It was the most powerful trailer in the galaxy…with enough nostalgia to revert me to my six-year-old self…this is STAR WARS!
Hollywood movie trailers are incredible entities. They have the power to inspire, to excite and to propagate intense debate when advertising popular franchises. They can be like lightning in a bottle…if the essence of the movie is captured properly, they can be profound. If not, they can reveal too much of the films complexities making its relevance wasted upon the paying punters it was designed to entice.
With Hollywood blockbusters dominating the cinematic landscape every year, it has never been more important to present that perfect trailer to entice the attraction of the paying customer. To be a success, the trailer needs to be faultless. The editing is vital, as is its soundtrack which is expertly chosen to accentuate the message the film is trying to convey.
There are few examples that can encapsulate the pinnacle of a trailers impact beyond Star Trek: First Contact, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. All three trailers for these epic space adventures achieved the impossible and excited the masses of fans gathering in anticipation around the world. Their perfect blend of action, adventure, vivid imagery and musical brilliance thrust them into the hearts and souls of not only the fans but the casual viewer who all flocked to the cinema to see them.
Gone are the days where movie trailers we just simple infomercials. A new form of advertising began with the release of the Jaws trailer way back in 1975. Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece was marketed using the movies vivid imagery that preyed upon the fears of a world gripped in a pandemic of fear from the prospect of terror lurking in the water. The topic of a man-eating shark frightened the masses and the tag line “See it…before you go swimming!” went on to strike fear into the hearts of a generation.
The power of a trailer cannot be underestimated.
None more so than a fateful night in the winter of 1996, where my brother Carl Roberts and I were seated in the Well Hall Coronet cinema in London…waiting to see The Ghost and the Darkness in the aftermath of viewing Star Trek: First Contact for the fifth time. Our first viewing had been a gruelling marathon event at a rival cinema chain that boasted all the first seven (at the time) Star Trek movies back to back before the first showing of the latest entry into the series. It was a fantastic night filled with caffeine, popcorn and Star Trek…the perfect blend of old school sci-fi and confectionary that encompassed my teenage years.
As we waited for the movie to begin, the customary advertising for random merchandise gave way to the trailer portion, a segment that always filled us with excited anticipation. I can remember the Back to the Future Part II trailer like it was yesterday, feeling excited when the first teaser trailer for the original Jurassic Park filled the screens…teasing us with a new dinosaur movie from the director responsible for the Indiana Jones saga. Feeling the surge of excitement when the trailer for Tim Burton’s new Batman film arrived to usher in a new era of super hero movies…it was an exciting time to be a movie enthusiast.
The cinema lights faded into the gloom, building our excitement as the trailers began…they were run of the mill movies at first…the festive period was traditionally a mundane time of year for the cinematic experience aside from the occasional diamond in the rough, but the promise of man eating lions maintained our focus.
We settled into our seats, excited at the prospect of Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas combatting man-eaters on the African Savannah…and then, just as I finished a mouthful of popcorn…a few simple lines of speech sent me into a delirium. They were withered lines, the type you would expect from a gritty and worn television series.
“For an entire generation…people have experienced Star Wars, the only way it’s been possible…on the TV screen…but if you’ve only seen it this way…you haven’t seen it at all!”
A small television screen gave way to a gloriously large X-Wing fighter that exploded through the screen like never before…its wing mounted blasters firing into the crowd right before my very eyes. The familiar tones of John Williams’ Star Wars theme exploded from the speakers and sent me into an overwhelming tidal wave of euphoria. It was an incredible sight…one I will never forget. Every one of my favourite Star Wars characters filled the screen, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker blasting Stormtroopers…X-Wing fighters converging on the space surrounding the Death Star and Princess Leia inserting the data tape into the circuitry of R2-D2.
It was incredible…the glorious images were accompanied by the lines…
“Now, for its twentieth anniversary, the adventure of a lifetime returns to the big screen…in a way you’ve never seen before!”
