A long, long weekend ago, in a galaxy called the Milky Way, we got our first glimpse of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
It is a teaser trailer in the purest sense of the word. Although we saw glimpses the franchise's future in motion, we didn't get any details about characters or plot or settings. That doesn't mean we can't suss some details out or make some observations.
What we saw and heard was brief, tantalizing and in a few ways surprising. Let's see what we can learn.
The trailer is almost as notable for what it didn't do as for what it did. I, like many I talked to, was awaiting what seemed inevitable, but there were no returning favorites — not of the human variety, anyway.
There is nothing campy about this trailer, either. To set the mood for the new trilogy, the filmmakers chose tension as the overriding theme. The panic, the war footing, the menacing Sith stalking through the snowy woods with his blowtorch lightsaber: All of these things combine to form the overwhelming sense of unrest, tension and dread. It's more Empire than A New Hope at this point.
Instead, the 88-second video focuses on the new and largely eschews the old. That's likely not an accident.
The trailer is about the new, with a nod to the old — like the sound of an Imperial probe droid at the beginning and the lightsaber flare at 1:24 seconds, old sounds that bookend the new montage. That its creators chose to introduce the movie this way may be an indication that The Force Awakens will do the same, using the characters from the original trilogy as foundations upon which to build the story, rather than putting them in the spotlight.
So what did we see?
THE SWEATING STORMTROOPER. The trailer begins with him, portrayed by John Boyega. He could be a rank and file stormtrooper. He could be a wolf in sheep's clothing. He could be the hero of the trilogy, the aspiring Jedi who takes over from an aging, Obi Wan-like Luke Skywalker. Given his prominence in the trailer — its creators chose him to introduce The Force Awakens to the world — that last theory may hold the most weight.
THE SOCCER BALL DROID. Droids have always been an indelible part of the Star Wars universe, and The Force Awakens' trailer introduces us to a new variety of droid. Though it moves on a ball, the unnamed droid bears more than a passing resemblance to the Star Wars universe's most lovable robotic companion, R2-D2, both in sight and in sound.
THE SIDEWAYS SPEEDER LADY. Actress Daisy Ridley, appears briefly in the trailer abroad a speeder that looks kind of like a ridable refrigerator. Perhaps the most notable aspect of her few seconds onscreen is the gear attached to her speeder in the first shot, which looks suspiciously like the hilt of Darth Maul's lightsaber. Her headgear and eyewear also appear to have been designed by Ralph McQuarrie, a concept artist and designer on the original trilogy. McQuarrie passed away in 2012. In 2014, Ridley rides away on a speeder similar to one he designed and into a bit of concept art reminiscent of McQuarrie's work on the gate for Jabba's Palace in Return of the Jedi.
X-WING PILOT GUY. His introductory shot is arguably the strongest visual link to the original trilogy. It's also telling that this new pilot's helmet and his vest both carry the insignia of the (former?) Rebel Alliance, otherwise known as the Alliance Starbird. Whether that's been repurposed as the emblem for a new Galactic Republic or the war never really ended is impossible to tell.
DARTH SOULS. The Sith lord makes an ominous appearance in the trailer, stalking through a dark and snowy forest. We also see how JJ Abrams' direction departs from George Lucas', as the camera moves with the big bad as he walks deliberately through the woods and fires up his hilted, flamethrower-like lightsaber. The shot's composition is reminiscent of the Dark Souls franchise, which is why we've decided to call the bad guy Darth Souls for now.
STORMTROOPERS. The foot soldiers of the Republic and the Galactic Empire return (as they tend to do), but in modified form (as they also tend to do). Yes, there are storm troopers, but not of the variety we're used to. Confirming a leak from August, Their helmet design is more forward-looking like it was in Return of the Jedi, not a gradual devolution to Jango Fett's modified Mandalorian armor as it was in the prequels. The uniforms are easy to identify and harken back to the original trilogy with the "OII" markings on the back of John Boyega's uniform.
