The Force Is with Lucas
It is with something like religious ecstasy that I approach, over and over again, the tease that is the new trailer for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I downloaded the QuickTime version on Thursday (get it for yourself at the official Star Wars site), when it first became available, and on Friday I bit the bullet and plunked down ten bucks for Wing Commander so I could see the trailer in a theater. It was worth every penny, even having the computer version at my disposal. There is more meat in the 2 minutes, 28 and one half seconds of the trailer than in all of the movie that followed it.
Of the original trailer, I wrote, “It’s like coming home to a place I’ve never been.” Just the snippets of the film we’re shown in the new trailer make that feeling all the stronger. The organic reality of Lucas’s imaginary universe appears not to be diminished by the abundant use of CGI — the rolling hills of green grass, the city on the cliffs we see as the trailer opens look as real as the faces of the actors. Their faces already seem like those of old friends. Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson… the trailer doesn’t even offer us their characters’ names, yet even if you’ve read nothing about the movie and know nothing about their characters, you can see echoes of the relationship between Ben Kenobi and Luke Skywalker in their interactions. Will Ewan’s scream of “No!” at the end of the trailer mirror Luke’s “No!” on the Death Star in A New Hope?
Nods to the original movies are subtle but link this past with the future we already know. Jabba the Hutt and his majordomo Bib Fortuna, seen in Return of the Jedi, make a brief appearance. The queen reprimands what appears to be a planetary council for discussing an invasion “in a committee,” harkening back to The Empire Strikes Back‘s exchange between Han and Leia: he says, “We don’t have time to discuss this in a committee,” to which she, infuriated, responds, “I am not a committee!” Standing behind the queen in one scene are two ladies-in-waiting or guards, dressing in red robes, similar to the dress of the Emperor’s personal guards in Empire and Jedi. Ship designs are similar to the later models, in ways more than imitative — these are obviously more primitive, design-wise, versions of the ships we’ve come to know. It takes not only cleverness but a knowledge of a universe that’s so complete that one can, in a way, rewind to the past, devolve the future. That love and care on Lucas’s part is a huge part of why his stories are so beloved.
But I think what slams you right back into Lucas’s familiar world, more than anything else, are the sounds. When you’ve downloaded the trailer, watch it once with no sound, and once with no picture. The video is very cool, without doubt, but close your eyes and listen to the deep thrum of the spaceships, the echoing pings of laser blasts, and the throaty groan of the lightsabers. Just listen. Darth Maul’s voice could never be mistaken for Vader’s, yet there’s a resonance there that recalls Vader’s. Palpatine, younger here and not yet the Emperor, already has the gargle in his voice. Yoda’s calming voice is there. The queen’s voice has the same determination her daughter Leia’s will have. Artoo beeps and whirrs. And there’s the music that will forever speak of adventure and evil and triumph.
The trailer alone just leaves me breathless. I want more!