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Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer 3 – we look at what the trailer is trying to tell us about the universe now

October 21st, 2015 by Walter Laufer Comments

movie-news-banner-copyFirst Order troops assembled

Memory and Identity

The final trailer of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released on Monday (watch it again here) and the first shot of a masked figure gives us a leitmotif of this trailer and possibly the whole movie. Several times we see masks and helmets in this trailer. Each references an aspect of the saga. Some masks are worn for protection from sun and sand, others deliberately to obscure one’s identity, others to instil fear, others again, like Vader’s charred mask, point to a tragic past.

The first words of the voice over – possibly spoken by the character of Lupita Nyong’o – presumably to Rey (Daisy Ridley’s character) asks “Who are you?” to which she answers “I’m no one”.

This is the pivotal question, not just for every good story, but for every person. Without knowing oneself, there can be no movement, no change, no growth. Seldom in the affairs and automated actions of life that we plan and control do our lives unfold with grace. Rather it is in the mistakes, junk and coincidences of life that causes our apparent order to unravel and something deeper to awake and be discovered.

We see this in Episode IV with the destruction of the Lars homestead on Tatooine. Luke find himself without an apparent future and unwittingly is propelled from the edge of the Empire to its very heart.

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Rey in Mask

That is why it is very appropriate to see the lithe figure of young Rey innocently clamour among the skeletal remains of the vast leviathan that was once an Imperial Star Destroyer. As she abseils into its vast belly that was once its main hangar bay, we see the contrast with the beginning of Episode IV, when a similar cavernous hangar bay devoured Princess Leia’s Consular Ship. However, this place holds no fear for Rey because it holds no memory for her.

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Continuing this theme of identity, we see and hear the character of Finn, the First Order Stormtrooper turned deserter. Similar to Rey, he too is propelled into facing the same question asked of her. As a consequence of grave actions, or inaction, he is forced to acknowledge that the direction and purpose of his life have fallen apart. Notice he removes his helmet and he is heard to say “I have nothing to fight for” as the broken TIE fighter falls towards the planet of Jakku. It is as if he is being brought down to earth, humbled, without the props of control. But the scene is also reminiscent of the escape pod carrying the droids, falling into Tatooine’s orbit. Also the shot of Finn overlooking the desert settlement is similar to that of Ben Kenobi and Luke viewing Mos Eisley in the distance.

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TIE down to ground Jakku

What is is painted here is the wild west, the frontier, that is the Outer Rim Territories. Not only is it supposedly a place of galactic insignificance in the grand scheme of things, it also is liminal space – the precarious gap inbetween, the place of threshold. Where life is not ones’ own but life shared, where decisions are made, where we are uncertain and vulnerable.

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Vader's Helmet

This stands in stark contrast to the absolute certainty in the mechanised voice we hear in the next scene. “Nothing will stand in our way…” almost mimicking the once triumphant Vader, as we watch the motionless figure of Kylo Ren on a starship bridge witnessing the destructive power of the First Order’s fleet. Indeed, it is Kylo Ren, whose masked face lingers on the screen several times in this trailer, who appears as the primary nemesis to both Rey and Finn in the The Force Awakens.

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Like Rey, the character of Kylo Ren looks ‘mask on’ towards the camera. However, unlike Rey, we never see his face nor witness his humanity, rather we see him torture the captive pilot Poe Dameron. Later we will glimpse him surrounded by a motley crew of similarly masked figures, possibly other Force sensitives seduced by the memory of Darth Vader and his path that is the Dark Side.

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Kylo Ren and crew

This I believe is the principal thread of the saga that we now pick up in this movie. It is a question of identity, echoed in those first words – who are you? This is a question asked of both the heroes and villains. For only those who know their past can have a future.

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As Han Solo, mournfully confirms to Finn and Rey, onboard the Millennium Falcon, the stories of the Force, the Dark Side and the Jedi are all true. This begs the question, how did this happen? Why is it that the Jedi, their role and impact have been obscured and hidden, indeed forgotten by all but a few? More significantly it reveals that this deeper aspect of life, beyond the material, have been neglected. It may seem that Governor Tarkin’s words of the Jedi are prescient: their fire has gone out of the universe.

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Kylo Ren mask

If so, in such a universe, conflict is reduced to slaughter, recognised in flat terms of technology and troops. And we see plenty of this; with both soldiers on the ground and starfighters in the skies above. But very few it seems, recall the deeper significance of the Jedi and their resistance against evil. Perhaps this is the reason why this conflict has festered for a generation after the Battle of Endor. Perhaps this is why there are those like Kylo Ren who readily embrace a “rose tinted” view of Vader and his Empire. Indeed many in the nerdiverse have commented upon Luke Skywalker’s absence from the theatrical poster. But as with many of JJ Abrams’ works, the trailer begs yet more questions and few answers. Exactly what one seeks in a trailer for a blockbusting movie.

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Captain Phasma

Someone once said, that those who are forget their past are condemned to repeat it. Perhaps that is what we can see here. Rey and Finn, we find in new and unexpected situations, each unsure of both their past and future. On the other hand, we see Kylo Ren and the rest of the First Order who express with outright assurance what they want to be, and we see the great lengths to which they go to create a singularly totalitarian future from a grand yet obscured vision of the past.

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The truth

I suggest that it is precisely in this “inbetween space”, this precarious spot that is the place of tension where direction and help of others, some fair, some foul, is to be sought and found. For just as Rey once innocently entered into the broken hull of the Imperial Star Destroyer, is she now, alongside Finn, called to step deeper into unknown places, far beyond her world and all that is familiar to answer the question of who she is and what she is called to give?

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Rey abseilling thru ISD Rey in ISD Hangar

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Having lived in both in Austria & Italy for the skiing & fresh air, Walter now prefers to keep a low profile. Enjoys Sudoku, Sci-Fi, boardgames and cheeseburgers. Allergic to cats.