Today at the Star Wars Celebration convention in Anaheim, California, director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy unveiled the latest teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Tons of fans present at the event exploded in excitement over the new one minute fifty-nine second teaser, and now you can too; go on, don’t hesitate, mash play above and let all of its glory wash over you! Done? Watch it again.
A few things to note. That is original Star Wars star Mark Hamill providing voice-over during the first half of the teaser; his lines are directly plucked from Return of the Jedi when he’s revealing to Leia that Darth Vader is his father. “The force is strong in my family,” says Hamill’s Luke Skywalker. “My father has it. I have it. My sister has it.” The line that comes next is new: “And you have the power, too.” We’re left to assume here that Luke is talking to a next-generation Skywalker in The Force Awakens, but neither Abrams nor Kennedy would confirm. Seeing Darth Vader’s utterly maligned helmet here is a striking image that I know will sit with me for some time.
What else? Referring to the desert world that made its debut in the first teaser, Abrams confirmed it is not Luke Skywalker’s home of Tattoine, but instead an entirely new world called Jakku. These expansive, beautiful sequences were filmed in the deserts of Abu Dhabi.
The latter half of the panel introduced new franchise stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac. Respectively they play a scavenger named Rey, a Stormtrooper named Finn, and an X-Wing pilot named Poe Dameron. Though plot details are still being tightly kept under wraps, Abrams allowed each of them to briefly let some character details fly.
“We discover Rey on the desert planet Jakku,” Ridley shared with the crowd. “She is a scavenger in a ship graveyard. She’s completely self-sufficient and does everything for herself, until she meets another character and an adventure begins.” Boyega picks up and says, “When we find Finn, he’s in incredible danger. The way he decides to react changes his life and launches him into the Star Wars universe in a unique way.” Issac goes on to describe Dameron like this: “He’s the best fricking pilot in the galaxy, that’s who he is! He’s been sent on a mission by a certain princess. He comes across Mr. John Boyega’s character and their fates are forever intertwined.”
Making fun surprise appearances today were R2-D2 and the new droid BB-8. Though The Force Awakens admittedly uses lots of green screen for its special effects, Abrams reiterated his film’s reliance on practical effects and BB8 is a prime example of that. “We talked about how having a CGI BB-8 would be easier,” Abrams noted. “But we thought it would be better for the actors and the performances to have the real thing.” The director is taking a cue from Star Wars creator George Lucas’s playbook here; the original trilogy took advantage of robotics and advanced puppetry to pull off some of the most inventive and impressive stunts in cinematic history. Sounds like J.J. is on board with that, too. Watch BB-8 in action on stage right here.
The trailer ends with perhaps the most exciting bit yet: Han Solo and Chewbacca return in fleetingly grand fashion and ignite the nostalgic part of our collective brains. “Chewie, we’re home,” Han positively snarls, which is then followed by the lovable Wookiee’s signature roar. Though Han’s portrayer Harrison Ford wasn’t on hand at the event, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, and Peter Mayhew showed up to express their ultimate gratitude for the generations of passionate Star Wars fans. “I have a simple message: a simple thank you,” Hamill gushed. “If it weren’t for all the UPFs—Ultra Passionate Fans—we wouldn’t be here. It never ceases to amaze me.”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens December 18.