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7 things we learned from today’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi panel

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Director Rian Johnson spills some secrets

Lucasfilm / Walt Disney Studios

We’re just 8 months away from the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but Disney and Lucasfilm had released absolutely nothing about the upcoming film — until today. During the highlight panel of Star Wars Celebration, writer-director Rian Johnson, producer Kathleen Kennedy, and a selection of the film’s cast took the stage to discuss what is in store for audiences in the continuing adventure of Luke Skywalker and Rey... well, Rey Somebody.

There was a lot to discuss — including the new trailer — and we’ve put together the most essential moments and revelations from today’s panel. If you’re looking for your Last Jedi Cliff’s Notes, you’ve come to the right place.

Lucasfilm / Walt Disney Studios

Luke may not live up to expectations

While Daisy Ridley wouldn’t reveal any spoilers about The Last Jedi, she did state that the film will dive deeper into Rey’s story. It’s obvious from the way The Force Awakens ended that Rey has certain expectations as to what she’s going to get from Luke. Ridley explained. However, she cautioned that meeting one’s hero isn’t always a positive experience. They can disappoint, she said, lending credence to the idea that Luke may not be up to the challenge of training Rey after losing control of his burgeoning Jedi students.

The comments become even clearer in the context of the new trailer, which ends with Luke standing at a cave entrance, saying flat-out: “It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

Lucasfilm / Walt Disney Studios

BB-8 is the Buster Keaton of The Last Jedi

The breakout character of Force Awakens for many was the new droid, BB-8, and it’s clear that audiences will be getting as much of him as possible in The Last Jedi. Johnson said that the best advice he got before starting the project was from J.J. Abrams’ editors, who told him that you can never have enough BB-8 — and that they were right. In fact, Johnson described BB-8 as “the Buster Keaton of this movie,” promising many comedic flourishes and beats throughout the film.

There’s a new heroine on the scene

Most of the people at the panel today were ones we’d already seen: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Mark Hamill. But Johnson seemed perhaps most excited to introduce an actor that’s entirely new to the franchise: Kelly Marie Tran. She plays Rose, a maintenance worker for the Resistance that finds herself wrapped up in a whirlwind adventure. Johnson described how the earlier films had been so resonant because they let audiences understand what it would be like to be swept into a world and story larger than themselves, and that’s the exact challenge Rose ends up facing.

As for Kelly Marie Tran herself, she struck a strikingly earnest tone, describing the responsibility she felt becoming part of the series. “It’s incredible,” she explained. “So many people tell you what this is going to feel like, and you just hear so much excitement and so much love for this thing, and you just want to do it justice.”

Johnson first bonded with Carrie Fisher as a writer

As most things have at Celebration, the discussion today turned towards Carrie Fisher. “I love her, man,” Johnson told the crowd, saying that he first bonded with her as a writer. He described how he went to her house while he was getting the script in shape, and sat on her bed while they would read over pages and discuss the various scenes. At the end of hours of conversation, they’d sometimes end up with just a few words, but those words would distill the meaning of the chats they’d had. And like so many others, he noted Fisher’s incredible sense of humor.

We probably already know the opening shot

Okay, this one is a bit of inference, but it seems like a pretty safe bet. We’ve already learned that The Last Jedi will pick up almost exactly where The Force Awakens ended, which seemed a little odd given that the Star Wars films all open with an iconic shot of a field of stars. In the disturbing new trailer, we likely see exactly how Johnson is solving that problem. We see what appears to be a field of stars... but is slowly revealed to be ground, upon which a strained Rey has placed her hand for support.

Given that discussion in the trailer of visualizing The Force — and of light and darkness — the star field could in fact by Rey’s visualization of The Force, with different points of light peeking out from the darkness.

Image: Lucasfilm / Walt Disney Studios

The First Order isn’t wasting any time

While Starkiller Base was destroyed at the end of The Force Awakens, the weapon had already done extensive damage by destroying the capital of the Republic. According to Johnson, that’s led to an incredible amount of chaos in the galaxy, and the First Order is wasting no time in jumping in to take advantage. “Very aggressively,” Johnson said, “not sitting on their hands. They’re making some big moves at the start of the film.”

In some of the ancillary novels, it was made clear that General Leia had been far more concerned about the threat of the First Order than the Republic was — it was why she’d started the Resistance in the first place. With the Republic so unconcerned with the threat that Kylo Ren, Snoke, and General Hux presented, odds are they were not prepared to deal with the cataclysmic destruction Starkiller Base unleashed.

Lucasfilm / Walt Disney Studios

Finn may not be a hero after all

John Boyega was on hand to discuss his character, and while Finn was hurt pretty badly by Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, he reassured the audience that the character would be back. However, he said Finn was facing a unique challenge: understanding where he fit in the galaxy. Boyega took careful pains to state that Finn had to decide whether he wanted to stay with the Resistance, or run away from the First Order. It’s a dilemma that would seem unimaginable after watching the last film, but it infers that Johnson’s take will be a much more morally complex Star Wars than we’ve seen before.