There was a great disturbance in the force today, as if millions of Star Wars fans suddenly cried out in joy while trying to read Japanese.
Disney released a new trailer in Japan for the coming film, The Force Awakens, and the two-minute video included several snippets that had not yet been released in film's three preceding previews. For the discerning Japanese filmgoer, Disney saw fit to roll out cinematic space-crash scenery, storm troopers with flamethrowers, new names, more dialogue, and a closeup of Chewbacca’s hand (opposable thumb and all). Vast swaths of the Internet occupied by Star Wars fanatics predictably exploded with glee and speculation.
There is even a rash of YouTube reaction videos. If you can't watch the movie and you've already watched the trailer, you will unquestionably want to watch someone else watching the trailer. Here’s the Japanese trailer:
And here's the most recent U.S. trailer:
It’s not unusual for Hollywood to splice disparate trailers together with footage that highlights scenes of a movie shot in a target market. For such franchises as Furious and Transformers, in fact, setting scenes and production all over the world is a savvy exercise in audience building. With so much exotic footage in the can, editing various regional trailers becomes an exceedingly cheap and effective form of targeted marketing.
But Star Wars is set, well, a long time ago in a galaxy much farther from Los Angeles than Tokyo. Paul Dergarabedian, a senior analyst at Rentrak, said that trickling out unseen footage outside the U.S. gives Disney a subtle way to signal to international fans that they’re a big part of the distribution strategy—bigger than ever, in this case. Japan behind only the U.S. and China in box office revenue.
Disney’s Star Wars strategy has become an extended burlesque of robot porn. Every trailer and each new toy–even advanced ticket sales—has been a carefully crafted social media event. The Japanese trailer footage is just the latest part of the run-up. And fans are fine with that, according to Dergarabedian: “Star Wars is that rare breed of film that can instill an almost unprecedented amount of anticipation."