To all UPFs, or Ultra-Passionate Fans, as Mark Hamill called the diehards today at the Star Wars Celebration panel in Anaheim: “We’re home.”
Those are the words uttered by Harrison Ford’s Han Solo to Peter Mayhew’s “Chewie” the Wookiee in the new teaser from J.J. Abrams’s “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens,” due out in December.
New characters are introduced, from a scavenger to a pilot. Old friends reappear. And in this war-torn galaxy, The Force rises to a new alarm.
Here are Comic Riffs’s six takeaways from today’s new teaser trailer:
1. We Are Family.
At today’s Star Wars Celebration, anchored by “The Force Awakens” director J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, the panel brought out Mark Hamill, who told the room’s roaring throng of UPFs, “You’re more than just fans — you’re family.”
Hamill, like the veteran he is, knows how to stay on script — because Abrams is stressing the genetic line, the lineage and the pure Force of family.
That’s why the first words we hear in today’s second teaser trailer are those of Hamill’s Luke Skywalker in voiceover, saying, “The Force is strong in my family.”
“My father has it,” Luke says, as we see a charred-out Darth Vader helmet.
“I have it,” intones Luke, he of the visible robot hand. “My sister has it. You have that power, too.”
George Lucas, of course, has long loved storytelling with a trinity, and here, the suggestion is that the original trilogy’s fighters are now passing the (light-)baton to a triumvirate of fresh faces: Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Rey (Daisy Ridley).
Yes, quite literally, we see that the original torch is passed.
2. Learning about the new trio.
Today’s big Anaheim Convention Center panel featured Ridley, Boyega and Isaac on stage sharing a bit — but not too much — about their characters:
* Ridley confirmed that her character, Rey, is a solitary scavenger in a ship graveyard, surrounded by the carcasses of destroyed craft on planet [
Abu Dhabi] Jakku.
* Isaac said slyly that he’s a hotshot pilot who’s been “sent on a mission by a certain princess.” In the trailer, we see/hear him aboard his zooming X-Wing fighter, letting out an exhilarated flyboy’s “Wooo-hoooo!” (reminiscent of Han Solo’s “Yee-haw!”).
* And Boyega — well, he used humor to deflect the direct question as to whether his Finn is actually a Stormtrooper. Sitting next to a grinning Abrams, Boyega replied with a no-spoilers smile: “My memory’s just gone.”
In the new trailer, we see Finn remove his mask as a hangar is shot up. In the first trailer, we saw him running, as if fleeing from extreme peril, in his Stormtrooper uniform; now, we see a hand, presumably Rey’s, reaching out to him, as if pulling him away from the Dark Side.
3. Speaking of the Dark Side…
We again see Kylo Ren, our dark-helmeted baddie, the top of his silvery-metallic mask partly illuminated by his much-discussed crossguard lightsaber — the weapon that the Sith villain uses decades after the Battle of Endor. We also glimpse the crossguard lightsaber being wielded prominently, like quickie eye-candy.
We also see Stormtroopers in Nazi-like formation before the Empire flag — with TIE fighters tellingly in the frame.
4. “Girl power.”
Onstage today, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley and Kathleen Kennedy were asked (surely per the event’s loose script) about “girl power.” Kennedy, who was even wearing a rainbow Star Wars logo, “Her Universe” T-shirt under her blazer, spoke of having to answer to her two daughters by representing in the new film.
Fisher spoke to being the only actress in the mix when Star Wars launched, and joked that the hair buns and metal bikini are retired. “I promise.”
But she also said that at this age — no longer being 19 — she welcomes the sisterly support. And to her point, in the trailer, we see plenty of Rey on the move, looking like a true, new action hero.
5. The toys, the tinkerers — and BB-8!
Abrams asked the Anaheim crowd of thousands to give a big hand to “the human Jawas” — the effects “tinkerers” who, sitting near a whirling R2-D2, are behind all the droids and gear and gizmos so lovingly on display.
In the trailer, we only get to glimpse BB-8 — the “rolling ball” droid — peeking out, and later “running” behind Rey and Finn on the dunes of Jakku. But it’s fully expected that this cute little droid will steal the show in the film, not unlike how it did onstage at today’s event (it’s not just CGI!). When it rolled out, the large hall of UPFs let out a roar. (Coming soon to a cosplay event and toy store near you.)
Worth noting: Abrams and Kennedy credited Disney honcho Bob Iger, who was in the audience, with finding the technology to build BB-8.
(Also worth noting: This weekend’s Star Wars Celebration, which goes through Sunday, is unfurled across the street from Disneyland.)
6. The originals — even in absentia.
Hamill, Fisher, Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) all received big applause when they took the stage. Conspicuously absent was the recuperating Harrison Ford.
Of Ford’s recent crash landing, Kennedy said: He’s the “only person who can make an emergency landing on a golf course in front of two doctors.”
And Abrams called Ford “a true hero in real life.”
Besides, only the onscreen Ford was needed to provide the event’s emotional high point. At trailer’s end, when Ford’s Han Solo says, “Chewie — we’re home,” the old pilot might as well have been speaking for the crowd and the entire viewing audience of UPFs.
So, now: Can Abrams deliver an entire film that rewards this level and intensity of passion?
Abrams spoke of the pressure and the responsibility today, and said: “I’ve never had more fun in my life working on anything.” He said he’s using the “legacy to tell a brand-new story.”
And of how he’ll meet high fan expectation, he replied deadpan:
“Well, we just will.”