If you’re still kvetching about The Force Awakens trailer, stop it. The 88 seconds of disjointed footage is not enough to sing doom and gloom about. You sound as ridiculous as I did—before I caught myself.
The bad thing about fandom is the hypercriticality it engenders. Nothing seems to get more in the way of enjoying something explicitly meant for pure entertainment than incorporating a franchise into one’s identity. I speak not from an outsider’s clinical detachment from this phenomena, but from experience.
I hated Star Trek: Into Darkness because it broke utterly with Star Trek canon. The first Star Trek reboot helmed by J.J. Abrams committed the same sins, to the point where huge chunks of Star Trek fandom disdainfully refer to Abrams’s version of the universe as “NuTrek.” Trek veteran actor LeVar Burton even called Abrams out for disrespecting Gene Roddenberry’s vision.
Star Trek: Into Darkness was beyond the pale when it came to ignoring Star Trek canon, to the point of utter stupidity. And don’t get me started on casting a white man to portray a character named Khan Noonien Singh who in the canon hails from South Asia. Note the perspective on which all of this vitriol lies. The friends of mine who are not Star Trek fans, and who saw the J.J. Abrams films, loved them precisely because Abrams dumbed down the Star Trek universe from philosophy and pseudo-science to T&A and cheesy one-liners.
Into Darkness is precisely what has me worried about The Force Awakens. Star Wars fans have had enough tarnishing of the legacy of the original trilogy—you know, the movies that helped redefine the way Hollywood approaches moviemaking and created modern mythology (as argued personally by Joseph Campbell, who coined the idea of the monomyth).
George Lucas followed his original trilogy up with the abomination that was Episode I, and the prequels barely rose above that stupidity in the following two movies. Yet little kids loved those movies. Fandom kills appreciation as often as it inspires fervored adoration.
However, here’s the difference between the Star Trek reboots and the new Star Wars movies: Disney. Disney is a company that does not mess around with copyright and protecting their franchises. There’s a reason Disney was the only company George Lucas trusted with the Star Wars intellectual property. His long-running association with the company taught Lucas that Disney plays the long game. And it has a lot at stake in making sure they don’t do harm to this IP.
Look at the new Disney cartoon Rebels. There is nothing but respect there for the original trilogy. I was shocked at how respectful it was. I’d been ready to write the series off as just a cartoon cash-in, but I don’t think that’s the case, at all. I have to believe that Disney would rein J.J. Abrams in if and when he tried to break too far from the spirit of what makes Star Wars special, because Disney appears to get it.
It’s equally fallacious, however, to suggest that 88 seconds of disjointed trailer footage ought to elicit faith in The Force Awakens. I hail from the video game press, where reporters and fans are regularly treated to teasers and trailers that are epic in how thoroughly they mislead audiences about the nature of the video game that is finally released. Hollywood film advertisers don’t have a thing on video game marketers.
This is why I’m basing my dismissal of concerns over the new Star Wars trailer on what I think are reasonable suppositions as to the business realities of what Disney has at stake here. The new trailer plays so heavily on iconic Star Wars sound design because Disney wants the original Star Wars fans base (i.e., the middle-aged fans that Honda is advertising to with He-Man figures) to enjoy these movies as much as their children will.
Disney wants those parents to want to bring their children to new Star Wars theme parks and shell out for all the new Star Wars toys. The more love parents feel for the new films, the deeper their pockets will be out of nostalgia for their own, childhood collections. George Lucas already had more money than God when he released the Prequel Trilogy. Industrial Light and Magic, the effects house he founded, for decades had its thumb in all sorts of Hollywood movies. Lucas didn’t have to think about the economic long game when he vomited out The Phantom Menace.
And just to indulge in a little fandom here, at the end, what has me concerned about the trailer for The Force Awakens are those shots where the stormtroopers are deploying. The flashing lights, the composition through their legs, it all stinks of J.J. Abrams. It makes me concerned that the classic style of filmmaking and the editing that define the look of a Star Wars film (the only things Lucas got right with the Prequel Trilogy) are going to fly out the window.
But Lawrence Kasdan, the screenwriter of The Empire Strikes Back, the best Star Wars film out of the existing six in terms of the pure craft of filmmaking, co-wrote The Force Awakens with Abrams. Harrison Ford, who has a famous legacy of disdain for the Star Wars films, and who certainly doesn’t need the paycheck from a new set of Star Wars movies, agreed to reprise his role as Han Solo in The Force Awakens. Even from a film production perspective, there are reasons to think that The Force Awakens is not going to suck.
So to everyone whining about the new trailer: stop it. It’s 88 seconds of footage. You’ll get your chance to complain, with a slew of websites and message boards willing to play host to your complaints, after the movie is released next December. In the interim, let’s all hope that J.J. Abrams doesn’t fuck Star Wars up, because Disney won’t let him.