The San Diego Comic Con 2015 is over, and what an amazing Comic Con it has been. The Con blasted into the stratosphere with The Force Awakens panel on Friday with an awesome line-up of Cast and Crew. The highlight was a very special and sentimental visit from Harrison Ford in his first public appearance since his Plane Crash in March. Star Wars fans had been waiting for days to get in and where not disappointed.
The Force Awakens panel opened with director J.J. Abrams, producer Kathleen Kennedy and writer Lawrence Kasdan under the moderation of Chris Hardwick. Kathleen emphasized that Star Wars is totally dependent of the fans which is a true, but also a respectful statement. Kathleen and J.J. can’t seem to lay enough emphasis on the fact that they returned to the old ways of making movies for The Force Awakens. Real sets, real props and real locations. J.J. stated that of course there will be CGI, but as far as environments and props for the actors to react to as much as possible was created and real. This is also a welcome statement to many die-hard fans who felt that the CGI, plastic worlds of the prequels laid too much emphasis on this new tool in the moviemaking toolbox. When done right CGI can work, but you always have to wonder what the best tool for the jobs is.
The rest of the panel was fun with a return of John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Daisy Ridley to the stage. The new heroes seemed to have fun and genuinely loved the attention they’re getting.
Next, the Dark Side of the Force was presented for the first time to the public. Kylo Ren star Adam Driver takes the stage, as well as Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux, a character never before revealed, and Gwendoline Christie as the chrome Stormtrooper Captain Phasma.
While Gwendoline and Domhnall both seemed to enjoy the attention a lot they were clearly nervous not to say anything they were not supposed to. Domhnall did slip a little tidbit as he revealed the name of his new station. It is nice to see the respect J.J. and company have for the Original Trilogy and even went as far back to the first draft of Star Wars that was written by George Lucas in 1973. Back then the name of the hero was Starkiller which is now the name of Domhnalls battle station.
Besides the new footage, the highlight of the panel was seeing the original trio of heroes on the stage together. Carrie, sassy as always, joked about the experience of doing another Star Wars movie “It was like a flashback. They were right about the acid flashbacks,”. Peter Mayhew was present but wasn’t on the panel. Mark Hamill again mentioned his love for the fans and the impact Star Wars has had on so many lives. It truly is more than just a movie. But the highlight of the panel was of course Harrison Ford walking on stage like nothing happened. Despite all the rumors in the past years that Ford disliked his character, he clearly choked up talking about Star Wars and being able to carry on the legacy. For me this was the highlight of the hour besides the new 3-minute footage of The Force Awakens.
The new behind-the-scenes footage has given many Star Wars fans teary eyes as it plays heavily on the sentiments many fans have of the Original Trilogy. The footage was awesome and breathed Star Wars out of every frame with a few welcome surprises fans have been waiting for since the release of the second teaser at Celebration.
The second teaser is now famous for its 88 million views within the first 24 hours of release because of the very welcome sight of two very familiar old friends. The San Diego Comic Con footage gave us our very first view of our favorite princess Carrie Fisher in character as Leia Organa (or is that Solo?). But there were more surprises and more familiar faces that send waves and waves of nostalgia.
We saw our first glimpse of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia and thirty years later she doesn’t look like she is leading the new republic. Very much the military leader she was in the original trilogy, she looks feisty as ever. In a later shot we see C-3PO in front of a wonderful callback to the first movie in front of the Battle Screens that are so familiar to many hardcore fans. Harrison Ford is seen as Han Solo again next to Daisy Ridley’s Rey and John Boyega’s Finn, and we get a beautiful look at Chewbacca both in and out of character. To be honest, to me, Chewie never looked better. Mark Hamill, sporting a wooly Jedi beard, is the first narrator of the footage. “You’ve been here before, but you don’t know this story,” says Hamill, “I mean, everything’s changed, but nothing’s changed. That’s the way you want it to be, really.”. It is surprising that Hamill is the only one not shown in character which makes you wonder what might have happened to Luke in the days after the fall of The Empire. Something tells me his character may have gone through the biggest change of them all. A mystery that may lie at the heart of The Force Awakens.
Another thing I noticed watching The Force Awakens panel was that Mark Hamill sported the beard again, which he clearly stated he hated. At Celebration Anaheim he was clean shaven and as far as I know The Force Awakens has been completely shot which makes me wonder when they will begin shooting Episode 8.
There are many more call-backs and surprises in the new footage. Warwick Davis is back, perhaps as Wicket, perhaps as another character. R2-D2 and C-3PO are back of course, but we also see a Gonk Droid in the desert. We see glimpses of what maybe Admiral Ackbar and Nien Numb, but one thing is clear: so far J.J. and company are ticking all the right boxes.
And as for The Force Awakens panel at comic-con? They went out with a bang in an unprecedented move when J.J. invited all 6500 attendees to walk half a mile to an exclusive surprise Star Wars concert that ended in true Disney style. Only 157 days and counting.