Den of Geek US was fortunate enough to attend the Star Wars Celebration Episode IX panel, which revealed quite a few new things about the final chapter of the Sequel Trilogy. Not only did we get the title of the movie and the first teaser trailer, but Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, director J.J. Abrams, and the cast were also in attendance to shed some light on the film's secrets.
If you didn't have a chance to watch the panel in April, don't worry. We've compiled the most important facts about the movie below:
There's a Time Jump
When we catch up with the heroes and villains of Episode IX, it will be some time after the events of The Last Jedi. How much time after? Abrams and the cast wouldn't say.
Judging from Rey's advanced skills with a lightsaber, as showcased by the opening minute of the teaser, we'd say it's been at least a year or two.
Time jumps have been a natural part of the story structure of the saga movies, and only The Last Jedi has directly followed its predecessor, picking up right where the last movie left off. Giving us a time jump this time around should allow us to see some growth in the characters. Rey is more skilled, Kylo Ren is probably more evil, Finn and Poe are definitely way more fashionable.
The Skywalker Lightsaber Is Back
Daisy Ridley wouldn't say much about the return of Luke's lightsaber except that it "still exists." We see her brandish the weapon in the trailer during her confrontation with the TIE Interceptor, but not much else.
We know that constructing a lightsaber is a pivotal part of becoming a Jedi. For Rey, that might mean reconstructing Luke's old weapon after it was split in half during the struggle with Kylo in The Last Jedi. We probably won't see any lightsaber building tutorials in the movie, though.
One thing is for sure: that lightsaber refuses to go away.
Carrie Fisher Is in the Movie
We've known for a while the late Carrie Fisher would be in Episode IX. It's no less jaw-dropping to see her in the teaser, hugging and comforting a teary-eyed Rey. There's no context for the scene, but we assume we'll be crying alongside Daisy Ridley when the time comes.
How did the wizards at Lucasfilm manage to include Fisher, who passed away in 2016 before the release of The Last Jedi, in Episode IX? Abrams and the rest of the production team went back to the unused footage that Fisher shot for The Force Awakens and edited bits of it into Episode IX, which explains why General Leia is wearing her TFA uniform. While none of Leia's scenes will be the product of CGI, there does seem to be at least a little digital manipulation since Rey is clearly wearing her new outfit during that hug.
It's great to see Fisher and Leia get a proper sendoff in this movie, especially since the original plan was for Episode IX to have a big focus on the leader of the Resistance. According to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy in an interview with Vanity Fair in 2017, while TFA focused on Han and TLJ was about Luke, The Rise of Skywalker would have been Leia's movie. It's unlikely Leia will have a big presence in the movie, but at least the movie will be able to celebrate her legacy one last time.
Lando's New Costume Is a Callback to Solo
Billy Dee Williams is back as Lando Calrissian, taking back his chair in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, once again alongside Chewie (the shot of them zooming through hyperspace brings back memories of their escape from Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back). But Lando's reunion with the Falcon isn't the only thing of note in Episode IX.
During the panel, we got our first look at Lando's outfit. If the blue and yellow colour palette looks familiar, it's because it's very similar to the outfit worn by Donald Glover in Solo: A Star Wars Story. The yellow shirt with blue trim and dark cape is a look that has clearly withstood the test of time because Lando looks great more than 30 years after his initial adventure with Han and Qi'ra.
Newcomer Naomi Ackie Plays Jannah
Naomi Ackie, a relative newcomer best known for her role as Anna in Lady Macbeth, is one of the new faces of Episode IX. The panel didn't reveal much about the character beyond her name. Some people are speculating that she's Lando's daughter, but you'll have to take that with a grain of salt.
The Big Three Have New Costumes
The three heroes of the Sequel Trilogy all got brand new wardrobes from The Rise of Skywalker. While Rey's white outfit more closely resembles her original look in The Force Awakens, Episode IX gives Poe and Finn a bit of a makeover.
