In the days leading into Comic-Con, Star Wars: The Force Awakens fans got some rather disheartening news. There would be no new trailer or footage from the movie shown during the massive Hall H panel on Friday night. Some thought it was all a ruse. "How could they hold a Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel, on Star Wars Day (traditionally every Friday at SDCC), and NOT show new footage?" Someone probably said and/or thought in the aftermath of this crushing news. Fans were assured that the panel would still be insightful and entertaining, and, guess what? Those assurances were not false by any means. It's true, director J.J. Abrams, producer Kathleen Kennedy and writer Lawrence Kasdan didn't unveil a new trailer or any actual footage from the movie itself, but they did reveal a fascinating behind-the-scenes video that shed plenty of new light on the production. And even confirmed a long-rumored cast member and plot details.
When the panel was first announced, all we knew was that J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy and Lawrence Kasdan would be present, and that there would be "special guests." There were special guests, a ton of them, but before they were rolled out in groups, representing the "light" side of the Force, the "dark" side, and, of course, the "old school" side, producer Kathleen Kennedy spoke about how meaningful the fans were to this franchise, perhaps more so than any other property.
"I think a lot of people out there know that Star Wars is 100% dependent on the fans in this room and all over the world, since 1976. In fact, when the movie was ready to come out, it was really the fans that built the momentum around the release of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. We are right back around, in full circle, and we want to say thank you to all of you."
The filmmakers showed their undying appreciation to the fans several times at the panel, and even did so long beforehand, delivering donuts to the masses who were camped out outside of Hall H, waiting for their chance to see these filmmakers and "special guests," i.e. the main cast members. Before the cast came out, J.J. Abrams even trotted out one of the practical creatures used in the movie, right on the Hall H stage, "Bobbajo," a robotic creature that takes five people to operate. While Kathleen Kennedy even dropped a tidbit about the first spinoff movie, Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One, which starts shooting in just three weeks at Pinewood Studios in London.
J.J. Abrams also confirmed that there is a cut of the movie that they're fine-tuning, stated right before they showed the behind-the-scenes footage. The director revealed that, while they weren't ready to show new footage yet, he knew how important this movie was to the Hall H crowd, and they just had to bring something to show them. Here's what he had to say below.
"The truth is, we aren't ready to show you scenes from the movie or a new trailer, and we really want to wait and do the trailer later in the fall, but we knew this was too important, coming to you who care about this and love this so much, and we wanted to bring something that was as unique and unexpected as we could. We put together a piece that you're going to see, that we hope would bring you into the process a little bit, of what it was like to make this movie, and see some of the people who are doing it. So, we have that."
After the wonderful behind-the-scenes video, the panel's "special guests," ]the main cast members, were brought out in groups of three. First was the new characters representing the "light" side of The Force, Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn) and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), followed, naturally, by the "dark" side ambassadors, Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux) and Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), concluding with the beloved fan favorites Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and Harrison Ford (Han Solo). Between the panel, moderated by Chris Hardwick, and the behind-the-scenes video, fans learned a ton of new information about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which we're exhaustively breaking down for you right here. So, take a deep breath, and lets delve through Star Wars: The Force Awakens together.
New Villains and the Starkiller Base
Star Wars The Force Awakens Kylo Ren
Over the past few months, we've gotten confirmation that Adam Driver is Kylo Ren, the cloaked baddie with the bizarre crossguard lightsaber first revealed in the teaser trailer from November. And that Gwendoline Christie is portraying Captain Phasma, a First Order Stormtrooper/Chrometrooper who is believed to be hunting the rogue Stormtrooper Finn. It was finally confirmed during the panel who Domhnall Gleeson is playing, the villainous General Hux. The actor did let it slip that his headquarters is known as Starkiller Base, which J.J. Abrams confirmed is the base of the First Order, "in honor of the original last name of Luke Skywalker." Domhnall Gleeson did say his character is "evil," but no further details about this character and his Starkiller Base were divulged, and it isn't known if there is any comparison to be made between this base and the Death Star, in regards to either the size of the base itself, and/or its offensive weaponry or its defensive shields. So, who are these villains? Why are they villainous? What's up with the crossguard light saber? If Kylo Ren is the new Sith warrior, surely he must be the apprentice, right? And, if he is the apprentice, who is the master? Is General Hux the master? Sadly, we got no answers to these questions, but the Starkiller homage could hint that there are several other obscure homages to the Star Wars universe at large.
