It's been a few days since the trailer for [Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](movie:711158) dropped, so you've had at least a weekend to take it all in. Whether you are on the edge of your seat for this time next year, or frustrated about non-identical Stormtroopers, soccer balls and popsicles, there's no doubt about it, everyone has an opinion.
But how does this trailer compare to the last six? Obviously it's shorter, as this is just our first teaser (and the current trend is to release multiple trailers in the lead up to opening night), but how else does it compare to the ones that have come before?
Thanks to YouTube, it's easy enough to find the trailers, and watching them all together shows us a truly fascinating development. (Please Note: I believe these to be "correct" trailers, however, some may be teasers or not perfect. Please feel free to comment if you have one that is better quality.)
Episode VI: A New Hope
First of all, can we all have a good long laugh at the first ever Star Wars trailer? It's not terrible, of course, but it's most definitely showing its age! The voiceover absolutely made me chuckle, although it was far more common for trailers at the time. The most interesting thing about watching this is that it was the first time that this universe was ever introduced to an audience. There was no way of knowing whether or not it would do well, or which elements would be loved and obsessed over for generations. Because of that, it's actually quite vague: "The story of a boy, a girl, and a universe...a space saga....a spectacle". We're not sure what the story is, or who these people are, but they did everything they could to convey how "epic" the movie would be (and they aren't wrong!).
Instead of lengthy plot introductions, the makers of the trailer stuck with the things that looked the most enticing and cool; fight scenes, spaceships (the Millennium Falcon making it's on-screen debut right at the start!), strange-looking aliens, and lots of action. Even the title explodes at the end!
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Empire Strikes Back may actually be my favorite trailer, if I'm totally honest. It's still got a campy edge to it, but this voiceover is much easier to listen to without descending into fits of giggles. It's still two minutes worth of action scenes and shooting, but this time, they know how huge a success the first movie was, and make a big deal of not just showing all the characters, but announcing them. There still isn't much in the way of plot explanation, and essentially zero dialogue other than the narration, but at this point, it's really all about showing the audience "look! Part two! With more special effects! And the Millennium Falcon some more!". Clearly, it did the job.
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
The trailer for Return of the Jedi takes something of a different tack, skipping the approaching "Star Wars" logo on it's background of black stars and mixing up the voiceover with some actual dialogue for the first time. The Millennium Falcon is, as always, present, as are many more of the now-classic moments - including that gold bikini! It's clear that at this point, they were aware that the fans were in love with the characters and the lightsabers, and there are surprisingly few fight scenes (in comparison to the first two, at least).
It had been five years, and the different styles of the trailers probably had as much to do with the changing cinematic landscape as it did the success of the franchise, but that is nothing compared to the difference between the early trailers and those for Episodes I - III!
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
For one thing, we have now reached a point in time where a single trailer isn't enough - there are multiple trailers and teasers for each film. (I decided not to include every variation that I could find here, but just the main one that stuck in my mind when they were released.)
For another, we now have that shiny green "Lucasfilm" logo, our narrator has been replaced with words on a black screen, and there is actual dialogue. Enough dialogue, in fact, that you can essentially understand the plot from the trailer (which is kind of the point, after all). There's still plenty of action (although, obviously, no Falcon) and all the usual high-octane good stuff, but it's also clear that the people at Lucasfilm were very aware that they needed to appeal to the existing fanbase. This first trailer in over a decade bursts out with the signature music and lightsabers a-plenty. Shame about all the Jar-Jar though...
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Attack of the Clones continues with the dialogue-heavy trend, with enough battle scenes to seem exciting, but with far too much talking and council-time (same as the movie, as it happens...so I suppose it's fitting!). There are even more light sabers and enough CGI to make your teeth hurt (again, like the movie itself). Definitely my least favorite of the trailers so far, if I'm perfectly honest.
Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith
Finally, we have Revenge of the Sith, and a trailer that is much more reminiscent of the originals in a lot of ways. It's still dialogue heavy (as I think it would be rare for any trailer to be devoid of it as the first two were), but the dialogue has a little more substance than the one immediately before - more exciting, and less political. There are also far more fight scenes, light-sabers everywhere, and more action (thankfully). It's also interesting to see that this one returns a little to the trailer for Episode I as well; more references to make the original fans happy, with Vadar in his full suit, wookies, and big space battles.
So which route did the new teaser take? Back to the original days of action scenes and voiceovers, without a clearly laid-out plot? Or does it follow on from the more recent trailers, with lots of dialogue to balance out the action?
Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Ooooh yeah! With this one, they did something that many fans have also done: ignored the prequels almost entirely. We are back to the original trailer format, with a deep voice stating things dramatically, no other dialogue (unless you speak drone), lots of action and character-based shots, and the Millennium Falcon. Then, at the very end, there it is. "Star Wars", bright against that blanket of stars, just the way it should be.
Feels good, doesn't it? The best bit about this (for me), is that it suggests that the new movies will not be making the mistakes of the prequels, and will be staying much closer to the true spirit of the original trilogy. Except with excellent effects, high definition, and decades of data to mine to see what makes the fans tick.
Easily the best trailer yet (in my humble opinion!), and here's hoping that the film itself follows suit!