A few days ago a TV advert came out in South-Korea for The Force Awakens, featuring a never before seen shot of the First Order army. Chilling, both in its setting and meaning, it gave fans a new glimpse at the tangible threat that the First Order represents to the Rebellion. It might also have given us our first sneak peek at Snoke, if only from behind. However, something else about this single shot grabbed my attention, and I wasn’t the only one who noticed it:
The shot, combined with the one we got in the second The Force Awakens teaser trailer, seems to hearken back to one of the closing scenes of The Attack of the Clones, in which the mass of the Clone Army is revealed for the first time. There is a distinctly different feel between the two shots, however, and I want to get into the differences and similarities a little bit.
The Attack of the Clones is very much the film which sets up the drama of The Revenge of the Sith but it is also crucial in establishing the conflict that is to rip apart the Republic. Although the film is bright, colour-wise, it is a film that predicts the end. The final scene in Coruscant shows this unlike any other by being set against a setting sun. The whole scene is suffused with the colours red and yellow, which gives it a very nostalgic and sad feel. This is very much on purpose. With the creation of this army the Clone Wars have begun and there is a real sense that the violence that the creation of the Clone Army will cause will only lead to an end, rather than a new beginning. The colour also adds to making the scene feel fuzzy and unfocused, again something which must have been a deliberate choice. Everyone’s mind is clouded by Palpatine and the true extent of what this war will do is perhaps still unknown to some characters.This shot in The Attack of the Clones is, in my opinion, meant to visually show the decline of the Republic, the coming to an end of the good days.
The shot in the The Force Awakens ad has a distinctly different feel to it, despite having strong similarities to the scene above as well. Again there is the small group of officials looking down at an army. It is also a shot that, much as in AotC stretches into the distance. Whereas the presence of Coruscant’s skyscrapers in the background suggested a sense of urbanism and, maybe, humanity, the cold backdrop of the snowy mountains gives the scene a strong feel of isolation. Unlike the scene in AotC, the shot below also suggests a sense of cult-ishness. The parallels to the Nazi ralleys are inescapable and almost definitely on purpose. There is something fanatic about the First Order which is completely missing from the Clone Army or even the Imperial army we saw in the Originals, which suggests that the First Order may be a lot harsher than what we’re expecting.
A crucial difference between the scene in The Force Awakens and The Attack of the Clones is the light and the colours. I have explained the effects of the setting sun imagery in AotC above, the sense of doom and of things ending that it creates. In the shot from TFA, in contrast, we get the bright light of day. There is something a lot clearer, harsher and cruel about the shot above. There is simply no denying that the force shown here is humongous. The First Order is a force to be reckoned with and this moment may very well be a moment of realization for the audience. The coldness of the scene, the absence of any real colour except the black, white and red; all of it comes together to give a sense of ruthlessness and determination to the scene. It is chilling and unlike the scene in AotC it suggests a beginning of something, rather than the end.
There is another film, outside of Star Wars, to which parallels can be drawn: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. In the scene below there is a similar sharp light to this shot from TFA, as the true horror of what is about to come and the true extent of Saruman’s forces is revealed to the audience. The Late Sir Christopher Lee himself emphasized the links he saw to the Nazi Empire here, from Saruman’s rousing speech to the fanatic mindset of the orcs themselves. TTT gives us a reaction shot of Grima after the shot below, showing the shock and fear on his face.
The new look at the First Order that the Korean TV ad provided the fans with gives us a really good idea of what the First Order may truly be like. Continuing with the strong and metaphorical cinematography that trade-marked much of the Star Wars Prequels, TFA will not only give us beautiful scenes but also real food for thought. To what extent will the fanaticism of the First Order mirror that of current movements such as IS, for example? This shot is an encouraging sign that J.J. will continue the Star Wars trend of commenting upon the real world, making the whole saga all the more relevant.