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Shot-by-shot Analysis of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser 2 (Part 1)

Happy Star Wars Day!! The latest Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser dropped two weeks ago at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim. Like a doofus I actually tuned in for entirety of the Episode 7 panel, which included useless behind-the-scenes photo reveals, mind-numbingly boring cast interviews, and finally the brand-spankin’-new teaser debut—which I replayed 20-25 times that day, examining every detail and creaming all over myself. It was a mess.

I begged Dan like a pestering child to record a new podcast episode with me, but he said “no way José.” So instead, I have an even better companion to chat Star Wars: Jason Heffron. Jason knows a his way around Star Wars but he isn’t a fanboy weirdo. He’s just a knowledgeable guy with good film taste who also happens to be a Star Wars fan. He’s a great person to discuss this teaser with because he has fun speculating. He and I spent a good amount of time dissecting this teaser shot-by-shot because we’re nerds. If you’re a nerd too, then kick back with a tall glass of Bantha milk and read to your heart’s content. This post is a long one…

Lucasfilm logo from Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser

Frank: “We’re actually going to start here at the Lucasfilm logo. Nothing particularly exciting here. That is, except it’s interesting to note that there’s no sign of Disney in these teasers. Clearly, Disney is keeping the Lucasfilm brand for everything Star Wars. And Disney’s logo isn’t alongside Lucasfilm’s logo.

For the last five Star Wars movies, I believe—and don’t quote me on this—that Lucasfilm produced them, but 20th Century Fox distributed them. As far as I know, 20th Century Fox was only involved in the production of A New Hope, and then Lucasfilm took the reigns from that point on. Maybe? Something along those lines.

Again, I could be completely wrong on that, but long story short: every Star Wars movie began with the Lucasfilm logo, followed by the Fox logo, with the Fox fanfare playing in the background. The Fox fanfare has become somewhat of a staple of the opening to a Star Wars movie. However, given Disney’s purchase, it should come as no surprise that the 20th Century Fox fanfare won’t be attached to any new Star Wars movies. It’s gonna be kinda weird right?”

Jason: “That’s something I would have never thought about. I did think it was kind of odd that it didn’t include the Disney logo but I don’t pay attention to the studios too much. I can picture the Fox logo now that you mention it, but I would have never noticed its absence if you hadn’t brought it up.”

Fallen star destroyer from Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser

Jason: “well my first impression during this part was “woooooooooaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!”

The scale is just so amazing. One of my favorite scenes in the original trilogy was when they showed the star destroyers next to the super star destroyer. They were so much smaller than the super. And then seeing the super star destroyer look like a needle stabbing the Death Star. It was so cool.

And now we know this planet is not Tatooine. Originally I liked and disliked the idea of it being Tatooine. Obviously I was having a big nerdgasm seeing Tatooine again but one of my biggest problems with the prequels is the fact that everything was so connected. An example would be Chewy, this random smuggler in the originals, is now the savior of Yoda. It makes the universe seems much smaller than it should be.

But now let’s get to the actual facts. The planet is Jakku. There was a famous battle post-Jedi that occurs above the planet. Hence the ship graveyard we see. I’m so excited to see this planet. I love that it’s something we haven’t seen before. It’s JJ really trying to separate himself from the old movies while being familiar enough that we don’t get too much of a culture shock.”

Frank: “Agreed. This is a breathtaking landscape shot. And it’s very cool seeing the scale of the Star Destroyer in the distance, the X-wing in the foreground and Daisy Ridley’s character riding with her “block” speeder across the horizon. This shot alone sells me on JJ’s vision.

Abrams mentioned at Celebration that Star Wars isn’t so much a sci-fi as it is a fantasy and western. And like a great John Ford-esque western, you need great vitas. I think he understands that Star Wars is all about. And you’re right, scale has always been an awesome factor of the Star Wars visual language. The Millennium falcon approaching the Death Star springs to mind.

And I agree entirely with your point regarding Jakku / Tatooine. In the first trailer, I was also slightly disappointed that the desert terrain might be that of Tatooine. Really? Does the whole fucking galaxy revolve around Tatooine? I didn’t know about the graveyard element. That’s incredibly cool. As you said, a way for the old movies to still tie-in as we’re still amongst the aftermath of the war, but we’re still in an entirely new story and setting.”

Vader's burnt helmet

Frank: “This is where Luke’s VO begins. “The Force is strong in my family. My father has it…” It’s a nice touch that he says his father has it vs had it. Obviously Jedi continue to live on through the Force, which is all I think it means.

