The third full-length trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has arrived, and though it shies away from giving away the any key plot details, there's still a lot to glean if you look close enough.
It's as notable what isn't there as what is. Newcomers Lupita Nyong'o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max Von Sydow are nowhere to be seen (though Nyong'o might be providing one of the voiceovers early on). Luke Skywalker makes a cameo, but it's a repeat of what we saw in the previous trailer, his face still obscured. And as for that Death Star-like thing from the official poster? We still don't know.
While we may venture a bit into some topics discussed / inferred in non-trailer material (e.g. Entertainment Weekly interviews), we're going to abstain from referencing any unofficial / leaked material. That said, analyzing a trailer frame-by-frame can get a bit nuanced, so we're just gonna say spoiler warning now and then dive right in.
- That's Rey, looking suitably alien in her scavenger gear. The get-up appears to be a slight nod to Leia, who came to rescue Han at the beginning of Return of the Jedi, dressed up as Ubese bounty hunter Boushh. Same non-human appearance, same cold open. Like mother, like daughter? Or is Rey something else?
- This cavernous space is more reminiscent of Alien than Star Wars, but look a little closer and you'll see recognizable markings. This looks like the hangar bay of a Star Destroyer, indicating this desert planet isn't Luke's adopted Tatooine, but Jakku, the site of the climactic battle between the Rebels and the Empire.
- "Who are you," Rey is asked. "I'm no one," she replies, channelling Game of Thrones' Arya. Note again the callback to Episode IV, with a main character trudging through the dunes, a droid leaving tracks in the sand at her side.
- A ship in the distance. Unlike the busy skies of Mos Eisley, Rey's homeworld seems to be low on working spacecraft. She seems to stop and stare at the ship as it pulls into the air, working with some of the scrap she's yanked out of the stricken Star Destroyers on the sand below.
- Finn was "raised to do one thing," suggesting he was born into, or adopted by the First Order. The new version of the Empire looks a lot like the old, with stark red iconography, black-clad elites, and lots and lots of Stormtroopers. But these new guys seem more fanatical than the old Imperials, true believers rather than conscripted soldiers.
- We've already seen the new TIE Fighter, with its snazzy red trim. Here it's sent hurtling down to what must be the surface of Jakku, but strangely, there are no ships nearby to cause the damage. Perhaps this is Finn in the TIE, and it was sabotaged for some reason — perhaps due to a lack of faith that his superiors might find disturbing.
- The settlement Finn looks out over after crash-landing is barely a village. This could be the first indication that Jakku is some backwater, even more out-of-the-way than Tatooine, or it could show that a heavy rain of destroyed spaceships can seriously mess up an ecology.
- Nothing says "evil dude" like red glare and a spooky helmet. This is Kylo Ren, and he looks like he's standing on the deck of a standard Star Destroyer, indicating that they're either still being built at Kuat Drive Yards, or that they've liberated some of the Empire's old supply. Staring out into space, Ren could be overseeing the construction of that strange new Death Star-ish orb spotted on the poster.
- Vader's looking a bit crumpled these days, but Ren promises to "finish what he started." Having Vader's mask indicates that Ren has gone to Endor's forest moon and grabbed it from his funeral pyre. But why is he so obsessed with Vader? Is he related to original bad boy Anakin Skywalker in some way? Or is he just a Sith collector, drawn to big spooky evil types in black helmets?
- Ren's mask is certainly Vader-esque, but where Anakin's was modelled on samurai helmets, the new design makes the new boy look more like an evil fly. He's doing his best Vader impersonation, too, doing a not-entirely-successful James Earl Jones voice that makes him sound a bit like a Buffy demon.
- Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron appears to be an X-Wing pilot for the the Resistance — the Rebellion 2.0. It looks a good bet that Dameron is taking the Han Solo role in The Force Awakens, the cynical and non-mystical flyboy to the lightsaber-wielding Finn and Rey combo. As Solo got tortured by Vader, here it seems that Dameron is getting his own special treatment from Kylo Ren.
