You Cannot Tell if Star Wars: Episode VII is Good or Bad From 90 Seconds of Footage

It’s amazing that there are so many opinions about 1/120th of a single film.

Yes, it’s Star Wars, but it’s distressing to see so much anguish erupt over our very first taste on the big screen in a decade. A lot of bile and ridiculous overstating in the works—so I thought I’d get to the bottom of why most of this weird nay-saying is unfounded at best and detrimental/depressing at worst.

And then talk about what the trailer actually reveals. Because that is exciting.

So, the teaser trailer was released, and I don’t think I’ve every seen so many resolute opinions land in such a short period of time. Even knowing that this is the internet and that’s what it does, I was not prepared. There are three camps: the SQUEE CHILDHOOD RESTORED, the Cautiously Optimistic, and the This is Utter Garbage.

That middle camp was few and far between, though. And what gets me is pretty simple here; we still have no idea what this movie is. We are a whole year from finding out. And nothing that we saw was an indication of quality one way or another. Period. I know we like to make assumptions and throw hats in the ring, we want to be right or to just get out there and talk with fans, but all we saw was a lot of quick cuts and one lovely swoop from the Falcon. That’s it.

That said, it was made to get us talking, and that clearly worked out.

Here are some of the more common reactions going around. Proof of why everyone needs to take a break and go sit in some internet-less corners:

 

1) There’s no Luke, Han, or Leia in it (or 3PO or R2 or Chewie…), so it’s lame.

This is the first teaser. They don’t want to lay out all the trump cards in one go. Also, it’s kind of rude to make a bunch of young people the stars of the new franchise, and then let the old crew completely upstage them in the very first bits of footage the public sees. Also, as was pointed out succinctly on Twitter:

That’s amazing. That changes the face of Star Wars. That is important.

 

2) There’s a black stormtrooper! Stormtroopers can’t be black. Haha, it’s like that guy from Spaceballs!

Aaahahahahahahahahahaaaaaa:

Shut Up and Shut Up

I’m serious.

Fine, I’ll try to be articulate. Taking issue with the existence of a black stormtrooper is racist, full stop. It also proves that you don’t know anything about Star Wars. It also proves that you don’t understand that this is a new trilogy set in a different era altogether, which is not actually important to the issue, but now I am grumpy so I will make all the points.

Okay, first off, there is absolutely no indication that all stormtroopers are white dudes in the original trilogy. (They are in full body armor—all you can know is that they are vaguely human-shaped.) The idea that they must be because “all the Imperial officers that we see are white” is laughable in every sense because those guys are high-ups and stormtroopers are grunts, gee, it’s almost like racism might exist in the Star Wars universe—how weird when we totally see prejudice everywhere! Against droids, against Twi’lek women, against clones… wait…

Oh, there was that entire army of clones in the prequels, who were precursors to stormtroopers. Who were not white. (If you actually think Jango Fett is white, we need to have a serious talk. Also, that means Boba Fett is not white either. You’re welcome.) That army of clones who were ordered up like fast food take out by a standing government, and expected to die at the behest of whomever had command of them. They were an army of people of color, and they were born, bred, and trained to be canon fodder to save the glorious Republic. And no one bats a single eyelash. If you think that we should be avoiding that uncomfortable truth because Star Wars is fantasy and you don’t want politics or social commentary in your fantasy, well, you’re too late. It’s been there since the prequels.

Then the Empire set up recruitment once the clones were gone (the clone troopers were designed with shorter lifespans, in case you forgot that lovely part). The only record we have of the Empire’s prejudices tells us that they were xenophobic. The ranks of the Empire were filled out with every kind of human you can think of, provided they were able-bodied and willing to be indoctrinated. The fact that you can’t see who’s behind the stormtrooper armor is kind of the point. They could be any human being at all. That’s what makes the Empire terrifying.

If you honestly think that Star Wars is a universe full of robots and aliens but only white people, or that people of color have a very specific Lando-shaped place in this universe, well… I am so glad that these films are coming out. For the express purpose of proving you wrong. Again.

Also, this film takes place long after the original trilogy. Decades after. Which means that this isn’t even the Empire that we saw in Episodes IV-VI (if it truly is the Empire at all). So your point is even less valid.

And please stop making the comparison to the Spaceballs guy. (It’s Tim Russ, by the way, better known as Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager. They are so far apart, they are in opposite sides of the “Star Fill-in-the-blank” chasm.) It is a joke that literally relies on the fact that there are two black people in a desert. That is where the entire joke sits. It is actively unfunny because there is no joke there. There is nothing to laugh at, unless you’re just laughing because you were reminded of Spaceballs, which you can laugh at independently of John Boyega in stormtrooper armor. In the meantime, Mel Brooks is probably busy laughing at all of you for reviving his “A black stormtrooper sheriff?!?” joke. This is the exact same mob reaction he poked fun at in Blazing Saddles. And he did it forty damn years ago.

You are also overlooking the fact that Boyega is an incredible actor, and such a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe. And the experience is already being soured for him by making #BlackStormtrooper a hashtag. Thankfully, he has chosen to take the detractors with good humor. Here was his response:

John Boyega response

Look at that smiley face. That’s how it’s done.

 

Millennium Falcon, lens flare, episode vii

3) Lens Flare. Ugh, J.J. Abrams ruins everything he touches with lens flare.

THERE WAS ONE. And it was pretty darned subtle. And… it’s just a visual trademark? Who cares? Why is this the hill we die on? Fine, it was overused in Star Trek, that doesn’t change the fact that the use of lens flare has no bearing on whether the movie will be good. Seriously. It’s an effect. It is so unimportant. Heck, I’m not a fan of George Lucas’ penchant for wipes as scene transitions, but that still has no bearing on how good a Star Wars film is.

 

4) The hell is that voiceover about?

Yeah… I’m kinda with you on this one. It sort of sounds like Andy Serkis spent too much time listening to Smaug when they filmed the Hobbits? (Excited to see him in the movie no matter what.) Eh. Still nothing to do with the film’s quality in the end.

 

lightsaber crossguard, episode vii

5) THAT LIGHTSABER GUARD IS SO DUMB

Why?

Look, it’s okay to fear change. We all do it. But come on—the lightsaber is basically a laser broadsword. Broadswords need crossguards. And the entire crossguard is not made from the energy blade, so no, it’s not a danger to the user. I kinda always wondered why they didn’t have them. It looks cooler not to have them, maybe, but it doesn’t change the fact that it makes sense to have one.

Also, lightsabers are allowed to change. They are a weapon, and weaponry is always modified and redesigned to suit new and different users. We’ve seen double-bladed ones, and spinny ones, and lightwhips, and there will probably be others down the line. This is not a big deal.

(FYI, it was a thing that someone already conceived in the EU, too. Different schematic, but same idea. And this was created by a cool person/sword designer as an improvement over what he saw, but ultimately the point still stands: crossguards are cool.)

 

6) It’s too sparse.

YOU SAW LESS THAN TWO MINUTES OF FOOTAGE. Less than two minutes that were chosen to give you the least amount of info possible. Also, sparse might not be a bad thing. They’ve got an entire trilogy to build up the space battles and sundry. Of course, if you’re really hurting, here’s the “George Lucas Edition” of the trailer:

 

So… now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s talk about what we saw, and what we can infer from it:

stormtrooper armor, episode vii

We are seeing modified Imperial gear, which means one of two things—either the Empire is still around in some form, or another group has adapted their equipment to their purpose. Before anyone says that’s unlikely: when the Empire fell, there was a lot of stuff left lying around. Weaponry, ships, armor, an entire infrastructure. Something or someone was bound to recycle it, or reappropriate it for a cause. The prequels gave an excellent example of this already, showing the Republic ships morph into more Imperial-looking configurations by Episode III. So it’ll be interesting to see what this all means.

On the other hand, we get that shot of the Falcon evading some TIE fighters. Which means we can easily bet that whoever these people are, they’re not the good guys by and large. What does that mean for John Boyega’s character? Is he a defector? Is he using the armor as a disguise? Something even more complex?

Rolly droid! This gets a big thumbs up for me in terms of technological advancement in the series. It makes sense that new astromech droids would be smaller, and the rolling helps them bounce over your average landscape obstacles, making them more mobile than our dear old R2. Though I’m sure he’ll have a few choice words about the new models on film.

Rolly astromech droids!

Daisy Ridley really does look like Han and Leia’s daughter, still. We have zero confirmation on that end, but it does seem weird to cast someone who looks so at home in the Skywalker line, and then make her entirely unrelated to the original crew.

It is relevant that the X-Wing pilot we see (Oscar Isaac) has a uniform that bears the Rebel Alliance insignia. Whether it is still a symbol being used by rebels, or it has been appropriated by a new government (a la the New Republic in the Expanded Universe) is still a mystery.

If they keep with Lucas’ rules on lightsaber colors, the person wielding the fancy new one would have to be a Sith, or at least a Dark Side user. What I like about the cross guard is that it gives us a window into what we might expect from this character’s fighting style. Possibly a less martial arts-influenced technique?

So what little we got here is properly intriguing! And I can’t wait for more. But more importantly, I’m not willing to decide whether or not it’s going to be good yet. Because there is no possible way to tell.

I guess that puts me in the Cautiously Optimistic camp? Either way, it’s Star Wars. I can’t imagine I will give up my lightsaber any time soon.


Emily Asher-Perrin just already loves this new stormtrooper guy, and really needs everyone to calm down. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr. Read more of her work here and elsewhere.

132 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!