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Star Wars The Force Awakens: Here's who's coming back from the earlier movies

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Lucasfilm

It wasn’t just Harrison Ford’s familiar face that sent a wave of nostalgia through the Comic-Con crowd when Star Wars: The Force Awakens rocked the geek gathering this weekend.

That behind-the-scenes clip J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy showed actually contained a number of apparent call-backs to the original trilogy, revealing a few more droids, creatures, and actors making a return.

Here’s a rundown of what we spotted:

First, the obvious. 

PRINCESS LEIA

Lucasfilm

The last time we saw her, it was an Ewok hoe-down where she finally let down her waist-length hair. Three decades later, we finally found our princess again. It sort of looks like she’s in a castle, with those blocky stone walls creeping with vines, but it doesn’t look like she’s living a royal lifestyle.

This is the stance, wardrobe, and dwelling of a military leader. In the background are control panels that look like they’ve seen better days, battered and buried within this tomb-like dwelling. Leia looks indominable and feisty as ever, but she doesn’t look like someone who is leading a free Republic.

Smart money says these are the underground hangars where we’ve seen full-scale X-Wing fighters and the Millennium Falcon parked. In real life, it’s the RAF Greenham Common, a defunct Royal Air Force Base in Berkshire, England. In the fictional world of Star Wars …? It looks like it might be one of the last redoubts of the Resistance.

NEXT PAGE: Good to see you again, Han …

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HAN SOLO

Lucasfilm

Unlike Princess Leia, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Solo, although there’s only a few brief images of Harrison Ford’s scoundrel-turned-hero in the new footage. It’s clear he has brought the Millennium Falcon to the desert world of Jakku to help Daisy Ridley’s Rey and John Boyega’s Finn. Why? I’ve got some theories, which you can dive into here.

The behind-the-scenes reel showed him getting into the cockpit again, with Rey in Chewie’s seat and Finn in the back, and he’s another who doesn’t exactly look like he’s living large in the galaxy. If anything, he looks a little more ragged and desperate than he did back in the early cantina days in Mos Eisley. 

R2-D2

Lucasfilm

For a garbage-can shaped robot, R2 was kind of an action hero in the original movies, and his mere presence is enough to signify Star Wars. So far, we’ve seen the newcomer, BB-8, getting a lot more to do in The Force Awakens. When we see R2 now, he’s still, seemingly standing sentinel. In the previous trailer, he was keeping watch alongside a cloaked figure with an exposed robotic hand, most likely Luke (since the trailer’s famous “I have it …” line about the powers of the Force is spoken during that shot).

In the new behind-the-scenes footage, R2 is the first of the familiar faces we see after the eerie calm of the empty sets. That little Astromech droid is who fans look at and think, “Chewie … we’re home.” But notice who we don’t see? And haven’t seen? Luke. Perhaps the two of them are still sharing time on the not-so-young-anymore Jedi’s quest, as they once did on Dagobah. Since that’s something Abrams wants to keep secret, we’re not seeing much of R2 either.

But all three of these, along with Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew and C-3PO’s Anthony Daniels, are expected. Like R2, they are Star Wars.

Here’s who turned up that was surprising…

NEXT PAGE: Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb …

[pagebreak]

ADMIRAL ACKBAR

Lucasfilm

Say it together: “It’s a trap!” The Rebellion’s No. 1 crawdaddy, the Mon Calamari denizen who rose through the ranks to the position of Admiral during the space battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi, got a close-up in the new behind-the-scenes video, although we don’t get to see him in action. Right now, he’s just a mask (or is it a puppet) awaiting a performer.

And maybe … maybe, it’s not Ackbar. Who knows the lifespan of one of these amphibious creatures? And surely there were others running around the galaxy. But Abrams is aware of the spark of recognition that’s likely to come from fans, and he’s smart enough to know not to get hopes up unless he’s going to pay them off.     

