HEAT VISION

If 'Star Wars' Trailers Were the Whole Story

Can you tell the plot of the series from these few minutes alone?
Walt Disney Studios
Can you tell the plot of the series from these few minutes alone?

With the release of the final trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the cycle of trailers for the nine-movie Skywalker Saga is complete. To mark the peculiar end of this particular era, there’s really only one thing to do: relive the entire storyline from star to finish through trailers only.

The Skywalker Saga, of course, was told out of order, with the middle chapters being released first; for the purposes of this exercise, however, the trailers are laid out in episodic order, allowing for the joy of escaping turn-of-the-century slickness for the breathless hype of the 1970s and '80s before coming up to date with the current, final trilogy. If you’re only paying attention to the trailers, what can be learned about the plot of the series?

Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999)

A young boy named Anakin Skywalker may be destined to bring balance to something called “the Force,” although one of the cloak-wearers called Obi-Wan Kenobi isn’t convinced. A green muppet isn’t a fan of fear, anger or hate. There are lots of explosions.

Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones (2002)

In between movies, Anakin has grown considerably older, and Obi-Wan has grown his hair out, but no one else seems to have changed in any appreciable way. A republic is in danger of being split in two, but the chancellor isn’t happy about it, and creates an army to defend the Republic. The green muppet is even more worried about the dark side, and announces the beginning of a clone war, which probably involves clones of a bounty hunter called Jango Fett.

Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith (2005)

The chancellor is quite clearly a bad guy, but great at enunciation. Anakin has also grown his hair out, as well as become increasingly paranoid, likely a result of hanging out with the chancellor, who talks about the dark side of the Force all the time — and then turns into an albino zombie for some reason. The clones kill all the Jedi, while the green muppet points out the obvious, that Anakin has turned evil, a fact that upsets Obi-Wan quite a lot. At the end of the trailer, a big dude with a breathing problem shows up.

Star Wars (1977)

There’s a whole new cast, but one of them knows Obi-Wan somehow. She needs to be rescued by an ordinary farm boy called Luke Skywalker, while we learn that the big dude with the breathing problem’s name is Darth. It’s described as “a romance of the future,” which is certainly a choice, but a woman wearing white is being rescued by Luke and some other people.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

An excitable man explains that Luke Skywalker and Han Solo rescued the Princess, which is probably what happened in the last movie. Darth catches laser bullets in his hands and sits in a big black robotic egg, the new cast gets properly introduced, everyone is into Princess Leia, and the title of the movie explodes in space. The actual plot of this one, however? That’s more difficult to ascertain. There’s lots of snow and some monsters.

Return of the Jedi (1983)

The battle for freedom rages on, we’re told, as everyone moves to the forest and the desert. Luke Skywalker asks someone if Darth (whose last name is Vader, the first time it’s mentioned in a trailer) is his father, and then starts fighting with him. Both the green muppet and the chancellor make their return, but neither gets to say anything this time around.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

There’s another all-new cast, and no one seems to remember any of the earlier casts at all. Everyone new seems to be having a crisis of confidence aside from a new seeming villain, who is talking to Darth Vader’s crushed helmet. Han Solo comes back with his big hairy friend to tell the new cast that the rumors of the events of earlier films are true, and the former soldier in white armor seems to be the new hero, lining up to fight the villain in black armor.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Things get more prosaic as the unnamed new female lead learns to use her also-never-named-in-the-trailers-so-far-amazing laser sword from Luke, who has grown old and looks like a hobo now. The bad guys are called the First Order, and Luke is not happy with the way things are going. The woman is tortured by a bald guy and talks about needing to know her place in all this, carrying forward her comments in the last trailer about being “no one.”

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

The Force brought everyone together to fight, including the unnamed woman and the unnamed villain in black, who are going at it on top of what looks like a drowned space ship. The woman’s self-discovery continues, with her voiceover revealing that nobody knows who she is, which is a drastic change from her claims of being no one two movies earlier. The chancellor from the second and third movie is back, and things seem to be ramping up for the biggest battle in outer space yet.

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