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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker -- New footage, release date, everything you need to know

We're so close to release now. Time to prepare for The Rise of Skywalker

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The final trailer arrived.

Walt Disney Studios

New Star Wars: Folks, it's happening. In less than a month, you'll be able to watch Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker and all questions will be answered. Will J.J. Abrams end the series with a bang? Will he go risky like The Last Jedi or play it safe like The Force Awakens? Either way the discourse will be bonkers. 

Because after a mixed reception to The Last Jedi and Solo's box office flop, there's a lot at stake here.  Abrams also has the challenge of keeping Leia Organa a central character despite the death of actress Carrie Fisher in 2016. But almost everyone involved believes they've nailed that.

The Mandalorian and the launch of Disney Plus has brought momentum back to the Star Wars hype train. Hopefully The Rise of Skywalker can give the Skywalker saga that strong conclusion it deserves.

Here's everything we know so far.

Release date

Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters worldwide on Dec. 20, 2019.

Trailers and footage

So much. Most recently, this TV spot showed up online.

But looking back the first teaser trailer showed during the Star Wars Episode 9 panel at the Celebration Chicago fan convention in April, with more footage debuting during Disney's D23 event.

Now playing: Watch this: Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker trailer tees...
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We've seen more since then. Including the recent "they fly now" footage, which... people didn't react favourably to.

The cast

We're expecting a good mix of the new faces seen in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi to make their return in the 2019 movie. The official cast includes:

The official cast announcement made in July 2018 noted Fisher's Leia will return through unseen footage from 2015's The Force Awakens. The studio further confirmed that it wouldn't digitally re-create her like it did for 2016's Rogue One.

"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 9 by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII," J.J. Abrams said in the July casting announcement.

Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd will also have an on-screen reunion with her mother, with Vanity Fair reporting that Lourd asked to appear in scenes alongside Leia. Lourd plays Lieutenant Kaydel Ko Connix in the Star Wars films, first appearing in 2015's The Force Awakens.

Rey and Leia have a hug in the Episode 9 trailer.

Lucasfilm

Naomi Ackie will play new character Jannah, but not much is known about her yet. Richard E. Grant's Allegiant General Pryde looks to be a member of the First Order, standing alongside Domhnall Gleeson's General Hux in a photo from the Vanity Fair preview. Keri Russell's character, the Rougish Zorri Bliss, could have a less clear allegiance as she appears to have a costume similar to bounty hunters like Boba Fett. Dominic Monaghan's Star Wars role has not been revealed as of yet. Matt Smith reportedly joined the cast, according to Variety in August 2018, but the actor has since shot the rumor down in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Composer John Williams will score the movie, as he has with every numbered entry in the Star Wars saga.

And while it's not impossible for Harrison Ford to potentially return as Han Solo, there are no official announcements quite yet.

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Unseen footage from The Force Awakens will be used to bring Carrie Fisher's Leia into Episode 9's story.

Lucasfilm

The plot

Abrams teased at Star Wars Celebration Chicago that the movie will focus on the newest generation of characters and what's been passed down to them. It'll also take place some time after The Last Jedi, allowing for characters to have grown a bit since we last saw them.

"This movie, it's about this new generation, and what they've inherited, the light and the dark," Abrams said.

The first trailer emphasizes this theme, showcasing Rey, Finn, Poe and the other stars of the sequel trilogy -- but in voice only we hear Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker and Ian McDiarmid's Sheev Palpatine.

"We have passed on all we know, a thousand generations live in you now," Luke says in a voice-over. "But this is your fight."

But Palpatine's cackling laugh plays right after Skywalker says, "No one's ever really gone," possibly meaning that both light and dark Star Wars characters might be living on after death.

Here are teases we've gotten about each of the characters, combined with light speculation:

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Daisy Ridley's Rey, in a new outfit for Episode 9.

Star Wars

Rey: After turning down Kylo Ren's offer to let both the First Order and the Resistance perish and instead conquer the galaxy together, Rey is last seen on the Millennium Falcon with the sacred Jedi texts taken from Ach-To. Ridley said at Star Wars Celebration that it's unknown how much of those texts she would've read.

"As we saw, those books are pretty large. She may have started," Ridley said. 

Check out that lightsaber.

Lucasfilm

It's likely she'll continue her own version of Jedi training using a combination of the texts, personal practice and maybe some off-screen mentorship from Leia Organa. Also, she JUST MET Poe Dameron, so it's time to see what her dynamic with the flyboy might be. One other thing: Will J.J. Abrams choose to flesh out the story of her parentage, or will he keep her as an orphan who was sold off by her parents for drinking money?

Also, how did she get that white lightsaber we see her wield in the first teaser trailer? Or perhaps it's a blue lightsaber that's shining especially bright?

At D23, footage showed Rey battling Kylo Ren. She also wielded a new double-bladed lightsaber (like Darth Maul's). Given her use of a staff in The Force Awakens, it's logical that she could wield a bigger blade but has she turned towards the Dark Side? Or is it all a crazy dream?

