There’s always a time of the year when Star Wars fans can look forward to new announcements and lots of information from the universe far, far away. For over the last decade, and more regularly in the past couple of years, the Star Wars Celebration has been serving this purpose. Presented as “Lucasfilm’s love letter to the fans”, the Celebration is a gigantic convention with everything a proper convention has: meeting actors and writers, cosplaying, lots of side-events and then the panels and announcements everyone has been waiting for. This year, all eyes were especially on the long-expected Episode VIII teaser trailer, but the Celebration has offered much more than that.
Remembering the Beginnings, Remembering Leia
The 2017 Star Wars Celebration in Orlando marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: four decades ago, the first film had seen the light of the world. This has been reflected in a panel featuring not only George Lucas, but all the important faces of the old saga you can imagine: Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Billy Dee Williams, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson (via video). Some faces were absent, however: those of Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and Kenny Baker (R2-D2), who had both passed away last year. Needless to say, they had been remembered by the rest of the cast and crew, with a contribution from Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd (who appears in the newest Star Wars trilogy) and live orchestral performance conducted by John Williams himself. Carrie Fisher got even another special tribute in the form of a video during Mark Hamill’s panel which he dedicated to her, and where he remembered her with exceptional fondness.
Rebels, Battlefront 2 and New Cartoon With Star Wars’s Prominent Female Characters
The most expected in terms of new announcements were, however, all the panels where directors and actors could let slip something about the upcoming Star Wars titles. In the field of video games, it was the first footage from the new Star Wars Battlefront 2. For the fans of Rebels animated series, it was the trailer for the season coming this autumn – and that trailer was just packed with treats, too.
A special treat was the announcement of a series of short cartoons, called Star Wars: The Forces of Destiny. According to Rebels‘ director, Dave Filoni, it will consist of short stories (more like clips) trying to highlight the important female characters of the Star Wars universe.
These heroines will of course include Leia, Padmé, but also Rey and Jyn Erso (both voiced by their respective actresses); Ahsoka, Sabine and Hera from the animated series. Speaking further about the project, Filoni said that he had wanted to work in 2D for a long time and that he also wanted to highlight the female characters in Star Wars universe. The stories should be more like fables, events from the characters’ lives with some moral point, but Filoni underlined that it was important they were “true to what Star Wars is”. The stories should be set at different times during the characters’ lives (Rey’s on Jakku, Sabine’s during her stay on Yavin, Leia’s on Hoth, Jyn Erso’s of course during her live before Rogue One, and Hera should appear alongide the Ewoks during the Battle of Endor!). You can watch the trailer here, the way it was presented:
The Last Jedi: Director and Actors Speak
Last, but recieving the most attention, was the information on this year’s Star Wars film, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson, the director (fairly new face, worked on Looper in 2012), did not let much information slip, but a promotional poster and first teaser trailer has been revealed.
In the panel with the actors, Daisy Ridley (Rey) informed us that The Last Jedi goes deeper into Rey’s story and that one key factor is her relationship with Luke, because Rey has “a certain expectation about Luke” and “it is difficult when you meet your heroes, because they might not be what you expect.” John Boyega was much more vague regarding his character’s future, even though he hinted at Finn and Poe Dameron sharing more “adventures” together and he said that The Last Jedi was going to be “a test for Finn” – whether he was going to join the Resistance or keep running from the First Order. (Personally, I had thought we got over this already in TFA, but on the other hand, given Finn’s severe injury at the end of the previous film, perhaps he needs to really make sure how he feels about dangerous life. Which is actually great, because that would be realistic, unlike all the movie heroes who just brush off their damage and continue walking.)
The panel with The Last Jedi actors hosted also a new face: Kelly Marie Tran, whose presence in the film has been confirmed already over a year ago. Now, she revealed the name of her character – Rose; and Rian Johnson further commented on her part: she is in the Resistance, where she works in the maintenance at the beginning of the film. Johnson compared her story to that of Luke’s – that they both represent ordinary people being pulled out of their ordinary lives, to become unlikely heroes. Here I should add that Rian Johnson really seems to take his job seriously and after watching him you can tell he knows what Star Wars is about. On the first night of the celebration, he joined the fans, talked to them and was hanging out with them. The actors likewise have voiced their trust in him.
What Does the Trailer Tell Us?
The trailer confirms that we continue from where TFA left off. Rian Johnson has confirmed that the First Order suffered a major setback, but the destruction wrought by the Starkiller Base still opened door to chaos in the Galaxy, which The First Order is going to try to exploit. Fire, explosions, spaceship battles that we see in the trailer confirm this line. In regards to the characters themselves, we can see at one point Finn presumably still in recovery and Rey starting her training with Luke. In line with what Daisy Ridley has shared with us, Luke’s role in all this is more than ambiguous, however. Why is the film called “The Last Jedi”? What does Luke mean when he says that it is time for the Jedi to end?
We can probably draw at least some conclusions. Luke is certainly disillusioned after his failure to revive the Jedi Order, which ended with Kylo Ren’s fall – that much we know already from scattered hints in TFA. My personal opinion is that it goes deeper. The Sith as the opposite to the Jedi Order have ceased to exist, for one – that, in some way, makes it impossible for the Jedi to exist in the same way they had before. At the same time, it is clear the Jedi, in their final days, were not really acting in the best way, either. They basically let themselves get pulled into the role of warriors, which is really not what they should be: in the words of Mace Windu, “we are guardians of peace, not soldiers”. The Expanded Universe has been giving hints in this direction lately as well (like the “not-really-Jedi” path for example Ahsoka, Kanan Jarrus or Bendu seem to take in Star Wars Rebels, or the words of Yoda which he repeated whenever he appeared in the series, that “if you fight, you have already lost”). There might be more into this, but I would bet this line of thinking will play its part in one way or another.
This is the main info that we have now, however. The Star Wars Celebration is continuing to run until Sunday evening, so if you want to make sure nothing escapes you, keep your eyes peeled and the Star Wars channel might help you. But even as of now, with the major part of the event concluded, we can say it has been a blast. One thing is clear to me from watching all the panels and hearing the new directors and actors, the Star Wars universe is in good hands and we should not fear this is all just for profit. Fans are at the heart of the community, and they are being listened to, and the writers and filmmakers are doing the best to give their audience something that has value and spirit, which is what Star Wars should be about.