How Reys Return and a Tired Mandalorian Season Riled Up the Fandom at Star Wars Celebration

On almost any other day, a train car full of Mandalorians, Grand Admiral Thrawns, Ahsokas, and Obi-Wans may have seemed strange. But for the four days of Star Wars Celebration, this was the norm on the 8 a.m. DLR train. Even before you stepped foot inside the event’s vast ExCeL Centre venue in East London, the Star Wars community was well represented, with people of all ages and ethnicities cosplaying as their favorite characters, be they as popular as Darth Vader or as niche as the umbrella-like lightsaber-wielding Sith Lord from “Star Wars: Visions.”

If you need a reminder that, sometimes, fandoms can be good, Star Wars Celebration is it. Without the racist backlash against new characters played by people of color, or interminable hate tweets about specific movies, the event showcases the fandom at its best — as a joyous, inventive, inclusive and delightfully weird affair; a place where you’re as likely to stumble upon a mob of prisoner-attired fans chanting “One Way Out!” in unison as you are to witness an Orson Krennic striptease.

But that’s not to say, however, that fans don’t come prepared with opinions about the future of the franchise. Arguably the biggest announcement at this year’s SWC was the return of Daisy Ridley’s Rey, who will be rebuilding the Jedi Order in one of three new films. The reaction to the reveal in the room was electric, but some fans remain mixed on the idea.

“We’ve seen Rey in quite a bit of content, and I feel like we got to see what we needed to see from Rey’s story,” said Megan Blair, an SWC attendee who travelled from Denmark. “I wasn’t begging for more at the end of her trilogy.”

Added Claire Elizabeth Roberts: “I like Rey, but I’d rather have had John Boyega back because he was absolutely wasted.”

The lukewarm feelings may stem from “The Rise of Skywalker’s” conclusion, which saw Ridley’s heroine take on the name of the franchise’s most famous Jedi. “I don’t need them to call her Rey Skywalker or anything other than Rey in the new movie,” declared Watkins.

However, many fans agree that the new, as-yet-untitled film, set to be directed by veteran doc filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, is a chance to correct past storytelling mistakes. “In pop culture right now, a lot of what stories are doing is redeeming things that haven’t always been told well,” said Terence Crawford, who was clad head to toe in Han Solo garb.

“This is going to be Rey’s redemption,” added Gillian O’Rourke, whose cosplay was a Princess Leia outfit.

Another buzzed-about offering at this year’s event was “Ahsoka.” Set to debut on Disney+ in August 2023, a new trailer was revealed, along with the cast announcement that Lars Mikkelsen will be playing the series’ villain, Grand Admiral Thrawn.

“I’m pretty hyped because we’ve already seen Rosario Dawson playing that character, and she does a fantastic job,” said Josh Johnson, who also travelled from Scotland to attend his first SWC.

“Just seeing all the characters from Star Wars Rebels come to real life now is just amazing,” added Salman Ishat.

In addition to teasing the future, SWC also spotlighted the present. Friday’s opening presentation gave ample time to “Andor” and “The Mandalorian.” One major talking point was the the latter’s third season, which premiered in early March to noticeably reduced viewership.

“There hasn’t quite been the buzz about it,” said Daniel Watkins, who journeyed from Edinburgh to attend this year’s SWC. “I haven’t had to worry about spoilers each Wednesday. I think it’s not focused on Mando and Grogu as much and that was the thing that people loved about it.”

Rachel Fulginiti, a Star Wars fan from the U.S., agrees, but highlights the added focus on Katee Sackhoff’s Bo Katan. “It just seems kind of all over the place. I think they could have just made it all about Bo Katan,” explained Fulginiti. “She’s such a strong, interesting character.”

Indeed, the move away from Din and Grogu seems to have impressed more fans than it may have upset. “I think Season 3 so far has been really, really good,” said Paul Maziere, who cosplayed as a pilot from “The Empire Strikes Back” with his friends for all four days of the convention.

“I like it when things get padded out. It’s become more about the ‘Mandalorian’ as a group of people who are trying to find their identity again,” said Maziere, who marked his sixth Star Wars Celebration. “I think it’s been just as good as the first and second series.”

Added O’Rourke: “I love the fact that it’s all over the shop. They’re trying new things and seeing what works. We’re not just going, ‘Oh look, there’s a single dad with his child.’”

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