Among the most anticipated films of the year is "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," the final installment of the George Lucas-created saga. In preparation for its long-awaited, much-talked-about release on Dec. 20, 2019, Wonderwall.com has compiled a list of things you should know before heading off to a galaxy far far away… starting with the film's director! The movie was initially supposed to be helmed by "Jurassic World" writer-director Colin Trevorrow, though as of September 2017, that was no longer the case. There was speculation that Lucasfilm decided to part ways with Colin after his last movie, "The Book of Henry," failed to impress most critics. The pendulum soon shifted back to where it started for this third and final trilogy in the franchise — to J.J. Abrams, who directed 2015's "The Force Awakens," bringing things full circle. Keep reading for more…
The film was written by J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio
In August 2017, Jack Thorne — who wrote the play "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" and the screenplay for "Wonder," among other projects — began reworking the "Rise of Skywalker" script that had been penned by the film's would-be director, Colin Trevorrow, and writing partner Derek Connolly. But by September, it was being rewritten by new director J.J. Abrams (pictured) and Chris Terrio (the screenwriter for the Oscar-winning film "Argo").
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It's the second-longest film in the franchise
Originally, it was reported that "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" would clock in at a lengthy 2 hours and 34 minutes, though that has since been (slightly) shortened. According to director J.J. Abrams, the film's running time is now 2 hours and 21 minutes, which also makes it the second-longest in the franchise. The longest "Star Wars" film is "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," which clocks in at 2 hours and 32 minutes!
There will be a time jump
At the Star Wars Celebration in August 2019, J.J. Abrams revealed that "The Rise of Skywalker" will commence some time after Episode VIII. "The movie doesn't pick up immediately after the last film," he shared. "Some time has gone by and what I'll say is that in this movie, and you can tell by that picture is the very beginning of it, but this is an adventure that the group goes on together." With the exception of "The Last Jedi," all "Star Wars" films across the board have seen substantial time jumps between one another. Next, let's catch up with some of the saga's main characters, starting with our beloved space scavenger from Jakku…
Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) has been our protagonist since 2015's "The Force Awakens." In "The Last Jedi," Kylo Ren propositions Rey with letting the First Order and the Resistance die in favor of conquering the galaxy together, but she ultimately turns him down. The last time we saw Rey, she was on board the Millennium Falcon with the sacred Jedi texts she had taken from the planet of Ahch-To. Theories surrounding Rey's fate have generated quite a bit of buzz. After the release of the "Rise of Skywalker" teaser at Disney's August 2019 D23 Expo, fans were quick to latch onto that final, jarring image of Rey wielding a double-bladed red lightsaber while cloaked in a Sith-looking robe. The shot gave way to a theory that many had contemplated already — that Rey might turn to the dark side. While some think the shot confirmed their suspicions, others believe it to be nothing more than a good ol' misdirect.
Another theory captivating many "Star Wars" fans? That Rey is a product of Luke's DNA. In "The Last Jedi," Kylo Ren ruthlessly unveils the truth about Rey's parents, that they were essentially nobodies who sold her for drinking money, which give way to even more speculation surrounding Rey's backstory. Some fans believe that Rey's parents aren't just figurative nobodies, but are literal nobodies… because she is actually a clone. Though clones have played a crucial role in the "Star Wars" universe, the follow through is contingent on Emperor Palpatine, according to an article by Time magazine. "The Rey-is-a-clone-theory, however, rests on the idea that Emperor Palpatine recovered the hand that Darth Vader cut off Luke Skywalker in 'Empire Strikes Back' and used his DNA to make Rey in a secret lab on Jakku." If Rey actually is Luke's clone, it would also explain her strong connection to Luke and the Force, as well as possibly shed light on the meaning behind the film's title.
When we last saw onetime Stormtrooper Finn, he had failed to save the Resistance with ally Rose Tico (played by Kelly Marie Tran). Actor John Boyega has confirmed that when "The Rise of Skywalker" begins, Finn is a full-on member of the Resistance. According to Slashfilm, at 2018's Awesome Con held in Washington, D.C., the actor also revealed that Episode IX will reunite Finn and Rey after keeping them apart for the majority of "The Last Jedi." "I haven't read the script for Episode IX. But Daisy did shoot me a text saying, 'Oh my gosh, I just heard from J.J. [Abrams], and we're back together,'" he disclosed. "That's what I'm really excited about, is Finn and Rey back together again." The film also promises a group adventure, and actor Oscar Isaac, who plays Poe, has shared that we will see his character's friendship with Finn strengthen.
In a December 2019 interview in Vanity Fair, director J.J. Abrams also confirmed that Episode IX will explore Finn's backstory, in addition to many other characters' origin tales. "[Finn's history] is part of the story of this one," he shared. "And it was alluded to in Episode VII, but there's a bit more light shed on that in this one… I would say that each of the characters get more light shed on their histories. I'm not saying we get full, exhaustive downloads on all of their childhoods and every major step that got them to where they are. But there are lots of questions about Finn's past, about Poe's past, obviously Rey and Kylo, and then some of the new characters we meet."