Vader’s helmet here is displayed on a glossy pedestal—which leads me to believe that it’s in the possession of the Empire, but who knows. In the next shot it looks like Luke is camping out / living in exile, so I don’t think it’s in his possession. In this shot someone is looming over the helmet. Maybe the new Sith lord or apprentice?

This is one of only two shots in the trailer I’m not so hot on… At this point there’s nothing to be worried about because we don’t know the context, but the inclusion of a burnt Vader helmet seems a little silly and teeters on the edge of fan film territory. Vader was burned. Let’s leave it at that. He’s gone. Why wasn’t he helmet burned all the way? If it wasn’t, wouldn’t Luke have taken it? If not, who found it and took it? Maybe the answers to those questions will be interesting. But if someone just “has it”…? Seems like one of those cheap “connections” that plagued the prequels. We’ll see…”

Jason: “I doubt the Empire is in possession of the Helmet. It was burned on Endor which is probably now in Rebel control…are they the New Republic? Have they revealed the name of what the Rebel Alliance became?

My prediction is that the Helmet is in a museum of some sort. There are probably other artifacts of the war present also. I don’t disagree that it may be out of place in the movie but I also think we have nothing to go off of to make a good assumption one way or the other. And if the Helmet is metal, which it is, it isn’t hard to believe that it wouldn’t fully burn in a bonfire.

I think that shot works so well for the trailer though. It really shows that this is a new order. The old Empire is dead, and here is Vader’s Helmet to prove it.

I’m also very curious to see who Luke is talking to. I’m assuming the person is related to him. Not a lot of people have the force. But Luke makes a point of talking about his family so there is obviously a connection there. I know there are theories out there that it’s Luke’s son. I don’t know if I agree with that. (Unless JJ said something about it, then ignore this). I just can’t see Luke having a son if he’s been living in exile for all these years. It may be Leia and Han’s kid but that’s floating really close to the Extended Universe which is no longer canon. So basically, what I’m saying is that I have no idea who he is talking to. I can’t even come up with a theory.”

Luke touches R2 from Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser

Jason: “This scene is so mysterious. I have so many questions. I don’t know if this is all a plan to get people talking or if the secrecy is integral to the plot.

So first off, we see a hooded figure next to a fire. We have no idea who it is. But he is with R2 so it’s got to be Luke, right? And then he reaches out his hand to touch R2, and it’s robotic!!! Definitely Luke! So why the mystery?

I’ve heard many theories about what is going on with Luke. One theory that stands out with me is that he has lost control of his powers. He’s too powerful for his own good. And he has no true guidance now that Obi-wan and Yoda are gone. That would explain his self-imposed exile. It also leads to this whole idea that if he truly has become too powerful to be controlled, he is essentially a Dark Jedi. The Dark Side is where there is power without control.

I’m also curious to see why they are hiding his face. Maybe he’s scarred or his face has changed due to his crazy powers.

I’m also wondering how much of a parallel we will see between him and Obi-wan. Powerful Jedi in exile on a desert planet (if he is on Jakku) sounds an awful lot like Obi-wan to me.

Basically this scene, along with the Voice Over, tells me that Luke is a major driving force of the plot. That’s something that I think was originally up in the air since we didn’t really know how much of a role the original cast would play. He’s obviously not the main character, but he’s definitely one of the more vital characters.”

Frank: “I remember hearing that our ‘new’ heroes enlist Han to find Luke in exile; which sounds awesome. I would imagine their hiding his face simply for the sake of the trailer (purposefully choosing this shot just so we don’t get a glimpse of him). I don’t necessarily think it’s because he’s scarred or has some sort of altered appearance, although that could very well be the case.

But it is a very cool and emotional moment. And it’s great to see R2 in the teaser. If he is, for instance, an exiled Jedi on a desert planet, that would be disappointingly similar to A New Hope. I mean, he will most likely be an old Jedi master like “Ben” Kenobi, but if his story arc is almost the same, that would be kind of a drag.

I have a feeling that we may never see Han, Luke & Leia together in this new trilogy. If the above theory is true, and Han is enlisted to find Luke, I think it’s very likely that Han will die in Episode 7 and Luke will have (at most) an extended cameo; with his role coming into full-form in Episodes 8 & 9. Having Han play the role of mentor that sacrifices himself (ala Obi-Wan), would be an interesting twist.”

Passing off a lightsaber

Frank: “My sister has it.” is the Voice Over line here. This looks like Luke’s blade right? And it does look like both hands are women’s hands. Although it seems like hand taking the blade is a young woman’s hands. So maybe Leia is handing someone the lightsaber? Obviously this shot could be completely unrelated to Leia—and simply plopped in to confuse us.