Stormtroopers appear twice in the brief teaser trailer. At first, and with a jump scare, we see Boyega breathless and sweating, helmetless in white plasteel, lost in the desert. Later, a group of several stand aboard a landing craft, helmets on, guns cocked and prepared for battle like we saw in the prequels.Their weapons sport scopes that bring to mind to Han Solo's blaster.
Remember that, for decades in the public consciousness, stormtroopers were the bad guys before they were the good guys. What will they be when they return?
THE MILLENNIUM FALCON. Perhaps the most iconic ship in the Star Wars universe is back — and with a new, rectangular satellite dish, no doubt replaced after Lando Calrissian broke the original off in Return of the Jedi. Han Solo and Chewbacca may be piloting the Corellian Cruiser above the sands of Tatooine, but we don't know for sure.
TATOOINE. Tatooine seems to return (what other desert planet could it reasonably be?), as it almost always does. It seems to be the first shot. Our new droid friend seems to roll past podracer engines.
If so, that sand-strewn rock, in contradistinction to what Luke calls it in A New Hope, is decidedly not the farthest spot from the bright center of the universe. It's difficult to think of any planet more intertwined to the fate of the galaxy than Tatooine, and it appears poised to play its pivotal role again in The Force Awakens.
X-WINGS. There are X-wings, just as director and writer JJ Abrams teased in July. Or at least they are newer versions of X-wing fighters with modified s-foils. Also of note: When we see the spaceships, they're not flying in space. (In fact, none of the spaceships we see in the trailer are flying in space.) The establishing shot of a pilot, played by Oscar Isaac, in a cockpit immediately brings to mind Zev Senesca, the smiling, doomed snow speeder pilot who discovers Han and Luke in Hoth's tundra in The Empire Strikes Back.
TIE FIGHTERS. When the Falcon returns, it does so in the context of a dogfight with the fighter ships of the Empire. They look, sound and fly the same. It is a clear indication of where this fits in the timeline — and would have been a bit more novel, if the new cartoon series, Star Wars: Rebels hadn't brought them back a few months ago.
THE ORIGINAL CAST. Many fans — myself included — would have bet dollars to donuts that the first trailer for The Force Awakens would have given us a glimpse of the older original cast, who are set to return in The Force Awakens. We got exactly none of that. Even after the logo faded, and I was sure we'd see them … nothing.
ALIENS. There's not a single, obviously identifiable non-human alien in this trailer. No Mos Eisley cantina for us … yet.
When Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed the seventh film's title as The Force Awakens during an earnings call in early November, it brought a question immediately to mind: Was the Force sleeping? The trailer's gruff, ominous narrator may offer a clue.
"There has been an awakening," he says. It's a statement of fact that he follows up with a question. "Have you felt it?"
He's talking to someone, though who is unknowable. Is he tempting an older Luke Skywalker? Or perhaps a Force sensitive character we don't know yet?
"The Dark Side, the Sith says. "And the Light."
Was the Force, in fact, sleeping? Did it retreat after the events of Return of the Jedi? Like them or not, midi-chlorians are canonical. If they're living beings' interface with the Force, it's not inconceivable to think that they somehow retreated after Darth Vader and the Emperor became the hallmarks of the Force and ruled the galaxy with an iron fist for so many years.
Shortly after the trailer was released, the official Star Wars Twitter account confirmed that John Williams, who's composed the score for every film in the series since its 1977 inception, scored the trailer as well.
Most of what you can hear seems tailor-made for the trailer, with Williams' often staccato rhythms underscoring the frenetic nature of the montages.
That all changes 59 seconds in, when Williams' unmistakable "Main Title" kicks in with gusto and the Millennium Falcon fills the screen, twirling and shooting in the sands above Tatooine, where it meets two TIE fighters.
Which leads me to my next and final point: Hot damn, I'm excited.