The latest trailer for "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens," brimming with action and tantalizing teases (if not much context), ends with a woman's voice that beckons: "The Force, it's calling to you. Just let it in."
The Force isn’t calling as much as it’s screaming: The hype over the series’ seventh installment exploded into hyperspace Monday, between what quickly became the most-scrutinized movie trailer in cinematic history, the release of a cool retro-style poster (sans Luke Skywalker) and the start of online ticket sales – all for a film that's less than two months away after, by some measures, a 32-year wait.
But as "Star Wars" fans well know, hyperspace and The Force are fickle powers, fraught with danger. There's a delicate balance between stoking excitement and building impossible-to-meet expectations that lead to crushing disappointment. In other words, the challenge of navigating the biggest mania in "Star Wars" history is avoiding a lightspeed trip to the Dark Side.
The stakes are high, both in Hollywood and in a galaxy far, far away. In the short term, Disney wants to beat "Jurassic World" in the year's box office race. In the longer term, the new "Star Wars" film represents the crucial opening gambit in a $4 billion bet on Lucasfilm and moviedom’s most examined fantasy franchise.
For fans, “Episode VII” represents the biggest round yet in the fight for the soul of a series that many diehards believe creator George Lucas sullied with a trio of prequels released between 1999 and 2005. Many are hoping for a Luke Skywalker-like savior in director J.J. Abrams, who, at 49, grew up on the original three installments – and proved with the last two "Star Trek" films he's adept at melding the spirit of the old with the possibilities of the new.
That ethos was on display in the third and latest trailer, which offered the longest glimpses yet of newcomers Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), while showing us Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who, when asked about the “stories” of the past, declares: “It’s true – all of it.”
Nostalgia alone won't win the day with fans, who are the most powerful Force of all in the "Star Wars" universe. But it’s a good start.
As you wonder, "Where's Luke?" and mark the days until Dec. 18, check out – again and again – the trailer (above) for "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens."