Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Decoding the new trailer, shot by shot
No need to freeze-frame the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. Entertainment Weekly has done that for you, and we've taken a deep dive into its mysteries and clues. Fasten your goggles against the dust. Here we go ...
It begins with Daisy Ridley's desert scrap scavenger Rey rappelling through a crashed starship. After all these months, we finally see her ply her trade on the scorched land of Jakku. It's unclear if she's searching for something specific, or just exploring. It doesn't seem that she has a specific mission in mind. Sometimes, a person is just a wanderer. For the lucky, adventure finds them. What we get in these first few moments of the trailer is a sense of what a lonely existence she has.
Then, a question: an unseen woman (my guess: Lupita Nyong'o's space pirate Maz Kanata) asking: "Who are you?" And Rey answers dolefully: "I'm no one." That's the central question of this trailer, and maybe the movie: Who are you? What do you stand for? Most important of all — who stands with you?
Whether she was looking for him, or just found him by accident — or destiny — Rey now has a friend. She and BB-8 walk (and roll) toward the horizon. A team is forming. Maybe you could call it a found family.
Rey watches a distant starship rise up from Jakku and enter the atmosphere. The shots aren't the same, but this seemed to me to be one of the trailer's most direct callbacks to 1977's original Star Wars. Rey stares at that starship the way Luke looked over the flatland of Tatooine toward the twin suns on the horizon.
General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) addresses the formidable forces of The First Order, but the few lines of distorted dialogue are difficult, maybe impossible, to discern. At least one member of these ranks is not comfortable with his mission. Rey is alone in a sandy wasteland. John Boyega's Finn is alone amid thousands of brethren.
We've seen this bloody handprint on Finn's stormtrooper helmet before, but now we hear him speak for the first time: “I was raised to do one thing. But I’ve got nothing to fight for.” The problem isn't that FN2187 lacks the will to lay down his life — or take one that belongs to another. He's searching for purpose, and his line suggests something heartbreaking: a child soldier. Someone raised only to fight, and die. Someone expendable. Or, as Rey might put it: "No one."
In previous footage, we've seen the TIE Fighter lift off from the bay of a First Order Star Destroy, blasting its way to freedom. Now it's clear: Finn is aboard that ship. In this shot, we see his desperate escape and watch as his getaway vehicle is quickly crippled, spiraling toward Jakku. He must be a pretty good pilot to survive a crash landing like that.
Another homage to Luke Skywalker and his twin suns. Finn surveys a small village below a ridge on Jakku. It's notable for being so ... not notable. When George Lucas reissued his original trilogy as "special editions" in the 1990s, he added vehicles and creatures to the Tatooine outpost of Mos Eisley, but here ... Man, is that even a town? Or is it what's left of a town?
A third piece of this new family has been found. Rey and Finn's few lines underscore a kind of existential crisis, Who am I? What is my purpose? It's clear that the heroes of The Force Awakens don't consider themselves heroes. They still have something to prove, if only to themselves.
Adam Driver’s villainous Kylo Ren is not someone facing a crisis of identity or conscience. Here we see him standing upon the deck of a heavy-duty starship, bathed in Sith-red light. He's a Darth Vader fanboy, an obsessive for the Dark Side, and even if J.J. Abrams doesn't tell us much about Ren's quest, he cuts a rather lonely figure.
Ren's own mask appears to have seen some action. It's dented along the mouthpiece. He's not new at this, and it's unnerving that he wears it in private while speaking to his long-lost hero. “Nothing will stand in our way,” he says to Darth Vader’s scorched mask. “I will finish what you started.”
Clearly, Kylo Ren is seeking some kind of connection. He's just looking in the damn wrong places. (It's never a good thing to spend too much time talking to inanimate objects, son.)
Here he comes face-to-mask with a real-life human. In previously released behind-the-scenes footage, Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron, a hotshot X-Wing pilot, was seen being marched in handcuffs into a First Order prison cell. Remember Vader interrogating Princess Leia in the original film? This scene doesn't appear to cut away when the torture begins.
Dameron tries to keep it together, but he loses his cool in one desperate scream as Kylo Ren extends a hand to his face. You can bet the Resistance pilot is feeling the Force — and not the nice side of it. What we don't know — and it's a vital mystery Abrams has teased — is to what degree Dameron has encountered Finn during his captivity. That tan jacket we see Finn sporting on Jakku was originally Dameron's. So they definitely crossed paths.
Just an extension of the aerial escape we first saw at the end of the first teaser for The Force Awakens last November. The April trailer showed the Millennium Falcon cruising through the exhaust port of a crashed Star Destroyer, and here we see just how tight a squeeze that dogfight became. What we don't know: Who's at the controls? Is this the masterful flying of Han Solo — or another pilot who happened to steal the keys to the galaxy's most notorious Corellian freighter?
It has to be Han at the controls, right? Nobody else could thread that needle. And the chase is followed by this scene with Finn and Rey aboard the ship, standing with a holographic map of the galaxy between them and Mr. Solo. They apparently know something about his past, even if they don't know him. They're aware of the events depicted in the original trilogy, because whatever they've told Solo leads him to say: "It's all true. All of it. The Dark Side, the Jedi ... they're real." This tells us something vital about the state of the galaxy ...
This Solo has the somber tone of someone who once doubted, but can no longer deny. Remember the sarcastic Han we saw smuggling a so-called space wizard and some farm boy and his droids to Alderaan? "Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid." What this new exchange reveals is that the Force, and the Jedi, the Sith ... those aren't facts that everyday galaxy-dwellers know about or accept. History has been passed on as legend, as folktale. And that means the Force isn't something that everyone can feel. Maybe that's why the "awakening" of the title is so significant. For most, the Force is a myth.
Abrams has told EW that Kylo Ren is not the birth name of the character, but rather one he acquired after joining a legion known as "the Knights of Ren." We don't know too much more about them, but judging by the similar attire and masked helmets, I do believe we are finally seeing them for the first time.
One of the film's major battle sequences. This appears to be the scene that follow's Rey looking up from the woods and seeing TIE Fighters and troop landers scouring the air overhead. There's a Resistance base on this green, mountainous planet — and the First Order seems ready to eradicate it. As this shot pivots we see a full squadron of X-Wings skimming the surface of this world's waters. We don't know where it is, but there's something about it that seems familiar. Let's do some theorizing ...
Doesn't the architecture here remind you of the temple on the moon Yavin IV, where the Rebel fleet was stationed in the original Star Wars? It might just be coincidence, but those slanting stone walls recall the ruins where the final ceremony took place, honoring Luke, Han, and Chewie (though no medal for him, at the time) for their roles in destroying the Death Star. If it is the same place, it looks pretty ragged. Another possibility: it's Maz Kanata's pirate hideaway, which seems a bit more likely, judging by the many flags from assorted galactic systems and orders. Not visible in this screengrab, but spotted by astute viewers, is a banner in the center that bears the Mandalorian symbol -- the nomadic clan of warriors Boba Fett and Rebel's Sabine Wren belonged to. But for a moment, let's just indulge a bit about the Yavin possibility ...
If this is the temple of Yavin IV, what better way for Kylo Ren to begin fulfilling his promise to Lord Vader? "I will finish what you started," he vowed earlier in the trailer. Yavin was the world the Death Star was preparing to turn to gravel just before Luke Skywalker blew the deadly space station to smithereens.
This is the shot that makes me wonder about Finn and Poe's history. Poe claps him on the shoulder with a smile, but Finn looks distressed. It looks like Finn knows Poe, but that Poe is just being friendly to a fellow Resistance fighter on the tarmac. They had to have met when Poe was in captivity (that tan jacket again), but then ... perhaps this isn't Poe anymore. That encounter with Kylo Ren, that scream. What if Finn is freaked out because Poe doesn't appear to know him, but should.
We don't get a lot of Gwendoline Christie's Captain Phasma, but maybe there's not much to get. How deep can a murderous arsonist go? Either way, she still looks like a force (lowercase "f") to reckon with, and her soldiers don't seem to question her orders.
Here is perhaps the most mysterious and distressing scene of the trailer. Rey is crying, and that is somebody's body on the ground in front of her. The thing I can't tell for sure is ... Does that look like fur to you on the right? Let out a Wookiee roar if you're starting to get nervous for Chewbacca. Another possibility: That looks a bit like a leather jacket, so maybe this is Finn wounded after his clash with Kylo Ren. (And that "fur" is just shrubbery in the background.) EIther way, somebody's going to hurt someone.
"Heyyyyy, MACARENA!" (Sorry, this one was just for fun. It looks like they get away from whatever is threatening them just in time.) If this world isn't Yavin, and is instead a new location where Maz Kanata's pirates traffic their wares, what we're likely seeing is our wandering heroes being rescued from The First Order's assault on the castle just as things are looking their most dire. Chewie seems chill, though.
One of those times when it's bad to be on the outside of the X-Wing. Hang tight, BB-8! This is part of another dogfight that appears to take place on Starkiller Base, the weaponized planet revealed in the new one-sheet poster. You can't see it in this shot, but note the Grand Canyon-esque mechanical trench opening up on the surface of the snowy, rocky world in this sequence.
That voice we hear at the start now seems softer, more reassuring: "The Force ... it's calling to you." At first, I thought this was still Lupita Nyong'o's Maz Kanata, who may fulfill the Yoda-like role in this saga. Listening again, it sounds more like Leia. We don't see Rey with a lightsaber; instead we see her with a staff and firing like hell with a blaster. But the nurturing voice of this woman suggests there may be some Force sensitivity in her. "Just let it in," she whispers.
A remarkable reveal by Abrams of something the longtime fans have wanted to see for decades: Han Solo and Princess Leia, reunited. It makes me think of the beginning, and the lonesome figures of Rey, Finn, and even Kylo Ren. "Who are you?" is the question, and Rey says: "I'm no one." This shot made me think, maybe when you find someone else who is lost, you cease to be no one. The only thing missing here is Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker. I suspect that's him earlier in the trailer (a shot first seen in April) extending a robotic hand to R2-D2. But we don't hear him. And we definitely don't see him. But we see these two, and that counts for a lot. The look on both their faces says: "I know."
Finn ignites his lightsaber (which looks a whole lot like the one that Luke lost to Darth Vader on Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back). Kylo Ren sparks his red crossguard saber. We don't see the blades clash, but we know we're going to. It's a perfect ending to a trailer brimming with emotion. Without a doubt, Finn has finally discovered something worth fighting for.