JJ Abrams began a new chapter in the Star Wars story with 2015's The Force Awakens. This new sequel trilogy will end in 2019 with
Colin Trevorrow Abrams's Episode 9.
Episode 8: The Last Jedi has been and gone, but there are still plenty of mysteries surrounding the 2019 follow-up to Rian Johnson's revolutionary movie.
Star Wars Episode 9 trailer: An unexpected return
It also revealed the surprise return of Emperor Palpatine, well Ian McDiarmid's unmistakeable laugh anyway. But isn't Palpatine totally dead?
While there was little in the way of plot, there were plenty of moments to get the fans excited, including Lando back in the Millennium Falcon, Leia and Rey sharing a moment and the return of the medals from A New Hope.
Oh, and a Death Star. The first or the second one, who knows yet.
Unsurprisingly, the trailer set a new record for Star Wars teasers, racking up 111 million views within the first 24 hours of its launch.
Why is it called The Rise of Skywalker? Abrams said it "feels like it's the right title for this movie". "I know it's provocative and asks a bunch of questions, but I think when you see the movie, you’ll see how it's intended and what it means," he added.
"But in the flow of titles, this movie had a very weird responsibility. It had to be the end of not just three movies, but nine movies, and the idea of having to incorporate the stories that have come before, strangely, is the story of the movie."
Star Wars Episode 9 release date: When's it coming?
Episode 9 was previously scheduled for May 24, 2019 in the US, but was then bumped back to Star Wars' traditional Christmas release window.
Episode 9 will now premiere on December 20, 2019, giving new director JJ Abrams more time to work on the final instalment in this new trilogy. In the UK the movie is set to open the day before - Thursday, December 19 2019.
Filming began in August 2018 and is wrapped on February 15, 2019 with JJ Abrams marking it with a heartfelt message: "There is no adequate way to thank this truly magical crew and cast. I’m forever indebted to you all."
It feels impossible, but today wrapped photography on Episode IX. There is no adequate way to thank this truly magical crew and cast. I’m forever indebted to you all. pic.twitter.com/138AprtFuZ- JJ Abrams (@jjabrams) February 15, 2019
Star Wars Episode 9 cast: Who's coming back?
Stars Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Anthony Daniels (C-3P0) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) are all returning, as is Domhnall Gleeson as crazy old General Hux.
Kelly Marie Tran also returns as Rose, even if she may never return to social media after being trolled.
And Hamill will be joined by returning original star Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian.
With the trailer confirming that Ian McDiarmid is back as well. But in what form? We're banking on a Force Ghost for the moment.
The return of Palpatine was "always" going to happen as well, according to Kathleen Kennedy. "This has been in the blueprint for a long time," she said after the trailer's big reveal.
Having originally been touted as a potential new cast member for Star Wars Episode 9, The Americans star Keri Russell has now finally been added to the cast (even though she was left off the official casting list).
She's playing "masked scoundrel" Zorri Bliss, so we'll wait and see whose side she's on.
Joining her in Episode 9 are Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant, with Laura Dern (Amilyn Holdo) and Benicio del Toro ('DJ') seemingly sidelined from Episode VIII alongside the recently deceased Sith lord Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).
At Star Wars Celebration, it was confirmed that Ackie was playing Jannah, but wouldn't be drawn on the fan theory that Jannah was Lando's daughter.
Richard E. Grant has denied he's playing the main baddie in Episode 9, despite fans hoping he was playing a character from Star Wars spin-off media called Grand Admiral Thrawn, who was introduced in the 1991 novel Heir to the Empire.
Grant couldn't tell Radio Times much about his involvement in Star Wars Episode IX, other than that he's most definitely not playing Thrawn.
We now know he's playing a First Order leader Allegiant General Pryde, but nothing else beside that.
Carrie Fisher's brother Todd Fisher originally revealed that the late Star Wars legend would somehow return as General Leia Organa – possibly using Rogue One's unsettling CGI reconstruction technology – but this was denied by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.
It has since been confirmed to be true by the official casting announcement, with Leia's appearance seeing never-before-seen footage of Carrie Fisher used in the movie.
"They have arranged it in the script and what was shot to bring her into the story in a way as if they filmed it yesterday," Todd Fisher said, later adding that he is "thrilled" at what Episode 9 has achieved.
The footage was originally thought to be unused material from The Force Awakens, but has since been confirmed to include additional footage of the iconic actress from The Last Jedi too.
Sandell said the clips will "not only [come] from The Force Awakens, but apparently they are also using unused footage from The Last Jedi" but when asked how many minutes material they have to use, replied: "I can't tell you that."
Oscar Isaac teased that the movie deals with Fisher's passing and the "amazing character that Carrie created" in a "really beautiful way" and later said it was right that the character wasn't one that "fades away".
