Star Wars Explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Star Wars shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. In this entry, we’re wishing John Williams a very happy birthday alongside Harrison Ford and a few thousand Star Wars Celebration attendees.
If you’ve been to one convention panel, you’ve kinda been to them all. The moderator takes the stage; the crowd offers moderate applause. The real guests take the stage; the crowd gets a little rowdier. Footage is shown. The footage goes online seconds later. Wash, rinse, and repeat three or four times before your time in the hall is over and you shuffle back outside.
As usual, Lucasfilm’s Studio Showcase launched Star Wars Celebration this year. The energy, though, was a little different this year. First off, it’s been three years since we’ve had one of these things. Those in attendance have been jonesing for this gathering. Frankly, whatever they showed us probably would have sent us into a jittery frenzy. Easy marks, the lot of us.
Secondly, the world outside the Anaheim Convention Center is becoming increasingly scarier. Our daily dread was underscored when host Yvette Nicole Brown initiated the panel by clearing the air. She offered hope, proclaiming our shared Star Wars experience today as a “small escape from the realities of the world.” At least, in George Lucas‘ galaxy, we can celebrate simple good triumphing over even simpler evil.
The somber prologue almost knocked the wind from my sails, but then Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen rolled in as John Williams‘ “Duel of the Fates” roared out of an in-person chorus. As Brown promised, the outside vanished, and the geeky panacea took over.
One cool Star Wars announcement came after another. Andor season one is comin’ packed with twelve episodes, and another twelve episodes will follow nearly immediately. Ron Howard and Warwick Davis will finally deliver their Willow sequel, but as a Disney+ series, not a feature. Ahsoka and The Mandalorian season three will happen in 2023; no surprise there, but Jon Watts dropped Fantastic Four so he could give us a kids-starring, but not a kiddie Star Wars show called Skeleton Crew?! Okay, that’s a little weird, but you gotta be into it, right? The Goonies in space? Yes, please.
All that, however, was a snack, digested quickly and nearly forgotten once Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy returned to the stage for her killer closer. She started by acknowledging John Williams as a living legend, having recently enjoyed his ninetieth birthday back in February. She said it would be wrong to bring Obi-Wan Kenobi back to screens without providing the character with a new theme, and only Williams could satisfy such a feat.
The wall behind Kennedy parted, and an orchestra emerged below the massive convention screen. We would be the first to hear the new TV theme, and Williams himself would conduct it. When the composer came around the corner, the audience exploded with one guy directly behind me screaming, “Oh my god! Oh my god!” The Beatles, who? Elvis, who?
The Obi–Wan Kenobi theme offers a slow, somber, whispering vibe. It’s in conversation with Williams’ music for the original trilogy, something not too apart from Luke Skywalker’s “Binary Sunset.” After all, before the kid ever took in those Tatooine twin suns, Obi-Wan certainly stared them down. John Williams provides the bridge between the failed teacher and the promising student-to-be.
Absorbing the performance, satisfaction took hold. Yeah, this is what Star Wars should sound like. Here, John Williams took us to class and every composer who came after him.
The crowd was ready for the rapture, but Williams put a stop to that fairly quickly. He explained there was a different Lucasfilm theme he’d been thinking about a lot lately, and he wanted to play a little. Before a note was struck, those around me already knew what was coming – “Indiana Jones.”
Sure enough, the Obi–Wan theme made way for the “Raiders March,” and the room ate it up. Then, Harrison Ford sauntered on stage, and they – I mean, we – lost it. Maybe some had an inkling that he would arrive with word of Indiana Jones 5, but one should not hope for such things. And we couldn’t have imagined how he would appear and pay tribute to the man who gave Star Wars and Dr. Jones their sound, their mood, and their cool.
Ford spoke about how the “Raiders March” follows him wherever he goes. His biggest laugh scored when describing its placement during his last colonoscopy, which he assured us, he passed. As the actor pushed further into his praise of John Williams and the soundtrack he’s layered upon our lives, a tremble attached to his words.
The actor put his back to the audience, and he faced Williams. We seemed to fade away. Suddenly, a few thousand flies were on the wall, just observing.
“We all know about what John does musically,” said Ford, “but you may not know, what I’ve come to really appreciate, is the warmth, the generosity, the boyish spirit of this man. The most gracious man, the gentlest, kindest man, and a wonderful, wonderful talent. And we’re blessed, all of us.”
If Ford had not allowed the audience to punctuate that last sentence with a howl, he probably would have broken down into proper, sobbing tears. A few around couldn’t resist the urge, and yeah, I caught a little dust in the eye too. Ford steadied himself, confirmed the near completion of Indiana Jones 5 with director James Mangold, and gave us a release date: June 30th, 2023.
Throughout his career, Ford has caught a rep as a distant celebrity. Since returning to Star Wars in The Force Awakens, he’s seemingly opened his heart to the franchise. He speaks of the generosity and graciousness of John Williams, but in giving his love to the legendary composer, he revealed equal compassion.
For a roomful of Star Wars nerds, it felt like a moment. The fans will always get giddy or weepy for their fictional galaxy, and they want that from the creators who birthed it, but sometimes they don’t see it, or they cynically don’t believe it is possible. The quivering realness from Harrison Ford, given to John Williams, suggests that the OG participants are leveling up their own fandom. Ford is no longer too cool. He feels us in that room and we feel him.
Total, undeniable unity at Star Wars Celebration. You can’t find it anywhere else. But maybe we could try a little harder to carry the sensation into the halls beyond the convention.