Star Wars Celebration Europe Highlights
Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend the Star Wars Celebration Europe convention in London at the ExCeL center. Even as a casual fan, I had a good time during the 3 day celebration of Star Wars.
Much like SDCC, most of the time is spent in line for panels. I spent roughly 8 hours in line on Friday and Saturday to see what I wanted but it was worth it. On Friday, I attended the “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” panel that featured stars like Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker, Alan Tudyk, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, etc. taking the stage to chat alongside director Gareth Edwards and Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy. The panel, presented by Gwendoline Christie, was easily the most anticipated event of the convention and it was available to everyone via live stream on Youtube. Except for a brand new Rogue One trailer that was only shown to the audience of the main stage in attendance at the event! It appears that the trailer won’t be released online for a currently undetermined amount of time. I glad I got to see it with 4500 fellow fans.
Spoilers ahead if you don’t want to know what is in the trailer.
We get a glimpse of young Jyn Erso as well as seeing Adult Jyn, played by Felicity Jones, in a leadership position. There are a lot of battle shots that give a much darker look than the previous Star Wars movies. We see Imperial officers and Director Krennic (who also made a grand entrance during the panel when Ben Mendelsohn showed up in costume). The last shot we see is a clear reflection of Darth Vader on a shiny floor. Edwards previously talked about working with James Earl Jones and said that hearing him doing the “Darth Vader voice” was a real “nerd-gasm”. This panel was also when Lucasfilm revealed the first poster for the movie. I believe this is the first time a poster breaks the visual identity of the franchise posters.
On Sunday, I got a seat for the Future Filmmakers Discussion panel hosted by Pablo Hidalgo from Lucasfilm Story Group. Together with Kathleen Kennedy, he discussed what the future holds for the Star Wars franchise with Rian Johnson (director of Episode VIII), and Chris Miller & Phil lord (director of untitled Han Solo movie). The directing duo introduced actor Alden Ehrenreich as the new young Han Solo. He was later joined by John Boyega, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill for mini The Force Awakens reunion. I did not get to enter Fisher’s panel earlier that day so seeing her there made my day.
All in all though, those big panels did not offer much new information about future films. I expected a behind-the-scenes video of Episode VIII or more anecdotes but I guess they are keeping most of it for Orlando next year.
There were also unique and interesting exhibits. One of them being the Star Wars High-Performance RC Experience by Propel, a drone manufacturer. Several Propel people piloted famous Star Wars ships at high-speed recreating the Death Star battle in a big hall. On top of that, Lucasfilm brought several costumes from Rogue One. It seems judging them that Rogue One will have a very “dark war movie” feel. My favorite experience was at the ILMxLAB booth where I got to try their Virtual Reality set-up “Trials on Tatooine”. It is a full immersion in the game with headset/headphones and a remote that turned into a light saber once the game started. Being able to stop the Stormtroopers’ blasts with the saber was awesome. It totally made me feel like a Jedi. I am glad they padded the walls of the room I was in because I came close to bumping into them several times! I honestly cannot wait for this technology to evolve and become accessible to everyone because it is quite the experience. Amongst the stands hawking T-shirts and toys, more than a dozen tattoo artists from around the world turned up to ink the crowds in one of the halls. I am a bit weary of needles so I did not stay long but some of the tattoos I saw were quite amazing.
The Star Wars Celebration cosplayers were, as always, amazing with some jaw dropping costumes & makeup. Kudos to them for wearing such heavy costumes and masks when I was already struggling with the heat in jeans & t-shirt. I was extremely happy to see so many kids dressed as Rey. It’s great to see them getting into a positive role model. While the majority of the cosplayers were Star Wars related, I did manage to spot a random Deadpool battling a Jedi with his squeaky rubber chicken. It was quite a sight! Some of my friends cosplayed as Rey, Leia, Mara Jade or Ezra Bridger and I am still amazed at the amount of skills and effort they put into it. It is truly an art.
I did get the feeling from the start that compared to the US Celebrations there were less guests, panels and things revealed. Is Star Wars Celebration outside the US the ugly cousin? It looked as if they did not put that much effort. Maybe it suffers from American companies not being willing to come to non-US Celebrations as it would cost a lot more in logistics. Also the way we got information, schedules, exclusive items list, actors lists… made it seem like a last-minute event rather than a well-oiled machine. For me, one of the big draws was the chance to see some of the cast members and while I got the chance to attend 2 panels with a high density of actors, I am still disappointed that they asked to shell out £145 for a picture/10 seconds interaction with Mark Hamill. Not exactly in my budget. On the other side, the wristband system they put in place for the big panels worked quite well in my opinion. I did wake up early to make sure I got one but I certainly did not have to spend the night in a cold hall sleeping on a concrete floor. In that respect, the SDCC chutes in front of Hall H are a 5 star hotel.
While I really enjoyed my experience at Star Wars Celebration Europe, I will probably avoid the next European Celebrations as I feel like Lucasfilm & Disney do not value this audience as much as the American one. If they keep their schedule of one year Europe, one year USA then I guess Star Wars Celebration 2019 is a go for me.
FroggyFroggy holds a Master of Science degree in Marketing and Management from Dauphine University in Paris. She currently resides in Northern Germany where she works in the Space Industry. On top of covering conventions across Europe for The Geekiary, she’s a sports photographer for Our Game Magazine.
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