Movie News & Reviews

‘Star Wars’ fan excitement ‘Awakens’ at convention

•  New teaser trailer reveals old, new characters

• Fans travel from around the globe for Star Wars Celebration

• New cast overwhelmed by thunderous welcome from fans

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Anticipation for the new “Star Wars” feature film kicked into light speed this weekend with Star Wars Celebration. After months of tidbits and vague reports, fans finally got to hear director J.J. Abrams talk about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Only the explosion of the Death Star was bigger than the reaction by the fans at the Anaheim Convention Center Thursday, April 16, to the second teaser trailer and new tidbits revealed during the appearance by director Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. The four-day Star Wars Celebration wraps Sunday, April 19.

Abrams understands the fan excitement.

“I’m sure like many of you the experience I had seeing ‘Star Wars’ for the first time was mind-blowing,” Abrams said. “I was 11 years old when it came out and 11 is a great age to have your mind blown. I will never forget that feeling of seeing ‘Long time ago, in a galaxy, far, far away’ fade out. It was the first time a movie made me believe in another world that way.”

It’s that passion that also made Abrams initially balk at directing the next film in the “Star Wars” saga. In the end, he decided the opportunity outweighed the risk.

He had a good reason to be concerned. Abrams takes over a franchise that arguably lost some of its magic with the release of the trilogy that started with “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.” Despite being directed by series creator George Lucas, the three films are generally considered a letdown from the original trilogy that started in 1977 with “Star Wars: A New Hope.”

Abrams has experience re-booting a popular series, which he did with the “Star Trek” franchise. His biggest advantage with “The Force Awakens” is that it is not a prequel, like the previous trilogy, which means he can bring back characters like Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.

The actors from the original cast understand the rabid fandom associated with the franchise. It’s been bit of an awakening for the stars of “Episode 7.” The new cast introduced at the convention, included: Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Fin) and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron). Fans gave them — and four of the actors from the original movies, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew — thunderous applause.

“I was excited about making the movie, but I’m even more excited about it now,” Ridley said.

Security remains tight around “The Force Awakens,” but a few more tidbits have been revealed.

Boyega’s character of Fin — the first face seen in the first teaser trailer — is seen in a Stormtrooper’s outfit. There’s been much speculation about his role: Is he an escaped Stormtrooper? An undercover spy? Boyega reveals his character is a Stormtrooper.

And, Isaac reveals his Poe Dameron is “the best pilot in the galaxy,” who is sent on a mission by “a queen” and becomes friends with Fin.

Fans are eager for more details. But except for Carrie Fisher stressing she will not wear bun-shaped hair, the rest of the film remains under a shroud of secrecy.

The “Star Wars” fan base is multigenerational, which is apparent at the convention.

Diana Davenport and her family came from North Carolina. She was on the convention floor with her children Cam, 9 (dressed like an Ewok because “they are cuddly,”), and Avery, 13 (wearing an outfit that was part Boba Fett and part Ghostbusters). They didn’t manage to secure a ticket to hear from the director, producer and stars.

“I think my husband was in there,” Diana Davenport says.

They join thousands of other fans wandering aisles filled with hundreds of dealers this weekend. You can buy an original Jawa action figure for $2,000, get your favorite characters tattooed on your arm, buy a toaster that looks like Darth Vader’s head or get autographs of actors who appeared in the films.

Tickets are available for Saturday and Sunday at www.starwarscelebration.com.

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