Today marked the beginning of a new chapter in "Star Wars" history, in which “Star Wars - Episode VIII” finally had footage behind its title, and was no longer just "Rian Johnson's Well-Deserved Gig." Debuting at the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, suddenly “Episode VIII” was contextualized with an assortment of evocative images, of which speculation and imagination will fill in the gap until we see more.
It's fitting that it starts right where "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens" left us. The last few moments of that film created one of the best cliffhangers in movie history, a frame-by-frame tease that promises a bridge between one trilogy’s lead protagonist and the woman who we assume will lead the next episodes. That sense of careful information has defined one way in which “Star Wars” has excelled with modern geek culture. Everything counts, and everything is intentional. And yet, the story still has a power as much as it makes for some pretty good advertising.
So when the voice of Luke Skywalker is heard, in the very beginning of this teaser, telling Rey to "breathe," it's not just advice for her but for the people meeting these characters after a long year or so since "The Force Awakens." It's the same way that his next words, “What do you see?” encourage fans to take in every detail, to engage things beyond simple this-or-that equations. “It’s so much bigger,” he advises, adding to the anticipation that this gripping flash of new “Star Wars” footage will lead to another extraordinary adventure.
As teasers go, this one has the right mentality by providing just enough to chew on while restricting it to stoic close-ups or dramatic set pieces. Other characters check in, with references to how we saw them last: Finn is in a coma, General Leia is behind the control panel, bits of Vader’s destroyed mask are still hanging around. The Millennium Falcon is still flying, and X-Wings are still crashing. The biggest reveal, that I noticed, is some type of book that has possible promise of new mythological ideas, and looks like it’s out of a “Lord of the Rings” film.
The biggest resemblance of a dramatic arc can be found in the usage of John Williams’ iconic piece of music “The Force.” It drives the entire trailer and makes all of its emotional beats resonate with appropriate stoicism, mystery and eventually fear. The teaser starts off using the piece in the way that we recognize it: hopeful, vigilant while showing the heroes of the new “Star Wars” iteration. But eventually things start to become harrowing: a ship crashes in some desert setting; Poe is under attack at a Rebel base; images of fire and violence in the night. “The Force” fittingly then becomes more menacing, squashing the life out of that initial pride and taking a much slower tempo. By the teaser's conclusion, when a shadowy Luke says something like, “It’s time for the Jedi … to end,” it’s as if the piece itself has gone to the dark side. And for a melody that famously battles its minor key, it is cut off before completion, leaving a foreshadow of oh-no-you-didn't doom that may be all "Star Wars" fans need until this film comes out in December.