A very short time from now, in a theater not too far away, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is hitting the big screen to close out the sequel trilogy and the “Skywalker saga” as a whole. This movie is a big deal, not only as the finale of a nine-part story (excluding spin-offs and animated features) but supposedly also as the last time we'll be seeing original trilogy's characters and the last time we'll be hearing an original score from John Williams.
The plot of the climactic Star Wars episode is still mostly unknown. Even if this wasn’t the end of the line, this franchise has always kept details mysterious right up until a movie’s release. Still, we’re aware of returning old friends (and old enemies) and been introduced to new additions, including another cute droid, while we’ve been teased about major story beats and promised respectable sendoffs. Now it’s time to bring you up to speed, too.
Here is everything you need to know about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker:
Do we actually know anything? Where does this one fit in the series?
We know that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will finish out the "Skywalker saga," concluding the long-running storyline that began with A New Hope back in 1977 and has continued through the original trilogy, the prequels and, recently, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. As for the plot, we’ve only heard that it takes place a year after the events of The Last Jedi and that “this is an adventure that the group goes on together.”
What has happened in the Skywalker saga so far?
The Rise of Skywalker is the ninth episode of the Skywalker saga and third part of the third trilogy. The plot of the series goes back to the events of the Prequel Trilogy, when Anakin Skywalker was discovered as a child and then groomed to become the “chosen one” of the Jedi, an order of galactic peacemakers who wield the powers of the Force for good. But Anakin became distracted by love and then was corrupted by the influence of the nefarious Senator Palpatine, leading to his descent to the dark side.
The Original Trilogy:
In the Original Trilogy, which takes place decades later, Palpatine has become Emperor of the galaxy and Anakin has been transformed into his masked enforcer, the Sith Lord now known as Darth Vader. This group of movies follows his secret children, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, as they’re joined by smuggler Han Solo, his co-pilot Chewbacca and droids C-3PO and R2-D2 to lead a rebellion against the Empire and its attempts to oppress the galaxy with moon-sized super-weapons called Death Stars.
The Force Awakens:
While the Rebel Alliance defeated the Empire at the end of the Original Trilogy, the galaxy was divided again decades later at the start of the Sequel Trilogy. In The Force Awakens, new heroes Rey, Poe Dameron, droid BB-8 and former Stormtrooper Finn joined Han, Leia and the Resistance against new enemies the First Order and their moon-sized super-weapon, Starkiller Base. Han and (now General) Leia’s own son, Kylo Ren, is the villainous enforcer now, and at the end of the movie he killed his father.
The Last Jedi:
In the eighth episode of the Skywalker saga, Rey found the now reclusive Luke Skywalker in hopes of bringing him back to fight the First Order, which was on the verge of wiping out the Resistance. He wasn’t interested. Rey and Kylo Ren then temporarily joined forces to kill the evil Supreme Leader Snoke, but when Kylo Ren continued to go after his mother and the rest of the Resistance, Luke confronted his nephew and ultimately gave his own life to aid in their escape and survival.
Which main cast members are returning?
At the end of The Last Jedi, most of the main cast was still with us. That means we'll be seeing the main characters Rey (Daisy Ridley), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and newly in charge villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Also back are Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata, Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux, Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and Billie Lourd as Lieutenant Connix.
What about Luke and Leia?
Luke Skywalker died in The Last Jedi, but actor Mark Hamill has been revealed as a returning cast member for The Rise of Skywalker, so Luke will appear in some form -- presumably as a "Force ghost."
Sadly, actress Carrie Fisher passed away after filming The Last Jedi, but she will also be able to return as General Leia in the movie, thanks to some previously unused footage Fisher shot for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
One of the big mysteries surrounding Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was how the movie would handle the death of Carrie Fisher. And, in turn, how the franchise would say goodbye to Leia. Director J.J. Abrams says of the decision:
"We desperately loved Carrie Fisher. Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie [Lourd], we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX."
