With the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiering in theaters, and online, this Friday, I thought now would be a good time to talk about Star Wars trailers of old. Specifically, the ones I experienced growing up. Yes, that means prequels talk.
The excitement surrounding the release of The Phantom Menace isn’t an easy thing to quantify. Today the film is (justifiably) held in such contempt that it would be practically impossible to convey just how psyched we all were to see it. Imagine the legions of fans Star Wars has now. Consider how many of them only appreciate the original trilogy. Then combine them as one all-loving cult of Star Wars. Nothing but the highest admiration shared between them. Then you might get close to understanding how electric the air was at the time.
One of the major criticisms surrounding the prequels is the reliance on CGI. Now CGI is a dirty term. It’s akin to calling something a cartoon. But, believe it or not, that wasn’t a big deal before they were released. We had no idea at the time that the CGI was going to try and make up for the lack of depth to the world and characters. All we saw were bigger, larger, wilder worlds than we’d ever seen before. The universe in the original trilogy felt so small compared to the images we were getting of thousands of creatures, cities, and space battles. This was a whole new kind of Star Wars. Then this was released:
LIGHT SABERS! JEDI! JABBA THE HUT! YODA! OBI-WAN! R2! LAZERS! EXPLOSIONS! All of it in your face. Plus a plethora of new characters and aliens to fall in love with and obsess over. Not only that, but it looked and sounded – LIKE A STAR WARS MOVIE!
I taped this off of Entertainment Tonight and watched it over and over. My family and I went out to dinner that night. All I could talk about was that trailer. My mom mentioned she was surprised by how good it looked. I wrote an entire novella based around the ideas that each image sparked in my head. This was nothing but pure imagination unleashed.
Three years later, I was starting to see what all the hate towards that movie was about. I still liked it (in secret) but could understand why others didn’t. Which is why this trailer was so important to me:
So little was given. So much was promised. Clearly this was going to be the movie that Episode One should have been. Quieter. Darker. Closer to The Empire Strikes Back. Everyone loves Empire. Surely they’ll love Attack of the Clones. There was a flavor of the original trilogy to it. Suddenly the idea about each film serving as a stanza to an epic poem was making sense. Obviously this was the next logical step from Episode One, but it echoed the original so well.
Another three years passed. Episode 2 wasn’t exactly “liked” but it was tolerated. Whatever Episode 3 was going to do, it needed to bridge the gap. unite the two trilogies. And it needed to deliver on the dark promise of Episode 2. So when this was released, my brain cheered:
That look from Anakin said it all. At last, the saga was complete. From the kid-friendly adventures of a little boy and his racist alien friend, to a young man accepting his fate and putting his father to rest. This trailer, complete with new images of a shiny 3PO, a bunch of wookies, and the long discussed lava planet which would serve as Obi-Wan and Anakin’s defining moment, proved that the film would bring balance to the saga once and for all.
Whether the film did so or not is up for debate. (Spoilers – it didn’t) The brilliance of it’s marketing however, is not. Lucasfilm knew what the fans wanted from this final installment, and gave it to them…in teaser trailer form.
Ten years later.
We’re mere days from seeing the first new Star Wars footage in a decade. This time, the excitement is there, but I would call it pensive. Hopes are high. From those who will love the film regardless of its outcome, and those of us who aren’t so sure. As I’ve demonstrated here, the Star Wars trailers have a way of making us think we’re seeing what we want.
I hope to do another article about the original trilogy trailers as well as commenting on Episode VII. What are your memories of the above trailers? Did they get you excited? Or tell you what it took some of us (namely me) years of coping with denial to figure out. Nerd out below.