It’s crazy when the stories you loved as a kid become the content you cover for work as a professional with a career who does things professionally. It’s a curious balance that you have to find when you’re a fan and a reporter/journalist/critic/etc. at a time. For me, senior reporter/producer for Decider, covering Star Wars Celebration was a job – a mission. Of course, I haven’t covered a convention in over two years — so I forgot the magic of [gestures emphatically] all that.
The Lucasfilm Studio Showcase — the driest name you can give to a fandom-affirming stunt show — reminded me why I love Star Wars. I went into the experience more concerned with getting the convention center Wi-Fi working, and left an emotional wreck with tear stains on my face mask. Such is the power of Star Wars, and I was silly to forget it.
I should have known it was going to be special considering that this “studio showcase” basically opened with a stage covered in smoke and a literal choir, bathed in red light, singing “Duel of the Fates” as Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen took the stage. I don’t know why I expected less from this panel, because you know Star Wars is going to pull stunts from the jump – and that moment, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker’s on-stage reunion, was just the first in a series of fan frenzy moments.
There have been a lot of announcements, like a release date and a trailer for Andoras well as images of the next willow series as well as a sizzle coil for The Mandalorian Season 3. You can read all about it here, and you can find breakdowns of the footage that was shown. on Twitter. These are the rudimentary facts, details every bit as raw as the name of this panel. What none of this captures, however, is the mood in the room – the feeling of hundreds…maybe thousands? The celebration scene is literally an arena, after all – of people from around the world and a thousand walks of life who come together to lose their ever-loving minds over a space saga. Trust me: you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a bunch of Star Wars fans swinging lightsabers to the beat of LMFAO.
But maybe I should talk about the footage because, as a sometimes jaded critic of pop culture, it really gave me confidence in what’s to come in the Star Wars TV verse. The diversity of upcoming projects is reassuring and gratifying. Andor in particular stands out from the rest as the kind of macabre thriller you’d expect from Tony Gilroy, the guy behind the Bourne franchise. What really struck me, however, was the title sequence – a booming, ominous score set against images of the logo slowly appearing, piece by piece. It looked incredibly like aliens austere opening titles, and the rest of from Andor the images have kept this tone. It’s a tone we haven’t really seen in Star Wars. It’s like A thug, but composed. This is Rogue One-ier.
And the mandalorian Pictures from season 3? It just hammered home how invested I am in these characters that aren’t new anymore. The promise of seeing Mandalore live, an increased role for Katee Sackhoff’s Bo-Katan, increased stakes and maybe – maybe! – serialized storytelling… it angers me that the series won’t come out until 2023. Oh – and Spider Man director Jon Watts doing an adventure series about a group of kids lost in the galaxy and trying to get home? We only saw one piece of promotional art, but if Star Wars: Skeleton Crew is the franchise stranger things, then I will be more than happy. Please let “kids on fast bikes” be a new subgenre!
But the real moments, the “I can’t believe I’m here for this” moments are what make Star Wars Celebration special (or so I guess, since it’s my first) . When Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy took the stage to reveal that John Williams had composed a new piece of music, a theme for Obi-Wan Kenobi (the character and the series), I felt that in my heart. When he appeared on stage, when we all – collectively, everyone in the arena – realized we were going to hear new John Williams music performed live and conducted by John Williams? It’s a magical feeling, when a stadium full of supporters immediately falls silent, captivated by the attention and fully aware that they are witnessing something they will probably never see again.
Hearing all this music, seeing John Williams conduct it… Music is a path to memory. It’s a shortcut to emotion. Hearing all of this, the Obi-Wan theme (which sounds like an opening to Star Wars as a franchise, as if we’ve just discovered the piece of music that Williams took inspiration from to create the full score that we know ) and the imperial march…it took me back to being a lonely freshman, watching The Empire Strikes Back on VHS on repeat every weekend. From now to now, to being in the room where this magic was happening? Sometimes life is beautiful.
And then Harrison Ford came along and I – like everyone else – lost my mind.
But that’s Star Wars magic, and it’s magic that I try to preserve even though it’s literally my job. It’s a testament to how unique this saga is, even after becoming a defining cultural force, and how it inspires such intimate and personal reactions from the billions of people who love it. I don’t know where this magic comes from, or why this magic exists, but it’s like the Force. It surrounds and binds us, inexplicably, and this corporate presentation made it all incredibly real to me. I’m glad that’s the case.
So let this be a lesson: never let a panel’s title fool you into thinking it can’t completely turn you into a kid again.