ORLANDO — Because other fandoms spread out their gatherings, it can sometimes be hard to explain the full importance of Star Wars Celebration.
You could spend a lifetime hopping from Trek confabs to Comic Con to magical Harry Potter meetups. But Celebration is the concentrated version, hopping from city to city around the world, coordinated by Lucasfilm with Imperial precision — and since 2013, it has been a vital destination for anyone looking to get sneak peeks at upcoming Star Wars movies.
The 2017 Celebration, which runs Thursday to Sunday at the Convention Center in Orlando, is doubly important. Thousands of fans will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the original Star Wars — a month early, but still — and this will be their first chance to collectively mourn for Carrie Fisher, in special panels and a charity gala.
Also, this will be the last Celebration until 2019, when Episode IX launches. All together now: NOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Much of the content is under wraps ahead of the convention, as is typical with Lucasfilm’s deep state-like levels of secrecy. For one thing, we still don’t know when or if we’ll hear anything about the currently-in-production Han Solo movie, such as a title. (Would you like to know the probability that we’ll hear about it at some point this weekend? It’s high. Very high.)
Here are the newsworthy moments to watch:
Highlight of the day is the big 40th anniversary panel at 11 a.m. ET, hosted by Wicket (Warwick Davis) himself alongside Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. Confirmed guests include Billy Dee Williams, Mark Hamill and Hayden Christensen.
That’s right — Luke Skywalker and Anakin Skywalker will be appearing together for the first time since this happened. It might get awkward, but let’s hope they hug it out.
If you’re looking for Han Solo movie details, they might come during this panel — or Lucasfilm might be keeping its powder dry until the very last day of Celebration, as it did last year in London when Alden Ehrenreich was announced as the young smuggler.
“As is tradition,” a Disney rep tells us, the big Thursday panel “will undoubtedly include many not-to-be-missed surprises.”
Thursday night sees the fan-organized “Drowning in Moonlight” gala to commemorate Carrie Fisher, who coined that phrase as part of her desired obituary. Anyone who hasn’t shed a tear by this point, at least over the little girls cosplaying Princess Leia, has a heart made of purest kyber crystal.
Grab your oldest lightsaber and get excited — it’s time to learn more about The Last Jedi.
Kathleen Kennedy and director Rian Johnson are the only officially announced guests for this 11 a.m. ET panel, but if you believe that’s it, I’ve got some Alderaanian real estate to sell you.
Expect Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill at the bare minimum; John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are also likely, not to mention BB-8 and the new R2-D2, Jimmy Vee.
Laura Dern just happens to be in Orlando, so presumably we’ll learn more about her mystery character.
The all-important questions, of course: Will we get our first Last Jedi trailer? And will every fan in the world be able to see it?
The record on this score is mixed. At Celebration Anaheim in 2014, the first full-length Force Awakens trailer wowed a capacity crowd and was instantly released online. But last year in London, Lucasfilm only released a sizzle reel for Rogue One — which, we now know, was in the middle of some serious reshoots.
That’s what they officially released to the wider world; those of us in the audience got to see some footage from the film, after being threatened with single reactor ignitions if we videoed it. It’s possible something similar could happen Friday.
Later in the day comes a “making of Rogue One” panel; director Gareth Edwards insists there are still secrets to be discovered about the movie, although he won’t be on hand to dispense them. And it’s time to weep again in the afternoon as Mark Hamill presents his own special tribute to his former on-screen sister Carrie Fisher.
The big reveal of the EA videogame Star Wars Battlefront II has been somewhat spoiled by an early leak. But we’re still eager to learn more details — who is that Imperial soldier in the trailer, anyway? Is that really Yoda fighting Darth Maul?
Still completely under wraps is the first episode of Star Wars Rebels Season 4, which will be screened Saturday morning. The big mystery is whether this is the end of the line for the Disney XD animated show, now that it’s crawling closer and closer to the events of Rogue One and A New Hope.
Rebels boss Dave Filoni, he of the cowboy hat and laconic drawl, will be on-hand to dispense minimal details. If there’s an animated series underway to replace Rebels, he’ll tell us about it. Maybe.
Otherwise, it’s the weekend! With more attendees expected, Celebration takes on more of a family feel. From cosplay contests to droid-building workshops to a “Whose Line Is It Alderaan” improv game, there’s no shortage of events to amuse you. Or vendors to lighten your wallet.
If we haven’t heard or seen a thing about the Han Solo movie by this point, perhaps we’ll catch a glimpse of everyone’s favorite scoundrel during the hourlong “Closing Ceremony” at 4 p.m. ET. Perhaps we’ll even get some news on the next “Anthology” movie after Han Solo.
But the odds are against it — many fans will have bolted for home or nearby Disney World at this point, and Disney doesn’t even have the closing ceremony on its guide for bloggers. The only likely news? The location of the next Celebration in that far, far away year of 2019.
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