..until the new Star Wars film comes out. (A year to the day, in fact.) Which, it won't surprise those who know me, is on my mind; this time next year, it is fairly safe to say, Star Wars will be everywhere again. I'm already noticing a few more Star Wars toys in the supermarket, a bit more Star Wars stuff surfacing on pop culture websites — and we are still a whole year away. (Not just one season — four whole seasons.)
I was born in '77, so I was too young to know what it was like the first time around. When the prequels came out, I was a) in the process of discovering the internet, b) in a pretty tedious office job, and c) diving in head first.
But this isn't about a Star Wars past. This is about a future Star Wars. This one is going to be the Star Wars film I take my son to see.
Right now is an interesting time. The new films are far along enough in production that there are probably a good few accurate leaks from the sets etc. mixed in with the rumours and speculation that pretty soon, some people are going to know a fair bit about what the new film is really about.
But for those of us who want to see the film 'fresh' (other than watching the trailer), now is pretty much where we want to be; enough hints from the teaser trailer to give us a taste, but unspoiled by the hints and teases that will inevitably start coming through.
So, this is basically a set of notes/thought dump about what is going on now, for the sake of posterity, and for something to look back at in 366 days to see how it compares to the reality.
So far, we have seen;
- One character whose presence in the trailer implies a significant role in the film (as do all of them, I suppose); a man in stormtrooper armour who clearly isn't a Jango Fett clone, on a desert planet. Looking… shocked? Surprised? Confused? (Just woken up?) I'm guessing that he doesn't live here.
- Another character; a girl on a desert planet, who rides some kind of speederbike thing that seems to be just a big block of an engine. I'm guessing that she does live here, and will meet up with the other guy.
- Another character; dark-robed, carrying an unusual red lightsaber, in a dark, snowy forest. Presumably the bad guy in the film.
- An X-Wing pilot – or at least, flying what looks like an updated X-Wing, wearing the badge of the Rebellion on his helmet and flying (with two wingmen) over a lake,
- We've also seen some slightly redesigned Stormtrooper armour, a new R2-type droid which appears to have swapped the cylindrical body for a spherical one, and some TIE fighters. Oh, and the Millennium Falcon, appearing to the rousing John Williams soundtrack.
What we haven't seen;
- The original cast; we know that Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, C3P0 and R2D2 are going to appear. We don't really know much about their roles in the film – any of them could be major characters, or minor cameos. (My guess; Luke is going to be very much the Obi Wan; old Jedi recluse brought out of retirement. Leia is going to be a political figurehead; queen, senator… chancellor? The others, I'm not expecting massive roles for. But who knows?)
- The backdrop. The original trilogy was about an Empire and a Rebellion. The prequels were about a crumbling Republic becoming a Sith Empire. What has happened since the end of Return of the Jedi? Is there a single Galactic Republic? Has Luke Skywalker been training up a new generation of Jedi? Have any other Jedi survivors come out of hiding?
The logo doesn't have a number. This isn't "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens"; its just Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Apparently Disney are going to be making some films that don't fit into the episodic timeline – but this isn't supposed to be one of them. Which seems a little odd… Perhaps suggesting that this is a fresh start; the bridge between George Lucas' Star Wars (although Lucas has now retired and isn't involved in the making of the film, the story comes from his ideas, written before Lucasfilm was sold to Disney.)
The Lightsaber-wielding figure
So; red lightsaber + dark robes = bad guy. Except, dark robes = bad guy, until Luke Skywalker turned up in dark robes in Return of the Jedi, and it turned out he just seemed to like a different colour scheme to when he was last on his desert planet home… So; maybe the red doesn't signify anything?
Anyway, the new lightsaber is interestingly different. Firstly, its red blade doesn't have the straight, glowing shape that we are familiar with; instead, it has crackling edges, and looks more like something burning with a controlled fire than a controlled laser. Perhaps that's just something to do with the environment; falling snow being vaporised by the laser blade. Or maybe something different– not an expertly constructed sword under the guidance of a skilled master, but a device built from scrap, engineered from the ground up, not based on forgotten techniques and ancient technologies but a new type of lightsaber, based on hearsay and rumours of the Jedi Knights - who would have been wiped out before most people in this generation were born, depending on exactly what Luke Skywalker has been up to for the last 30 years.
