On June 6th, 2011, the third and presumably final in a series of cinematic CGI trailers was released for the Star Wars: The Old Republic (TOR) MMORPG. I would just be talking in detail about his trailer on comment threads and message boards -and I probably still will- so I wanted to put down some of my initial thoughts right here in one place on my blog. For those of you who don't know already, Bioware is releasing this game later this year, and it's set thousands of years before the film saga. It's an online game that people will pay to subscribe to and play the game together on different servers. It's technically a sequel to a previous online game called Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR). To gain publicity for the game, a trilogy of epic 5 or 6 minute long trailers have been released. The first depicts the Sith invasion of the Jedi Temple and the planet Coruscant, the second the beginning of a rebellion against Sith occupation on Alderaan, and this new one shows a space battle in the Sith's invasion of Korriban.
First I want to give my thoughts on the most stand-out element of this trailer, the graphics. They are notably more realistic than the Clone Wars TV series' graphics, and even the cut-scenes of next-gen games like the Force Unleashed II. Obviously these graphics do not represent the actual look of the TOR online game, but serve almost like a tie-in micro-series that introduces some of the characters and major events of the game's time period. Yet the fantastic quality of the animation and the emotionally climactic storytelling has prompted many to clamor for a full-on TV show or film that expands in these trailers. This is what I have to say about that, I think it's just too expensive. It is believed that hundreds of millions of dollars have been pored into this online game, and I'm sure it cost millions to produce only 15 minutes of cinematic trailers. I would venture to guess that the Clone Wars costs 100,000 dollars a minute to produce (the movie cost 8.5 million for 100 minutes), so a TOR series with this quality would probably cost at least 5 to 10 times that much. So there is no way that this could be produced for TV. However I think a movie of this quality could potentially be produced and be financially viable. Yet it still is a huge risk on Lucasfilm's part. But don't despair, costs are always coming down for media like this, so maybe in a decade or so we will see a CGI series of this quality. And I'm sure the technological advancements that the Clone Wars series is fronting is bringing that day closer.
Aside from the technical aspects, the music in the trailer was a "best of John Williams" sampling, as we heard strong motifs of the Force Theme, Battle of the Heroes, Dual of the Fates, and the Imperial March. And as it was once so accurately described, this music is the oxygen of Star Wars. Thus there was enough oxygen in this trailer to fuel a full on explosion of epicness. As in the first couple trailers, the character and environment designs were classic Star Wars, with a mix of the two trilogies. In fact it seems like this time period is closer to the Dark Times between the Clone Wars and the Rebellion, than thousands of years prior. There were elements of this trailer that were obviously derivative of the Star Wars films. References to Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon stood out to me the most. The characters climbing down the circular vertical corridors to the ship's gun turrets and then firing the guns at incoming vessels were extremely reminiscent of scenes from A New Hope. The great lighstsaber duels featured moves from the prequels and even expanded on the live-action choreography. The story had a "small group of brigands against the world" feeling to it, which gave it an Original Trilogy feel with prequel style graphics. The sacrifice of the Jedi Master evoked Qui-Gon Jinn and Old Ben Kenobi, as there was almost a passing of the torch to the next generation.
Even though the Clone Wars series isn't in the position to match these graphics or saturate us with original music, there are still a few things that it can learn from this trailer. Firstly, politics and dialog can be subtly enjoyable, and certainly give depth to the plot, but it's a Sith igniting a crimson blade to Dual of the Fates that makes our spine crawl, and it's a Jedi Master sacrificing himself for the good of the universe to the Force Theme that brings chills to our skin. This is Star Wars at its core, compelling, epic, storytelling. From a technical point of view I think the Clone Wars series can learn for the perspective of the shots, especially during the space sequences. Rather than watching the battle unfold from a random point in the middle of nothingness, most of the camera angles were in the positions of living beings, like through hanger openings and cockpit windows, or tracking right by a ship. This makes you feel like you are actually in the action, and not just a spectator watching it unfold. Sometimes I feel like the Clone Wars abuses the CGI capabilities and shows you everything that's going on from a broad perspective. This makes the universe seem really small and predictable. Sometimes it's better to show bits and pieces of an environment or battle as the story progresses, so you feel like you are actually traveling though and exploring it.
Well that's all I have to say about the new TOR trailer for now. If you have any comments, please voice them below. I would love to hear from you!