Four decades ago, a “Star Wars” presentation to launch a fan base was a tiny session run on the cheap at San Diego’s Comic-Con. Now, ahead of December’s Episode VIII, it was a four-day blowout in Orlando, Fla., with every hiccup of a half-rumor documented and dissected by international media.
Still, from film to animated series to video game to theme park, “Star Wars” as entertainment provider has the power to surprise and shock and delight. That is what keeps us, per George Lucas’ expressed intent (as he shared over the weekend), transfixed like “12-year-olds.”
Over the past few days, we discovered that the coming “Star Wars” theme parks will offer adventures set in the new trilogy, including a planet not yet seen on screen. We also learned that “Star Wars’” animated “Rebels” will end with Season 4, and that the “Battlefront II” game will play with the notion of traditional light and dark, with elite Imperial soldiers now cast as the good guys.
But the centerpiece of Orlando, of course, was the hotly anticipated next film.
Here are five of the most fascinating things about “Last Jedi” to come out of Florida’s “Star Wars” Celebration:
1. We found out who the “last Jedi” probably is
Ever since the title of Episode VIII was revealed in January, the question has loomed like an Imperial base: Does “The Last Jedi” refer to a singular knight, or are we talking plural here, as in a small army?
“It’s so funny when people started asking that,” director Rian Johnson told ABC News, which shares its Disney parent company with “Star Wars.” “I had never even pondered that question.”
So what’s the verdict, Johnson? “In my mind,” he told ABC, “it’s singular. In my mind it is.”
The director also addressed the identity of the last Jedi – was it Rey (Daisy Ridley), some fans had asked. “As to whether Luke is the ‘Last Jedi,’ they say in ‘The Force Awakens’ he’s going to find the last Jedi temple,” Johnson said, “and Luke is the last Jedi.”
2. The director promises one long crawl
Johnson teased weeks ago that his film would have an opening crawl. Now, the director tells MTV that it’s a whopper.
“Even if (this film) picks up right where the last one left off, there’s still a lot of unanswered questions about what the state of everything is,” he said to MTV at Star Wars Celebration. “We were able to fill three paragraphs.”
3. Legends will fall hard
When “The Force Awakens” ends on that (Irish rock of a) hermit home for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), there are strong echoes of Luke’s first encounter with Yoda. As Rey comes bearing the old lightsaber, we’re led to believe that Luke will likely train Rey in how to use the Force.
Yet the first teaser trailer, unveiled last Friday, suggests that there could be friction – perhaps even anger – in the mentor-mentee relationship, as Luke seems to say it’s time to end the way of the Jedi.
Then, Ridley herself said at SWC that Rey, after years of hearing of Luke’s legend, is due to be disappointed in him. What’s the ol’ saying about meeting your heroes?
4. Carrie Fisher won’t be in it to the end
Carrie Fisher is very much in the “Star Wars” family’s hearts – as Hamill’s tribute to her moved many fans -- but her character won’t be with us come Episode IX. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy confirmed that Fisher – who had finished her “Last Jedi” scenes prior to her death last December -- won’t appear in the last film in this saga, digitally rendered or otherwise.
Johnson, meanwhile, noted that Fisher helped him with some “Last Jedi” dialogue, calling her a “brilliant writer.”
5. There’s a new Resistance character we haven’t seen before
“Star Wars” Celebration brought Kelly Marie Tran, who said she couldn’t tell her family for months that she was shooting a “Star Wars” film.
Tran revealed that she’ll play Rose, a Resistance maintenance worker who looks to be the most high-profile new character added to the main franchise.
Let’s hope she gets her own action figure and game piece soon.