Is anyone else coming back from the Original Trilogy?
Yes, and one of them has been long overdue to return. Fans had been wondering if Lando Calrissian would ever show up in the current Star Wars trilogy. The popular scoundrel from the original trilogy was a big part of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and his absence from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi left us all curious what became of the traitor turned hero of the rebel fleet.
Lando was given a minor update in the recent official-canon book Bloodline and is a big part of another new book called Last Shot. Meanwhile, we just met his younger self as portrayed by Donald Glover in Solo: A Star Wars Story. As for the original version, while we haven't officially seen Billy Dee Williams on screen as Lando since 1983, the actor has voiced the role in animated series and video games.
Williams had been publicly stating he wanted back in for an onscreen reprisal, though, and now he has gotten his wish, as he will indeed return as Lando in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. How much he'll appear is unknown, but in view of the lack of remaining original trilogy stars, we'd love to see him in a significant capacity. Maybe he'll be killed off heartbreakingly, too, who knows?
As first revealed by the initial teaser for the new movie, there’ll be one more major character from not just the original trilogy but also the Prequel Trilogy making his return after a long absence: Emperor Palpatine, a.k.a. Darth Sidious. Actor Ian McDiarmid, who has been portraying the villain since Return of the Jedi, will reprise his role once again for The Rise of Skywalker. How did he survive his apparent death in Return of the Jedi? We shall see.
Are there any newcomers for The Rise of Skywalker?
Keri Russell (The Americans) is one the more notable additions to the cast. The actress is no stranger to anyone familiar with the career of director J.J. Abrams. She starred in his TV series Felicity, which began airing 20 years ago, and they were reunited when Abrams cast her as an IMF agent in Mission: Impossible III. Russell recently finished up a lead role on the hit show The Americans, so this is a great next step for her.
Is she a good guy or a bad guy? Her character, called Zorii Bliss, is a human criminal of some kind who has a connection to Poe Dameron, and it’s said to be an action-heavy role. She considers herself neutral, without allegiance to either the Resistance or the First Order, but given her past with one of the former’s heroes, we can probably expect her to help in their cause against Kylo Ren and the Dark Side while remaining a scoundrel by nature.
She will be joined by fellow newcomers Naomi Ackie (Lady Macbeth) as a tribal warrior and Resistance ally called Jannah, Richard E. Grant (Logan), who plays a high-ranking First Order general, and fellow Abrams TV vet Dominic Monaghan (Lost, The Lord of the Rings), a longtime admitted Star Wars fan, who plays a Resistance trooper. We will also be introduced to a new little droid called D-O, sure to be another fan favorite.
Have there been any big rumors?
Yes, but we can't subscribe to many rumors or theories with Star Wars, especially this early. However, last year there was a credible report that this final episode would unite all three trilogies for a satisfying ending.
Who is directing this time?
J.J. Abrams, who directed The Force Awakens (a.k.a. Episode VII), is back at the helm following Rian Johnson’s stint with The Last Jedi. Abrams also wrote the script with Chris Terrio (Argo).
Is John Williams back to score this one?
Yes, John Williams composed the music for The Rise of Skywalker, making this his ninth and final Star Wars movie score.
Is this the last Star Wars movie?
While The Rise of Skywalker is the final installment of the Skywalker saga, Disney and Lucasfilm are hardly finished making Star Wars movies. They may just wait a while until they put out another feature, however, especially as they’ve begun having success with the new live-action series The Mandalorian streaming on Disney+ and plan more small-screen works like an Obi-Wan Kenobi series. Apparently we’ll hear what’s next soon.
When does The Rise of Skywalker come out?
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker releases on December 20, 2019.
Watch the trailers:
Welcome back Rey, Poe, Finn, Rose, Chewie, C-3PO, BB-8, Lando, Leia and even Emperor Palpatine in the first teaser for The Rise of Skywalker:
And catch the final trailer for The Rise of Skywalker below: