The second teaser for Disney and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens dropped today during the opening of Star Wars Celebration Live, a four-day orgy of all things Jedi at the Anaheim Convention Center.
The teaser was revealed during the inaugural panel of Celebration, where director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy sat down before a packed crowd of die-hard true believers so fervent that at times, the event resembled a church revival. And priority one during the panel? Drawing a connection between The Force Awakens and the legacy of the original trilogy, and reassuring the three or four people left who might still be skeptical that the franchise is in good hands.
While Abrams is never going to repudiate the prequel trilogy (or the much-lamented Special Edition versions of the original trilogy), he came about as close as possible to doing so when discussing the heavy use of practical effects in The Force Awakens. “It’s an amazing thing to watch the [unfinished] movie,” he said, “[and] you can see what it is. You don’t have to use your imagination.” Of course the film will have a heavy reliance on green screen, but, Abrams crowed, as much as possible the actors and filmmakers had real objects, sets and environments to work with.
Hammering that point home, the panel then introduced the film’s practical effects to the crowd directly, bringing out the film’s robotic prop makers along with the remote controlled R2D2 for a demonstration. But the real standout was the severely impressive robotic puppet version of BB8, first seen in the 88-second teaser that dropped in November. What we saw then wasn’t an illusion, onstage the droid’s body a constantly rotating ball with a head that slides wherever it needs to be in order to remain oriented atop. It’s impressive puppetry and a strong signal of intent, effects-wise.
Next up, the panel brought out the film’s three younger leads, Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Daisy Ridley (Rey) and John Boyega (Finn), who showed up onstage to answer fan questions. A bit of clarity on the plot was revealed: Isaac plays an X-wing fighter pilot “sent on a mission by a certain princess,” so he said, who meets Boyega’s stormtrooper amor-clad Finn, and “their fates are forever intertwined.” However, this being a JJ Abrams joint, that’s about the most specific detail revealed. Rumors hold that Boyega plays an AWOL stormtrooper; asked point blank by the panel moderator if that was true, Boyega mimed a nervous look at Abrams before claiming “my memory’s just gone” to big laughs.
But aside from the new teaser, the part of the panel that got the most screams from the assembled fans was the appearance of Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Anthony Daniels (C-3P0). Reinforcing the the earlier theme of continuity with the original trilogy, the four stars were also on hand to deliver a living love-letter to fans. Hamill in particular expressed very solemn gratitude, recounting how his entire career has been one long interaction with dedicated fans, and concluding with an almost Vin Diesel-esque “you’re more than just fans… you’re family.” Fisher, Mayhew and Daniels expressed similar sentiments.
As for the teaser, it was as free of real spoilers as the previous trailer, but it was heavy on core series themes and it presents a sense of scale not seen in the series since the Millennium Falcon flew out of the mouth of that giant worm in Empire Strikes Back. Voice over from Mark Hamill strongly hinting that one of the main characters is a Skywalker, shots of intense battles and destruction, the Falcon flying into the wreckage of a crashed Star Destroyer, and ending with the first look at Chewbacca and Han Solo, it got big cheers, even more when they showed it twice in a row.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens has a December 18 release date, followed down the line by at least two more episodes (Star Wars Episode VIII has a May 26, 2017 release date already) and spinoff pics starting with Star Wars: Rogue One (December 16, 2016).