Simon Pegg Has Some Sort Of Role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Simon Pegg
Given Simon Pegg's longstanding relationship with J.J. Abrams, starring in three of his directorial offerings (Mission: Impossible III, Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness), many assumed that Simon Pegg would have some sort of role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The actor remained mum on the subject for months and months, although he said that Star Wars: The Force Awakens "will blow the world to pieces," and that it's "everything you've wanted", just a few months ago. When the behind-the-scenes video was shown, sure enough, Simon Pegg was shown on the set, both out of costume, and In costume, sort of. The second shot made it clear that he was wearing a rather bulky uniform, but we didn't see the head of said costume. With that being, when Star Wars: The Force Awakens does hit theaters, we surely won't be able to recognize him, and it isn't known if he will be using his own voice or not. Still, Simon Pegg IS a part of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, that much we know, but his exact role remains a mystery.
C-3PO's Mismatched Arm Confirmed
Star Wars: The Force Awakens C-3PO
Last month, a merchandise photo revealed that the iconic protocol droid C-3PO has a mismatched red arm, although the rest of his gold frame remains intact. Now, early leaks of toy photos have proven to be both accurate, at times, and misleading at other times, so fans weren't sure what to make of this revelation at the time. During the behind-the-scenes video shown to the Hall H fans, the footage showed C-3PO with the red arm on the set. Sadly, we get no context into how or why this arm-swapping happened, and we don't know if, or how much, it will be addressed in the story. Keep in mind, Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes place 32 years after we last saw C-3PO in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, and obviously a lot can happen in that time. It isn't known if C-3PO will be keeping this red arm throughout the new trilogy, or if, perhaps, these new young heroes Finn, Rey and Poe happen across his old robotic appendage to make him whole again, so to speak.
Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb Are Back
Star Wars The Force Awakens Admiral Ackbar
Star Wars The Force Awakens Nien Nunb
Part of the behind-the-scenes video shown at SDCC included footage from the model shop, and two brief shots confirmed that two beloved characters from Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, Admiral Ackbar and Nien Numb, will be back for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. For the uninitiated, Ackbar is the Mon Calamari commander who lead the rebel forces into the Battle of Endor, whose line "It's a trap!" is still legendary to this day, while Nien Numb is the Sullustan smuggler who accompanied Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) on the Millennium Falcon in the final battle against the Death Star. How large their roles are, and how they play into the story remain to be seen at this point, but it's certainly nice to see a few more familiar faces rounding out this impressive world J.J. Abrams is creating for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Since these two characters were both seen during battle scenes, one could assume that their expertise in combat could be used in this story, but to what end, and who exactly they're working for, remains uncertain.
The Millennium Falcon May Have a New Co-Pilot
Star Wars The Force Awakens Millennium Falcon
We've known for months and months that the Millennium Falcon will return, even appearing in the first teaser trailer back in November, but who exactly pilots and/or owns the Falcon has been the cause of much debate and conjecture. An unconfirmed rumor yesterday claims that Han Solo and Chewbacca both lost the Falcon, somehow, just before the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But, as we saw in the SDCC video, Han Solo is seen in the cockpit with both Rey and Finn, with Rey actually taking the co-pilot seat and Finn seated just behind her. Where is Chewie in all of this? Another shot showed Chewie (without his mask) sitting next to Rey, in what appeared to be the cockpit, and there is also a different shot of Rey on a gimbal setup of the Falcon cockpit, but she was by herself, although it should also be noted that IMAX cameras were filming her in this scene. Still, the shot of both Harrison Ford and Daisy Ridley sitting down to presumably pilot the Millennium Falcon is supremely intriguing.
