Fireworks, lightsabers, Harrison Ford, and that wasn’t even the panel. Yes, Friday night, Lucasfilm and Star Wars did their best to drop the mic on what a San Diego Comic-Con event could possibly be. They threw a free concert for 6,000 fans who had already seen a kick-ass presentation.
We liveblogged the Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel here, and it contained several new pieces of news about the film (Domhnall Gleeson’s character is named General Hux, he works on Starkiller Base, Simon Pegg is an alien, etc.) as well as a chill-inducing behind-the-scenes video. But that was just the start of an unforgettable evening for Star Wars fans.
As the panel ended, director J.J. Abrams said there was one more star of the Star Wars films they wanted to talk about: The music. He explained that every single person in Hall H was invited to a Star Wars concert, right now. Then, somehow, someway, 6000 people quietly filed out of Hall H and calmly walked about a half mile to the San Diego Symphony in the Marina behind the convention center.
It was a happy, excited crowd who lumbered slowly to the venue along a well-organized path laid out by some of San Diego’s finest. Along the way, several dark SUV’s holding the cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens drove by, most of which remained closed. Some didn’t though. Daisy Ridley joyously popped her head out the window at fans and screamed. Mark Hamill reportedly gave high-fives as well.
Upon arriving at the venue, fans were directed to tables where they were each given a free Hasbro light up lightsaber in their choice of colors: red, blue or green. I grabbed mine and headed to my seat amongst the mass of fans posing, laughing, buying concessions and more.
A DJ played Top 40 tracks as the venue filled and the sun slowly set over the San Diego Marina. Just as it got dark, Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy took the stage. They thanked everyone for being so “professional” about the walk and brought out each member of the cast who attended the panel. Fans waved their lightsavers in unison, chanting for each of them. The cast too had their own lightsabers and waved them at the audience. John Boyega even ran out and slapped sabers with the front row and Harrison Ford pretended to use his as a cane.
After taking some photos, the cast left and the show was about to begin. But first a video. It was John Williams, the legendary composer of every live-action Star Wars score, who apologized he couldn’t be there. He said he’s busy working on the new score, but he selected a few of his favorite tracks for the San Diego Symphony to play.
And play them they did. It was your standard greatest hits of the Star Wars universe. Things kicked off with the “Imperial March,” went into “The Asteroid Field”, “Anakin’s Theme” from the prequels, the “Ewoks’ Theme” and, of course, the “Love Theme.” There were a few classics missing, but it was a solid selection, all set to a unique montage of clips from the first six films.
It was then, after a great panel, surprise and concert, that things got turned up a notch. They played a video to thank the fans who continue to celebrate Star Wars at Comic-Con every year, comprised of movie clips and vintage Star Wars Comic-Con footage. As it ended, the first few notes of the iconic Star Wars theme kicked in.
As those first few notes hit, something else hit too: a barge full of fireworks in the marina — timed with John Williams score. The crowd exploded with exuberance. They say the Force flows through you, but it was joy flowing through everyone at that moment. I heard grown men lose their minds all around me as the explosions and music blended in perfect harmony. This went on for a good five minutes until, alas, the hour or so long event came to an end.
Comic-Con is all about spectacle. Raising the bar against your competitors and creating an experience people never forget. Something they will forever associate with your movie. And, this year at Comic-Con, Star Wars did that and more. They took the bar set by other studios in the past and blew it away like the Death Star. Footage and news are one thing, an experience is another—and Star Wars provided an experience unlike anything Comic-Con had ever seen.