This weekend is Star Wars Celebration 2017 and while there's a lot of cool panels from the galaxy far, far away, none were as exciting as the one for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Word has been very tight on Rian Johnson's Episode VIII, but now he and Kathleen Kennedy (along with some of the cast) are ready to spill the beans.
The panel didn't disappoint, offering an hour of jokes, surprises and, of course, big reveals. Here are the biggest things we learned.
Josh Gad's Daisy Ridley Teasing Was A Lucasfilm Trick
The panel opened with a compilation of Josh Gad's hilarious viral videos getting the cast of Murder on the Orient Express (and some special guests) to quiz Daisy Ridley about The Last Jedi spoilers before revealing that the man himself was hosting the panel. An excellent choice - the actor opened gushing about his love of Star Wars - it revealed that the entire story was likely part of a Disney/Lucasfilm plot to build up hype for Star Wars secrets.
Rian Johnson Shares The Last Jedi Behind-The-Scenes Images
Normally at these panels you only get a few choice images of the cast, but not for The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson has already been sharing photos from the set of Episode VIII throughout the production, and the director brought a bunch more to the panel. Incredibly candid, they cover all areas of filming and feature most of the cast (including a returning Billie Lourd). Perhaps most interesting is Rey with a lightsaber - not that that's the last time we'd see that.
Carrie Fisher Script Doctored The Last Jedi
The first real information revealed during the panel was about the late, great Carrie Fisher. Kennedy had already praised his ability to write strong female characters, and it's clear this isn't just true of Rey, but also General Leia. The producer described her performance as "remarkable" and an "amazing tribute" to the actress. Johnson recounted stories of them bonding, saying "I love her so much, man. I just adore her" before dropping a biggie: Carrie Fisher, who beyond playing Leia was a famed script doctor, and provided some input on The Last Jedi script.
This was accompanied by several behind the scenes shots of Fisher and Johnson on the set of what appeared to be a starship.
Luke Doesn't Want To Train Rey At First
First on stage was Daisy Ridley who (after deflecting spoiler-y questions from Gad) discussed Rey's role in the film, citing that The Last Jedi goes deeper into the emerging Jedi's story. That much we knew, although Ridley dropped some pretty big info: her and Luke's relationship may not be as expected. According to Ridley, Rey has in her mind an image of where she's going and what she'll get from the Jedi Master, only to find that it's "difficult when you meet your heroes". Clearly Luke isn't as ready to train up his potential daughter as a Jedi just yet. Johnson praised Ridley's confident performance and a couple of images were shown of Rey on Ahch-To, with a moody sky and a hero stance.
There's New Comedy and Tech For BB-8
After Ridley, the other breakout star from The Force Awakens came on stage - BB-8. The physical model of the ball droid was first revealed at Celebration 2015, so it was a fitting turn. Obviously the droid himself couldn't reveal information, but after he'd rolled off-stage Rian Johnson discussed the character. According to the director, The Last Jedi will feature the orange-and-white droid prominently, partially on the recommendation of J.J. Abrams' editors, who said you can never have enough BB-8.
That's not to say he'll be just bringing more of the same. Johnson said the production has developed new tech to better realize BB-8, hopefully meaning he'll have a few more gadgets in his adventure.
Finn Is Struggling To Find His Place
Next out was John Boyega, who was excited to discuss Finn in many ways - that he's going to come back from his injuries swinging. He also addressed the massively hyped relationship between Finn and Poe, which is going to "continue to blossom", although perhaps not in the romantic way some fans want.
More concretely, however, Boyega did reveal something of Finn's arc; despite having helped the Resistance take down Starkiller Base, he's still not sure of his future. A big question for the character will be whether to continue the fight or just keeping running from the First Order - a major unresolved part of The Force Awakens.
The State of the Galaxy
Although none of the actors on the First Order side of the story were present, Johnson still provided some information on what the Imperial next generation were doing, making a big point of that while Starkiller Base was destroyed, the bigger impact of The Force Awakens was the destruction of the New Republic. This means that the First Order will be still moving forward strongly, according to the director "making big moves".
The panel did also show new images of the trilogy's three main villains - Captain Phasma, Kylo Ren and General Hux, all looking darker, angrier and more intense.
Introducing Kelly Marie Tran As Rose
According to Johnson, the biggest addition to the cast is Kelly Marie Tran as Rose, a maintenance worker in the Resistance. Tran is a total unknown - Star Wars is her first mainstream movie - which plays into her character. According to Johnson, the entire point of Rose is to show that "anyone can be a hero", something born of the director's experience growing up with Star Wars and imagining what one of the Rebel technicians would go in the fight.
Tran also discussed keeping the role a secret, revealing that she had to pretend she was filming an indie movie in Canada (even buying maple syrup).
There's A Lot Of Mystery About Luke
When Mark Hamill came out, he naturally started rambling about a random grab-bag of unrelated topics, causing Kathleen Kennedy to interrupt him to clarify something: Luke is "so significantly important to the next film". While Hamill was keen to point out that Star Wars is no longer Luke's story, it's clear he is still a core story force, with the actor saying there's a lot of mystery about what's happened to him. While many expected this backstory to be expunged in the film itself, he said that - fitting of the original trilogy - much of it will be in other media.
He also made a joke about Rey being Luke's child, mis-introducing her as his daughter. Of course, that's just classic Hamill, who later said "I lie all the time" and pretended that Luke would only communicate telepathically in the film, with all dialogue done with subtitles.
As the panel drew to a close, Johnson revealed the film's official teaser poster (something that elicited groans from the audience, who were expecting footage). A striking image that partially homages the original film's artwork (Rey is holding her saber in the air, just like Luke) while bringing in new elements (the odd duality of Luke and Kylo Ren), it's one of the best looking one-sheets produced for the series (and that's saying something). Those in attendance at Celebration were lucky enough to take a copy home with them.
And, finally, the trailer. Two minutes of pure, unadulterated joy, it gave a real taste of not only what the story of the film would be, but what Rian Johnson has brought to the galaxy far, far away. Rey is training with a regretful Luke, the Resistance is under attack and there may just be a flashback to the destruction of the New Jedi Order. You can see the trailer here and a full breakdown here.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019