The First Order, Flamethrowers and Mystery Troopers
Star Wars The Force Awakens Flamethrowers
Director J.J. Abrams confirmed that the Starkiller base is the headquarters for General Hux and the First Order Stormtroopers, but there is still very little we know about the First Order. One of the most curious shots from the video showed one of these Stormtroopers equipped with a flamethrower. Now, it's clear that not all of these First Order trooper are packing heat, literally, since there are other shots with groups of troopers who aren't seen with these bulky fire-packs. Still, we've never seen Stormtroopers with this kind of weaponry before, and it makes us wonder what kinds of fires this soldier might be ordered to set by General Hux. While you may have missed it in the video, there is also a very brief shot from a monitor, with two very different troopers running down a corridor. They are dressed in red and black, and we've never seen any Stormtroopers with this kind of costume before. We haven't seen uniforms like this yet, but I have a (likely far-fetched) theory of who these two "troopers" really are.
Poe Dameron Gets Locked Up... Where He Possibly Meets Finn?
Star Wars The Force Awakens Poe Dameron
Several months ago, there was a rumor that revealed Poe Dameron is locked up by a group of Stormtroopers that Finn belongs to, and Finn sees this pilot as a way out of this job of his. They both escape and steal a TIE Fighter and take off to parts unknown. Now, the footage shown in Hall H revealed a scene where Poe is being lead into, presumably, his cell, by a Stormtrooper. While we don't know if this Stormtrooper is Finn or not, the urgency in which the red and black troopers running down a corridor hints, to me anyway, that these two men could be Finn and Poe during their escape, before they get to the TIE Fighter. Where these never-before-seen red and black uniforms came from, I haven't the slightest clue, but it is an intriguing tidbit to chew on, until more details come in. Of course, this is all speculation on my part, but the new uniforms and the way they were running indicated these weren't your garden-variety troopers.
Leia's New Look
Star Wars The Force Awakens Leia
Since we haven't seen Princess Leia or Luke Skywalker in any of the trailers yet, it was refreshing to see Leia, if only for a few fleeting seconds, towards the end of the footage. You may remember that there was a costume sketch that reportedly gave us our first look at Princess Leia, and, from the footage, the costumes are fairly similar. Still, what role Leia has to play in this story remains uncertain. There have long been rumors that some of the new heroes, Finn, Rey and Poe, could be the offspring of either Han and Leia or Luke, but those details were later debunked. It also isn't known if Han and Leia are even still together after 30 years, and the brief glimpses of footage we get featuring Leia don't clue us in either way. Regardless, Princess Leia is most certainly back in some capacity, but it remains to be seen if there are plans for her to return in Star Wars: Episode VIII or Star Wars: Episode IX.
Han and Leia Are Back, But Is This The New, Dark, Luke Skywalker?
Star Wars The Force Awakens Luke Skywalker
The first trailer only showed fans the new heroes and villains of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but the second trailer gave us a brief look at Han Solo and Chewie at the very end. As I just mentioned, the SDCC footage showed Leia, but where the hell is Luke? This beloved hero's story has been shrouded in secrecy since Day One, much more than most other aspects of the film, and there is one particular rumor that claims he has gone to the "dark side." During the new footage, there is one shot you only see for a half-second or so, but it features J.J. Abrams looking at a scene from a small monitor. We can't make out much of the actual scene, but it does show a figure in black, supposedly squaring off against Stormtroopers in one of the narrow corridors of wherever this shot takes place. Now, most will think this is Kylo Ren, but, if that's the case, wouldn't the Stormtroopers be standing behind him, instead of facing him? Also, it isn't totally clear, but it seems that this figure isn't wearing the same kind of full-length cloak Kylo Ren is seen wearing in both the teaser trailer and this video, since this person's is much shorter, and there appear to be swords used in this scene, which will likely later be turned into light sabers. With all that being said, and given the rumors that have swirled around Skywalker going dark, it's certainly possible that this could be our first look at Luke Skywalker, or it could be nothing of consequence at all.
That wraps it up for our Star Wars: The Force Awakens breakdown of everything we learned at Comic-Con. We still have several months to go before the December 18 release, so hopefully some of the burning questions that remain after SDCC will be answered as we get closer to this sci-fi adventure invading theaters. What do you think about these details? Is there anything in particular you hoped would be revealed? Let us know what you think in the comments, or reach out on Twitter @GallagherMW.