Star Wars Celebration—a nerd convention devoted solely to the nearly religious experience of Star Wars fandom—went down over the weekend, and included the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi (the key art has dropped “Episode VIII”), on Good Friday nonetheless. (The teaser for The Force Awakens was released during the Thanksgiving break in the US, now a Good Friday drop—this is maybe a little heavy-handed, Disney. We get it—Star Wars is Important Cultural Stuff.) The teaser is reaching hard for EPIC and GRAND and IMPORTANT, and ummmm…falling a little short.
It is certainly a VERY beautiful package. Every shot is GORGEOUS. You could make posters out of every single frame. And John Williams’ score is lovely, although you can totally hear the Harry Potter influence in Rey’s theme. If you doubted it before, the bit in this teaser ought to put it to bed—Williams tweaked “Hedwig’s Theme” for New New Star Wars. But it’s a lovely theme anyway, if more than a little self-referential, and the music swelling at the climax of the teaser is certainly going to play well in theaters.
And it’s not like any individual part of this looks bad. Rey is with Luke Skywalker, training to be a Jedi, except Luke is like, “Ehh, maybe we shouldn’t have any more Jedi.” She talks about the Light and the Darkness, and she runs her fingers over the Old Republic Jedi symbol. STRAIGHT GUESSING: Luke has realized the whole the Jedi lifestyle is not sustainable—it turns angsty teens into Sith lords EVERY TIME—and wants to mold Rey into a new kind of Force-warrior. Like a post-Jedi Jedi. This opens the door to new types of stories as the franchise can build a new mythology revolving around a new generation of Force users. Given LucasFilm’s plan to make Star Wars movies until the end of time, this makes sense. They HAVE to evolve the story beyond the original trilogy, and here is one way to do it.
And there are cuts of super dashing Poe Dameron with his fabulous hair—his ship gets blown up AGAIN, I hope this becomes a running gag like Spinal Tap’s drummer—and BB-8 doing his little determined roll, and Finn in a health-pod, and a big space battle. There is even RED SAND. But what there isn’t is anything showing the new trinity together, or anything fun, period.
After The Force Awakens, all I want is our new scrappy heroes to have adventures together, and that is not any part of this first look at Last Jedi. I’m sure they will be together, eventually, at some point. But it’s a teensy bit of a bummer there’s not even one shot of them together here. Force Awakens succeeded on the strength of their chemistry, but you wouldn’t know those three characters have met going by this teaser. I hope the first proper trailer makes a point of putting Rey, Poe, and a conscious Finn together at least once.
It’s a little bit of a letdown that this teaser is so self-important. I have no reason to doubt that the movie itself will turn out fine, I just feel like this teaser played the wrong hand. “Important Space Business” is the tone they used for The Force Awakens’ trailers because they needed to reestablish Star Wars as a franchise we believe in, but they’ve got us on board now. “Adventures With Space Friends” is a fun option for the hook for the second entry into this new franchise. In the pop cultural landscape, Star Wars is a force unto itself (no pun intended). There is nothing else like it, for scale of popularity or importance to pop culture. But it’s okay for it to be fun, too.