In the previous installment of this series, we looked at the original trilogy teasers and trailers and found that while they tried to keep some things a secret — like Yoda or the Emperor — they could be quite revealing in story aspects, with some even showing the ending of the movies. With the dawn of the digital age, and with it the ability to pause movie files on the computer, as well as the rise in importance of the Internet in our lives, we take a look on how revealing, or not, the teasers and trailers for the prequel trilogy are.
The Phantom Menace
After a wait of fifteen years from the time the Return of the Jedi trailer came out, it was finally time to see the first teaser trailer for The Phantom Menace. On November 18, 1998, the first teaser would debut in selected cinemas across 26 states in the U.S. The teaser would play in front of several movies like Meet Joe Black and A Bug’s Life, but also in front of The Waterboy and The Siege. All these movies got a boost in ticket sales, because in the early days of the internet it was way easier to watch it in the cinema (and then leave after the teaser was done, as many people would end up doing) then downloading the teaser on the slow dial-up modem that people were using at the time. In the United Kingdom the teaser was released later, on December 2, 1998 and, quite unusually and probably done to create even more word-of-mouth, pulled from the cinemas six weeks later.
The servers of the official website gridlocked when the teaser was offered for free as a download.
Reactions to the teaser trailer were all-around very positive and fans could not wait to see the movie.
Trivia: The music that is used is a variation of well-known Star Wars cues, among them a version of “The Force Theme” that starts with a cue from “The Gungans March,” which is fitting for that is also the first shot — the Gungans coming out of the fog.
The taglines of, “Every generation has a legend. Every journey has a first step. Every saga has a beginning” were indicative of the whole marketing campaign that the new movie would unleash.
During the “Every saga has a beginning” line you can hear the breathing of Darth Vader, telling the viewer that the saga is all about Anakin Skywalker and that we would see his beginnings. Fitting with that is the first shot we see after hearing the breathing: Anakin speeding away in his podracer. More focus on Anakin would come later in this teaser with the line of Mace Windu about the prophecy and Qui-Gon exclaiming that the Force is unusually strong with Anakin. Also the connection between Anakin and Obi-Wan is spoiled in the teaser by showing the first time the two would meet.
Trivia: The first line of dialogue spoken: Jar Jar Binks with “Ouch time,” is a line that was actually said by Captain Tarpals in the movie.
While the teaser would not use the well-used original trilogy trailer line of “and aliens from a thousand worlds,” we sure saw a lot of the interesting new aliens and worlds that were designed. Coruscant however is only seen from space and the Jedi Council, but no far away establishing shots like with Naboo, Theed or Tatooine.
Probably done as homage to the original trilogy trailers, the teaser ends with an explosion followed by a logo that, with the way it leaps into the screen, almost looks like it came from the explosion.
Just like the teaser trailer, the theatrical trailer was released in front of a movie. This time it was the movie Wing Commander, featuring the future voice-actor of Kanan from Star Wars Rebels, Freddie Prinze Jr. in the main role. Visitors at the ShoWest Convention in Las Vegas, which took place March 9, 1999, were the first to actually get to see the theatrical trailer, before it aired on TV in popular entertainment shows like Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood.
For those who had missed those shows, were unable to go to the convention, didn’t like going to see Wing Commander or who just wanted to see the trailer again and again, Apple released the trailer on the official Star Wars website. And like the teaser before, the internet broke in two on March 11, 1999. It was downloaded more than a million times in 24 hours, 3.5 million times in the first five days, and 6.4 million times within three weeks. Steve Jobs himself described the trailer as, “the biggest Internet download event in history” and it became a huge boom for Apple and Quicktime, which had to be installed on your computer before being able to play the file.
Where the teaser focused primarily on Anakin Skywalker and connecting it with the previous movies, the trailer itself focuses on the actual story of the invasion of Naboo and the Sith returning.
Trivia: The Imperial March can be heard during the Trade Federations Invasion of Naboo and Darth Maul’s scenes.
It seems that this trailer was cut together before the lines of Natalie Portman and Ian McDiarmid were rerecorded during the ADR-looping process. Especially Portman sounds a lot younger than in the actual movie.
