This morning I woke up to a fanboy breakfast: for starters, a spanking-new trailer for The Last Jedi was served up, and for seconds I ordered tickets for opening night.

I watched the trailer before my actual (you know, food) breakfast, then again while munching away – and for good measure, I had another round after finishing up. Then, intox­i­cated, I whistled you-know-what sound­track on my way to work. If there’s Cloud Nine somewhere on Bespin, I’m on it right now. The weeks till December 13 can’t fly by fast enough!

In the unlikely case that you have no idea what I’m talking about, here you go:

Point Five Past Light Speed to the Nostalgia System

Since this year also marks the 40th anniversary of the original Star Wars, I decided to take a shortcut through hyper­space to memory lane and dig up the trailer for the film that started it all.

In all honesty, I don’t remember seeing this trailer back in 1977. I’m not sure if it was shown in cinemas in the Netherlands at the time. But thanks to the marvel that is the internet, it’s now only a few clicks away. Here it is:

What a world of difference, right? The pacing is much slower, you get to see much less of the actual film and the poised, sonorous voice-over is almost soporific. It makes me want to twirl my nonex­istent mustache and say in a faux French accent: Ah, ze world was so much simpler back zen.

It is, dare I say, an elegant trailer for a more civilized age. But it is also a delightful document of its time. This is how film trailers were made in the 1970s, and no one yet knew how Star Wars was about to change the moviemaking landscape forever.

Trailer to Trailer

Not only have movies themselves evolved since Star Wars laid down the benchmark for what a modern block­buster was and what an action-adventure film could achieve in terms of sheer kinetic enter­tainment – in the cinematic gener­ation that followed, film trailers have become an art form unto itself.

Trailers are now made by dedicated companies that do nothing else. There are trailers for movies, TV shows, video games, books, you name it. And since the internet has released movie trailers from their cinema-bound existence, they have become enter­tainment events in their own right, with a visual language all their own.

Because trailers are short-form, you can push the bound­aries even further, inter­weaving ideas, images and sounds at a much faster clip than you could in a longer film. Instead of being a nutshell dilution of the film they advertise, trailers now offer up a more concen­trated essence of their bigger cousin. In some cases, as with The Force Awakens, the trailer even features shots and dialog that do not appear in the final film at all.

Finally, First of All

To round off this musing, a little nugget of movie lore. It may seem counter­in­tu­itive that previews for upcoming movies are called trailers when they precede the feature film. But in the early days of the cinema, the previews would in fact trail the main attraction, coming after the headline film.

You may have seen, in older films, how all of the credits are at the start of the film, with the movie ending immedi­ately after “The End” appears on screen. It’s a seamless transition to the trailers that used to come next.

Later, when the practice changed, the name stuck regardless.

Nowadays, of course, online movie trailers don’t trail or precede anything anymore. They have become their own headline attraction. Unless, as with The Last Jedi this morning, the trailer precedes a repeat viewing of itself. And another. And another.

• • •

Image credit: YouTube (adapted from source and source)

Father, son, husband, friend and writer by day; asleep by night. Happily pondering the immortality of the crab wherever words are shared.

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