Thursday, April 16, 2015

Star Wars Celebration Day Zero - From Despair to Joy

Day Zero - 11pm.

 I've just gotten out of a far-too-expensive cab ride, and checked into my hotel. I received a text message while one the flight - one of my friends was incredible enough to head down to the line at 9pm, two hours ago, to get us a spot in the room for the Celebration Opening Ceremonies. So I grab my camera, ask the front desk for directions, and start walking.

Almost immediately outside my hotel, I run into two guys dressed as Jedi. And I know this is going to be good.

The rest of the walk is brisk, and finding the convention center is not too hard once I figure out where to turn. I reach the convention center, and find myself face to face with two very tired sand troopers.

After a quick check on directions, I find my way into the convention center's line hall, where all of us are gathered to await the next day. I had just missed getting my hands on one of two hundred free pizzas - JJ Abrams and Katheleen Kennedy had called a local pizza place ten minutes to closing and made the poor bastards get us all pizza. It sounds like it was wonderful.

At some point during the night, Master of Ceremonies and Voice of Obi-wan James Arnold Taylor walks the line, dispensing conversation, hugs and pictures. It is wonderful.

I immediately find a bed on the cold hard concrete and make the best of it. While my sleep is fitful, I tell myself it's going to be worth it come tomorrow.

Day One - 4am

I awake, grab a cheap hamburger for breakfast and hitting the rest room. A few more fits and starts of naps, and soon the organizers begin trying to turn the sprawling mass of humanity into something resembling a line. We're told to get up, grab our stuff, and get closer together. When we're done, it's 6am, still three hours until we'd be let into the hall. There's no room to sit or lay down. Despair begins to set in on the line. All of my friends begin to wonder aloud if this was worth it.

At 9am, after three hours of entertaining ourselves, a cheer goes up from the front. They are letting us in. The lines begin to empty, one by one. We're hustled out the door, with only a second glance to look back at the mess we'd made.

Then, the moment arrives. We're shuffled into the arena. The crowd is pumped up by a DJ and a man with a Fully Armed and Operational T-shirt Cannon. The moment arrives.

For the next hour, we are treated to an explosion of beautiful sights. First, J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy appear, assuring us that our beloved franchise is in the right hands. Kathleen was hand picked by Lucas to be his successor, and she promises on stage that she's doing everything she can to make sure females are more represented in the Star Wars Universe. They mention the last time they were at Celebration, and how impressed they were with the R2D2 builders. So they hired two of them.

Out comes the actual, screen used R2-D2 robot. After a moment of interviews and discussing their methods with the crowds, the droid builders then bring out BB-8, to thunderous applause. I spent ten minutes staring at that little wheel droid live. It's real, and it moves exactly like it should. I have no idea how they did it.

Then, we're on to the cast. John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Issac take the stage for a mini interview with JJ and Kennedy. We learn that Boyega's character is a Stormtrooper, and that Ridley's character lives and works in a starship scrapyard. The two of them run into Issac's X-wing Pilot, who is, according to Issac, the best in the galaxy and sent on a personal mission from Princess Leia.

Finally, the host announces we'll be seeing some familiar faces. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, and Peter Mayhew appear. Mayhew is walking with his cane and a little help from Hamill, and is as tall as Hamill while sitting down. It's a great site to see. All four give beautiful, moving speeches about how much they appreciate and love the Star Wars fandom.

The whole cast poses for a picture.

Then they show us that trailer. I sob like a little baby both times.

My friends and I walk bewildered out into a sun we didn't know was up yet. We turn to each other, eyes red and faces beaming.

That was absolutely worth it.

Mike Fatum is the Editor in Chief and one of the Podcast Hosts for the Ace of Geeks.

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