Star Wars Celebration, the Lucasfilm convention devoted to all things Star Wars, took place on Orlando, FL this year, with its usual star-studded panels and coveted merchandise.
One of the most anticipated panel of the weekend was “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which promised to yield more information on this year’s sequel to the blockbuster “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
[The panel begins at 10:29]
[Unattributed photos courtesy of Disney.]
The panel began with the introduction of its host, everyone’s favorite snowman, Josh Gad.
[So this was a great panel, but actually one of my favorite parts is that I ended up sitting next to a very nice person who was apparently attending Celebration as part of a work obligation and turned out to be the one person on Earth with zero knowledge of Star Wars.]
After a short history of his love affair with the Star Wars universe, Gad wasted little time in bringing out the cast and creatives of “The Last Jedi.”
[Person next to me: “Who did they say the guy was again?”]
Johnson on the status of “The Last Jedi:” “We’re in post-production, we’re still editing but we’re very far along. We’re doing quite well and it’s all coming together.”
Kennedy on working with Johnson: “He has an amazing uniqueness to what he does. He also writes as beautifully as he directs, which is quite incredible, and he writes amazingly fierce and independent women.”
Next on stage was the star of “The Last Jedi,” Daisy (Rey) Ridley.
Gad: “I’ve got a couple of questions I’d like to ask you, up to you whether or not you want to answer. Are you and Luke related by blood?”
Gad: “No to that one. Are you a Skywalker? Is your name Rey Skywalker?”
Gad: “Is your name Rey Kenobi?”
Ridley: [Crowd roars] “That’s a popular answer, clearly.”
Gad: “WHO DOESN’T KNOW THEIR OWN LAST NAME? Can you imagine if I went up to you and said ‘my entire name is Josh, good to meet you?’ Are you the Madonna of Jakku?”
Ridley: “In ‘The Last Jedi,’ we go deeper into Rey’s story, and what is very apparent from where we left off in ‘Force Awakens’ and where we begin with ‘The Last Jedi,’ is Rey has a certain expectation as to what she might be getting from Luke and what that might entail, and as a lot of people know, it’s difficult when you meet your heroes because it might not be what you expect.”
Of course, no current-day Star Wars panel is complete without the appearance of BB-8.
[Person next to me: “Did he say…B, B…ate?!”]
Gad: “How are you today, 8. Do you mind if I call you 8?”
Gad: “Oh, he says ‘no, please call me BB-8. Unlike Daisy, I have a full name, and I intend to use it.’ Oh, that’s passive-aggressive, BB-8.”
Johnson: “He’s the Buster Keaton of this movie.”
Joining his co-star next, was John (Finn) Boyega.
Boyega: “I think Finn definitely stood up for himself after the end of ‘Force Awakens,’ and caught a bit of an injury to the back. So he’s in recovery, but he will be back in ‘The Last Jedi’…and he’s not playing this time!
“In ‘The Last Jedi,’ it’s a test for all the characters, but specifically for Finn–he wants to find his place now. Is he going to be a part of The Resistance or is he going to keep running away from The First Order? We’ll see.”
Johnson then introduced one of the new characters from “The Last Jedi”–Rose, played by Kelly Marie Tran.
Kelly Marie Tran
Tran: “So my character’s name is Rose, she’s part of The Resistance, and she works Maintenance, and I just can’t wait for you to meet her!”
Johnson: “Rose is a Maintenance worker in The Resistance. For me, growing up, one of the things, as a kid in Colorado, watching these movies…watching Luke Skywalker kind of get pulled out of–and I think that’s why people respond to Rey also–get pulled out of wherever he is and be this unlikely hero…the notion that anyone out there, any of us, can step up and turn into a hero…that’s where the character of Rose comes from. She’s not a soldier, she’s not looking to become a hero, and she gets pulled in a very big way into an adventure in this movie with Finn, and Kelly just embodies that for me.”
Finally, the MVP of the whole weekend, Mark Hamill completed the panel.
“In 7, you discovered Luke obviously as a hermit on this island, that he’s…there’s so much unsaid about where he’s been and what he’s done…actors like to write their own backstories, you know. You want to figure out what you’ve done and where you’ve been, but I realized that wasn’t really important to the story of ‘Force Awakens’…To a certain extent, it’s not Luke’s story anymore, but I think he’s an important part of the overall arc of the saga and, again, there’s a lot of mystery about him, even within the film, so you have to fill in your own backstory.”
“And by the way, I look down and I see Olaf, I see Wonder Woman, I see God, I see my daugh–my colleague Daisy, my son…and this one, if she were any cuter, she’d be an actual Disney cartoon.”
After a few more anecdotes and insights from Hamill on being part of the Star Wars legacy, Kennedy and Johnson revealed the new teaser poster for “The Last Jedi,” after which they closed the panel by showing the new teaser trailer.
[Person next to me: “What was the symbol everyone cheered about at the end?”
Me: “It was the symbol of the Jedi Order.”
Them: “LUKE’S A JEDI?!”]
So although the panel didn’t reveal all that much about the “The Last Jedi,” I think the general expectations of cast introductions and a new trailer were certainly met. Mark Hamill always puts on a great performance for affairs like this, and continued to do so in numerous presentations throughout the weekend. The new character of Rose is particularly exciting to me, because as people may remember from when “Rogue One” was coming out, one of my pet issues I vehemently support is ASIANS IN SPACE. This one’s a woman, too! Hope she doesn’t die!
“The Last Jedi” is scheduled for general US release December 15, 2017. Enjoy the trailer, and know that no matter what questions you might be left with, you will never be the most confused person watching it.
More coverage from Star Wars Celebration Orlando: “40 Years of Star Wars”