Tuesday, April 28, 2015

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I have heard Bob Dylan perform on four occasions now. Every time there has been ecstatic applause and standing ovations. And every time the question is asked: are we standing up and cheering this old guy because he used to be Bob Dylan? Or are we cheering the idiosyncratic, gravelly old blues-man we've actually seen on stage?

So the thing we already knew, the thing that made the people at that American Star Wars convention cheer like they were at a Rock Concert, is that we see Han Solo and Chewie. We knew we were going to see Han Solo and Chewie, inasmuch as we knew that Harrison Ford was in it and Peter Mayhew was in it; but like, actually seeing them. Actually seeing them. That's Dylan on the stage there, playing Blowin' in the Wind on his mouth harp. He's not actually playing it very well, or even, you know, recognisably. No, didn't you hear me? That's Dylan. On the stage. Playing Blowin' in the Wind.

Tatooine. Presumably Tatooine. Crashed X-Wing in foreground. Presumably X-Wing. Slow pan through sand dunes. Realization that we are not looking at a sand dune but at a wrecked Star Destroyer. Definitely a Star Destroyer. Definitely wrecked.


Shipwrecks are cool, and Star Destroyers are cool, and the idea of wrecked Star Destroyer is definitely cool, and raises the question "what the hell wrecked it"? 

Star Wars: Rebels opened with a shot of the hero, Ezra, looking at a Star Destroyer as it passed over head; which I argued was a play on the iconic opening scene of Star Wars. Wouldn't it be interesting if the opening scene of the trailer was also the opening scene of the movie?

  • Star Wars: We are way above the surface of Tatooine. A little ship flies over head. Suddenly, a much bigger ship (which we now know, but didn't then, to call a Star Destroyer) flies over, dwarfing it.
  • Star Wars: Episode VII: We are on the surface of Tatooine. We see the wreck of a little ship. Then we see the wreck of a much bigger ship, which we recognize as a Star Destroyer.

The voice of Mark Hamill; presumably Mark Hamill: "The Force is strong in my family. My father has it I have it, my sister has it, you have it too."

Luke Skywalker, singing one of his old hits. It's what he said to Leia on Endor when he finally admitted to her that they were related. 

The trailer assumes you can identify the quote. The trailer also assumes that you can identify Han Solo, the Millennium Falcon, Star Destroyers, lightsabers.... Or maybe it doesn't. Maybe great big spaceships and portentous mythological quotes are cool whatever their sources?

We know from the prequels that Jedi Knights are celibate, and always have been. So presumably, the "you" must be one of Leia and Han's children. From which, incidentally, it would follow that Leia never became a Jedi, that Luke's prophecy that in time she would learn to use the Force never came true. 

If the Force is passed through families, does it make a great deal of sense for the Jedi to be celibate? Like the famous Irishman who said that genetics is when your parents can't have children and neither can you.

As he says "My Father has it" (as opposed to, for example, "My Father had it") we Darth Vader's melted breath mask. I think it is displayed on some kind of plinth. We hear (I think we hear) Darth Vader breathing in the background. 

Luke told Leia that he was her brother on Endor. Darth Vader was cremated on Endor; that's where his ashes and the remains of his armour presumably lie. Does that mean that part of the Force Awaken will be set on Endor? (There are trees in the X-Wing vignette.) Would that mean...

.... more Ewoks?

Actually, I don't think more Ewoks would necessarily be the worst idea in the world. What I do think would be the worst idea in the world is to bring Darth Vader back from the dead. YES, Vader is the second most iconic villain in the entire history of cinema; but he gets an absolutely brilliant death scene in Return of the Jedi. Well, I liked it. Not everyone does. But even if you are one of the people who didn't like it; even if you don't buy the notion that a death-bed repentance can wipe out a life time of Dark Sideyness; even if you are seriously p'd off that George pasted Hayden Christopher's face over Sebastian Shaw's in the "special" edition; then it is still unthinkable that Darth Vader should recover from his death and spend three more films, innumerable comics and a stand-alone movie ranting at underlings and strangling admirals. It would undo the ending of Return of the Jedi; change the trajectory of the sextology; make the prequels pointless (don't say a word). 

On the other hand, this is the guy who changed James T Kirk from Horatio Hornblower to James Dean, so there is no guarantee that he Gets It.

We see Luke ... we assume it is Luke ... touching Artoo Deetoo with his prosthetic hand.