At the Celebration panel, both Oscar Isaac and John Boyega talked enthusiastically about their new looks. Isaac was particularly excited about his new scarf, which, judging from the above screenshot from the trailer, will be fashioned into a bandage later in the movie.
Meanwhile, Boyega felt that his new outfit, which features a very elegant Han Solo-esque vest and blue pants, better reflected Finn as a character. After all, Finn has never really been able to wear his own clothes, having gone from Stormtrooper armour to adopting Poe's Resistance jacket for two movies.
Long story short: these three are looking good!
Kylo Ren Fixed His Helmet
Despite the fact that Kylo ditched his Vader-inspired helmet in both installments of the Sequel Trilogy, it's back once again. In The Last Jedi, Kylo shattered the helmet during a tantrum, which we assumed meant that he was done covering his face, but a mysterious red stitching has brought it back to life. The streaks of red, like blooding seeping into the cracks, make the helmet look even more intimidating.
Klaud Is One of the New Aliens
What would a new Star Wars movie be without a few, never-before-seen aliens? Among the many aliens revealed at the panel is Klaud, a slug-like Resistance fighter who Abrams described as a "comedic" character. It seems this new soldier has confused even Snap Wexley (Greg Grunberg), who makes a return in this movie after missing The Last Jedi.
BB-8 Has a New Friend Named D-0
BB-8 won't be the only droid melting our hearts in Episode IX. There's also little D-0, who makes up the other half of this new comedic duo. If D-0's design looks familiar, that's because he's a nod to Pixar's mascot, Luxo Jr. the Desk Lamp.
The Title Could Be a Red Herring
The Rise of Skywalker might be the most controversial of all Star Wars titles, specifically because Luke died in The Last Jedi and there's no clear heir to his name. Unless Abrams is planning to walk back Rian Johnson's version of Rey's origin story, it's unlikely that the Sequel Trilogy's protagonist will be revealed to actually be related to Luke.
So what could the title mean? One theory is that the title refers to Kylo Ren, formerly Ben Solo, who, as the son of Leia, has Skywalker blood. But by the end of TLJ, it seems that Kylo is too far gone for a redemption story. Not even Luke thinks he can be saved.
If it's not Rey and it's not Kylo, the title could be teasing a whole new Skywalker, one that hasn't been revealed yet. That seems like too big of a plotline to introduce in the final chapter of a trilogy, though. Still, might have Luke had a child with someone?
The most likely explanation is that the name "Skywalker" is now something bigger than one person or family. It's the name given to a hero like Rey, who could unlock her inner "Skywalker" to bring peace to the galaxy. Could the name "Skywalker" then become some sort of honourable title bestowed on the galaxy's greatest hero?
One More Death Star
Almost every Star Wars movie so far has featured a superweapon or a brief mention of a superweapon. Episode IX won't disappoint in that regard, only this time we'll visit the ruins of an old Death Star. Rey, Finn, and Poe's adventure will lead them to the wreckage of what looks like the Death Star II on the forest moon of Endor (mind you, it's not confirmed whether this is Yavin IV or Endor). What the heroes are doing digging through this relic of war and destruction is anyone's guess, but we bet has something to do with this last fact...
Return of the Emperor
A familiar cackle at the end of the Episode IX teaser was enough for panel audience to erupt in cheers and applause. Yes, Ian McDiarmid, your beloved Emperor Palpatine, is returning for the final chapter of the Skywalker saga.
It's fitting, considering that Palpatine is the most powerful villain in the saga (obviously Snoke was no match). But does this mean that the Emperor has been pulling the strings of the First Order this whole time? Did he ignite a new galactic civil war so that he could sneak in and become ruler once more?
We think it's more likely that the Emperor's appearance in the movie is a cameo. After all, we know that Sith spirits can't quite travel around the galaxy as Jedi Force ghosts can, so it's possible that the Emperor's spirit is tied to the wreckage of the Death Star and the heroes encounter him there.
Either way, it's going to be so cool to see the Emperor again!
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens in UK cinemas on 19 December.