It’s a funny thing, really. Though little was divulged in terms of new announcements at the Star Wars panel at San Diego Comic Con 2015, it turned out to be the most amazing Con experience and one I will never forget.
A packed Hall H chants “Let’s go Star Wars!” and claps as if we were at a sporting event. Only at Comic Con, am I right? In time, moderator Chris Hardwick (the Talking Dead host and Nerdist leader was everywhere this year!) came out to introduce producer Kathleen Kennedy of Lucasfilm, director J.J. Abrams, and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. Abrams talked up Episode VII‘s reliance on practical effects over CGI, and he made a point by bringing out a new character named Bobba Joe. The creature, operated magically by five people, managed to walk across the stage twice without falling over or bumping into anything. The oversized puppet really impressed the audience with its finesse. Abrams says to expect many characters like this in the film.
“We aren’t ready to show you scenes from the movie or a new trailer, but we wanted to bring something that was as unique and unexpected as we could,” Abrams told the crowd. The behind-the-scenes reel shown to panel attendees brought tears to many eyes–it encapsulates the sheer force of the Star Wars franchise and does a great job of sharing the level of detail and blood, sweat, and tears that Abrams and co. are putting into this thing. Also, Simon Pegg pops up in a surprise cameo! You can watch nearly 4-minute clip after the break.
The cast came out next. Our three heroes John Boyega (Finn), Daisy Ridley (Rey), and Oscar Isaacs (Poe Dameron) and then the villains Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), and Gwendolyn Christie (Captain Phasma) and then the legacy players Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), and Harrison Ford (Han Solo). And yes, the crowd went more than wild at the sight of all this talent, especially when Mr. Ford entered the scene. He received the biggest standing ovation by a mile. Gleeson accidentally leaked the name of the villains’ base: Starkiller Base. Beyond that, nothing new was announced here. A handful of first-looks at practical effects characters were displayed, and you can see those in the gallery.
Just as the panel felt like it was wrapping up, Abrams said this: “Who wants to go see a live Star Wars concert right now? We only have room for all of you. We are literally all going to walk to a location together and experience a Star Wars concert tonight.” It’s hard to describe the rush I felt along with everyone else there. It was like a wave of excitement crashed into the crowd and all of sudden we were all high on life all at once. And with that, the entire Hall H–over 6,000 people–proceeded to collect their belongings and follow a procession of Stormtroopers to the Embarcadero Marina Park South where the San Diego Symphony was waiting to perform selections from the iconic Star Wars score. The walk took about 45 minutes or so, but that wasn’t a problem for anyone. With our exclusive lanyards we walked proudly behind the convention center and slowly made our way to the secret venue on the water. Once everyone was situated with free colored lightsabers, Abrams and the entire cast came out again to introduce the symphony. Composer John Williams wasn’t on hand, unfortunately, but he did pre-record a message wishing the fans a good time and “May the force be with you.” The sun set, the music played beautifully against a backdrop consisting of classic scenes spanning all six films, and just when we all thought it couldn’t get any better, fireworks exploded in the sky just as the Star Wars main theme kicked in at the end of the concert. A rainbow of lightsabers showered the symphony with love.
This was truly a shared experience to cherish for a lifetime.