What do you do when you have 6,000 fans in one place and want to blow their minds all at once? If you're director J.J. Abrams, and you're anchoring the San Diego Comic-Con Hall H panel for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," the answer is pretty easy: all you have to do is surprise everyone by telling them you're going to walk over to the marina for a few John Williams concert.
...And that's (in case you hadn't guessed) exactly what happened. Capping off the star studded panel, the biggest mob of "Star Wars" fans imaginable all got special passes, and headed over to the Embarcadero, about a 15 minute walk from the convention center.
Once there, not only were fans treated to a free concert, they also got free lightsabers!
[Please note for future references that Victoria McNally at MTV Comics picked up a green lightsaber, indicating she's more into reflecting on the mysteries of the force, while I picked up a blue lightsaber, meaning I like to use the force more on a physical level. FYI.]
As Taylor Swift played, and the packed crowd buzzed excitedly about the concert -- presented by Verizon -- a gorgeous sunset fell over the marina, and really: it was magical.
But finally, it was time for the show to start...
And it wasn't much of a surprise, but just like they did at the "Star Wars" panel, the cast gathered to welcome fans to the concert.
First, Abrams and Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy welcomed the crowd
...And then they welcomed out the full cast. John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac all jousted with fans' lightsabers; while Adam Driver just walked on menacingly, and Gewndoline Christie made everyone look like ants.
But as you can imagine, the biggest applause were saved for the original trio of Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford -- with Ford still playing up his injury by limping on, while J.J. laughed.
Next, Boyega riled up the crowd by taking an epic selfie (which has yet to turn up online, but stay tuned).
Just as the cast left the stage, a video message popped up from John Williams himself... And in all honesty, I think it was about then that my body permanently transitioned from normal, human skin into nothing but goosebumps.
"Good evening," Williams began. "I'm in Los Angeles where I'm working on the new 'Star Wars' score."
"You fans have always been what's very special about 'Star Wars'," he continued. "And in December, we'll all be joining together in a great, grand new adventure. Until then, have a great time tonight, and always, may the force be with you."
And then "The Imperial March" began, and the crowd freakin' lost it.
For about an hour, the Symphony played, through famous bits of the score -- and less famous bits -- all played over footage from all six movies that got huge cheers, and whispered, "I know"s from the audience.
...And of course, everything ended with fireworks, as the Symphony explosively started the main "Star Wars" theme.
Look, I don't want to get too sappy or preachy here, but this was a truly magical, special evening that gets to the heart of what San Diego Comic-Con is supposed to be about. It's not about exclusive merchandise, big celebrity news, crazy trailers, or activations pushing brands that allow you to win free ca$$$$h.
No, it's about fans, and connecting with other people who love the same things you love.
"Star Wars" -- as they pointed out on the passes, the lightsabers, and in a gut-wrenchingly beautiful montage of footage from the past nearly forty years shown towards the end of the concert -- has been coming to Comic-Con since 1976. Sure, they could have shown off a trailer, new scenes, or announced upcoming directors.
Instead, they created something unique. Something that was all about giving back to fans, and showing them the same love the fans have given them for four decades. It's very easy to be cynical about something as big as "Star Wars," to say it's all about the toys, about making a billion dollars at the box office, or about an interconnected universe of films in a globally recognized franchise.
I'm not going to say none of that is true, because at least in part, it is.
But for one night, at least, it was about love. Just pure, unfettered, unadulterated love of something that has, on a deeply human level, meant so much to so many people. So thanks, "Star Wars." Thanks, San Diego Comic-Con.
And may the force be with you. Always.