Does the ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ teaser live up to the franchise’s previous trailers?

After months of on-set reports, wild rumors, tweeted photos and cryptic interviews, Disney and J.J. Abrams have finally unleashed the very first teaser trailer for “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.”

Even after watching it 500 times (watch it again at the top of the page), fans still have questions about what they saw in the same way they did in for 1977's 'Star Wars” and 1999's “The Phantom Menace.” 

With that in mind, it's time to turn back the clock to re-visit the ever-evolving teasers released in advance of all six films, to compare them to the new “Episode VII” teaser. It's a list a billion of years in the making. 

“Star Wars” (1977)
It's hard to imagine a time before “Star Wars,” when 20th Century Fox had to figure out how to sell George Lucas' space odyssey to the public, but they did something right. Sure, the narrator gets it wrong when he says, “Somewhere in space, this may all be happening right now,” which is pretty much the opposite of “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” And yes, the music is much more down beat that John Williams' famously buoyant score. And it's certainly strange to think of George Lucas as merely “The Man Who Brought You 'American Graffiti'” (an excellent film, by the way). However, right out of the gate, it's easy to see why moviegoers queued up around the block to see this new kind of film spectacle, as the largely enigmatic clip revels in myth making, while showing off the film's high-tech action, special effect spectacles, exotic creatures, and more.

“The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)
Three years later, there was such a thing as a “Star Wars” fan, one who waited with bated breath for the sequel, which had a lot to live up to after “Star Wars” broke box office records. The “ESB” teaser was obviously rushed into production in order to satiate said fans' desire for more, and doesn't even feature any moving footage from the film. Instead, Ralph McQuarrie's vibrant concept art is given the spotlight, while set photos remind us who's who, and also introduce newcomer Lando Calrissian. It's more of a pitch reel than a teaser.

Watch the “Return of the Jedi” and “Phantom Menace” teasers on the next page

“Return of the Jedi” (1983)
By 1983, “Star Wars” was a massive corporate empire, and the pressure was on for the third and, possibly, final film, which was originally titled “Revenge of the Jedi.” This one combines wordy narration, still photos and dialogue-free scenes of unexplained action, leaving fans to guess the sequence of events. In addition to bringing the old gang back together, it features glimpses of fan favorites Yoda and Boba Fett (without revealing the Ewoks), and even boasts a shot from a deleted scene involving a sandstorm.

“The Phantom Menace” (1999)
Talk about pressure. 16 years after the original trilogy came to a very lucrative end, Lucas reignited the franchise with a three-film origin story. A lot had changed in Hollywood and the world of special effects since 1983, and the rumor mill on the newfangled Internet ran wild over what is likely the most anticipated trailer in history. Fans across the globe bought tickets for films they didn't even want to see (sorry, “The Siege”) in order to catch the teaser on the big screen. And what a tease it is: “Who are all these people? What's with Ewan McGregor's hair? What's that flashing? Oh look! Yoda!” The last 20 seconds or so really seal the deal.

Watch the “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith” teasers on the next page

“Attack of the Clones” (2002)
With a new Anakin Skywalker, fewer Jar Jar Binks shenanigans, and a darker tone that was instantly recognizable, this teaser is more of an artful collage that any of the previous clips. Driven by Darth Vader's familiar breathing and some unsettling percussion, we're only given brief snippets of action and character close-ups, with a heavy sense of doom hanging over it all. Best of all for longtime fans, settings and iconography (“Is that Boba Fett's dad or what?”) from the original trilogy are recontextualized, but not readily explained.

“Revenge of the Sith” (2005)
The “Sith” teaser traded on nostalgia even more than the first two prequels, in an attempt to bring everything full circle. There's actual footage from the 1977 original (including Alec Guinness' speech about Anakin's fate), plus peeks at the anticipated Obi-Wan vs. Anakin battle, Palpatine in action, and the Wookiee planet. It's less graceful and quite a bit choppier than the “Clones” teaser, with an emphasis on big action and high melodrama.

The new teaser can be seen at the top of the post.

“Star Wars: Episode VII” opens December 18, 2015.

Which teaser is your favorite? How does the latest one compare?