Everything we know about ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

Star Wars Celebration’s Episode IX panel gave fans their first look at the end of the Skywalker saga.

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This article contains spoilers for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

Friday morning at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago, the Episode IX cast and director J.J. Abrams joined host Stephen Colbert to share a first look at the hotly-anticipated new installment. While most plot details are still tightly under wraps, here’s what we learned about the upcoming Skywalker saga finale.

Skywalker sun, Skywalker moon, Skywalker rising

At the end of the Episode IX teaser trailer — which debuted at this year’s celebration — the film’s title was finally revealed: “The Rise of Skywalker.”

As far as we know, the only remaining Skywalkers are Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and her son Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” revealed that protagonist Rey (Daisy Ridley) wasn’t related to the Skywalkers or another well-known “Star Wars” family, but the Force-sensitive child of unknown scavengers.

Debate ignited online, as fans puzzled over what the name could mean. Could “The Rise of Skywalker” refer to Kylo getting a redemption arc, or Abrams retconning Rey’s parentage? Others theorized that the use of “Skywalker” signifies the family’s legacy living on beyond blood relatives alone.

Speaking on the title, Abrams explained, “The challenge of this movie was obviously taking eight movies and telling a satisfying conclusion… this movie is about this new generation and what they’ve inherited, the light and the dark, and asking the question as they face this evil — are they prepared? Are they ready?”

Getting the gang back together

In “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the sequel trilogy’s characters were spread out across the galaxy on various missions of their own. Now that “some time has passed” since the events of the last film, Episode IX will see the core group — Rey, Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), along with regulars like Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) — reunited.

“One of the great things about the movie was the dynamic between the characters,” Abrams said. “They are just the most wonderful together, and that’s the thing I’m sort of most excited for you to see.”

Familiar faces

The ninth film might be centered around the new “Star Wars” generation, but many of the series’ original characters will still appear in some capacity.

“We’ve passed on all we know,” Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) says in the teaser via voiceover. “We’ll always be with you. No one’s ever really gone.”

Hamill, while not at the celebration, was confirmed as part of the film after Luke died at the end of “The Last Jedi.” It’s safe to assume that, like Obi-Wan Kenobi, he’ll show up as a Force ghost to offer guidance to Rey.

Carrie Fisher, who died in December 2016, will also remain in the sequel trilogy thanks to the inclusion of unused scenes that were shot for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“Princess Leia exists in this film in a way that’s kind of mind-blowing to me,” Abrams said. The trailer includes a shot of Leia embracing Rey in what seems to be an emotional scene between the two.

One of the most uproarious responses from the celebration crowd came when Billy Dee Williams came onstage to tease his character Lando Calrissian’s role in Episode IX. When Colbert asked the actor how he prepared for a role that he last embodied for “Return of the Jedi” in 1983, Williams responded, “Lando never left me.”

And some new ones

Although “Rise of Skywalker” is the last in a nine-part series, the panel dropped hints about the multiple new characters who will be joining the franchise. Most prominent among them is Jannah (Naomi Ackie of “Lady Macbeth”), who crosses paths with the main trio in the film and may or may not be Lando’s daughter.

“Listen, Lando’s a very charming man,” Ackie quipped when asked about her character’s lineage. “He could have children all over this universe.”

Also in attendance was an adorable new droid named D-0, a new companion of BB-8.

Info about other newcomers played by Richard E. Grant and Keri Russell — who is currently starring in Broadway’s “Burn This” with “Star Wars” co-star Driver — remains secret.

The Emperor’s new groove

Before the Episode IX panel ended, fans were treated to one final surprise. As the trio approached the remnants of an old Death Star and the trailer faded to black, the familiar evil cackle of original “Star Wars” big bad Emperor Palpatine could be heard. To confirm his reappearance, Ian McDiarmid (who portrayed Palpatine in the original and prequel trilogies) appeared onstage, bathed in ominous red lighting.

Chronologically, the Emperor was last seen in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.” He seemed unquestionably dead after Darth Vader tossed him down a shaft in a ship that subsequently exploded. But, hey, if Darth Maul could show up in last year’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story” after being cut in half, what’s to stop Palpatine from joining the fray in some capacity?

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” opens in theaters on Dec. 20.

Edited by Joe Cross | jcross@themaneater.com

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