One of the things I love about this shot is how I immediately noticed the film grain. The Force Awakens is actually being shot on film, not digitally. It’s apparent in a lot of these shots, but I really took note of it here focusing on the graininess of the blurred out background. Overall not much to discuss here since it’s just a close up of a lightsaber. But it is a hand-off… so who’s handing it to to who?”

Jason: “I don’t know if I agree that it’s a woman handing it to a woman and that it’s for sure Luke’s saber. To me it looks like it’s a woman handing it off to a child. I’ve heard rumors that it is Finn (John Boyega) who now had Luke’s saber. But I don’t know if there’s any evidence to back that up. And we assume it’s Leia because of the voice over.

I feel like this could be any saber. It’s pretty generic looking, which is the case for most of the sabers in the original series. It could be Leia handing her saber off to her child. Since she is in touch with the force, maybe she started using a saber in between the movies. Now she’s older so she passes it on to her kid. Which might then tie back to the person coming to Leia and Han for help with finding Luke.

I don’t know. I feel like this scene could mean anything so most of my thoughts aren’t really grounded in anything.” 

X-Wings flying

Oscar Isaac

Jason: “This is where the trailer really ramps it up. We get a shot that’s mostly taken from the first teaser with the X-wings over the water and a glimpse at Oscar Isaac’s character piloting one. It’s interesting that he cheers though. That’s such a cool theme in these movies. The pilots always seem so excited whenever something good happens. The “don’t get cocky” line comes to mind. Or when they take down an AT-AT on Hoth.”

I also think it’s interesting that whatever the new government is called, it’s keeping the same logo of the Rebel Alliance.

And I love the visuals in this scene. The X-wings look amazing. That planet looks really cool. It gives me so much hope to see JJ seemingly capture the feel of what made the originals great and what was so severely lacking in the prequels. This feels real to me, unlike the over polished look of the prequels (mainly Revenge of the Sith).

I have to confess that I have no opinion of Oscar Isaac. I know people are pretty excited about him being in the movie. I haven’t seen him in anything yet so I really can’t comment on it one way or another. Based on what I hear though, he should do a fine job. I am interested to see how big of a role he has. So far we’ve seen him only piloting an X-wing. I’m wondering if he’s going to have a Biggs/Wedge kind of role or if it will be more expansive than that.”

Frank: “I don’t have much of an opinion on Oscar Isaac either. And I agree with all your points. This scene feels very real and grounded. You can feel the weight and size of the fighters. I think it’s interesting that we don’t actually see the X-Wings in space. Have we really seen the X-Wings flying around a planet before? Not really. Just like the rest of the trailer, this scene has a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity while also being completely different, new & exciting.

And I think that’s where JJ’s really nailing the look of this. I actually appreciate that the prequels are completely different movies in look & feel than the original trilogy. But that’s why you don’t get the same feeling watching them (that an they’re also of lesser quality). Overall though, I think what JJ’s doing is much more gratifying. Because it’s an evolution of the design elements we know and love, rather than a complete stylistic overhaul.

I really like the look of the X-Wings too. There are some changes to the design that don’t necessarily feel updated, but just like a different iteration. All-in-all, it’s mostly identical to the OT design. And I think that’s what feels so exciting about this teaser; how much it screams OT Star Wars. The cockpit shot—with the design elements so similar to the feel of the original trilogy—feels like it could’ve been taken straight from the original trilogy.”

Kylo Ren from Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser

Frank: “Very quick shot here of the Sith Kylo Ren activating and slashing his blade. You mentioned that your thoughts changed on his lightsaber from the last teaser to this one? In the last teaser his saber looked erratic and fiery. I think those same qualities are present here. What changed for you?”

Jason: “I do think it’s still fiery but I feel it looked like it was more “uncontrolled” energy if that makes sense. It looks like it was emitting more raw power in the last trailer. It might just be the shot or the angle or something. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s actually different.

I find his mask to be interesting. It looks very similar to the Darth Revan mask in Knights of the Old Republic. I don’t know if that has any significance in the lore. That might be some sort of “typical Sith mask.” Or it’s just a coincidence. Either way, I like how he looks. I wonder if we will ever see the face behind the mask.”

Heros running from Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser

Jason: “This shot is the first time we see the two main characters together. Obviously they are being attacked by something. Rey (Daisy Ridley) is holding something…at first I thought it was a primitive gun but I’m not so sure. With the quick glimpse, I thought it was a primitive RPG type weapon. When I pause, it looks more like a device of some sort. It’s also interesting to note that Finn doesn’t look very battle hardened. He looks a little scared in this shot. If it’s true that he was a storm trooper, you would think he would be a little less scared of an explosion. So if he was actually a storm trooper, he’s a pretty inexperience one.

