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What Can the “Star Wars” Trailer Teach Us About the Auto Industry?

Automobile logo Automobile 2015-04-22 David Zenlea

Star Wars Force Awakens Trailer Column Lead Image © Provided by Automobile Star Wars Force Awakens Trailer Column Lead Image

I was being reasonably productive last Thursday when I got an e-mail from senior editor Christopher Nelson.

Subject line: STAR WARSASDQEFVQEBQWRGBQEBNQ$ETN.

“Have you seen it?” he asked when I called.

In fact, I hadn’t. I’ve willfully ignored most of the buildup to the seventh “Star Wars” movie, “The Force Awakens.” This is for my emotional health. The prequels George Lucas directed early in the last decade were basically an assault on my childhood. These days, it’s hard for me to think about “Star Wars” without also thinking about Jar Jar Binks and trade federations. It’s a little bit like when Pontiac said it was reviving the GTO and delivered a Holden Monaro with tailpipes coming out of only one side of the rear bumper. Can’t we leave the past alone?

But I grudgingly watched the trailer, the second teaser for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Then I watched it again. And again. Despite the warnings from my inner skeptic — “Don’t get cocky!”— I can’t help but feel a new hope.

Here’s the clip if you still have not seen it: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Official Teaser #2

Partly in honor of this excellent trailer, and partly because all my YouTube watching left me no time to come up with a real column, here’s my breakdown:

Screenshot 1 © Provided by Automobile Screenshot 1

The planet Jakku (Editor’s note: the Tatooine-like desert planet that many fans assumed was, in fact, Tatooine, but apparently is not) must be a great place for car collectors. With its arid environment, nothing ever rusts, unless you foolishly park on a moisture farm. We also know that back on Tatooine, Mos Eisley spaceport has an active used-car market, as Luke Skywalker was able to sell his land speeder on the spot. The biggest prize at these places, surely, are vintage pod racers (the only worthwhile thing to come out of the prequels). AUTOMOBILE Auctions contributor Dave Kinney offers this advice to collectors:

“The value of Pod Racers should be treated in the same manner as all race vehicles from any Galaxy, or point in time. First, what races did it enter, and did it win any races? Were these sanctioned races, or just run for a few extra Imperial Credits among friends?

“Second, who piloted the Pod Racer? Good guy or interplanetary pariah? Was The Force with him or her? How do you know that?

“Never fall for the Wookie, I mean rookie, mistake of thinking that the good guy’s Pod is worth more than the bad guy’s. Sometimes notoriety trumps clean living as far as value goes.

“Young Anakin Skywalker's Pod would still be the one to go for, if I had the credits to swing it.”

Screenshot 2 © Provided by Automobile Screenshot 2

Nelson thought Vader’s helmet was left on the second Death Star. I’ve lost all respect for him. Everyone who saw “Return of the Jedi” knows Luke took it with him to Endor and burned it on a funeral pyre. A bed-bug infestation of Vader’s black suit and armor remains unconfirmed.

Screenshot 3 © Provided by Automobile Screenshot 3

I’d be much more comfortable with autonomous driving if I knew it was controlled by an astromech droid, the way R2-D2 sometimes pilots Luke’s X-Wing. Perhaps Lucasfilm can license “Star Wars”-themed adaptive cruise control?

Also, glad to see that R2-D2’s body is charred and scored. One of the big problems with the prequel trilogy was its clinically clean aesthetic. Sort of reminds me of the cars at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. I want to see my favorite machines scuffed up.

Screenshot 5 © Provided by Automobile Screenshot 5

Because people are horrible, the casting of a black Stormtrooper has generated a bit of controversy. I don’t see why. We already know that all Stormtroopers are not clones. How else could a short Luke Skywalker pull off his disguise on the Death Star 38 years ago? And although Emperor Palpatine was a noted xenophobe, it seems most of his hatred was directed toward nonhumans rather than different human races.

Regardless, kudos to the Empire for promoting diversity within its ranks. The auto industry, which currently has just one female CEO and a sprinkling of black people within the upper ranks, should take note.

Screenshot 6 © Provided by Automobile Screenshot 6

Nelson points out that BB-8, the little droid, is the perfect character for kids but, unlike the detested Jar Jar Binks and even the Ewoks, it does not appear to be insufferable for adults.

I would add that it’s nice that BB-8 is overtly mechanical. As a child, my love for “Star Wars” intertwined with and encouraged my love for cars. Rebel X-Wings and Imperial Star Destroyers shared space on my wall with Plymouth Barracudas and Pontiac GTOs. They all thrilled me with their speed and power, yet seemed somehow simple and accessible to my young mind. Kids growing up in the 21st century could use some mechanical icons.

Screenshot 7 © Provided by Automobile Screenshot 7

On a related note, I cannot wait to see what updates Han Solo, the Galaxy’s coolest hot rodder, has made or might make to the Millennium Falcon. I’m hoping for a more powerful sub-lightspeed drive and an updated computer targeting system. A hyperdrive unit that doesn’t break down at the least opportune moments would be nice, too, but don’t count on it.

Screenshot 8 © Provided by Automobile Screenshot 8

Rarwarrraaah, indeed.

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