The second trailer (or first, if you count the previous one as a teaser) for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is by all standards, a wonderfully made trailer. Its music is foreboding and its shots are grand and epic. All the major characters are seen and the overall story of the film is still thankfully unknown. Most importantly, it screams Star Wars! A new and exciting Star Wars! So I should be thrilled to have seen it, right? Well… it’s complicated.
Director Rian Johnson‘s words sum things up best for me: “If you want to come in clean, absolutely avoid it. But it’s goooooood…” He’s correct in that this is an exceptionally well done trailer, but he’s also correct in warning those off from watching it. In that spirit, I recommend the same for those reading this article: it’s a good one (or so says my immodest self), but it will be dissecting something full of potential spoilers. With that said, let’s proceed!
The trailer opens with ominous narration from Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) who will have a bigger role here than he had in The Force Awakens. Over his words about “raw, untamed power” are a series of shots of the First Order: a line of AT M6 walkers, apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and his stormtrooper army. Yet interestingly enough, the trailer hard-cuts to a training Rey (Daisy Ridley) after Snoke’s final line. As we see later on, Snoke and Rey will encounter each other, possibly leading to the Rey/Kylo re-match we see as well. Second films in Star Wars trilogies have a tradition of providing shocking twists- perhaps Rey will turn to the dark side?
What we do know for sure about Rey is that she’s been training with a reluctant Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on his remote island on Ahch-To. Through his interactions with Rey, we can see that Luke is genuinely afraid of the power she possesses. We see a brief, tantalizing flashback to when Kylo betrayed Luke and his pupils, giving me hope that The Last Jedi will help flesh out the decades between Episodes 6 and 7. To see such a classic hero like Luke so worried about Rey’s abilities is a shock in and of itself. It should make up the bulk of the drama between these two characters. As much as I love the Luke-Yoda dynamic of The Empire Strikes Back, Rey and Luke have the potential to give us a deeper and more complex relationship.
Kylo Ren, now with traditional villain facial scar, is on the warpath. What looks like an exciting space battle comes to pause when he senses the presence of his mother, Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher). Whether or not he pulls the trigger to destroy her ship remains a mystery for now. I hope they are able to have some on-screen interaction before this happens because otherwise, it might feel like a re-hashed version of Han Solo’s death from The Force Awakens. Besides, since this is Fisher’s last film role, she better have plenty more to do than in the last films. Plans were such that her biggest role would be in Episode IX but since her passing in December 2016, how they modify her role in this film, and the series as a whole, will be interesting as well as tragic.
Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) are pushed to the periphery here, but are still shown doing plenty. Poe is neck-deep in a Resistance-First Order space battle and Finn finally gets his one-on-one fight with Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). Several beautiful shots toward the end of the trailer show off the diverse environmental elements in the film: space, ice, water, fire, and the awesome red-sand of new planet Crait. The CGI on Chewbacca and the porgs (don’t get me started on the porgs…) looks a little shoddy, but I can’t put my finger on exactly why. The rest of the effects work looks great; the same, near-perfect balance of CGI and practical that The Force Awakens overall nailed. From everything seen so far, The Last Jedi looks like it will be another stellar entry in the Star Wars canon.
In fairness, maybe my spoiler-warning rant at the beginning was a little too heavy-handed. The overall story of The Last Jedi is still anybody’s guess. But this trailer, and Rian Johnson‘s pre-emptive tweeting, does raise an important point about the state of movie trailers in 2017. With so many Youtube channels and blog pages devoted to picking apart every potential easter egg, I hope that more trailers consider taking the “less is more” approach. Part of why The Last Jedi‘s first trailer worked so well was because of how little it showed. Hype can be created in a number of ways, though it’s not like Star Wars needs to create any more hype. Hopefully, mystery and ambiguity will emerge as top sellers for films instead of revealing a film’s entire three-act story so audiences can know exactly what they are getting into.