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Everything we learned about 'The Last Jedi' from the Star Wars Celebration panel and trailer

The force was with Orlando, Fla., this morning as the four-day convention named Star Wars Celebration unveiled the first-ever teaser trailer for “The Last Jedi,” the next episodic “Star Wars” film.

Thanks to a lengthy panel with the cast and crew, plus new footage, fans now have an idea about what happens next to the heroes from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Surprise host Josh Gad started the whole thing off with a joke: “I am here because Daisy Ridley forced my hand,” referencing the tense (but hilarious) “Star Wars” interrogations he sprung on his costar.

Ridley (who plays “Star Wars” hero Rey) joined Gad onstage, along with director Rian Johnson, President of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy, John Boyega (Finn), newcomer Kelly Marie Tran (Rose), and one member of the original crew, Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker). The host attempted to pry a few more details from the meeting of the new Resistance.

At the end of the panel, Lucasfilm and Disney released the first teaser trailer for “The Last Jedi,” which premieres Dec. 15. We’ve combed through the trailer and clues from the panel to give you the best bits below:

BB-8

The little droid that rolled into everyone’s hearts in “The Force Awakens” will return for the follow-up film, bringing a whole host of new gadgets and gizmos along as well. When asked if the audience could expect new gags from the scene-stealing droid, Johnson guaranteed plenty of BB-8.

“The best advice I got was from J.J. [Abrams’] editors, who told me, ‘You can’t have enough BB-8.’ We followed their advice. He’s the Buster Keaton of this movie.”

Rey and Luke

A very tight-lipped Ridley said little about Rey’s journey.

“In ‘Last Jedi’ we go deeper into Rey’s story. And what is very apparent from where we left off in ‘The Force Awakens’ and where we begin with ‘The Last Jedi’ is Rey has a certain expectation as to what she might be getting from Luke and what that might entail,” she said. “And as a lot of people know, it’s difficult when you meet your heroes because it might not be what you expect.”

It sounds like the Luke we left in “Return of the Jedi” is quite different from the Luke fans will meet in “Last Jedi.” Fingers crossed for training montages! If you look very closely in the new teaser, you can see the raising of pebbles around Rey’s hands, mimicking the rock training Luke underwent on Dagobah. And if you really, really listen, you can hear the voices of Luke’s past masters, Yoda and Obi-Wan, in the teaser as well.

Finn’s condition

Stormtrooper defect Finn ended “Force Awakens” unconscious and possibly seriously injured. So how’s the recovery going while in the hands of the Resistance?

“It’s been painful, it’s been a process,” Boyega said. “Finn definitely stood up for himself at the end of ‘Force Awakens’ and caught a bit of an injury to the back. He’s in recovery, but he’s back in ‘The Last Jedi’ and he’s not playing this time.”

Sure enough, one of the shots from the teaser showed an eyes-closed Finn recovering in a new type of pod (not the traditional bacta tanks we’ve seen previously). Thanks to the Aurebesh across the glass (and online translations — hat tip to Donna Dickens), we know that his condition here is “stable.”

Boyega pressed that even beyond his character’s physical restoration, there are many more challenges in Finn’s future. “[Last Jedi] is a test for all the characters,” he said. “But specifically for Finn, he wants to find his place now. Is he going to be a part of the resistance or is he gonna keep running away from the First Order? We’ll see.”

And as for the budding friendship between Poe and Finn? Despite actor Oscar Isaac’s absence, Boyega promised that the two have plenty more adventures ahead of them.

The status of the First Order

In “Force Awakens” the nefarious Empire was renamed and rebranded the First Order, but their goals of galaxy-wide domination remained mostly the same.

Despite a long history of constructing Death Stars only to have them blown up by the Rebellion, the First Order continued the pattern with the Starkiller Base, which was unsurprisingly blown to bits in the final act. So how did this loss affect space’s ultimate big bad?

“The Starkiller base [was a] big loss,” Johnson said. “But they did manage to take out the seat of the Republic, and that’s thrown the galaxy into chaos. The First Order are jumping on that in the beginning of our movie. Very aggressively, not sitting on their hands. Big moves at the start of their film. Things are going to get dire.”

It should be very interesting to see what “dire” looks like in a world that has exterminated entire planets. If Johnson’s past work is any indication, we may be in for a surprise. This is the director who used the time-travel element in “Looper” to dissect a character into pieces.

Meet Rose, a new character

The panel also introduced a brand-new character to the “Star Wars” ethos. Rose is played by Kelly Marie Tran. Very little was said about her addition, but when Tran took the stage, an image of her character was flashed on-screen revealing that Rose is a humanoid character. More important, she won’t be covered in alien makeup or reworked entirely via performance capture.

