Comic-Con 2015: Was 'Star Wars' panel worth the wait?

The most-anticipated panel at this year’s Comic-Con was for 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' – and it appears that the event did not disappoint.

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP­
Carrie Fisher (l.), Mark Hamill (c.), and Harrison Ford attend Lucasfilm's 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' panel on day 2 of Comic-Con International on Friday in San Diego, Calif.

Two days.

That’s how long some fans waited in line outside the San Diego Convention Center’s famous Hall H in anticipation of the Comic-Con panel for the “Star Wars” sequel, “The Force Awakens,” set for release in December.

“People began lining up Wednesday morning with foldable chairs, packaged food and bottled beverages, full-blown camping gear and as much fandom as they could muster to hold them over until the doors of the mammoth auditorium hall opened early Friday,” CNET’s Nick Statt reported.

The question is, was the panel worth the wait?

Given that the filmmakers spilled some juicy new details, Harrison Ford made a surprise appearance, and the audience was treated to a concert at the end of the day, it may be safe to say that heck, yeah, it was.

Here’s a rundown of the day’s top moments:

Behind-the-scenes footage

Fans would have been bummed at director J.J. Abrams’ announcement that the next new trailer wouldn’t be out until the fall – if he and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy hadn’t presented an incredible 4-minute video that featured behind-the-scenes footage from the set of “The Force Awakens.”

The video, now available online, gives fans a glimpse of new technology and characters, as well as practical effects and beloved cast members such as Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill.

“You've been here, but you don't know this story,” Mr. Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy, says in the video. “Nothing’s changed, really. I mean, everything’s changed but nothing’s changed.

“That’s the way you want it to be, really,” he adds.

Solo surprise

Speaking of old favorites, Harrison Ford’s surprise appearance – his first time in public since crash-landing his plane on a Los Angeles golf course in March – was met with a standing ovation.

When panel host Chris Hardwick asked how he was, Mr. Ford replied with a simple, “I’m fine,” The Guardian reported. He was, however, more voluble on the subject of his much-loved character, the roguish smuggler Han Solo.

“I never thought that [the film] would come back to bless me rather than haunt me,” Ford said. “I was very gratified when I read the [new] script. I read something that I thought was really remarkable, really well-written, with some very intriguing developments and I was very happy to be a part of the story.”

New villains

No “Star Wars” discussion would be complete without a glimpse of the Dark Side, and again, Mr. Abrams and company did not disappoint. Gwendoline Christie, Adam Driver, and Domhnall Gleeson – all of whom will be playing one baddie or another – were all in attendance, and “did their best not to spill any secrets,” Yahoo! Entertainment’s Marcus Errico wrote.

Ms. Christie, who plays Brienne of Tarth in “Game of Thrones,” will again armor up in “The Force Awakens” as the chrome trooper Captain Phasma. During the panel, she applauded Abrams and screenwriter Lawrence Kasden’s decision not to sexualize her character, Time magazine reported.

“I found it exciting that there was a female storm trooper, but it was also this opportunity to explore a female character that’s totally not about the way she looks,” Christie said. “I just thought it was exciting that underneath that armor was a woman.”

Mr. Driver, who stars in the HBO series, “Girls,” waxed philosophical about the meaning of evil when discussing his character, Kylo Ren.

“We didn’t have a lot of discussions about ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ when we were shooting,” he said. “It was more, what do you think is the difference between being bad, and being right?”

As for Mr. Gleeson: “I am evil,” he said of his character, General Hux. “He’s British, so yeah.”

Follow the Stormtroopers

To close out the panel, Abrams invited the audience to join him and the cast for an evening of “Star Wars”-themed music.

“We are literally all going to walk to a location together and experience a ‘Star Wars’ concert tonight,” the director said, before distributing “Star Wars” lanyards to the roughly 6,500 people in attendance. “We only have room for all of you.”

Appropriately, a group of Stormtroopers led the crowd to Embarcadero Park, about half a mile away from the convention center. There, fans were given special passes that could be traded for a toy lightsaber, before being treated to 30 minutes of “Star Wars” music from the San Diego Symphony.

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