Following the announcement that Fisher will posthumously appear in Episode 9, Hamill shared two photos of the pair together and a touching tribute: "It's bittersweet facing my final chapter without her - she is simply irreplaceable. I'm finding solace in the fact that she won't BE replaced".
It's bittersweet facing my final chapter without her-She is simply irreplaceable. I'm finding solace in the fact that she won't BE replaced & would love the worldwide outpouring of affection from those who loved her when they heard the news.#CarrieOnForever pic.twitter.com/7ueMqBxQwa- Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) July 29, 2018
Deadline reports that Heroes alum Grunberg is all set to suit up again for Abrams in Episode IX, which will be a reunion for actor and director, since Abrams casts Grunberg in most of his projects as a good-luck charm of sorts.
Although the site says his character has yet to be confirmed, it would seem very odd indeed for him to be playing anyone but X-wing pilot Temmin 'Snap' Wexley, who was on the first line of defence against General Hux and his forces on the Starkiller base in 2015's The Force Awakens.
Grunberg isn't the only actor reuniting with Abrams. Star Wars Episode 9 has cast Lost star Dominic Monaghan, taking him from a faraway island to a faraway galaxy.
Star Wars Episode 9 plot: Time jump ahead
We still didn't get an official synopsis at Star Wars Celebration, but Abrams did note that the movie will the central group of characters go "on an adventure". Helpful.
Boyega had been hinting about a time jump of around a year since The Last Jedi, as well as growing his hair a bit, and Abrams did confirm that The Rise of Skywalker "doesn't pick up immediately" after The Last Jedi. How long remains to be seen though.
However, Lucasfilm has confirmed that Star Wars: Episode IX will be the final movie installment based around the Skywalker clan. So this film draws a saga to a close that started when George Lucas created the series over 40 years ago.
And Abrams has confirmed that Lucas did have some input in the new movie.
Naturally, Carrie Fisher's death has had an impact on the plans for the next episode, even though she will appear using unused footage. The director broke our hearts with Trevorrow's confession that she was intended to be at the very centre of Episode 9.
"The minute she finished [shooting The Last Jedi], she grabbed me and said, 'I'd better be at the forefront of 9!'," he told Vanity Fair. "Because Harrison [Ford] was front and centre on 7, and Mark is front and centre on 8.
"She thought 9 would be her movie. And it would have been."
Kennedy added that they "pretty much started over" following Fisher's death, although the script had not been finalised at that point. Trevorrow promised that Leia "will be handled with love and respect, and all of the soul that Carrie Fisher deserves", and we're sure that goes equally for Abrams.
Meanwhile, Oscar Isaac has revealed the state of the Resistance in Star Wars: Episode 9, describing them as basically being reduced to "guerrilla" fighters in the movie.
That's as to be expected: the Resistance were down to one ship as they were pummelled by the First Order at the end of The Last Jedi, though the movie was left on a note of hope.
Thanks to Vanity Fair, we now know that the Resistance face a new threat in the form of the returning Knights of Ren.
Boyega has also been teasing "something visually crazy" in the movie. "I’ve had many moments of shock on set but not like today and I can’t wait until you know why," he posted on Instagram during filming.
And like his co-stars, he's having fun trolling fans on Twitter by 'revealing' how Episode 9 ends.
Boyega also thinks that this will be his last time playing Finn: "This really is that movie. I think everyone doesn't believe it but this is that war that just ends everything."
Talking of set updates, Anthony Daniels revealed on January 28 that he had wrapped filming on Episode 9. "Today was 3PO's last on Episode IX. He's sad - so am I. But we're so proud to have worked with such a lovely, talented cast & crew lead by JJ & Kathy," he wrote on Twitter.
"I'll miss everyone but I'm glad to know that we've been making something exceptional together, to share with the waiting world."
Today was 3PO's last on Episode IX. He's sad - so am I. But we're so proud to have worked with such a lovely, talented cast & crew lead by J.J. & Kathy. I'll miss everyone but I'm glad to know that we've been making something exceptional together, to share with the waiting world.- Anthony Daniels (@ADaniels3PO) January 28, 2019
As for Adam Driver, he revealed that he's always been building to "one piece of information of where it was all going", but obviously didn't say anything more than that. And good luck getting anything out of him, spoiler-wise.
Will we see any retcons of the revelations in The Last Jedi, such as the reveal that Rey's parents were nobodies?
One thing's for sure though, don't expect your Reylo theories to come true if Ridley has her way.
"I do feel like, deep down, Kylo thinks what he's doing is right and he doesn't think he's wrong, but he has also killed so many people. So I can't really get behind it, no, in a personal way," said Ridley.
We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be released in UK cinemas on December 19 and US cinemas on December 20.
('You Might Also Like',)