‘Star Wars’ Keeps its Secrets

Disney revives lost art of storytelling surprises

We’ve now seen three trailers for the upcoming “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.” Can anyone say with certainty what the movie is actually about?

Yes, that new round, spinning droid looks cool. And it’s great to see Harrison Ford back as Han Solo. Ditto the sight of the Milennium Falcon streaking through the sky once more. Yet after the third trailer for the sequel dropped during ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” telecast, we have no more sense of where the story or characters are heading. How … refreshing.

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The Walt Disney Co., the corporate giant that took over the “Star Wars” franchise in 2012, is letting the brand speak for itself. At a time when studios reveal just about every plot point and character detail months prior to a movie’s release, that’s rare. Last summer, the trailer for “Terminator Genisys” divulged a major surprise critical to the story. Other movies routinely share, and share some more, with their multiple trailer releases and set photos.

Can anyone say with certainty what the movie is actually about?

Studios assume audiences want to know everything possible about upcoming movies. It’s particularly true for geek-friendly fare like science-fiction features and superhero blockbusters.

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“The Force Awakens” director J.J. Abrams operates under a different mindset. He’s known for keeping things from audiences for as long as possible.

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The original “Star Wars” films packed their share of surprises. Darth Vader is Luke’s father? Leia is Luke’s sister? We’ll have to sit in our seats and watch the movie come Dec. 18 to find out if “The Force Awakens” has more in store for us. And that’s as it should be.

“The Force Awakens” made headlines earlier this year by embracing practical effects as much as possible over CGI magic, much as the original trilogy did due to the era’s technological limitations. Perhaps the film’s success will convince more studios that the old saw, “less is more” is still on target.

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