The first part of Sio Bibble’s plea to Queen Amidala about the death toll being catastrophic is put over the beginning scene in which the queen looks at the Palpatine hologram instead.
John Knoll’s cameo as the Naboo pilot Rya Kirsch can be seen during the trailer with the Wilhelm scream being heard. In the movie the scream is instead added to two Naboo soldiers dying in the Theed hangar.
It is kind of funny now in hindsight to see the quick action shots montage in the end with Anakin running. Now we know that his running was just to inform Padmé and the Jedi that Panaka had returned and not due to any action taking place.
While the teaser was designed to connect the new movie to the original trilogy, the one connection that they could have made but ended up missing was the appearance of Jabba the Hutt. They added Jabba to this trailer instead.
Attack Of The Clones
For the second movie in the prequel trilogy it was decided that they would do the teaser trailers a little bit different than normal. Instead of just one teaser they would release three. Each teaser seems to be more or less focused on one of the different storylines from the movie. The first one appears to be a general mix of everything, the second seems more focused on the politics of the story and the assassination attempt on Padmé, while the third is more focused on the love story between Anakin and Padmé. All three were attached to Monsters, Inc. when that movie premiered November 2, 2001.
The first one features no dialogue at all, just Darth Vader’s breathing, to signify that this is the movie that would start Anakin’s fall to the dark side. The breathing and the more suspenseful use of the score combined with many short flashes makes this teaser quite dark and ominous, except for the kiss between Anakin and Padmé. The most speculative shot in this one would be the masked man with a jetpack flying away in the rain. He looks like Boba Fett, and we could also see a ship looking like the Slave I. The clone troopers we see marching from a distance sure evoke the feeling that we would see the stormtroopers for the first time.
The third is focused on the love story, but does not use the love theme “Across The Stars” and instead uses “Leia’s theme” for Anakin and Padmé. And while it does not show the death of Shmi, it shows Anakin riding out into the desert, being angry and killing a Tusken Raider, and pretty much everything else that is important to the love story and his fall. Just like the first teaser, this one also starts with Darth Vader’s breathing. While they wanted to keep the duel between Yoda and Dooku a secret, the teaser does show Dooku’s salute to Yoda at the start of the duel. Fans at the time must have assumed it was meant for Obi-Wan and Anakin who we do see fighting Dooku throughout the various teasers. At 1.40 there seems to be an alternate shot of Padmé watching Anakin leave.
On March 10, 2002, the new trailer for Attack of the Clones was made available on the official Star Wars website. Later that day it was shown between an episode of Malcolm in the Middle and The X-Files on the Fox Network.
Trivia: The trailer features the first mention of the name Jango Fett, putting to rest the question of the identity of the Boba Fett look-alike from the teaser.
After the unique double-bladed lightsaber of Darth Maul from The Phantom Menace teaser, and Dooku’s curved lightsaber hilt as seen during the salute in the teaser for this movie, we get to see another unique style of fighting in the trailer: Anakin using two blades at the same time. Kylo Ren’s unique lightsaber seems to be following this trend of making the viewer curious on the new lightsaber and what kind of battles that would bring.
“Join me, Obi-Wan, and together we will destroy the Sith” is one of the obvious mirrors to the original trilogy that makes its way into the trailer, including the bar scene and a monster in an Arena lurching like the Rancor in Return of the Jedi.
While we know now that Palpatine’s scene in the senate ordering the clone troopers to be his grand army of the Republic is at the end of the movie, one can see how people at the time imagined that we would see way more of the Clone Wars in the movie than what we ended up with. Especially considering Yoda’s “Begun this Clone War has” line which was also from the end of the movie.
There is another explosion at the end of a trailer before the logo of the movie like with The Phantom Menace and some of the original trilogy. Darth Vader’s breathing can be heard during this also.
Revenge Of The Sith
The first week of November 2004, fans were treated to the teaser trailer for Revenge of the Sith. The teaser first premiered November 4th on the Hyperspace section of the official website, where subscribers had an exclusive early look before people could see the trailer attached the next day to the movie The Incredibles (featuring the voice of Samuel L Jackson). For those outside of the U.S. and unable to see the movie with the teaser attached to it, the teaser was given out for everybody to see on November 8th through the official website.
