“You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Star Wars goes Saving Private Ryan in this intense, revealing highlight reel full of new alien costumes, heavy violence, and surprisingly cinematic promise. I’m not ready to get my hopes up about the narrative, but this is beginning to look like the most skillfully filmed, most convincingly realized Star Wars movie of all.

Soon, there will be a Star Wars episode for every moviegoer — those who like children’s stories, those who like abstract art films, those who like hyper-violent war movies, those who like poetic meditations, those who like comedies. George Lucas gave storytellers a box of 64 crayons, and now, for better and for worse, the kid in everyone gets to take it all apart and put it all together again with his or her own imagination.

Star Wars poster as travel agency advertisement.

Unlike what we’ve seen from Marvel so far, the Star Wars universe offers so much more than heroes and villains. It has a range of possible scenarios and characters that aren’t limited by superhero tropes. Its best stories are those that, in the midst of all the whiz-bang adventure and violence, resist the temptation to become intoxicated with violence, and instead carry a soulful sense of grief over loss, an earnest concern for sacrifice and reconciliation, a hope for peace and the redemption of villains. The heart of the original trilogy is Luke Skywalker’s realization that power can make him a monster, but forgiveness and peacemaking can redeem heroes, villains, and the cosmos as a whole.

Yoda’s first words to Luke become his best words to Luke: “Away put your weapon!” So, if the new Star Wars movies do what they’re capable of doing, they’ll make kids want to be brave enough to embrace non-violence rather then sending them scrambling to buy toy blasters.

There will probably be a lot of disappointing films, but I’m sensing that an impulse of one-upmanship among directors, each of whom have always wanted their shot at taking Star Wars to the next level, may result in some surprisingly creative cinema… aesthetically, at least, but I’m hoping they all compete to write the best, most meaningful Star Wars story.

Anyway, either this trailer has given me real hope, or my coffee is giving me a fleeting but naive shot of optimism.

Whatever the case, Star Wars is turning into the big screen’s most engaging creativity contest.

May the Force be with them, and may the artist with the most wisdom win.