While very little was known about Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens before this week, despite an overabundance of rumors, thanks to the 2015 Star Wars Celebration that was held in Anaheim, California, we have plenty of official details to start forming a picture of what's been happening in the Star Wars universe for the 30 years since Episode VI. The opening day panel revealed character descriptions and a second teaser trailer featuring new worlds and old characters, while displays on the convention floor showcased additional new info.
Prior to the Celebration event we didn't know too much beyond the cast list and the fact that Star Wars 7's story approximately 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. We knew which returning cast members would appear, and that most likely, John Boyega’s Finn, Daisy Ridley’s Rey, and Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron are the new lead characters. We also knew from the first teaser trailer that a new droid called BB-8 would be introduced and that the Millennium Falcon would fly again. But now we know quite a bit more about director J.J. Abrams’ plans on revitalizing the beloved franchise.
If you've not been following along, here's a recap on what we've learned about Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens:
1. The Desert Planet In The Trailers Is An Entirely New Location
When a desert planet was seen in the first teaser trailer, most fans assumed that it was Anakin and Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tatooine - a planet we've arguably seen too much of in the films, games, books, etc.. Director J.J. Abrams confirmed at the opening Star Wars Celebration panel that it is in fact a new planet called Jakku. “The location is a planet called Jakku,” he confirmed. “Some thought it was Tatooine. But it’s a planet called Jakku and you will be hearing more about it one of these days.” It was also later confirmed that Daisy Ridley’s Rey lives a solitary life on Jakku which leads us to …
2. Rey Is A Scavenger And Finn Is A Stormtrooper
When asked to describe her character Rey at the beginning of the film, Ridley said, “She is a scavenger in a ship graveyard. She is completely self-sufficient and does everything for herself until she meets another character.” Presumably the character that she meets is Finn, played by Boyega - the British actor seen wearing a Stormtrooper outfit in the first teaser trailer (and now again in the second). With early rumors claiming that one of the film’s lead characters is a Stormtrooper, most fans took this at face value.
There is the possibility however that this was misdirection and that Finn is in a disguise, much like Han and Luke in the first movie. While Boyega was coy at Thursday’s panel about answering whether his character is good or evil, he did nod when asked point blank if Finn is a Stormtrooper, confirming the news.
3. Poe Dameron Is The New Trilogy's "Han Solo"
When actor Oscar Isaac was cast as Poe Dameron, fans assumed due to his age and gravitas as a performer that his character would act as the new trilogy’s "Han Solo." That was confirmed on Thursday when the actor proclaimed of his character, “He is the best freaking pilot in the galaxy!” And we thought Han Solo was the best pilot in the galaxy.
I guess a lot can happen in 30 years, and if Solo has been in retirement since Return of the Jedi than that would make a lot of sense. Isaac also revealed, “He is sent on a mission by a certain Princess.” Again, being sent on a mission by a princess, that sounds a lot like something Han Solo would do. He might fly an X-Wing and not the Millennium Falcon, but I have a feeling that Isaac’s Dameron could eventually give Harrison Ford’s Solo a run for his money as most beloved Star Wars character. Speaking of Han Solo…
4. Han and Chewie Go Home
It’s safe to say that when the new teaser trailer was revealed at the end of the Celebration’s first panel, the highlight was seeing an aged Han Solo (Harrison Ford) standing next to his BFF Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). While Ford only uttered three words, they were poetic and had every Star Wars fan finding a lump in their throats. “Chewy … we’re home!”
As moving as this moment was, it does leave an important question: where is home? Is he referring to his home world of Corellia? Is he talking about Chewbacca’s home planet, Kashyyyk? Returning to the Millenium Falcon? Or is he just returning to wherever he’s been living for the last 30 years? We might have to wait until December to find out.
5. The Rebels Are Now The "Resistance" And The Empire Is Now The "First Order"
If you walked the Star Wars Celebration convention floor this weekend, then you may have noticed something very interesting in the prop room. Different props were labeled with two factions that while similar to what we know of the original Star Wars trilogy, are completely new. There were Stormtrooper costumes that belong to the “First Order”, and a “Resistance” X-Wing Fighter model. It would now seem that during the time that takes place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, the remnants of the “Empire” became the “First Order”, and the “Rebels” became the “Resistance”.
The implications of this news are fascinating and make it clear the conclusion of Return of the Jedi wasn't necessarily a truly happy ending, or at least a long-lasting one. The good guys won. They defeated their enemies and there was finally peace in the universe. False. The Rebels won the battle but not the war, which is an important, more interesting and more relevant concept. Even after Luke and Vader defeated the Emperor, the "Empire" - or parts of it - continued and eventually morphed into "The First Order".
What’s the difference between the "Rebels" and the "Resistance" and who are its members? Are they familiar characters from the original trilogy? Again, we may have to wait until the film’s release to answer those questions, but it certainly does leave a lot of food for thought.
6. Stormtroopers and Starships Look Different For A Reason
The remaining imperial forces, no longer comprised of clones, have undergone some upgrades in the decades leading up to The Force Awakens, hence the tweaked white armor and weapons. For diehard fans concerned about the different style of X-Wing depicted in set photos and the first trailer, do not worry - this is not a case of J.J. Abrams simply modernizing the ship designs like he did with the USS Enterprise in Star Trek.
The X-Wings that Poe Dameron and his squadron pilot are a newer iteration from the same manufacturer. The ones Luke and co. piloted in the original trilogy were Incom T-65 X-wing starfighters and the ones in Episode 7 are T-70s. The First Order fleet will have similar new ships as well as seen by the tweaked Tie Fighters in the teasers and the heavier looking Star Destroyer pictured above.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be in theaters December 18, 2015.