With everybody thinking at the time that this would be the last time we would see Star Wars on a big screen, it is understandable that the teaser dripped with nostalgia with Obi-Wan’s speech from A New Hope about Anakin and a time before the dark times, before the Empire, with many flashbacks to the previous movies. The Revenge of the Sith parts seemed to have put an emphasis on big action and high melodrama.
Trivia: The “A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far Far Away…” is back, which was not seen since the 1978 re-release trailer for A New Hope.
Obi-Wan’s retelling of what went before is reminiscent of Harrison Ford telling us in the The Empire Strikes Back launch trailer what has happened in A New Hope.
Darth Vader’s arm restraints at the wrist look different in the teaser compared to the same scene in the movie where we do not even see his hands and arms when the table is being raised upward.
And of course the teaser ends with an explosion, this time during the space battle above Coruscant, before the logo appears. During the logo we hear once more Vader breathing and “The Imperial March.”
Work began in December 2004 on the theatrical trailer and by January 26, 2005 George Lucas came in the office to look at the final cut of the trailer. Apparently he liked it a lot because he showed it to most of the cast and crew during the last day of pick-up shooting in Elstree, which took place on January 31. Among the people who saw it was Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker). Another important actor, Samuel L Jackson saw the trailer on February 1, when he came in to record his lines in ADR. He was blown away by it and quite impressed with his send-off that was hinted at in the trailer and parts of the duel with Palpatine.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) however was less impressed and rejected the trailer on November 5. Now this is not an uncommon thing and the editor quickly changed the shot of clone troopers pointing their weapons at their Jedi victims to a close-up shot in which the Jedi could not be seen.
With the trailer now changed and approved it was time for the premiere on March 11. Again the premiere was seen at first only online at the Hyperspace section of the site, and the trailer was this time attached to the movie Robots. During an episode of the Fox show The O.C. the trailer could also be seen.
Trivia: While we could see General Grievous already in the Tartakovsky Clone Wars series as early as April 2004, his movie look was something of a secret and he appears only in a far away shot on Utapau when Obi-Wan confronts him. Grievous’ bodyguard, the IG-100 MagnaGuard, does get a very clear shot in the trailer however.
Alternate shot: Ki-Adi-Mundi’s reaction to the clones aiming their weapons at him is different then what we saw in the movie. This is clearly seen with the background, which appears to be the Jedi Temple and not Mygeeto. In fact, the clones pointing the blaster to him are not even his clone troopers but rather the 501st troopers on Coruscant.
While most of the trailer music is music we have heard before in the movies, there is a new cue in the trailer. It sounds like the Coruscant war drums that start off Episode 3, but it appears to be different and something we cannot hear in the movie.
While the MPAA had problems with guns being pointed at a character, they apparently did not object to Anakin quite visibly killing some of the Separatist members with his lightsaber. Among them Nute Gunray who falls down with a Gamorrean guard cry, which sounds like a temporary sound effect for the trailer.
While the trailer does not end with an explosion before the logo, we get Anakin and Obi-Wan swinging towards each other and clashing their lightsabers instead.
While many of the shots in these teasers and trailers are obvious references to the original trilogy, there are also many shots in them that are less obvious in giving you the sense of familiarity and making it fit with the greater saga. Clever editing can also make it seem that scenes appear earlier in a movie then they actually end up appearing. The Attack Of The Clones teaser showing clone troopers from a distance as if they are stormtroopers is a good example of Obi-Wan’s line, “Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them” something that is wise to keep in mind while watching the teasers and trailers for The Force Awakens. Who knows where the true allegiances lie for certain characters who appear now as being light siders or dark? Who knows for sure that Finn holding a certain blue lightsaber is alluding to him being a Jedi? What does it truly mean that Han and Chewbacca are at home? We will all find out in December — have fun speculating until then!
Sander de Lange (Exar Xan) from the Netherlands worked on the Rogues Gallery feature in Star Wars Insider and has written the back-story for Niai Fieso through “What’s the Story?”. He is an editor for TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars Fanclub and an administrator for the Star Wars Sourcebooks page on Facebook. While he cannot wait to see The Force Awakens in the cinema, he tries his best to stay spoiler free.