As for her character’s significance, Johnson brought her in to take “Star Wars” back to the everyday-hero trope he responded to as a child.

“Rose is a maintenance worker in the Resistance,” Johnson explained. “The notion that anyone out there, any one of us, can step up and turn into a hero — that’s really where the character of Rose comes from. She’s not a soldier, she’s not looking to be a hero and she gets pulled in into an adventure in this movie with Finn. And Kelly just embodies that for me.”

Saying farewell to General Leia

Kennedy called Carrie Fisher’s final performance as General Leia as General Leia (Fisher died in December) an “amazing tribute to her talent.” The Lucasfilm president also confirmed on “Good Morning America” that Fisher won't appear in “Episode IX.”

Johnson, who also wrote the script to “Last Jedi,” said he connected with Fisher first and foremost as a writer.

“I would go to her house. We’d sit on her bed for hours and go through the script,” Johnson said. “We’d have these stream-of-consciousness, jazz poetry, ad-lib sessions. And I would scribble on my script everything she said. At the end of six hours, there would be a four-word line of dialogue that was the distillation of all of that.”

It’s also worth noting that the only shot we see of Leia in the teaser nicely mirrors with the Kylo Ren shot from “The Force Awakens” and the image of Darth Vader from “Rogue One.”

It’s a nice side-by-side comparison be it artistic direction or foreshadowing (pointed out by Dave Gonzales).

How important is Luke Skywalker?

When it was Hamill’s time to share onstage, the actor got a little shy on spoilers, instead cracking jokes at the long-held fan suspicion that Rey is his daughter. But this time he lumped Finn into the theory as well.

Brushing off his modesty, Kennedy interjected, “He is so significantly important to this next film.” That put an end to that act rather promptly.

This was backed up by Luke finally getting the chance to speak in the teaser, and the line he delivers is a doozy: "I only know one truth. It's time for the Jedi to end."

Before anyone freaks out about Luke flipping to the dark side, let’s explore this statement further. Perhaps Luke is looking to restore a little balance beyond the narrow Jedi scope of good vs. evil, light vs. dark. A lot of fans are asking, will Luke become a “gray” Jedi? Joe Skrebels explores this idea further over at IGN, with plenty of speculation about what could have happened to Luke’s mind-set after years of isolation.

So here’s what we learned: Luke is important, he may not be the hero Rey expects, and he wants to end the Jedi.

No mention of Kylo Ren?

Another absent cast member from the Celebration panel was Adam Driver, who was introduced in “Force Awakens” as Kylo Ren, the son of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and General Leia (Fisher). Lost to the dark side, Ren appears in the teaser trailer with two interesting reveals.

It appears that the lightsaber battle with Rey on the Starkiller Base has left Ren with a permanent scar across his brow. Also, looks like he hasn’t upgraded from his original crossguard light saber. He was seen brandishing this now well-known crackling creation in “The Last Jedi” teaser.

A new planet!

One of the more striking images to come out of the teaser was a shot of this white planet getting streaked by skimmers and some sort of red mist they’re either kicking up or depositing. And now that planet has a name.

According to “Entertainment Weekly,” that’s Crait.

Apparently Crait housed an an old, abandoned rebel base. This “key” location in the film is way out there. “It’s uncharted,” Johnson told EW. “It’s a mineral planet and so there are mines on it.” Read the rest of the interview about Crait at EW.

Journal of the Whills

Finally, the biggest speculation of them all.

One shot from the teaser caused a great disturbance among “Star Wars” fans online. A small shelf was highlighted with a ray of light beaming down. Later a hand is seen caressing weathered and yellow pages with a star symbol (which is most likely the symbol of the Jedi and the Old Republic).

So what’s this book? Many fans are speculating that this is the Journal of the Whills. An idea that “Star Wars” creator George Lucas had when crafting this world, but eventually retired. The journals were focused on balancing the Force (something Jedis are obsessed with), but more importantly they would connect “Star Wars” to the real world.

A crazy idea but plausible when you take a closer look at the “Last Jedi” poster; front and center is the very similar-looking star symbol from the teaser. True, this is not the first time an image like this has been channeled in a “Star Wars’” poster (“A New Hope” had a comparable burst) but they’re strikingly similar. Pair that with the recent novelization of “Force Awakens” that began with a poem from this very journal.

Boom!

That’s it for our speculation- and spoiler-filled “Star Wars” talk — until the next trailer, which will no doubt blast a lot of these theories right out of the water.

See the most-read stories in Entertainment this hour »

meredith.woerner@latimes.com

Twitter: @MdellW

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An earlier version of this article referred to the an image of Darth Vader from "Rogue One" as Kylo Ren from "The Force Awakens." Both images have been corrected.
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