The “Monday Night Football” broadcast on ESPN offered vivid displays of pyrotechnics; stunning collisions between bodies of astronomical size; and supernatural feats that could only be explained as manifestations of an all-encompassing metaphysical force when the trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” made its debut at halftime. (Some exciting things might have also happened in the game between the Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles — we didn’t really pay attention to that part.)
Yes, the release of the trailer for this latest, long-awaited installment in the “Star Wars” franchise — the seventh live-action film over all and the first since “Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” in 2005 — was a Death Star-sized display of corporate synergy for Walt Disney, which owns ESPN and the “Star Wars” studio Lucasfilm. And the showing was, in essence, a promotion to purchase advance tickets for a movie that doesn’t even open in the United States until Dec. 18.
But the two-and-a-half-minute trailer was also, for millions of loyal science-fiction fans, the fullest opportunity yet to revisit a galaxy a long time ago and far, far away — to see where the chronological story of “Star Wars” resumes following the events of 1983’s “Return of the Jedi” (a k a The Last One Before the Prequels).
Though a 90-second teaser trailer had been released last November, it offered only glimpses of unexplained new characters. (Please direct your thoughts and correspondence to the film’s notoriously secretive director, J.J. Abrams.) A second teaser trailer, released in April, showed Harrison Ford’s beloved “Star Wars” scoundrel, Han Solo, declaring, “Chewie, we’re home,” a snippet that set off thermal detonators in nostalgic hearts everywhere.
So what did this latest trailer add to our understanding of “The Force Awakens”? We still saw only fleeting glimpses of the characters and their worlds — thanks again, Mr. Abrams — and so far, Lucasfilm has been mum on further details. But it looks like we’ve now been given extended introductions to:
REY Presumably our heroine for “The Force Awakens” — correct us in two months if we’re wrong! — Rey is seen foraging through a giant wrecked spacecraft and keeping company with BB-8, the roly-poly robot who’s already a retail sensation. The official StarWars.com databank page for Rey tells us merely that she’s “a resilient survivor, a scavenger toughened by a lifetime of dealing with the cutthroats of the harsh desert world of Jakku,” and roughly as much is known about Daisy Ridley, the British actress playing her. In the opening moments of the trailer, we hear what sounds like an older female voice asking her, “Who are you?” To which Rey replies, “I’m no one.” In “Star Wars” speak, that almost always indicates a character destined for greater things.
FINN The original “Star Wars” films told us nearly nothing about the lives of the Stormtroopers, the perpetually nearsighted rank-and-file foot soldiers of the Galactic Empire. However, it looks like one of the major players in “The Force Awakens” will be Finn, a disenchanted member of the First Order: a new wave of soldiers inspired by (or left over from?) the old Empire, still battling what’s left of the Rebellion some three decades on. He’s played by John Boyega, a star of the 2011 sci-fi action comedy “Attack the Block,” and we’d like him to explain how he ended up with what appears to be a glowing blue Jedi lightsaber that he wields in a crucial battle glimpsed later in the trailer.
KYLO REN Another shrouded figure, but one we can safely assume is up to no good. Why? Maybe because he sounds like he’s speaking through a vacuum cleaner and is first shown in the new trailer addressing what look like the charred and crumpled remains of the helmet of Darth Vader, the original “Star Wars” bad guy? “Nothing will stand in our way,” he says in a deep basso voice that would’ve made Barry White envious. “I will finish what you started.” Behind his “Eyes Wide Shut” mask and processed speech, Kylo Ren is played by Adam Driver, a star of “Girls,” “While We’re Young” and “Lincoln.” Who needs the Dark Side of the Force when you’ve got really good agents?
HAN SOLO The scruffy-looking nerf-herder is back again, but the way things are looking for the longtime captain of the Millennium Falcon in “The Force Awakens,” he may wish that Greedo shot him first. In the new trailer, we see what looks like Han having to explain to Rey and Finn that the great adventures he shared with Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia were not just the stuff of legend: “It’s true, all of it,” he tells them. “The Dark Side. The Jedi. They’re real.” (Anyone who has ever had to explain to viewers who grew up on the prequels that there were once truly great “Star Wars” movies knows the feeling.) Should we get emotionally attached to him for three more movies? We do also see Han, Chewbacca and Finn in what looks like a pose of surrender; and, in the new trailer’s single most affecting shot, a glimpse of him in a tender embrace with Leia (played, of course, by Carrie Fisher). But you know Han: never tell him the odds.
Questions for further reflection:
— Where was Luke Skywalker in all of this? We’ve heard Mark Hamill’s voice in previous teasers (and seen his name on the “Force Awakens” posters), but so far his role remains shrouded in mystery.
— Where were the characters played by Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis and Max von Sydow, among other actors who are confirmed to be involved with the film? Where was C-3P0? What of Nien Nunb?
— Did you manage to get your tickets before all the movie -theater websites crashed?