I am borderline furious about this new Star Wars trailer. Even more furious than when I try and understand Snapchat.
Something’s going on behind the scenes, and while I don’t claim to have direct knowledge of what that is, little bread crumbs have been dropped onto the internet over the past year, enough so that you can almost put the loaf back together.
People who like this trailer have been tricked by the familiar and the cool – Darth Vader, rocket launchers taking down AT-ATs, robot sidekicks. Like a great magician who’s mastered sleight-of-hand, they’ve got us looking in the wrong direction.
But seriously, what the hell is happening in this trailer??? It’s a complete mess. For starters, you have a freaking PREQUELS shot to open things.
And let me tell you why this is a bad sign. Gareth Edwards does not want to make a Prequels film. Everything he’s told us indicates he wants real locations, a real-world feel, and to make this as real and gritty as a Star Wars movie can be. A CGI prequels shot tells me someone besides Edwards ordered that shot in there.
Then, to follow that, we have a second look at the city with the now ubiquitous “Star Destroyer nearby to add gravitas” shot. Where else have we seen this shot? Oh yeah, The Force Awakens trailer.
The subtext here is clear as day. These shots are Disney-ordered. This is them wanting to juice up what they believe is a movie that needs juicing up (more on that in a bit).
Now, unlike a first trailer, which is about mystery and creating buzz, the second trailer is supposed to tell us what the story is. This trailer starts to do that, with us learning that Jyn is going to lead some mission. But then descends into a hodge-podge “sort-of look for the rest of the gang” montage that feels either rushed or awaiting a bunch of shots that aren’t ready yet since half the movie was reshot a few weeks ago. They introduce us to Sword Guy and that’s about it.
Most egregiously, the longer the trailer goes on, the more un-fun it gets. Not “gritty,” not “dark,” but un-fun.
So here’s my suspicion. Gareth Edwards made a boring movie and they’re trying to figure out how to un-boring it. Watch the trailer again and focus on the acting. What jumps out at you? The answer is nothing. Nothing jumps out at you because every character is boring as shit save for, maybe, Forest Whitaker, and that’s only because he’s an awesome actor.
This is the director’s choice to mute characters, to keep all of their line-readings subdued, and it’s what doomed directors like M. Night. In a movie, just like in a script, you need VARIETY IN CHARACTER, as that leads to CONTRAST, which leads to exciting scenes. Here we’re treated to crackling interactions such as this one: (glumly) “I want to help.” (slightly less glumly) “Good.” A near endless pause. Then, glumly, “Good.”
If every character is written in a subdued serious manner and every actor acts in a subdued serious way, you can expect a subdued serious movie. Which in most parts of the world is synonymous with BORING.
Gareth Edwards knows how to make a movie look good. That’s never been in question. What’s still up in the air is whether he knows how to tell a story. Look no further than his gorgeously-shot debut film, Monsters, to see how little he either a) understands storytelling, or b) cares about it.
Word on the street is that he didn’t even use a script when he shot Monsters. And it shows. At one point, while two characters walk into a jungle area they know is inhabited by monsters, there is a loud roar and one of them asks, “What was that?” Hmm, I might be off-base on this one but… I think it’s a monster?
I thought this would be solved once he got a real screenwriter. But while his Godzilla film was also gorgeous to look at, there were a bafflingly large number of screenwriting faux-pas made, even for a Hollywood system that places emphasis on production value over script value. We had the multiple openings, confusion over what to do with the star monster, and the single weakest main character in movies that year.
Say what you want about the first Rogue One trailer, but at the very least, THERE WAS SOME CREATIVITY TO IT. They were taking chances, having some fun, giving us the things they promised us with these Star Wars off-shoot movies. The trailer had the feel of a few guys sitting in a room, excitedly trading ideas. “Wouldn’t it be cool if we did this!?”
This new trailer feels like the result of a 13 hour heated conversation between the multiple people in charge – the director, the president of Lucasfilm, the president of Disney. Very cautious. Very safe. Very compromising.
When you add all that up with the fact that they threw some cobbled together snore-fest version of the trailer up at Star Wars Celebration then made it disappear faster than Casper, released one of the most amateurish posters for a major Hollywood film in recent memory…
…BURIED this trailer to a post 10pm Eastern Time slot (Force Awakens trailer came out first thing in the morning), and have pushed every single marketing step of this project back 3-4 months later than it normally is, and you can see why I’m a little bit worried.
Dare I say, I’ve got a bad feeling about this.