A look back at the Star Wars trailers of the past
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You can't have missed it - the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer went online in the early hours of the morning giving us our best look yet at the new film. As I type its generating reams of internet content analysing every frame, looking for hints at so-far-undiscovered events and any hints of spoilers. Rather than add to the chatter, we thought we'd take a peek back at the Star Wars trailers of old - each a product of their time, and each one worth a look for its own reasons.
Star Wars (1977)
Forty years ago there was no Star Wars. George Lucas was known for American Graffiti and another sci-fi flick, THX 1138. Even the trailer for the first film lacked the bombast that we would later come to expect from big-screen film teasers. Opening the trailer with the film's final scene was an interesting decision and the introduction of the actors that placed the little-known Mark Hamill in first billing was as hokey as it gets. Still, there is a surprising amount of effects work in the trailer suggesting that the film was pretty close to completion at the time the trailer appeared.
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The Empire Strikes Back had the unenviable job of following up on the huge hit that the first film had become - but at the same time the trailer didn't need to do as much to sell it to the public. Bigging up the main characters and introducing a few new ones, the most noteworthy thing about the trailer was just how much it showed - and we get our first glimpses of Boba Fett (we'll ignore the holiday special) and LANDO CALRISSIAN! Ok so the voice over (which sounds suspiciously like a bad Harrison Ford impersonator) was probably a bit too much but the trailer hit the right notes whilst still having that unmistakeable 70s/80s vibe.
Star Wars: Episode VI - The Return of the Jedi (1983)
Arguably the most theatrical of the three original trilogy trailers, Return of the Jedi showed a clear step up in terms of trailer production and film marketing. Stirring in a bit of intrigue and a surprising lack of the easily merchandisable Ewoks (I think we see them for less than a second!) results in a trailer that ups the stakes and really plays to the strong points of the film. Some great space battles and the split-second appearance of Boba Fett again make for a really good trailer. We love the positioning of Leia in the leadership role - it might be a series short of female characters, but its important to note that selling Leia as a strong character was something ahead of its time.
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Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
The signs were already bad here - Jar Jar was already massively irritating and it was clear from the trailer alone that as a character he was a mistake. That said, this was probably the biggest trailer EVER at the time of its debut and I remember clearly downloading it over a 56kbps modem, taking what seemed like an eternity. Looking back the CGI has really dated the film - and not in the charming way that the model and stop motion work of the original films has. It just looks poor and emphasises just how little physical set there was. The trailer does neatly sidestep the duller aspects of the film but without the music and the sound effects you'd struggle to place it as a Star Wars trailer at all. Even at that early stage in the public's awareness of the film there must've been some concern at how visually different it was to its predecessors.
Star Wars: Episode II - The Attack of the Clones (2002)
After the muted reaction to The Phantom Menace meant that the stakes were high for Attack of the Clones and the trailer really ups the bombast. Even more CGI heavy makes this feel even more dated and Hayden 'Anakin' Christensen's stilted performance was as obviously worrying in this trailer as Jar Jar was in the previous. While we accept this was as much down to direction and writing as the actor's ability (he's nowhere near as bad in every other film we've seen him in) he really is a dead weight around the neck of this promo.
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Brave move showing the Vader money shot in this one - if there was one thing that would entice the increasingly wary fans back for another outing it was the chance to see Darth Vader again after thirty years; and they go splurge that moment in the trailer as a cheap promotional trick. It smacks of desperation and grasping at straws to find as many selling points as possible. Despite that, this is probably the strongest trailer of the lot and therefore spoiling that moment was even more unnecessary. We get to see the dark brooding Anakin and even the stunning climactic battle between the Padawan and his Master on Mustafar and despite even more CGI overload it looks fantastic.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
It would be remiss of us not to post the three trailers for The Force Awakens here - not only do they show a real return to the values of the original trilogy but they're also a master class in how trailers should be - giving an idea of the aesthetic and just a few hints to the characters without revealing copious amounts of the plot. Who can fail to be excited by the first appearance of the Falcon in the first teaser or the lovely reveal of Han and Chewie in the second?