- A morning visit to the pungent 501st Legion room seemed mandatory to fully grasp the franchise devotion of the entire experience. A fan-based costuming organization with membership “garrisons” all over the world, the 501st lives for events like Celebration V, where these enthusiastic guys and gals are allowed to strap on their armor and mingle with civilians. A unit built for charity and goodwill, the 501st is an extraordinary organization that gives gentle purpose to a pastime few would regard as meaningful, spreading their message of community wherever they can, often under stifling layers of plastic and rubber. However, despite their endearingly peacocking ways and patience with numerous photo requests, the group has a tendency to lash out toward the uninitiated when they don’t get their way, but more about that on Day Three.
- I made a valiant effort to visit the “Mark Hamill: Return of the Jedi!” interview hour, understanding the rarity of such an opportunity. Mr. Luke Skywalker is not one to open up about “Star Wars” with any regularity, making this break from his autograph commitments ($125.00 bought fans some face time and a signature) a treat for those who crave answers to questions about blue milk, moisture vaporators, and the expiration date on Carrie Fisher’s raconteur abilities. While handed the largest room in the joint for his sit-down, Hamill still drew roughly 50% of con attendees, making those willing to spend hours in line the lucky few allowed an audience with the rambling actor and his hazy memories as the boy farmer who aligned a galaxy. With everything there was to do just about everywhere, it didn’t make sense to portion out a good chunk of the day to stare at a wall waiting. I decided to take the next train.
- That next train turned out to be actor Warwick Davis, the once and future Wicket the Ewok, who sat down with host Jay Laga’aia (a bit player in the prequels, seen recently in “Daybreakers”) for a “Film Giant” hour of reflection. Filled with clips and anecdotes from Davis’s extensive career (he was only 11 years of age when fitted for fur in “Return of the Jedi”), the actor showed off his colossal charisma, beaming with pride on his walk down memory lane. Davis even had kind things to share about his experiences making the “Leprechaun” pictures, despite Laga’aia’s crude invitation to trash the kooky horror franchise. Obviously, this being a “Star Wars” convention, the crowds wanted to hear Ewok stories (Davis obliged, telling how Carrie Fisher fed him milk and cookies whenever she could to keep his spirits up), but there’s was a certain energy in the room for the his work on the “Harry Potter” films. Seizing a rare opportunity, Davis walked over to the edge of the stage and conducted a mass charms class as Professor Flitwick, helping muggles with a Wingardium Leviosa spell. Davis returned to his couch to plug some upcoming projects, show off his autobiography (out now in the U.K., due in the U.S. in 2011), and ended the hour recreating the climax of “Phantom Menace” with Laga’aia, a few plastic lightsabers, and some volunteers from the audience. It was a hilarious, enchanting hour with an actor I’ve always enjoyed (big fan of “Willow”), but now have an entirely new appreciation for. Warwick Davis is a highly rehearsed fellow, but a total class act.
- Also ushering in some considerable cool was a LucasArts booth that allowed attendees to play demos of the upcoming games, “The Force Unleashed 2,” and “Lego Star Wars III.” Being a rabid fan of the Lego video game series, I couldn’t help but stare at the screens for an unreasonable amount of time, watching keyed up kids step forward and try out a difficult board from the release, which is “Clone Wars” themed for this installment (due February 2011). Can’t wait.
- To end the day, I parked myself inside the “Digital Theater,” home to less popular panels, but also a makeshift movie theater that rolled out all six “Star Wars” feature films over the weekend. While the projection quality was marvelous, the sound bounced all over the joint, making dialogue a struggle to hear. It was a prime moviegoing opportunity lost to common convention limitations. Still, it was a chance to watch a portion of “A New Hope” inside a room teeming with fanatics, who applauded and hooted for their favorite characters, recited lines along with the movie, and booed anything smelling of Lucas tinkering. The whole volatile “Han Shot First” argument takes on a special life when projected inside a near gladiatorial environment.