It's a testament to the enduring visual design of the original Star Wars trilogy that in order to make "modern trailers" for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, all YouTuber Tom F had to do was employ some clever cuts and overlay the haunting music used in The Force Awakens' trailers. The results are slick two-minute teasers that look like they could genuinely be used as the opening salvo in one of Hollywood's modern hype campaigns — but there's one key difference.
Most modern trailers lay out the movie's entire story in just a few seconds — looking at you, Batman vs. Superman, Captain America: Civil War, and especially you Terminator: Genisys. If those movies can spoil their biggest secrets months before they hit the big screen, a modern Empire Strikes Back trailer would happily reveal that Luke and Leia are siblings, Han and Leia love each other, and that Darth Vader is Luke's father. Instead, these re-imagined trailers take the even newer template laid out by Episode VII's teasers. The Force Awakens' clips showed impressive restraint in an age where two minutes are jammed with as much exposition as producers can throw at the screen, pulling back on the amount of detail and building excitement by deliberately avoiding major plot points.
There's a pleasing synchronicity to this because Star Wars has been pivotal in the history of the movie trailer. The first teaser for The Phantom Menace's first teaser dropped the dulcet tones of the "in a world..." voiceover man, relying instead on carefully selected shots that Star Wars-starved fans could pick over again and again. In the process, it broke the internet before breaking the internet was a thing people aimed to do. The Force Awakens, again, bucked the trailer trend by omitting the kind of information that most trailers include as standard, and spawned thousands of feverish fan reaction videos, posts, and discussions.
Tom F's remixed trailers show the power of The Force Awakens' format. They add mystery and menace to the galaxy, making it seem a bigger place where the original trilogy's real-life trailers shrank it, the once-ubiquitous voiceover man droning over the top of shots seemingly selected at random. Let's hope that others in Hollywood copy Episode VII's lead in the future, learning from Abrams that as far as trailers go, less is more.
Verge Video: First reactions to The Force Awakens