NIEN NUNB

Lucasfilm

Also known (from Robot Chicken) as “The Pancake Kid,” this jowly alien from the star system Sullust served as Lando Calrissian’s co-pilot in the Millennium Falcon during the takedown of the second Death Star. He’s a former smuggler, who — like Han and Lando — was recruited against his own sense of self-preservation to join the Rebel offensive against the Imperial navy, but we didn’t get much backstory on him in the film. Most of that comes from the Expanded Universe storytelling that came after.

Amid all the guessing about which new characters may be the children of Han, Luke, or Leia, maybe the creatures of the galaxy have their own family storylines? No matter where these two guys find themselves 30 years in the future… my guess is it smells a little like low-tide.

NEXT PAGE: The veterans only shown out-of-character …

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MARK HAMILL

He’s the only one of the original three whose face we haven’t seen in-character yet, but the actor — sporting a wooly Jedi beard — is the first narrator of the footage. “You’ve been here before, but you don’t know this story,” says Hamill (not Luke, unless he’s developed an affinity for checked shirts.) “I mean, everything’s changed, but nothing’s changed. That’s the way you want it to be, really.” 

Something tells me a lot has changed about Luke Skywalker, and that’s going to be one of The Force Awakens‘ central mysteries. After being conspicuously absent from the initial trailer, the second teaser in April, and now this behind-the-scenes clip, it’s clear the filmmakers don’t want us to see what’s become of the son of Anakin Skywalker. 

But by highlighting Hamill himself, it tricks us into thinking perhaps we have seen him. This is not the Jedi you’re looking for, Abrams is subtly saying, with a slight wave of his hand.

WARWICK DAVIS

Warwick Davis was only 11 years old when he landed the role of Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi, and there was much fanfare when he was announced as part of The Force Awakens last October. The 3-foot-6 actor has played many roles over the years, including the title role in 1988’s Willow and multiple characters in the Harry Potter movies.

Davis is a utility player, so he could be turning up as anyone — or anything. But remember seeing Darth Vader’s scorched mask in the second trailer? That would have been left on Vader’s funeral pyre on the forest moon of Endor, so the person who recovered it would likely venture there. That means it’s likely we’ll see some of the other inhabitants of that world — the Ewoks, so Davis could be reprising his performance as the curious little Wicket, all grown up (but still not very tall.)

In the behind-the-scenes footage, we only see Davis coaching another diminutive actor in a creature suit. His role is probably being left mysterious for a reason.

NEXT PAGE: The droids you’re looking for …

[pagebreak]

PIT DROIDS

Lucasfilm

They’re not the smartest ‘bots in the galaxy, but these cycloptic little mechanics were diligent workers in The Phantom Menace, keeping the pod racers functioning (when they weren’t getting accidentally sucked into the engines.) In the background of this shot of Chewbacca’s furry mask, you can see a new, stockier version of the droids on a poster in the background of the creature shop.

GNK POWER DROID

Lucasfilm

Also known as “gonk droids,” based on the sound they make as they stomp forth, these are essentially giant mobile batteries who don’t have a lot of personality but bring a bit of grubby atmosphere to their surroundings. The actress who inhabits this particular blocky droid says, “I’m just going to bring this character to life!” But the gonk droid life is a mundane one. Imagine if power strip became sentient. Sure, they’re good to have around. But not for conversation. 

C-3PO

Lucasfilm

There’s no denying that the protocol droid has personality — it’s just sometimes a grating one. Anthony Daniels has played C-3PO in all seven movies, and we glimpse the droid known as “Goldenrod” to Han Solo in the control room that Princess Leia seems to be inhabiting. One big question: What’s with the red left arm?

Then we see this image of the character, apparently without Anthony Daniels inside. Some crew workers are assembling the faceplate on a blank background, but what’s distressing is the hole in the center left of C-3PO’s chest. That looks like a serious wound — although he has been entirely dismembered in the past and was successfully reassembled to fret another day. 

Still … that hole in the heart. Is Threepio going to be okay?

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