After more than 40 years, the wait is over. The annual Star Wars fan convention, Star Wars Celebration, officially kicked off in Chicago on Friday (April 12) with the anticipated first look at J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars: Episode IX, now formally titled Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Picking up “some time” after the events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi — in which the Resistance suffered significant losses against the First Order — The Rise of Skywalker finds Rey, Finn, Poe, and company embarking on an adventure together. What that journey entails is still somewhat unclear, but the teaser does offer us a clue in its final moments, as our heroes gaze out at what appears to be the wreckage of the Death Star.
“No one’s ever really gone,” the voice of Luke Skywalker says before the clip ends with Supreme Chancellor Palpatine’s evil laugh. Actor Ian McDiarmid confirmed Palpatine’s shocking return by appearing on the Celebration stage moments after.
The trailer also features a dazzling opening sequence of Rey using her Force powers — Luke’s lightsaber in hand — to jump over a TIE fighter in what looks like a showdown with Kylo Ren, who’s sadly back in his emo phase and wearing the helmet he previously destroyed in Episode VIII. (Let those locks flow, Kylo!) Billy Dee Williams made his grand return to the franchise, too, reprising the role of that smooth-talking scoundrel Lando Calrissian. Asked what it was like to play the character again decades later, Williams said in earnest, “Lando never left me.”
While Abrams and the cast couldn’t reveal too much about the film during the panel — though, moderator and Star Wars superfan Stephen Colbert tried his best — we did learn a few morsels of information, like the fact that (unfortunately) Kylo Ren not appear partially shirtless in this flick. On a more serious note, Abrams also opened up about the inclusion of the late Carrie Fisher in the film. The teaser shows a tender scene between General Leia and Rey, and according to Abrams, Fisher’s scenes in Episode IX are actually unused footage from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
“The weird miracle of having had a number of scenes from The Force Awakens that hadn’t been used was that we could use those scenes to continue her story so that it would be her,” he said. “The crazy thing is how not crazy it feels because she is there in these scenes. Leia lives in this film in a way that is kind of mind-blowing to me.”
Abrams confirmed that they’re still editing and doing visual effects on the film, but the use of practical effects — as seen in The Force Awakens — is still integral to the heart of the storytelling. In fact, a small new droid by the name of DO (D-O? Dio?) made its debut on stage. DO can be seen in the teaser alongside its buddy BB-8:
“The thing I think about all the time is the responsibility we have,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said during the panel. “It’s something we talk about every minute while we’re making these movies.” Though, for Episode IX — the final chapter in the beloved Skywalker saga — the enormity of the moment, and the desire to stay true to George Lucas’s vision while adding even more depth for modern audiences, was felt by everyone. It’s truly the end of an era.
But first, let’s watch Rey jump over that TIE fighter again.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters December 20, 2019.