San Diego’s Comic-Con 2015 is now, as they say, history, but one thing is certain. Walt Disney Pictures’ Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens is in a heated publicity battle with Warner Bros.’ Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice. And if the fans’ reaction to the rival studios’ campaigns at the California geek-fest is any indication, the Force is stronger than the combined powers of the Caped Crusader and Superman.
According to the Guardian’s Monday post-convention report, director J.J. Abrams’ highly anticipated sequel to 1983’s Star Wars – Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and Zach Snyder’s second installment in the Man of Steel series had the most attended panels at Comic-Con 2015. But thanks to Disney-owned Lucasfilm’s less is more marketing strategy, Star Wars – Episode VII got more fans excited than the Henry Cavill – Ben Affleck comic book saga.
Per The Guardian, Abrams’ presentation for The Force Awakens was the big draw at the convention’s first major panel, which was held on Friday. He gave fans a making-of video which emphasized Abrams’ use of old-school practical special techniques similar to those used by Star Wars creator George Lucas in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In the nearly four minute-long Star Wars Comic-Con reel, the filmmaker reveals that most of the film was shot on real sets and used miniatures, models, and other methods instead of computer generated imagery, which many fans consider “lifeless.”
In addition, Disney went the extra hyperspace jump to increase fan excitement for The Force Awakens by surprising fans with an unannounced concert of John Williams’ Star Wars music, performed by the San Diego Symphony Orchestra.
According to The Verge’s Bryan Bishop and Kwame Opam, Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars panel was “the most magical event of Comic-Con.”
The 6,500 fans who attended the Star Wars panel in Hall H not only saw Abrams’ video presentation. They also saw some of The Force Awakens’ major cast members, including Adam Driver, Gwendoline Christie, and Classic Trilogy veterans Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford.
Driver and Christie gave their first public presentation on what it was like to work with J.J. Abrams on Episode VII, which is set 30 years after the events in 1983’s Return of the Jedi.
Later, Ford, who earned a rare standing ovation when he arrived in Hall H, “reminisced with Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.”
Opam said, “You can always be cynical (or at least on-guard for Brand Infiltration)…. But Friday was an acknowledgment that fans love this stuff and have loved it for years. Extraordinary care was made to make the concert an event worth being at, and deference was paid to what makes the series great. How could you not feel something when Harrison Ford hugged it out with Mark Hamill? It really makes you want to believe that love conquered commerce.”
As for the Star Wars Comic-Con reel, it follows Lucasfilm’s tradition of teasing viewers with tantalizing glimpses at that galaxy far, far away without giving away any of the top secret plot. It’s essentially a behind-the-scenes featurette along the lines of 1999’s “Duel of the Fates” video, with emphasis on Abrams’ choice to use practical effects instead of overusing CGI effects.
Per Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, Abrams’ Comic-Con reel suggests that The Force Awakens will be more connected to the beloved Classic Trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi) than George Lucas’s less beloved Prequel Trilogy.
“The real potency of the new Star Wars films – the so-called “sequel trilogy” – is that unlike the prequels, which took us far from the familiar, the new films will return us, at least as the story kicks off, to places we know, and to people we trust,” Michael Idato wrote in his shot-by-shot analysis of the Star Wars Comic-Con reel.
The Force Awakens will introduce an organization called the First Order as the former Rebel Alliance’s new adversaries in a post-Imperial galaxy. Though it’s not as dominant as the old Galactic Empire which Darth Vader served in the Classic Trilogy, it fields an army of modernized stormtroopers and uses some of the Empire’s surviving Star Destroyers.
According to Idato, the Empire’s iconic TIE fighters will also play a prominent role in the First Order’s attempt to challenge the former Rebels.
“They largely look like the old TIE fighters, which at first glance is a little underwhelming,” Imperato said. “The name, incidentally, is an acronym for Twin Ion Engines, the propulsion system used in them. The new TIE fighters have one change, a red mark on the hull, presumably to identify them as fighters from the First Order.”
Meanwhile, in addition to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and its two sequels, Disney is producing a series of stand-alone films set around the same period as the Classic Trilogy. Star Wars: Rogue One will delve into how the Rebels stole the plans to the Empire’s dreaded Death Star. A second Star Wars Anthology film will tell Han Solo’s back story.