- The Millennium Falcon is back! It's still missing its sensor dish — knocked off by Lando on his way out of the second Death Star — but that's the same old heavily modified YT-1300 cruiser as before. It's being chased by TIE fighters through the wreckage on Jakku though — why does Han want to come back to the site of the final showdown between the two sides? The Falcon's changed hands many times — is it even Han flying it?
- The assumption in the expanded universe was always that the end of the Emperor blew the lid off the existence of the Jedi, the dark side, and the Force, but Rey and Finn — united on board the Millennium Falcon — seem to have no idea.
- Han has to explain that the stories about what happened were "all true." Both Rey and Finn could simply be bumpkins who know little about the galaxy outside their homeworlds, but maybe the end of the Empire wasn't as well publicized as the parties at the end of Return of the Jedi suggested. Or maybe, without the Empire's logistical and communication links, the galaxy was kicked into a dark age where stories traveled slowly and people traveled irregularly.
- Kylo Ren's got a posse. Ren's the only one wielding his distinctive (and potentially stupid) crossguard lightsaber, but he's with a group of heavily armed buddies, each sporting their own evil-looking masks. Are they Sith? Or wannabe Sith, scouring the galaxy for Sith memorabilia and popping down to planets to get them? Note the trees all around — is this Endor's moon? Be careful, Ewok friends.
- With its lush forest backdrop, this pitched battle between stormtroopers and Resistance forces calls to mind the Wookiee defense of Kashyyk in Revenge of the Sith. The trees don't look tall enough to be Wroshyrs though, and there are too many buildings on the ground, making it resemble the Rebel's Yavin IV base from Episode IV.
- Dameron and Finn are buddies at this point, showing that Boyega's character has renounced his faith in the First Order, and joined the Resistance. Dameron's familiar orange flight suit and ship of choice — the still-beautiful X-Wing — show that things haven't changed too much in the last 30 years when it comes to battling TIE fighters.
- This big waddling droid distracts Finn, but it's the building ahead, festooned with flags, that's more interesting. This could be the hideout of pirate boss Maz Kanata. Kanata, played by Lupita Nyong'o and revealed earlier this year, could be on hand to help our heroes find something — or someone.
- And this could be that someone. Robot hand, big cloak, R2-D2? This could well be Luke Skywalker. We know Mark Hamill is in the movie, but he's been conspicuously absent from both its official poster, and this most recent trailer. Finn and Rey could be on a hunt for the powerful Skywalker, surely now a Jedi Master 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi — if, of course, he's still alive.
- Captain Phasma, played by Game of Thrones' Gwendoline Christie and clad in chrome armor, seems to be the boss of the First Order's stormtroopers. Director J.J. Abrams apparently got the name from ‘70s horror Phantasm — her chrome armor reminded him of the movies' lethal whizzing chrome sphere.
- Chewie's back! The walking carpet was a goner in the Star Wars expanded universe after he had a moon dropped on his head, but as that fiction was jettisoned when Disney bought the Star Wars license, the way was cleared for the 200-year-old Wookiee to get back in the action.
- BB-8 is on astromech duty these days, taking over for R2-D2 as cute tweedling sidekick during another pitched battle above a snowy world. The planet looks a lot like Hoth, but just as not all desert planets are Tatooine, not all ice planets are the same.
- As befitting his name, Han has been operating solo in most of the early Star Wars footage we've seen so far, but here he is reunited with Leia. The two seemed thoroughly intertwined after the end of Return of the Jedi, but with her planet destroyed and his smuggler lifestyle — and secret wife — did the two of them stay together?
- Finn is lit by the glow of a familiar blue lightsaber. Somehow it seems he's got Luke's first blade, the one the younger Skywalker lost in Cloud City after Vader sliced his hand off. If Kylo Ren's keen on collecting all the Sith stuff he can, it's a good bet he'll do the same to all of Finn's limbs to get his hands on a real Skywalker saber.
- Ren uses his own saber like Vader, swinging it hard and heavy when he powers it on. It wasn't clear whether the masked villain was actually a Sith or simply a fanboy, but this latest trailer shows him throwing stuff around with his mind, making him seem like the real deal. But with Benicio Del Toro reportedly cast as another Star Wars villain, is Ren really the big bad, or a Vader-esque lapdog for another shadowy figure?