The Smallest News from Star Wars Celebration 2023

It’s wonderful that there are still little hidden corners of the franchise, small details and stories within the greater whole, which I can enjoy almost as a cult property...

Star Wars Celebration has now wrapped up its four-day extravaganza in London, and publications are awash with all the biggest news from a galaxy far far away. Three new movies announced; footage of upcoming series shown; castings revealed. But what of the smaller news? The little details overshadowed by the fandom either cheering or bemoaning the larger news items. While these dominate discussions, I thought I’d take a look at the little moments that got me personally excited as a Star Wars fan.

Daisy Ridley’s return as Rey in a New Jedi Order movie was one of the biggest reveals of Celebration but she’s not the only sequel trilogy star to be returning to the franchise. Joonas Suotamo, the man behind, or rather inside, Chewbacca in the sequels and Solo is playing a wookie Jedi in The Acolyte. Suotamo has been an underappreciated performer, managing to embody Chewy’s character consistently with Peter Mayhew’s original performance, and always has great and genuine energy and enthusiasm for being a part of a franchise he loves. Hopefully this new role of Kelnacca will help him achieve greater recognition. And a wookie Jedi? That’s just cool to see in live action, after Gungi in animation and Burryaga in the novels.

The Acolyte will introduce many fans to The High Republic era of Star Wars, the era of (on the surface) peace and prosperity across the galaxy in the immediate centuries before The Phantom Menace. A time where the Jedi resembled what Obi-Wan said of the order in A New Hope, rather than the failing, overly dogmatic generals of the prequels. But this era has already begun with a publishing initiative, with the first trilogy of adult novels being among the best modern Star Wars stories. Given the TV series is set many years after the current books, and the want to attract mainstream masses to the show, I’ve been expecting The Acolyte to embrace the era of The High Republic but tell its own story with its own characters, with no overlap with the books. Celebration revealed that I was wrong. I couldn’t be happier. One of the stars of the books and comics will be making an appearance in the show: Vernestra Rwoh, played by Rebecca Henderson. For newbies, she’ll just be another new character but for existing fans this is a big deal and shows the true interconnected nature of the franchise in action. Hopefully we see her light whip in action.

Celebration began with the big showcase panel, revealing the future film slate for Star Wars. We’ll be getting (if it all comes into fruition this time) films set in the past, present, and future of the franchise. Technically, they are all set in the past but I get what they mean. This was shown using a timeline, going from the ‘Dawn of the Jedi’ era 25,000 years in the past, all the way to the ‘New Jedi Order’ era 15 years after Rise of Skywalker. But this timeline also featured another era, an era we have yet to have any canon stories set during: The Old Republic. Now, it could have simply been included for context but I can’t help wondering if there are stories in the works. A new game? Possibly. Although, with The High Republic’s publishing initiative coming to an end in 2025, maybe The Old Republic will be reintroduced that way. A novel series to prove its success and then a film or series, much like The Acolyte, to capitalise on it for mainstream audiences.

The film reveals were followed up by a bevy of interviews, each trying to conjure some extra exclusive titbit. If the interviewers were successful, the quotes were then often misconstrued, as is the way, but there was one morsel of interesting information to come out of Entertainment Weekly’s interview. Kathleen Kennedy revealed that “the crawl’s coming back.” Apparently, each of these new films will have a classic opening crawl, setting the stage and delivering exposition. It’s a good call. A lack of a crawl didn’t hold Rogue One back from being a great movie but extra context on exactly when it was set would have aided those expecting the next story after The Force Awakens. Now that the next three films are radically varied and all set during different eras, the context offered by a crawl is vital. Plus, it’s nice to ensure the future of a classic Star Wars tradition. The title music however, I could see that changing for each film. There does need to be some separation from the saga instalments.

The Ahsoka trailer got a lot of people talking. “Who are those new red-bladed baddies?” “THRAWN!” “Wow, this is straight up a Rebels sequel show.” But there is a little under-the-radar detail which I didn’t pick up on during my first few plays of the trailer. Mon Mothma’s appearance is exciting but looking to the right of her we see actor Nelson Lee as none other than Senator Hamato Xiono. Hamato briefly featured in the underrated animated series Star Wars Resistance and is the father of protagonist Kaz. This isn’t mere fan service; it makes perfect sense for this character to appear alongside Mothma. I can’t help but feel some level of vindication for Resistance as a show too. Rebels and The Clone Wars are referenced constantly in the new storytelling but Resistance has always been an outlier, despite also being created and shepherded by Dave Filoni. But now, as the sequel era approaches, the ‘Mandoverse’ is making fun connections to the almost forgotten show, giving it new life and hopefully new fans too.

And finally, keeping with the love of animation, Tales of the Jedi was officially renewed for a second season. The news came a little unexpectedly and was buried in the mountain of other announcements. There was no panel for Tales and instead the 15th anniversary panel for The Clone Wars ended with an almost impromptu statement from Filoni that a second season of the anthology animated shorts is in the works, with no details on when it will air or who it will feature. I love the idea of the show more than I did the actual execution of the first season. The Dooku shorts were great but almost felt like a half measure, begging for more exploration. The Ahsoka episodes were fine but felt fairly redundant, adding little. But a new season focused on new characters could truly unlock the format’s potential. Maybe a slight shake-up could work. Instead of three shorts for two characters, why not go full-on anthology and focus on a different Jedi each episode?

Star Wars is a behemoth of a franchise and the discourse surrounding it can easily grow tiresome. Only gluttons for punishment, true sadists, go searching through Star Wars hashtags on Twitter. I enjoy what I enjoy at my own pace, in my own way. So, it’s wonderful that there are still little hidden corners of the franchise, small details and stories within the greater whole, which I can focus on in peace – enjoy almost as a cult property within the mighty Disney machinery. Long live small Star Wars.  

What were you favourite little news items and details revealed at Star Wars Celebration 2023? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies, and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.

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