Catching up a bit to all of the action that happened over the Super Bowl weekend with respect to trailer premieres: by sheer brand recognition, Solo naturally continues, to a lesser extent, what Rogue One started – parlaying the previous decades-long musical achievements of Williams and rolling it into new musical material that is, well, alien to the galaxy far, far, away. In this case, as we'll see, the emphasis is much more on elements that are new to the series than what the Rogue One trailers opted for.
Right away, the first sounds we hear seem to be the ignition controls of, presumably, the Millennium Falcon. The nondescript engine roar flares up with the Lucasfilm title card, revealing itself to be an electric guitar. Cue a young Han Solo (this time as Alden Ehrenreich), doling off a litany of boasts germane to the legend we know – kicked out of the flight academy; on the streets since ten years of age, and so on.
Throughout this sequence, we hear blaring, regal horns and strings with an emphasis on the low end, moving up through a classic harmonic sequence connoting heroism. For music theory buffs out there, that’s a tonic chord moving to the dominant, but then throwing the listener for a loop by unexpectedly chromatically modulating the key by a third – that’s the chord at 0:29, opening at the sweeping shot in the desert. At the same time, as will be addressed, this entire time we hear a “ticking” that ties together all of the various aural and visual elements of this first third of the trailer, giving drive and unity to the visual pastiche of the opening, reminiscent of the trailer to the recent Nolan blockbuster, Dunkirk.
Then at 0:39, on Chewie’s taking the invitation to join an unknown commander’s crew, as the orchestral music dissipates, a distinctively electronic bass is revealed as the sonic floor, so to speak, reminding this writer a fair bit of Vangelis and his Blade Runner work. Notably, it seems that the newer musical elements only occur when there are iconic characters on screen. Perhaps this sonic balancing of old and new is intentional.
At 0:44 we come to understand the initial sounds of the trailer were indeed an aural foreshadowing of the Millennium Falcon gearing up to warp speed; it’s a clever way of integrating the figurative countdown with the literal.
In the montage that follows we hear an unknown woman’s voice admonishing Solo and chastising him for “what (he) really (is),” meta-alluding to the promise of the film to shed a bit more light (wanted or not) on Solo’s past. We see a cavalcade of new and intriguing Star Wars-y figures throughout this sequence as the harmonic rhythm picks up alongside an intensification of epic percussion.
Of course, Solo gets the last laugh, and it’s also our first clear look at Alden-as-Solo. Feigning incredulity, it is a small reminder of potential for humour and light camp that the Star Wars series partly stakes its name on.
The main title card finally gives us our first clear use of the main theme from Star Wars; by the time it arrives, it almost feels forced as compared to the rest of the trailer, which steers relatively clear of such aural branding tactics.
Interestingly, the biggest action sequence of the trailer and the final build up is saved for the end. The reveal of Solo’s character was sufficient as climactic for the title card, saving the final action sequence for its own last shot of adrenaline, not to mention of course saving the last true unknown – the release date – for last (Memorial Day).
The first full trailer for Solo, then, notably refrains from leaning on any recognizable Star Wars melodies or other aural icons such as the lightsaber. It is very much its own thing, apart from Star Wars, and perhaps also apart even from Rogue One, the latter of which ended up going for a distinctively darker, grittier feel. In contrast, Solo feels like it wouldn’t be entirely out of place in the pantheon of modern Star Trek films, both visually and aurally. Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see what direction Disney takes the campaign in leading up to release.
– Curtis Perry