-emphasis on her character would be a little contrived. Fans are already going to be feeling a sense of loss when they see her, and by only having the one brief shot on the back of her head, the producers are saying, “Yes, she’s in the film, but no, we’re not going to manipulate your emotions around her.”
The second thing is that this is clearly Rey’s movie. She was the star of the first one, but did share a fair bit of screen-time/audience attention with both Finn and, at times, Poe Dameron. And that’s not to mention the scenes with Han and Chewie – pretty hard to compete with them for the hearts of fans. Chewbacca does not even appear in this trailer, and Rey gets about 40% of the screentime, so it’s definitely her we’re going to be focusing on.
Luke’s “truth” – that the Jedis must end, is an interesting revelation. It suggests that he sees in the Jedi a kind of imbalance creator for the Force, something we’ve had hints of before in the mythos. That this is the truth he’s arrived at after being alone for so many years seems to be somewhat belied by the fact that he’s clearly training Rey. But if not as a Jedi, then what as?
It appears that, for Luke, the balance between light and darkness has become his entire focus. Perhaps he’s trying to find a new hybrid, something between a Jedi and a Sith, something – or someone – that can incorporate in a complete way what the Force actually represents. Two halves make a whole, after all. The trailer does a wonderful job of not only verbally stating this as the theme, but of incorporating it visually with a series of contrasting images, of light and darkness playing on the screen. Solid work in the Teaser bodes well for the movie itself, as this is no “throw in some thrills” approach – it is well thought-out, it has a message, and it shows a holistic sensibility that should speak to what the movie as a whole will try to do.
The trailer is a great little tease for what’s been – the inclusion of several returning characters – and what will be – the training, the smoking Darth Vader mask, Finn appearing to be unconscious, Luke (?) confronting Phasma. It’s early days yet, but this trailer packs in a lot – I, for one, will be eagerly anticipating the next trailer in a month or two. Now, I’m going to go back and watch this one a few more times…