Star Wars Teasers – Now and Then

“There’s been an awakening… have you felt it?”

After an amazing build-up today that felt like the entire Internet was standing still in anticipation of the first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we finally got to see what all the fuss was about… and it was beautiful to behold. Just listening to the majestic sound effects and John Williams’s music, and watching the balance between dark and light that hits the right tone, from stormtroopers preparing for battle (and THAT lightsaber!) to the Millennium Falcon in a grand comeback… let’s just say that “promising” is the understatement of the year. Well played, J.J. Abrams. 

Let’s take a look at previous Star Wars teasers and how they delivered.

“The story of a boy, a girl and the universe.”

The very first Star Wars (1977) teaser has the obligatory male narrating voice introducing us to director George Lucas, who made the box-office hit American Graffiti (1973). Interesting how the teaser presents the logo in a way that must be described as confident since it is unknown at the time and so much effort is spent on it, interspersed with action shots that look intriguing. And of course, this is meant to be a love story, which is ironic considering later developments in the original trilogy…

“Luke, Han and Leia must confront its awesome might.”

The teaser trailer for The Empire Strikes Back (1980) is a curiosity for being almost entirely based on storyboard art (by Ralph McQuarrie). It does reveal several key scenes, but keeps the fundamental secrets intact. 

“Anakin Skywalker, meet Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

Oh, how maligned the trilogy of prequels have become. None of the films is as much of a disaster as its harshest critics (who also believe that each film in the original trilogy is a masterpiece) would have you believe. Still, this teaser for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) is somewhat of a disappointment. Granted, what we were all longing for back then was fresh footage, and we got plenty of that. The problem with the teaser is that it lacks structure, essentially just piling one sequence on top of another. Emotional footage blends awkwardly with action and comedy. In this case, a narrating voice might’ve helped.

All in all, I believe we should be thankful for the teaser we got today. Saving footage of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher for future trailers was a smart, albeit frustrating, move. They got us salivating for more, and that’s exactly what a teaser should do.

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