Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Every Star Wars film – yes, even the Star Wars Holiday Special – has been leading to this moment. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will usher in the end of the Skywalker Saga, concluding what George Lucas started in 1977. The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams returns to close things out, with new generation stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac all bringing their characters’ stories to a close. Also back: the late Carrie Fisher, who will appear here through unused footage from the previous two Star Wars films.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker footage was revealed at D23, and our own Peter Sciretta was there. Needless to say, what they showed to the audience was pretty mind-blowing. Here’s what you need to know.

The panel began with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and director J.J. Abrams taking the stage with cast members Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell, and Billy Dee Williams.

Before any footage was even shown, some photos of new characters debuted. A shot of Keri Russell’s character Zorri Bliss, a scoundrel who hangs out in the darker corners of the universe, showed off more of her gold and red armor, this time with a blaster drawn and looking like a badass. We also learned that Zorri has a history with Poe Dameron, though we’re not sure if it’s professional or romantic, or if that history creates a good or tense relationship between the two.

But it’s the footage that brings the biggest reveals of The D23 Expo presentation for The Rise of Skywalker. This was footage that was shown exclusively to the crowd in attendance at the panel, so you won’t see this anywhere online. But we have a description of what was briefly shown.

The footage begins with a sort of nostalgic sizzle reel featuring iconic shots of Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Princess Leia from Star Wars: A New Hope. It cycles through some big moments from the rest of the trilogy, including the final shot of The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda lifting the X-wing out of the swamp, Lando Calrissian, and even some prequel shots make it in like Darth Maul igniting his double-bladed lightsaber.

After a montage of some footage from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, there’s a new shot of the new trilogy heroes overlooking the desert civilization that was glimpsed in the teaser trailer and the Vanity Fair photoshoot.

One shot has Rey throwing her lightsaber and then pulling it back to her with the Force. An intimidating shot of what appeared to be dozens of Star Destroyers in space is truly awesome. C-3PO appears with red eyes for some reason. A Rebel fleet exits hyperspace, red lasers blast towards the surface of a planet. And finally, Rey and Kylo Ren are seen fighting on the wreckage of the Death Star with water crashing around them.

But the money shot cam at the end with Rey, wearing a dark side style hooded cloak, igniting a red double-bladed lightsaber. But this one is different from Darth Maul’s in that the handle somehow folds in the middle and transitions from being a single blade to the double blade mode. The Emperor could be heard saying, “Your journey nears its end” during this scene.

We’re not sure what this means for the future of Rey, but that’s likely the idea. More than likely this is some kind of vision of what Rey could become rather than what she will be, and that’s just the thing that J.J. Abrams would show fans to get them speculating like crazy without really telling us anything about how this final chapter will play out. But it does tell us that it’s going to places we never expected.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20, 2019.

J.J. Abrams returns to direct the final installment of the Skywalker saga. Abrams co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Terrio.

Returning cast members include Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and Billie Lourd. Joining the cast of Episode IX are Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell and Richard E. Grant, who will be joined by veteran Star Wars actors Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams, who will reprise his role as Lando Calrissian.

The role of Leia Organa will once again be played by Carrie Fisher, using previously unreleased footage shot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” says Abrams. “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, we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.”

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