I also want to say that I love how Rey’s costume is so similar to Luke’s from Tatooine. That’s not surprising since both the planets are Deserts and Rey is supposedly the “poor farm girl” of this movie. It’s another example of JJ keeping things fresh and similar at the same time.”

Frank: “Yeah the weapon / tool in Rey’s hand is pretty interesting. I love that B-88 is rolling behind them. Based on the TIE Fighter in the background, they’re probably on the run from the Empire. Will be interesting to see who they’re after. Rey? Her weapon? Finn the defecting Stormtrooper? The droid? I don’t speculate too much on the story because I want to keep that a surprise. Not sure how I feel about a “characters running from explosions” scene in a Star Wars movie, but I feel that’s being nit-picky as I don’t know the context.

And yes, it’s very interesting to note John Boyega’s performance throughout this trailer. In most of the shots he’s terrified and confused—which is awesome. The common trend in action movies are confident heroes, which becomes a bore. It’s so much more fun to see characters out of their element. It does, as you said, make it odd given that he was a Stormtrooper. Or, rather, in a Stormtrooper outfit. Maybe the scenes in which he’s in a Stormtrooper outfit he’s actually impersonating one (like Luke & Han in A New Hope). We’ll see.”

Kylo Ren force pushing from Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser

Frank: “This was only other shot I didn’t like in the trailer. Content-wise, it’s fine. Looks like another shot from the same sequence we saw Kylo Ren in two shots ago. I just thought the quick turn to face the camera and force-push is cheesy. Bu who knows how the shot will play in context. It will most likely be fine. And again, I know I’m nit-picking.

However, the sequence itself looks really intriguing. There are clearly Stormtroopers in the background. Some big battle-sequence maybe? Looks pretty awesome. The two shots of Kylo Ren in this trailer are the only reference we have of this sequence. Might be the climax of the movie. Either way, I’m interested to see this battle.”

Jason: “I actually like this shot a lot. It looks like Kylo Ren is leading the army. In the Star Wars movies, we’ve only ever really seen Jedi in the thick of battle. The Sith are always in the background. Whenever they do attack, it’s either in a TIE fighter or one on one. That’s not the case in this movie. I’m really excited to see the context of this shot.

I don’t really have much else to say about this one since there isn’t really anything else we can see.”

Stormtroopers assemble from Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser

Jason: “So much is going on in this shot. First of all, we get a glimpse of the new stormtrooper look. I really like the new look. When I first heard they they were getting a new look, I didn’t know what to think. Now after seeing it, I’m in.

In the background, we see the new Empire logo…which turns out to not be the Empire anymore. They are now known as The First Order. I’m curious to see what the backstory is behind the change from the Empire to this new group.

And I have to mention the obvious vibe they are going for with this shot. A series of troops are lined up in front of a huge red banner with their symbol on it. It just screams Nazi. If anyone had any doubts that these are the bad guys, they won’t after seeing this.

I love this shot. It reminds me of when we see the stormtroopers lined up in the Death Star heading into a transport. It just has an ominous look to it.

I also love the fact that the stormtroopers look real. One of my biggest problems with Revenge of the Sith is how fake everything looks. The clone troopers looked too glossy. It was so obvious that it was all CGI. This looks much more real.

Oh. I also forgot to say that the planet is snow covered. So now we’ve seen a desert, a lake with green foliage, and a snowy terrain. I’m excited to see the environments in full.”

Frank: “Yeah this shot screams Nazi. This is honestly my favorite shot of the teaser—for all the reasons you mentioned above. Even beyond the red banner, Abrams is applying the Nazi color palette to the whole First Order look. The colors of the empire used to be more white / grey. They did introduce the blood red with the Emperor’s royal guards in Return of the Jedi, but the color was reserved for them.

Abrams seems to be dropping the grey all-together, and going for a total Nazi white / black / red palette. And I’m absolutely loving it. Especially with the TIE fighter, which you can see in the background. The colors are almost inverted but instead of grey it’s just white / black. It looks really badass and way more intimidating.

And the stormtrooper design is ingenious. The Force Awakens designers were able to maintain the iconography of the look while still providing us something that’s very different. For a while after the first teaser dropped I almost didn’t realize the design was different. But upon closer examination, it was obvious how they altered the design. And quite honestly, I think they look even better than the previous design.”

Stay tuned for Part II…

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