Kylo Ren's story
Could the galaxy's real villain be headed toward redemption? Or is it possible he has fully embraced the dark side once and for all? In "The Last Jedi," we saw Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver) plead with Rey to forego their respective allegiances and join forces to create their own empire, but after she turns down his proposal, he's left with only one option: leaning into his role as the First Order's new Supreme Leader. From what we can gather from the "Rise of Skywalker" trailers, Kylo is in an emotionally fragmented state and will be one of the main villains the Resistance must battle. While a redemption story would be nice, given that Kylo was also responsible for the death of his father, Millennium Falcon captain Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford), the likelihood of that actually happening remains unclear.
Poe Dameron's story
Fan favorite Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac) will also have a bigger role in the final installment. From "The Force Awakens" to "The Last Jedi," Poe has seen an increase in screen time, and with his rekindled friendship with Finn being explored, we can expect way more of him in "The Rise of Skywalker." Poe has proven to be a significant component of the new band of heroes, so we will likely see him take on (even more of) a leadership role.
General Leia Organa's story
The saga lost a beloved family member when Carrie Fisher passed away in 2016, which left many wondering what this would mean for General Leia Organa in Episode IX. While there were talks early on of using CGI to reprise the character, Lucasfilm has since quelled those fears. It was soon revealed that there was enough unused footage of Carrie from "The Force Awakens" and "The Last Jedi" for them to repurpose, which we already caught a glimpse of in the trailers. It was also reported that there will be an on-screen reunion between the late actress and her real-life daughter, Billie Lourd, in the final installment (according to Vanity Fair, Billie — who plays Lieutenant Connix in the franchise — requested to appear in scenes with Leia).
Luke Skywalker's story
At the end of "The Last Jedi," we witnessed that intense confrontation between Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren, only to realize that Luke wasn't actually there but light years away. While the end of Episode VIII saw Luke vanish as his robe fell to the ground, actor Mark Hamill will be reprising his role in this final film. As disclosed by Screenrant, there are many question marks surrounding Luke, so his return is certainly an important one. "'The Rise of Skywalker' must address whether or not Luke knew about Palpatine's survival and any potential role the Sith Lord might've had in turning Kylo Ren," the site reported. There is also speculation that Luke will make a cameo as a Force Ghost, similar to Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker.
Lando Calrissian's return
It's true! Billy Dee Williams is reprising his role as Lando Calrissian in Episode IX, and fans couldn't be happier. A "Rise of Skywalker" teaser showed Lando — who fans last saw in the original trilogy — flying the Millennium Falcon with another saga favorite, Chewbacca. While Lando's return is still cloaked in mystery, his reprisal alone is cause for celebration.
New characters will be introduced
When the official cast list was released back in July 2018, it revealed a slew of new characters we can expect to see. Babu Frik (a tiny and talented Anzellan droidsmith), Jannah (a character who crosses paths with the core group and is played by Naomi Ackie, pictured) and Zori Bliss (an old friend of Poe Dameron who's played by Keri Russell) are merely a few of the new faces that will be making their on-screen debuts in "The Rise of Skywalker."
Rey and Kylo Ren's relationship will be explored
In an interview with Empire, "The Rise of Skywalker" co-writer Chris Terrio revealed that the film will delve further into Kylo Ren and Rey's relationship. "We've tried to pick up that complicated relationship that really has been present ever since the interrogation in Episode VII," he disclosed. "When Ren takes off his mask, there's a nakedness about him with Rey that he doesn't express to anyone else. Rian [Johnson, who directed "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"] developed that in fascinating ways and we've been able to develop it even further." With Kylo seemingly more unstable now than ever before, there's no telling what will transpire between these two.
Two crucial questions will be answered
"The Rise of Skywalker" co-writer Chris Terrio promises long-awaited answers to two burning questions many "Star Wars" fans have: "Who is Rey?" and "How strong is the Force?" The former, Chris told Empire magazine, is a question that has as much to do with Rey's personal growth as it does with providing backstory. "We kept coming back to 'Who is Rey?' and how can we give the most satisfying answer to that not only factually — because obviously people are interested in whether there's more to be learned of Rey's story — but more important, who is she as a character?" As for the question of the Force? "[It] sounds a little simple, but actually when you get down to it, that is sort of Zen Koan that we would really meditate on — not literally in yoga poses or anything, but like we would discuss, 'What is the Force and how strong is the Force?'" Those questions are among the many others that will be answered, a feat that J.J. Abrams admits was a difficult one to go about executing. "Endings are the thing that scare me the most," he told Entertainment Weekly. "This is about bringing this thing to a close in a way that is emotional and meaningful and also satisfying in terms of actually answering [as many] questions as possible… So if years from now, someone's watching these movies, all nine of them, they're watching a story that is as cohesive as possible."