In that split second, my mind was blown. I was six years old again…sat in the Marble Arch cinema in London as the opening crawl of Return of the Jedi filled the screen and set me on a path of Star Wars fandom. The voice over artist, with his incredible talent promised newly enhanced visual effects…as new X-Wing and Tie Fighter dogfights filled the screen with their glossy vibrancy, all presented in stunning THX digital surround sound.
“And a few new surprises!”
The words had me on the edge of my seat as images of new speeder bikes and creatures filled the screen, before those gave way to reveal a CGI Jabba The Hutt, slithering alongside Han Solo at the foot of the Millennium Falcon boarding ramp, threatening him with repercussions if he failed to deliver…
“George Lucas and 20th Century Fox invite you to welcome back…Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2”
Now, to say I fell out of my seat would usually be an overstatement…but I did.
Star Wars was returning to the big screen…an event I had been longing for since that fateful day in 1983 when Return of the Jedi was revealed to my six-year-old eyes. And, if that wasn’t enough…the voice over artist confirmed that entire Star Wars trilogy would be returning…all with new scenes and special effects to enthral us with. Stunningly beautiful images from Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi filled the screen…the magnificent sight of Millennium Falcon hurled through a cluster of Tie Fighters above the forest moon of Endor and the infamous AT-AT walkers blasted rebel troops on the snow planet of Hoth.
John Williams’ score continued to explode through the surround sound speakers, devices that I had come to hear lions roar from in The Ghost and the Darkness…but who cared about the film…the trailer was the best thing I had ever seen. It was Star Wars and it was coming back…bigger and better than ever.
“The Star Wars trilogy special edition…see it again…for the first time!”
A beautiful new shot of my beloved Millennium Falcon filled the screen on route to Yavin 4 to deliver Princess Leia to the rebel headquarters. The second Death Star exploded and the Millennium Falcon flew towards the screen in glorious colour as the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi uttered the epic words…
“The Force will be with you…always”
And then…the screen faded to black and the audience was plunged into darkness, but the tension in the auditorium was palpable. Excited chatter exploded from the masses as I wiped the tears from my eyes. It was the most glorious cinematic experience of my life and anything to follow would pale in comparison…even though The Ghost and the Darkness was a stunning feature film…but this was Star Wars, my first love.
Like a drug, the excitement kicked in and my adrenaline overwhelmed me. I yelled in delight which startled everyone around me except for one…my brother. The one person who knew me better than anyone else was just as elated as I was. It was a profound moment for us both and in the fleeting minutes before the film began…we were in raptures of excitement. As the screen adjusted to its widescreen format, the Millennium Falcon was the topic of conversation, as were the new images…teased so remarkably upon the screen.
Wow. What a moment…and then the Paramount Pictures logo filled the screen and The Ghost and the Darkness began complete with its masterful score composed by the unconquerable Jerry Goldsmith. As fantastic as the film was, it was hard to shake the notion of Star Wars from my thoughts.
In all the years since that incredible trailer, I am yet to replicate its effect upon me. The Force Awakens teaser trailer came very…very…close with the Millennium Falcon’s explosion from the sand dunes of Jakku, rising like a phoenix from the mountainous sand…but it still fell short of the mark. Other trailers have come and gone, Rogue One was a sublime effort with its brilliant score resonating with the beating heart of the Star Wars saga but nothing will ever compare to THAT trailer.
The Star Wars trilogy special edition trailer will always be the one that broke the mould. It will never be replicated and will never be surpassed. It was and still is cinematic brilliance at its best.
I invite you to watch it here and share in my delight:
With new and exciting Hollywood blockbusters filling our calendars year after year, it is easy to overlook these incredible trailers that are often better than the films they are advertising. They are often masterpieces in their own right and the Star Wars trilogy is a prime example of that. So, whether your tastes are inclined to Kong: Skull Island, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, Alien: Covenant, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Transformers or the hotly anticipated Star Wars: The Last Jedi…let’s all appreciate the trailers that brought these exciting movies to the dance.
Many deserve condemnation for their failings…but sometimes, they can capture our imaginations in ways never thought possible and transport us to a galaxy far, far away.
May The Force Be With You