Since there’s no Star Wars panel at this year’s SDCC, the D23 Expo was Lucas Films big moment to roll their stars onto the stage and potentially show some new footage for this fall’s Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.
Disney had plenty of business to see to as they presented a large showcase of their new Star Wars theme park, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and they had a massive Battlefront II presentation as well. But the main stage in Hall D23 was where the fireworks were expected. So what did we get from Lucas Film and Co.? Turns out, not a ton of new information but some interesting bits nonetheless, and definitely worth discussing.
The last time Star Wars was in the news was during that whole director musical chairs they pulled on the Han Solo Anthology film when Ron Howard was brought in to replace Chris Miller and Phil Lord. So it’s no surprise that film was not mentioned at all and the focus remain squarely on the flagship, The Last Jedi. They weren’t in damage control, but it was clear they weren’t going to make any huge announcements either.
During the live-action movies panel, Disney heavy Alan Horn brought out Episode VIII director/writer Rian Johnson, and after a brief chat and a warm remembrance of Carrie Fisher, Johnson thrilled the audience by bringing out some of the stars from the film. Joining him on stage were Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro and Mr. Star Wars himself, Mark Hamill.
The cast talked a little bit about the movie and what we can expect, and Johnson showed some black and white stills he’s become famous for, but it’s clear they couldn’t reveal too much. This all led to what fans hoped would be a new trailer but what they got instead, what we all got, was a very cool behind the scenes featurette which revealed some amazing looks at many of the characters we know well, and a host of new never seen before ones as well. Watch the video then we’ll break it down a little bit…
So, from the looks of things we’re going to see a lot of three planets in particular, Crait, which is a mining planet (described as a snow-covered Mars) and is the planet with the red liquid type stuff we see. You’ll remember it from the first trailer where the speeders are racing across a large open area towards some Imperial Walkers. Also we got some looks at the casino planet known as Canto Bight which has been described as being a Medieval City dressed in neon lights. This is where we also see a Falthier (space horse) for the first time, more below. Finally, the one that is no surprise, is that the film starts where Ep. VII left us, on the watery island planet known as Ahch-To. This of course is where Luke went to find the first Jedi Temple and has been hiding there until Rey finds him and begins her training.
As for the new aliens in The Last Jedi, we got our look at a bunch of them and it appears animatronics will play a large part in continuing the visual effect motif for these new Star War movies. Four in particular are the previously mentioned Falthier’s, Porgs, a crystal fox and lots of casino mudskippers. As we can see from the photos below and as described on set visits, Falthiers are a type of space horse that Finn uses to escape a tricky situation, what that situation is exactly, no one knows. We know next to nothing about the crystal foxes (Ahsoka fan theories aside) or the casino mudskippers other than the fact that the mudskippers work at and occupy space at a casino on Canto Bight.
The Porg’s (bottom right) however are a different story as we do know a little about them. They’re a part of the ecosystem of the planet Ahch-To and are sacred creatures on the island that Luke inhabits. Luke seems to care for the creatures and there is a connection between the creatures of the planet and the Force. There are moments apparently where Chewbacca and RD-D2 interact with and care for them while they are waiting for Rey to become a Jedi I guess. Very cool.
The featurette did gives us our first look at Benicio Del Toro and Laura Dern’s characters on set and both brief glimpses revealed a couple of interesting things about their situations. First we see Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo shaking hands and smiling with General Organa, this is interesting because we’ve heard there’s tension between these two characters as Holdo and Organa have fundamental disagreements on how the First Order should be dealt with.
Second we see Benicio Del Toro’s character, simply called “DJ” for now, dressed in a rag-tag type of outfit clearly on some type of ship or vehicle. We know nothing about his character, other than they’re calling the “man in black”, but what’s interesting from this photo is in the bottom right corner you see BB-8’s little head poking up. So, why would BB-8 be with someone who’s not on the resistance side of things? Was BB-8 stolen? We just don’t know yet. And no, despite ridiculous rumors, he is not Ezra Bridger from Star Wars Rebels fame.
Understanding that the journey this time around, while involving the resistance and the first order also, is clearly Rey’s path to becoming a Jedi and the featurette had plenty to show us of Daisy Ridley in action preparing for that reality. There are shots of her preparing for underwater scenes which confirms the rumor she’ll be face to face with some type of massive marine creature, what we don’t know is where or why. Since Ahch-To is mostly water, we can surmise that humans and Porg’s aren’t the only species living there. This also provides us with my favorite still from the clips one that for me, speaks loud and clear for such a simple image. Rey, in a Jedi pose, hilt up.
We see all our favorites from The Force Awakens including lots of Finn interacting with newcomer Kelly Marie Tran playing “Rose”, and we even see him emerging from his bacta-chamber so it’s clear he’s alive and well by the time we catch up with him. It appears we’ll get to see him and Rose deep in enemy territory as one of the shots, a la Rogue One, has them dressed and First Order officers, clearly deep undercover.
Really interesting stuff you may have not picked up on was there was two shots of Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver, both beefed up by the way, training for what appears to be battle scenes involving staffs/lightsabers. The interesting part is that they both are training to fight multiple opponents so in Kylo Ren’s case, is he fighting Rey and Luke at the same time or could it be some type of Snoke training sequence? As for Rey, we can only speculate but it’s likely the three opponents are either the Acolytes or the Knights of Ren themselves. Either way seeing these two fence with multiple enemies will be exciting stuff and a Ren/Luke/Rey battle will be all sorts of goodness, reminiscent of the Jinn/Kenobi/Maul battle from Episode I.
There’s plenty of shots we just have no idea yet what exactly is going on but we do get a look at some vehicles and ships, including the B-Wings from TFA. We also get a peek at who we think is Paige Tico, Rose’s sister, who is kidnapped at one point and is a member of the resistance. This could explain her need to get Finn’s help and them having to go undercover.
What would a behind the scenes reel be with loads of funny and charming moments? We lots of shots of the cast goofing around, talking over scenes and just simply enjoying each other’s company.
The behind the scenes was Carrie Fisher heavy as we say goodbye the once Princess now General one more time. As you saw from the video, she got the last line and that seemed fitting.
“It’s about family, and that’s what so powerful about it.”
So, that’s it for now. We could speculate on every minute little thing but typical with this franchise we have no idea how its going to play out, especially with Johnson promising big surprises this time around. We also don’t know when the next trailer will hit although we do know that’s it ready and has been shipped. Since they’re not at San Diego this year for Comic Con best guess would be a big release in the next month or so like maybe Dark Tower?
Whenever it happens, it’s going to be huge.
Till Next time…