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Comic Con 2015: Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel!

07.11.2015

As you may have heard, Lucasfilm brought STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS to San Diego Comic-Con earlier today, and even though I had practically been sitting in the same seat for over eight hours, I felt pangs of excitement as the moment drew nearer. I'm a STAR WARS geek in a big way, and I was happy to still be there. (Even after suffering through Entertainment Weekly's fatuous Brave New Warriors panel 90 minutes earlier.)

The room erupted in cheers even before anything happened; people were standing, hooting, doing the wave. We were all overwhelmed with anticipation. It was easily the most giddy I've ever seen the Hall H faithful behave. At the risk of sounding corny and predictable, it did seem as though everyone was a kid once again. And then it began.

 

 

- Producer Kathleen Kennedy, director J.J. Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan were the first participants on stage. Kathleen Kennedy said Star Wars is 100 percent dependent on the fans in not only this room, but around the world. Fans built the momentum when A NEW HOPE came out and have been carrying it to this day.

- When asked where he is with the film, Abrams said they have a cut of the movie, they're fine tuning it now.

- Shockingly, this was Kasdan's first Comic-Con. The man wrote RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI! He talked about how the Star Wars movies never left his life and how he thought Abrams was the perfect choice to direct. They spent a year working on it. (Abrams does a pretty good Kasdan impersonation.)

- Abrams talked about how not normal it was to work on a Star Wars movie with the likes of Kasdan, Kennedy and John Williams. He seemed genuinely touched and excited about it, even now.

 

- Kennedy mentioned not using CG on the creatures and the audience went wild. Same goes for when Abrams talked up the importance of authenticity. It's very clear that practical effects were always going to be a major part of this project.

- A question for Abrams: What influences did he draw upon for the film? Abrams responded, obviously, Star Wars 4-6. Kasdan talked about things that delight them, that you could feel there are real weapons and storm troopers and shadows, etc. Essentially, more talk about the importance of the film utilizing practical effects.

- Abrams brought out Babbajo (sp?), a fully functional creature who carries on his back cages full of smaller creatures. He walked around the stage while the panelists worried that he might topple over. He did not, made it around the table with ease; a really cool sight.

- Another question for Abrams: How do you approach the film knowing there's such a huge legacy and fanbase? Abrams said he can't just be a fan and make the movie, he said, "What's the story?" Just because a scene is shot on the Millennium Falcon doesn't automatically make it good. "What does it mean, why are we doing this?" Those are the questions he would ask. 

- Kennedy talked about making the Saga films and the individual spin-off films. Gareth Edwards' film starts shooting in three weeks.

- They weren't ready to show scenes from the movie or the trailer, but Abrams knew it was too important to be at Comic-Con, so they had to bring something. You've likely already seen it, but why not watch it again? It's perfect, after all:

 

- Next, stars John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac were brought out. Daisy Ridley talked about getting physically prepared, several months of training. She also talked of shooting in Dubai; They'd run in 120 degree heat and the explosions were real. John Boyega jokingly thanked J.J. Abrams for shooting in the blistering heat and making him run in a stormtrooper outfit.

- Oscar Isaac described his character, Poe, as the best pilot in the galaxy. He asked Harrison Ford for advice on playing a pilot,  and Harrison said, "It's fake. And it's in space." Poe takes on the legacy of Han and Luke of being a heroic pilot. He says Poe was probably watching the rebellion as a kid and wanted to grow up and do the same thing. He also describes him as being a little reckless. 

- Abrams said they didn't write any characters with any specific race in mind. Kennedy hinted that the future Star Wars movies will be ethnically diverse.

-We had met the light side, now it was time to meet the dark: Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux) and Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma) all arrived on stage.

- Driver wouldn't say anything specific about Kylo Ren, though he said they never had any conversations about him being "bad" or "evil". The difference between being bad and being right. Apparently Kylo thinks he's morally justified in the things he does, even if they're evil.

- Is Gleeson's character evil? "He's British, so..." Hux looks like a Grand Moff Tarkin type. He works on the "Starkiller Base," a name apparently inspired by Empire's nemesis, Luke Skywalker. (Gleeson actually spoiled the name of the base, so Abrams had to confirm it.)

- Christie was excited to be tackling the role of a female stormtrooper. "The armor is exterior, the outside feeding in," she said of the character.

 

- Then the really big guns came out: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford.

- Of being back on a STAR WARS set, Fisher said it was like an acid flashback (to great laughter). She also said it was like before, but "a little more melted."

- Hamill talked about his first Star Wars convention, which took place before the movie even came out, in 1976. They only had about 25 photos to show and it was impossible to describe the plot to people. Hamill also touchingly talked about how moving it is for him to hear how much the Star Wars movies mean to all the people he encounters. That said, he admitted to recently flunking a Star Wars quiz; he's now "ceded ownership to the world at large."

- When Harrison Ford came out, it was to thunderous applause. Seeing him hug Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher was a lovely moment for the whole crowd. He's feeling good, apparently, after the crash. He talked about how being back on a Star Wars set should have felt ridiculous, but instead it felt great. He also spoke about how the original Star Wars was the beginning of his career and seemed a little emotional speaking about it.

- Ford was asked if there's a difference in theme in this trilogy as opposed to the original one. Ford said it was a progression of theme and a natural development from the original trilogy.  

- Maybe the highlight of the panel: Mark amusingly talked about how Luke would have been traumatized after falling head over heels in love with his sister. He assumed Luke would have ended up like Ben Kenobi, living alone in the desert somewhere after such a thing, and perhaps in therapy. Harrison Ford rubbed his back consolingly and said, "How many times do I have to say I'm sorry?" "I'll get over it someday," Hamill replied, head in hands.

With that, the panel ended. It went by shockingly fast. But J.J. had one more surprise up his sleeve: He was going to empty Hall H and send every one of its inhabitants to a nearby field where they'd listen to the San Diego Symphony play a collection of Star Wars tracks, all handpicked by John Williams himself (who provided a heartwarming video message from L.A.). It was the very fine finish to a truly wonderful Comic-Con panel, perhaps the best I've ever been to. The Force was strong with this one. 

If you need a reminder, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS opens December 18th.


Star Wars fans raise their lightsabers at the concert

Source: JoBlo.com

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