Squeaky Mouse Droid: SDCC – The Force Awakens Panel
At the largest gathering of science fiction, fantasy, and comic book fans in the world, the San Diego Comic Con, Lucasfilm held a panel to promote the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The film will introduce new characters to the Star Wars universe while setting the ground rules for a new conflict that will span onto a galactic stage, but the film also promises to let the fans know what happened to their favorite Star Wars characters some thirty years after the end of Return of the Jedi.
The short version: this is a good time to be a Star Wars fan. There’s lots of reasons to get excited. There may not be another film more hyped than this – though Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice has as many people excited as well. The question, though, that Star Wars fans have, is just how the saga – something that has become more of a mythology than merely a franchise or a series of movie sequels – will be able to continue on. To that end, Lucasfilm booked a panel in Hall H in order to offer some answers to that question without spoiling the fun. In addition to bringing out the producer and director of the film, as well as the a few of the actors, it was pretty much a certainty that a trailer – or even an extended clip – would be shown at a huge media event such as this. Yet, that’s not what happened, exactly. Unlike the Star Wars Celebration a few months ago in Anaheim, where director JJ. Abrams was able to show the fans the second teaser trailer for the film, fans were not given a trailer at SDCC. What they did get however, was something that would certainly tide the fans over: a three minute behind-the-scenes look at the film. This “comic-con” reel, which you can see below, not only showed us a few fleeting characters and events that will raise eyebrows, but it also highlighted meant to highlight how important it was to Abrams to embrace the use of practical effects, particularly for the physical creatures and spaceships that actors would interact with. No, computers weren’t eschewed during the making of the film, but, as actor Mark Hamill said, they are “keeping one foot in the pre-digital age.”
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This time, just as it happened at Star Wars Celebration, some of the biggest bursts of applause came with any mention of the use of practical effects such as mechanical creatures that were created in actual workshops and controlled by remote control. This was the approach to creatures in the original Star Wars films, and it’s essential to use these techniques for the new films in order to make all of-a-piece. Plus, as was pointed out in the panel, both the actors and the audience have a more emotional connection with a creature that is actually there.
The return to practical techniquesmight have been a great highlight of the panel, but even more memorable was seeing the entire cast coming out onto the stage. It began with Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac, but eventually fans were finally able to see a few of the actors that played “bad guys” in the film. This includes Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Domhnall Gleason (General Hux), and Gwendolyn Christie (Captain Phasma). Christie plays the first female stormtrooper ever seen in a Star Wars film, and she mentioned during the panel how it was, to her, about how significant it was to “explore a female character that is totally not about the way she looks in flesh.” She went on to say that it’s “exciting that underneath that armor is a woman.”
Shortly thereafter, “the big three” joined the panel. The actors that once played are again finding themselves in the roles of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo reminisced about the earlier movies, and were relieved that, for the new film, certain lines of dialogue (such as anything about picking up power converters at Tosche Station) were not repeated. Harrison Ford’s presence thrilled fans, and he seemed to be genuinely happy to be given the opportunity to play the role of Han Solo again. “It should have felt ridiculous… I will tell you that it felt great. I wasn’t so sure it would, but the company was the right company, the director was the right director, Larry (Kasdan, who co-wrote Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and who also attended the panel) wrote us a wonderful story. And I was proud and grateful to once again be involved. The original Star Wars I was a part of really was the beginning of my working life. I was very grateful for the opportunity I had and the success of that film. It’s great to be back.”
In some other news-worthy bits, fans learned that a cut of the film has been completed, and, in three weeks, production of the first anthology film, Rogue One, will begin. Notably absent form the panel was Colin Trevorrow; the last two days the internet has been abuzz with rumors that the Jurassic World director had been tapped to direct Episode 9. The rumors were not addressed during the panel.
Kevin Smith had the tough task of following this event with a panel of his own. This was made more difficult by the fact that Abrams invited everyone that attended the Star Wars panel to a concert of Star Wars music that was to be held nearby. For some time, Smith found himself overlooking a nearly empty Hall H, a rare sight indeed.
Here is the panel in full:
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