Secondly, it has two weird little mini-blades sticking out of the side, reminiscent of a large claymore-type sword. Presumably, these will make the twirling-type moves more difficult to do without a quite serious risk of a self-inflicted injury. Maybe this is an indication of a different style of lightsaber fighting?
But, maybe he doesn't fight like that? The real questions are; who taught this character how to build and wield a lightsaber? Who did he practice with, in learning how to fight with it? Did he just pick it up on his own, from a few old books he found? (I'm assuming its a 'he' – all we have seen is a slightly crouching, robed figure which could just as well be a woman.)
Is a better question to ask: what would lead someone to use a lightsaber like this? Is is a lightsaber for fighting people with lightsabers? Maybe this is something that wouldn't be useful for fighting a skilled lightsaber user - but would be good for fighting someone with a lightsaber who doesn't have the kind of skills that we saw in the prequel fights? It would probably make sense for the original trilogy style of fighting - definitely more so than the prequel style...
Is this the person who has "woken" up the Force? Or the person who has sensed the 'awakening'?
Where did they come from? OK, so on one hand, the Emperor died at the end of Return of the Jedi; the Empire was defeated by the Rebellion, and everybody in the galaxy had a party. On the other hand – what happened to the rest of the Imperial forces? Did they just hand over control to the Rebellion? Did the Rebellion become the Empire, and the Empire become a new oppositional rebellion?
The "rebellion" still seems to exist — we see the familiar badge on the X-Wing pilots helmet. Are they now the galactic government? Are the Stormtroopers now the rebellion? After all, the proto-stormtroopers in the prequels were on the side of the Republic, fighting alongside the Jedi. (But I'm guessing that for 99% of the audience, its the evil Empire that we think of when we see the stormtroopers in the trailer.)
So, its perfectly possible that the guy at the start of the trailer is a 'real' Stormtrooper, and a good guy. He obviously isn't another Jango Fett clone, but then post-Empire Stormtroopers might well not be clones.
And which side is the guy with the red lightsaber on?
So, lots of questions about the Star Wars universe in the year Return of the Jedi +30ish.
Then there are the questions about Star Wars; in the sense that this is no longer George Lucas' Star Wars. This is now the Disney Corporation's Star Wars.
I'm guessing that the closest we have to a clue about what that might mean is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and what Disney have done with that franchise since they bought it up — standalone films, TV shows, plot threads that bounce between the two, 'ensemble' Avengers films every few years and so on. Except, Marvel were effectively re-inventing a world from the medium of comic books into the medium of cinema. (Or Film, or Video, or however you want to define it. I suppose the fact that a TV show is part of means that it isn't strictly speaking "cinema", but whatever...) They could effectively reboot every single character at will, but also allude to a deep history of comic book characters. (For example: how Falcon is introduced in Captain America: Winter Soldier.)
The point of this post is to see in a years time how much of what I think are the interesting questions match up with what the film is about - ie. did J.J. Abrahms make the trailer with people like me thinking about questions like this in mind?
My gut feeling about the New Star Wars is that its going to be good, and I'm going to like it. (After all, for the most part, I did enjoy the prequels…) But that isn't whats really interesting to me (30-something, grown-up-but-pretending-not-to-be, lifelong Star Wars fan.) Whats interesting to me is how much J.J. Abraham's idea of Star Wars fits with my idea of Star Wars, and how much of that is Disney's idea of Star Wars (ie. that will be mandated by other directors of new Star Wars films).
It isn't going to work for everyone — that much should be obvious. There are people who think "Star Wars" is just the original trilogy. There are people who think that "Star Wars" is just the films. There are people who think that "Star Wars" is anything and everything that Lucasfilm has published, whether its books, computer games, comics or whatever. I have very fond memories of one TFN regular to whom Star Wars was just that; the 1977 film called "Star Wars", before it was re-released and retrofitted with the "Episode IV - A New Hope" title on the opening crawl in 1983. You can't make them all happy - but I'm very interested to find out who the new Star Wars films are going to be aimed at.
And then, of course, there are the people who really couldn't care less what people think "Star Wars" really is, because its just a bunch of entertainment for children, and you should really have found something better to do with your time than watch it again and again and look for the meaning of life in a bunch of silly kids films… After all, that is probably the biggest audience out there that it would make sense for Disney to be aiming for.
(I'm guessing that they won't have read this far though.)