What happened to Rey to create this moment?

Lucasfilm

Finn: Finn is a full-fledged member of the Resistance when The Rise of Skywalker begins, actor John Boyega confirmed at Star Wars Celebration. Unlike in The Last Jedi, Finn and Rey are expected to stay paired up for Episode 9. While he's fresh off defeating Captain Phasma, with Boyega even remarking that "she dead," actor Oscar Isaac said Poe takes his friendship with Finn quite seriously. A photo from Episode 9 shows the two in a light moment, so hopefully we are going to see how deep their friendship can get after the bits of chemistry we saw in The Force Awakens.

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Finn and Poe having a light moment in Episode 9.

Star Wars

Kylo Ren: The new supreme leader of the First Order could be looking over his shoulder, making sure no one has any evidence he's the one who killed off Snoke. That said, after having his connection to Rey cut off by the end of The Last Jedi, Kylo might now be fully embracing his role as a Sith leader.

Vanity Fair did reveal that the Knights of Ren will be returning in Rise of the Skywalker, who were only otherwise seen in a flashback sequence during The Force Awakens. The group will wear large armor sets that are described by the publication as having a Mad Max-esque look, noting that one member even rocks a gun arm. The Knights were seen filming in the sunny desert, furthering that Mad Max comparison.

We do know one thing, in the teaser he's repairing his helmet and Ridley confirmed that we are no longer seeing shirtless Adam Driver a la the conversations Rey and Kylo had in the last movie.

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Kylo Ren's past with the Knights of Ren might be explored in Episode 9.

Star Wars

Leia: We can expect Leia to still be a central part of the saga via a combination of unreleased footage and newly shot footage with other actors to bring Fisher back to life. After her gorgeous, surprising ability to fly through space using the Force left her in a coma, Leia woke up to finish off the movie, but her condition is otherwise unknown. Exactly how much Fisher we'll get is yet to be determined, but Abrams and Kennedy have repeatedly noted the effort to take great care with her depiction in this film.

What about the rumors?

There are a lot of rumors on the internet about Episode 9, including the possibility of some surprise appearances:

  • Editors' note: This has now been confirmed: While The Last Jedi picks up immediately after The Force Awakens, it's possible there will be a time jump before Episode 9. John Boyega told Yahoo he's growing his hair out for the new movie, and we'll have to "wait for the trailer to see why." Adding fuel to this fire, a Boyega interview with Empire magazine appears to further confirm a time jump, with the print version saying "John Boyega has confirmed the film takes place roughly one year after the events of The Last Jedi." While it's not a direct quote, and it's possible Boyega wasn't meant to confirm this detail, it's perhaps the most specific statement we've heard regarding Episode 9's spot in the Star Wars timeline.
  • Yoda appeared as a Force Ghost during The Last Jedi, and the New York Daily News says an "insider" revealed Yoda is returning for the 2019 movie. Since Yoda in ghost form can also bring down a lightning bolt, it's awfully weird he isn't more involved in assisting Leia's Resistance.
  • Many of the Black Squadron pilots who backed up Poe in the assault on Starkiller Base were absent in The Last Jedi, but Marvel's ongoing Poe Dameron comic book series revealed the mission Leia sent them on immediately after The Force Awakens. Greg Grunberg, who played Snap Wexley, recently hinted to Yahoo that he's "getting itchy to go over there and do it" -- a reference to his character's facial hair and Episode 9's filming location in England.
  • Could Obi-Wan Kenobi, as embodied by Ewan McGregor, show up in Episode 9? According to The Sun's sources, McGregor is going to be secretly shooting scenes for it. While there's no way to vouch for this, McGregor did record a line that played in 2015's The Force Awakens super briefly that was meshed with a similarly sounding phrase recorded by original Kenobi actor Alec Guinness. The phrase wasn't much, McGregor remembered the result as "Rey, these are your first steps" during a 2016 appearance on The Graham Norton Show. Therefore, it wouldn't be at all shocking to see some version of Kenobi in Episode 9, but the real question is -- how much? And might anything seen in Rise of the Skywalker set up the upcoming Kenobi series set for the Disney Plus streaming service.

As more rumors pop up, we'll add them.

What other Star Wars things can I watch?

Folks, get on that Disney Plus. There's almost too much Star Wars stuff to watch.

Start with The Mandalorian, a live-action Star Wars TV series by Jon Favreau and starring Pedro Pascal. We're currently three episodes deep and episode 4 is incoming. I hope you like blacksmithing montages.

Star Wars Resistance, an animated series now airing on the Disney Channel, takes place just before The Force Awakens. The show comes from creator Dave Filoni, who previously led the Star Wars Rebels series and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. While Resistance showcases new characters, it also features Poe Dameron and Capt. Phasma as voiced by Oscar Isaac and Gwendoline Christie, respectively.