That's dark, isn't it? The prosthetic hand is a reminder that Luke was roundly trounced the first time he met Vader; and also a symbol of Luke's potential to go over to the Dark Side. There is a sense in the scene that he's reconnecting with Artoo; touching him for reassurance; remembering the old times; reaching out to a friend?


Someone hands a lightsaber to someone...

At first I assumed it was Luke, handing a lightsaber to his nephew or niece, the "you" of the opening speech. But that arm looks awfully thin to be Mark Hamill's. (Some people think they can see an alien face. I think they are taking the whole thing a bit too seriously.) 

And isn't that Luke Skywalker's lightsaber? The Lightsaber that his father wanted him to have, when we was old enough (from a certain point of view)? But wasn't that lightsaber in Luke's hand when Darth Vader chopped it off in Empire Strikes Back? So shouldn't it, by rights, had been floating around the clouds of Bespin for the last 40 years? 

And anyway, if Clone Wars is cannon, which, rightly or wrongly it is, Jedi are not given their lightsabers; they make them, as part of a right of passage. The Jedi does not choose the lightsaber, the lightsaber chooses the Jedi.

But the semiology is irresistible. Star Wars started with a great big space battle. The Force Awakens starts in the aftermath of great big space battle. The first scenes are looking backwards. Ship wrecks. Relics. Old friends meeting.  Then, the Torch is quite literally passed and...                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ...bang, bang, bang, ten tiny small little vignettes whoosh past us, actiony bits which are, after all, what Star Wars is really about.... 

We see speeder bike girl, sad Stormtrooper and little orange droid (who we now know to call Rey, Finn and Beebee) running away from an explosion. 

We see Finn sweating and taking off his helmet. 

We see Finn near a crashed space ship and Finn helping him to his feet. Very likely their first meeting. 

We see the cross-bladed lightsaber from the first trailer being swung (in a burning building, with a stormtrooper in the background) and then a separate shot of a guy with a metal mask (Kylo Ren?) holding up his hand to do something Forcey. 

It's a different lightsaber; not the one with the crosspiece. So the dark guy from the first trailer is fighting against this guy. So either this guy is the goodie; or that guy is; or else the Dark Side are fighting among themselves. 

Or he has two lightsabers. Or it's a continuity error. It's too early to say. 

Whoever he is, he's breathing like Vader. So perhaps it was his breathing we heard over Darth Vader's mask. Holding onto the Sith Lord's breath mask as a "relic" is the kind of thing Dark Side baddies might do, isn't?

(A half formed plot starts to coalesce. It is the future. The events of Star Wars have already become legendary. Most people don't believe in the Jedi. Luke Skywalker has vanished. A secret cadre who fancy themselves Sith Lords preserve Darth Vader's mask as a holy relic. Another sect have scoured Bespin and preserved Luke Skywalker's lightsaber, legendary and precious as Excalibur. And then for some reason Luke Skywalker, long hidden, emerges.)

Final Shot of Han Solo and Chewie.

And it quite definitely is a shot of Han and Chewie, being Han and Chewie, but much older. Well, Han is much older. It is canonical that wookies live much longer than humans. (Chewie appears briefly and irrelevantly in Return of the Sith.) 

Han Solo hasn't changed his clothes in 40 years. 

I am not quite sure. I want to see Han Solo again. But I want to know what Han Solo has been doing for the last thirty years. I don't, to use an analogy I have perhaps used too much, just want to see someone put their Han Solo action figure on the table. 

What did Han do after Return of the Jedi? Did he go back to his old life — if not actually as a pirate than at any rate as professional trader and money maker and trouble maker? Or did he stay with the rebels, in the New Order? I think I would rather there were scenes in which we meet an elderly, abrasive senator (or president? Or ambassador) and to our surprise say "hey, didn't you used to be Han Solo", than seeing a very old Harrison Ford trying to strike poses that he first struck thirty eight years ago. I think I want Luke to be the new Ben, old and wise and mysterious, not a guy of 60 trying to swing across chasms. 

When Star Trek was a going concern, stupid people called it "wheelchairs in space" because it was, like, really funny that a guy of 50 could be a ship's captain. I am one of those who likes Dylan as he is now; who thinks that his new performances are quirky as hell but genuinely interesting. But Dylan plays himself as he is now, a gravelly old man in a hat. He doesn't remotely pretend that at 73 he can still be a fresh faced young spokesman for the new generation. 

Let us hope that Han Solo doesn't turn out to be an aging rocker embarrassingly wiggling his arthritic hips.

"Chewie, we're home."

What was it that the wise man said you can't ever do?

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