“There has been an awakening… have you felt it?”

In 2015, those words opened the trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and heralded a new era of Star Wars. Four years later, J.J. Abrams is back to write and direct the conclusion to the Skywalker saga. What can devotees expect from the final installment in the beloved galactic epic? Will Rey triumph over the apparently resurrected Emperor Palpatine? What of C-3PO?

Some familiar ships make an appearance.

According to an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Abrams says the answers to your burning questions are forthcoming – although you may have to wait until the movie hits theaters on December 20th to find out what they are. Until then, it seems as though postproduction on The Rise of Skywalker is an ongoing process. Abrams says that they had three more months to work on postproduction for The Force Awakens than they’ll have for The Rise of Skywalker.

In spite of the demanding schedule, Abrams seems extremely optimistic about Episode 9, citing the familiarity he’s developed with the characters and actors after directing The Force Awakens and pointing out that Rise of Skywalker required fewer reshoots and narrative adjustments than Episode VII in spite of the fact that the scale of the story is “exponentially larger.”

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The Rise of Skywalker
The gang visits Babu Frik.

Abrams also emphasized the fact that Rise of Skywalker is indeed conclusive: the movie does not set-up the next Star Wars trilogy; instead, it is meant to be an ending to the Skywalker saga that began in 1977. While new Star Wars stories will continue to appear on the small screen, in books and comics, and in video games, Rise of Skywalker is intended to be the last Star Wars movie on the big screen for the foreseeable future.

Abrams says that the trailers for Rise of Skywalker have only “scratched the surface” of the events of the story and that audiences have yet to get their first glimpse of entire action sequences that take place in the movie, much less key plot details. While we know that several new characters are being introduced, including Keri Russell as Zorii Bliss and Naomi Ackie as the Orbak-riding Jannah, we don’t know what role these characters play in relation to the conclusion of the Skywalker saga. Likewise, we know Abrams alum Dominic Monaghan will be playing a Resistance soldier and Billy Dee Williams will return as Lando Calrissian, but just how these roles fit into the narrative remains to be seen.

The Rise of Skywalker
C-3PO in The Rise of Skywalker.

Another character that has been heavily featured in the movie’s marketing is C-3PO, the protocol droid played by Anthony Daniels who has appeared in every entry in the Skywalker saga. Like peasants Tahei and Matashichi in Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, droids C-3PO and R2-D2 serve as the audience’s perspective when they are introduced in A New Hope, and it seems inevitable that Abrams will keep this perspective in mind as The Rise of Skywalker brings the saga to a close.

Meanwhile, Star Wars fans have plenty of questions regarding the main trio of the new trilogy, Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac). While Abrams says that the movie will feature the three main characters on an adventure together for the first time (Poe introduced himself to Rey for the first time in the final moments of the preceding entry, The Last Jedi), trailers have left the audience with serious questions regarding Rey, who in one scene appears to have turned to the Dark Side.

In the Star Wars galaxy, a year has passed since The Last Jedi (as detailed in the novel Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse). The passage of time has given the trio of heroes the chance to hone their skills, and according to Boyega, audiences get to see a side of Finn that hasn’t been seen before (a tantalizing detail for those who were disappointed by the Finn storyline in The Last Jedi). Furthermore, the EW interview reveals that Abrams encouraged the actors to improvise dialogue, and Boyega says that this freedom led to renewed energy among the cast.

The Rise of Skywalker
An enigmatic image from The Rise of Skywalker.

Among the most burning questions being asked by audience members is how Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) will fit into the bigger picture. While the trio of heroes has had the chance to develop their skills since The Last Jedi, Kylo has solidified his path as well, having ascended to the position of Supreme Leader of the First Order since we last saw him. Driver is ambiguous about the nature of the relationship between Rey and Kylo, but the actor did tell EW that he views Kylo and Rey as “two sides of the same coin.”

Kylo’s ultimate fate is but one question to keep in mind. There’s also the matter of Rey’s heritage, which Abrams says will be addressed in Episode 9 (in spite of the revelations concerning her parents revealed by Kylo in The Last Jedi, there seems to be more to her story). Furthermore, Mark Hamill has been confirmed to be returning as Luke Skywalker, in spite of the fact that the character became one with the Living Force at the conclusion of Episode 8.

The Rise of Skywalker
Rey faces her destiny.

Finally, Carrie Fisher will be appearing once more on screen as General Leia Organa. Thanks to deleted scenes the late actor shot during the production of The Force Awakens, the Princess of Alderaan will play a role in The Rise of Skywalker. Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd, who plays the role of Lieutenant Connix, approved the use of the footage in the movie.

With just a month until the release of Rise of Skywalker, anticipation is reaching a fever pitch. While there are plenty of Star Wars-related diversions to distract audiences in the meantime, it’s hard not to feel as though Episode 9 is the sort of culmination we’ve never before seen in a galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be released in theaters on December 20th, 2019.

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