Star Wars 9: The five biggest talking points from The Rise of Skywalker panel

Lucasfilm has been extremely secretive about the project so far, suggesting we might be in for some major twists and turns

Clarisse Loughrey
Saturday 13 April 2019 12:55
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Watch the brand-new teaser for Star Wars: Episode IX

40 years of the Star Wars franchise, starting with 1977’s A New Hope, now culminates with The Rise of Skywalker.

From Luke to Rey, Anakin to Kylo Ren, these stories of legacy, family, and destiny reach an epic conclusion that truly marks the end of an era for Star Wars fans everywhere.

Lucasfilm has been extremely secretive about the project so far, suggesting we might be in for some major twists and turns. Two of those surprises arrived at the film’s panel at Star Wars Celebration, the world’s biggest convention for the franchise, which this year is being held in Chicago.

Kathleen Kennedy, the head of Lucasfilm, and director JJ Abrams were joined by key cast members: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Anthony Daniels, Joonas Suotamo, and Billy Dee Williams – who makes his grand return as Lando Calrissian.

Here’s our breakdown of those reveals, alongside a few of the other major talking points from the panel.

The Return of Palpatine

The first trailer for Episode IX, which revealed the title The Rise of Skywalker, ended with a cut to darkness and a very familiar cackle – that of Palpatine, the Sith Lord and former rule of the Empire, who was killed (or so we thought) by Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi. After the trailer played, Ian McDiarmid, who played Palpatine in the prequel trilogy, took to the stage to confirm the news.

The character’s presence was actually hinted at earlier on in the panel, when Abrams teased that our heroes would be facing “the greatest evil”. The unknown entity here is what Palpatine’s return will actually consist of. Is he alive? Or will this simply be a Force Ghost attempting to manipulate either Rey or Kylo Ren from beyond the grave?

There is a shot in the trailer of Rey, Finn, and Poe standing before the remains of what appears to be the second Death Star, having presumably crashed into Endor (either the forest moon that is home to the Ewoks or the planet itself). This is presumably where we’ll come across Palpatine, in whatever insidious form he might have taken.

Who is the Skywalker?

(Getty Images for Disney

The other major revelation, of course, was the title itself. Who is this Skywalker that’s rising? the easy assumption to make here is that Episode IX will reveal Kylo Ren was lying about Rey’s parents being “filthy junk traders” and that she’ll actually turn out to be a Skywalker herself.

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But, the Skywalker here is potentially something more symbolic. There is a telling piece of dialogue from Luke at the beginning of the trailer. “We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now,” he says, presumably to Rey.

Rey’s Skywalker legacy might not be in her blood, but in her spirit. This is the end of a saga, Rey is the last of the Jedi, and she’s been imbued with generations of wisdom and power. But is that power both of the light and the dark? That could even explain the return of Palpatine: Rey could be all about the balance of the Force inside one person, in a way that echoes the ancient prophecy of Anakin Skywalker bringing balance and ending the Sith in Return of the Jedi.

Abrams did say that The Rise of Skywalker is all about what the characters have “inherited, the light and the dark”.

Saying goodbye to Leia

A major question for fans was how The Rise of Skywalker would deal with the tragic passing of Carrie Fisher, who died in 2016. Abrams reiterated earlier reports that the film will utilise a number of deleted scenes from The Force Awakens that feature Fisher’s Leia. The filmmakers were adamant that they weren’t going to use CGI, but that the scenes have been carefully selected to “continue her story”.

The shot of Leia we see in the trailer does appear to be an alternative take of the moment that Rey and Leia first cross paths at the end of The Force Awakens, although some digital trickery has been used to relocate the two characters to the jungle planet that we saw featured elsewhere during the panel.

Who is Jannah?

(Getty Images for Disney

Naomi Ackie is one of a handful of newcomers to The Rise of Skywalker, alongside Richard E Grant, Keri Russell, and Dominic Monaghan. She will play a character named Jannah, although those at the panel were tight-lipped about her role in this story. Host Stephen Colbert did, however, toy with the idea that she might be Lando’s daughter – a fact that wasn’t immediately refuted by Ackie, meaning there might be some truth to the suggestion.

Who will Finn end up with (if he ends up with anyone)?

A recurring topic of the panel was, surprisingly Finn’s love life. Although Boyega, for his part, said The Rise of Skywalker sees him find his place within the Resistance, Colbert was eager to tease out any details about the film’s potential love triangle between Finn, Rose, and Rey.

However, the cast were eager to hint at a potential romance between Finn and Poe – the one relationship fans have been begging for ever since The Force Awakens – and it’s clear that, whatever happens, the franchise’s historic lack of LGBT+ representation will be a major talking point when it comes to this film’s release. Tran did make one thing clear, however: Finn is a very “eligible bachelor”.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be released in UK cinemas on 19 December.

Click here to follow our live updates of the 2019 Star Wars Celebration

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