A few days ago a trailer was released for The Old Republic, an upcoming Star Wars MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game). It’s a pretty impressive piece of animation and while it doesn’t actually represent gameplay, it has served its purpose – to get people excited about the game. For the most part, the mini-movie is an action piece pitting Jedi vs Sith and if you’re looking for a three minute fix of Star Wars action, you’ll be hard pressed to do better. Most of the comments being left by fans on the websites are along the lines of “wow, this is so much better than anything in the prequels, too bad the movies weren’t like this!” But what do the folks at DarthMojo think? Let’s find out…
First of all, props to Blur Studios, the guys in Venice, CA who actually made the trailer (everyone assumes it was either LucasArts or Bioware, the folks behind the game). The work is top-notch and if you check out their website here, you’ll find links to some of their other work (including game trailers for Wolverine and Terminator). The story in this mini-movie is pretty bare: the cocky-as-always Sith show up at the Jedi temple on Corousant, spew forth some over-the-top, melodramatic dialog and prove (once again) that the Jedi are a pretty dim bunch who are ill-prepared for an attack. Mayhem ensues.
Ok, I know it’s not fair to criticise the story of a game trailer, so this is actually more aimed at the Star Wars prequel universe, but come on already – why are the Jedi always portrayed as morons? In Episode One the only way they could think to get Anakin off Tattooine was a Pod race, in Episode Two they happily take delivery of a Clone Army no one has a receipt for and in Episode III all it takes is a couple of Sith and a bunch cartoony robots to bring them all to their knees.
They were the guardians of peace and justice for thousands of years? It’s hard to believe they managed to get drivers licenses, let alone save the galaxy over and over. In this trailer, One Sith lord and a few henchmen with blasters are all it takes to get past Jedi security (which seems to be mostly made up of mall cops with big guns). You’d think that to get inside “peace and justice” headquarters someone would at least have to buzz you in.
That being said, the Sith’s main point of strategy was pretty cool – crash a troop carrier into the building and then invade the temple (this leads to one of the coolest shots in the trailer, when the dark transport interior is lit up by the red glow of igniting lightsabers).
I have to thank Blur for paying homage to me with this shot – In the first episode of Battlestar Galactica’s second season, I did a shot of a Cylon Heavy Raider purposely crashing into the Galactica’s flightpod, after which the hatch opens and the piercing red eyes of invading Centurions break the darkness (but don’t worry, I promise not to tell anyone).
From this point on the trailer is spectacular, all-out CGI combat. I agree with everyone who says this three-minute sequence beats anything in the prequels – it does. This is what the prequels should have been – people fighting people. There was simply no emotional connection in watching the Jedi make spare parts out of an assembly line of robots – facing them off against a Sith army would have made all the difference. Lucas had gone on record as saying he used robots because he didn’t want to show the Jedi slicing up living, breathing people. Ok, fine, I understand not wanting to turn your movies into a bloodbath – but this trailer shows that you can get away with showing no blood and it still works (Luke did a fine job taking care of Jabba’s henchmen in Return of the Jedi and I don’t remember anyone complaining that we didn’t see arms and legs flying everywhere).
The choreography of this trailer’s fight sequence is nothing short of breathtaking; there’s an excellent balance of saber fighting and physical contact (it’s always cool to watch a laser-sword, Force-wielding warrrior make use of a good old-fashioned kick in the chest). The cinematography is also top-notch and makes excellent, subtle use of hand-held camerawork while mainly sticking to the “classic” camera style of the Star Wars universe (the few spots where hand-held was tried in the prequels felt forced and out of place – here it feels very natural).
My favorite moments in the trailer are at the end, when the hero is struck by the Sith Lords’s saber. The moment occurs just off-camera, so at first we’re not quite sure what has happened – but then we see the Jedi’s saber fall to the ground in slow motion, the green light of his blade slowly fading. This is an excellent directorial choice and a wonderfully subtle way of letting us know who the victor is (again, note the creative way of not having to show someone sliced in half).
The trailer’s most dramatic moment comes next – the dying Jedi falls to knees, out of focus with his back to camera; we are with him to witness the last thing he will ever see – enemy ships swooping in and laying waste to the Republic he swore to protect. Subtle, emotionally satisfying moments like this are what elevates this trailer to greatness. Sure, the fighting is cool, but capping it all off with great drama is what makes you want to watch it again and again.
The only thing I’d like to ask the film makers is why is the Jedi temple made of dried mud? Every time someone hits the floor or slams into a wall it shatters and crumbles like dry adobe. I always assumed a palace like this would be made of marble, but everyone knows that when a guy hits concrete at high velocity, I’d put my money on the person breaking before the floor does.
There are a few shots in this trailer of people being Force-pushed through breakaway walls, so my only guess is that the whole place is made of mud. I’m sure it wasn’t because someone thought that a few scenes of people shattering concrete in the made-up world of the Matrix was so cool they had to use it over and over again. That would be silly! Who knows, maybe 3, 500 years ago adobe was the primary construction tool on Corousant. Didn’t I mention that? Yeah, according to the website, the events of the Old Republic game take place 3,500 years before the movies.
It’s amazing that in literally thousands of years, so little has changed; the look of Corousant, the basic design and sound of all the spacecraft, the Jedi and Sith wardrobe, R2 units, lightsabers… if I didn’t know better, I’d say this trailer looks like it takes place thirty-five years before the events of Episode I, not 3,500! It’s got to be a typo. Can’t the ranch afford to hire some proofreaders?
Timeline absurdity aside, this trailer from Blur Studios really knocks it out of the park. It reminds me of a time when George Lucas saw the value in hiring talented writers and directors to play in his universe…