Let’s Talk Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (Part 1)

A Rundown of the Star Wars Celebrations Episode IX Panel and What Mattered to Us

It’s 12 midnight here (GMT+8) and the anticipation has peaked. Hosted by Singapore’s very own homegrown, LucasFilm recognised, Star Wars fan group FightSaber, this gathering of fans is the calm before the Force Storm. It would be today that we finally catch the first glimpse of Star Wars: Episode IX!

For the Episode IX Teaser, Head Here!

The geeking out and mingling over the last few hours suspends into a momentary silence before the surprisingly thunderous applause of what might seem as so few a people compared to the masses in Chicago. But make no mistake, there’s no such thing as a “small group of fans.” All that mattered was that we were there, and we loved Star Wars.

The 15’000 km gap between us and Star Wars Celebration is bridged with the dedication of the organisers and the Force… of the internet. And typical network issues aside, we were going to witness the epicness of the name-still-unknown Episode IX panel… ideally with the help of Stephen Colbert.

Opening with his own Colbert strain of geekiness, both refreshing and comfortingly familiar, his first guests on the panel are the now iconic J. J. Abrams and the legendary Kathleen Kennedy.

The filter between Disney and LucasFilm, Kennedy’s six-and-a-half-year presidency has ushered a new golden age of Star Wars in film and multimedia, arguably achieving heights beyond George Lucas himself. Yes, I know I’m gonna get haters for that statement, and I feed on it.

She’s accompanied by J. J. Abrams, the once captain of Star Trek‘s own similar return to the big screens, albeit six years ahead of Star Wars‘. With the undertaking of Episode IX, Abrams joins George Lucas himself as the only director to have helmed more than one entry of the saga.

But being “iconic” or “legendary” mean little when the next guest is both. The man behind and beyond C-3PO, Anthony Daniels holds the singular credit of having acted in every Star Wars Episode to date. Accompanied by a remote-controlled R2-D2, Daniels’ physicality comes through on stage, making it easy to see how he’s made a metal suit and mask as expressive as any other character.

Commanding the audience with little trouble, Daniels’ reveals that his memoirs, to be published by longtime Star Wars associated publishers DK, would be revealed on day three of the event at the much teased Booth #3018.

Unfortunately, his originally proposed title for the book, “Telling the Odds,” was turned down due to concerns that the public will not understand it. To which I must reiterate an early statement of Stephen Colbert: “And if you don’t understand what I just said what are you doing here?!”

UPDATE: The name of the memoirs has been revealed to be I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story.

As cute as the reference is, I think the publishers should have used Daniel’s original suggestion.

And if Daniels hasn’t already rekindled the nostalgic power of Star Wars, Colbert’s announcing of Billy Dee Williams certainly gets the job done. While having been a significant character in the recent Solo: A Star Wars Story, as played by Donald Glover, the contemporary Lando Calrissian has been conspicuous only by his absence from the new trilogy.

Sauntering on with all of his Billy Dee-ness, it’s still easy to see how he was once the man behind the Falcon. It’s also a painful reminder that the end of the Skywalker saga was nigh. With both Han and Luke having passed away, and the inevitable passing on of Princess Leia, Lando is an anchor to the Original Trilogy. And while I’m somewhat sure that his survival is secure (lest it look like killing him for the sake of it), it still increases the impact of the upcoming loss.

Thankfully, thoughts of Princess Leia’s passing are interrupted with the announcement of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, BB-8 and the introduction of Naomi Ackie, a newcomer to the series.

Naomi’s appearance instantly creates an uproar of thoughts, as would any newcomer to a franchise as anticipated and established as Star Wars. From the painfully predictable exclamations like “Lando’s daughter!” to the more out-there theories such as “Admiral Thrawn’s sister-in-law,” the character was certainly the topic of the minute. After all, while the other nine panelists were somewhat expected, the tenth hot seat had been a puzzler for a good half hour.

All we’re given is that her character’s name is Jannah, and that she (like most) assumes that it wouldn’t be unlikely for the charismatic Lando to have a galaxy’s worth of progeny. And that she has a killer wardrobe.

But the moment that captures all that is great with Star Wars is the explosive chanting of Kelly Marie Tran’s name, drowning out any opportunity for speech.

Be it spurred by the guilt of morons who threw uncalled-for hate at the actress, or genuine love for who might easily be the most genuinely enthusiastic actor in the history of Star Wars (since maybe Samuel L. Jackson), Tran is now an inadvertent icon for the division in the Star Wars fandom.

Having become the face of everything some hated about The Last Jedi, Tran was the victim of disgusting vitriol from the degenerates hiding within the Star Wars fandom. Eventually pushing her to the point of departing social media, especially tragic given that her emergence coincided with her casting, Tran has also become a rallying point of sorts. In what might be applicable across all fandoms, Kelly Marie Tran’s experience is inspiration for people who understood that (a) a character and the actor are not one and the same, and (b) that inclusion went beyond fetishising Twi’leks… or Toydarians, if you’re into that sorta thing.

The catharsis of the moment is sealed with Abrams declaring his thanks to the almost equally maligned Rian Johnson for the casting of Kelly Marie Tran. If there’s anything that would complete a Star Wars experience, it would be the leaders of the franchise essentially disavowing the bigotry lurking within this community.

Taking the conversation back to Abrams, Colbert playfully asks the director if he might have a little something for the audience. And boy, did he.

Head over to Part 2 for some thoughts on the Episode IX teaser!