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Everything You Need To Know About ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

It's the end of the galaxy as we know it! Here's the essential details, condensed for families moving at lightspeed.

Credit: Lucasfilm

The Force may be strong with your family, but are you ready for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker? The final installment of what is now called “the Skywalker” saga will bring a specific story of a galaxy far, far away to a close this year. Of all the new Star Wars films, this is probably the one you won’t want to miss in the theaters, simply because everyone will ruin it for you if you wait. But, what the hell is going on with this movie? Which Skywalker is rising? Why is this the “end” of Star Wars? And just how many characters are coming back to life?

Here’s your Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker cheatsheet.

Rise of Skywalker  is “Episode IX” which marks the end of regular Star Wars movies as we know them.

Back in the eighties, Star Wars creator George Lucas often said that the classic trilogy of films was actually just one part of a larger story consisting of a “trilogy of trilogies.” But, after Lucas created Episodes I, II and III from 1999-2005, he changed his mind and decided that Episode VI: Return of the Jedi — was a decent place to end the story. In 2004, Lucas inserted a digital Hayden Christesen as the ghost of Anakin Skywalker and called it a day. But, then, in 2012, Lucas sold his company — Lucasfilm — to Disney and the rest is history. Since 2015, there have been four new Star Wars movies; The Force AwakensRogue OneThe Last Jedi, and Solo. But, only two these (Force Awakens and Last Jedi) have had the traditional episode numbers at the beginning. So, The Rise of Skywalker is a sequel to Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, but also the conclusion of ALL the episodes, beginning with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. After Rise of Skywalker, it seems like there will no longer be Star Wars movies with episode numbers, meaning the 2022 Star Wars movies will be organized differently.

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Okay, so I can tell my kids these were planned all along?

You can tell your children whatever you want about how Star Wars was written and created, but the fact of the matter is, literally all of Star Wars, including the original trilogy, was kind of made-up as it went along. George Lucas has gone on record saying that he wasn’t sure when Darth Vader would have been revealed as Luke’s father originally, and early drafts of the script for the Empire Strikes Back confirm this: At some point in the drafting process, screenwriter Leigh Brackett hadn’t even been told (or Lucas hadn’t decided?) if Vader was Luke’s father at all. This bit of trivia is a good microcosm for how to think about the new movies, too. Originally, J.J. Abrams was only supposed to direct The Force Awakens, but then, after Lucasfilm fired Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow from working on Episode IX, Abrams was brought back in to direct and co-write the movie. Abrams co-wrote Rise of Skywalker with a guy named Chris Terrio, whose previous credits include Justice League and Batman Vs Superman, so take that however you want.

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Complicating matters further is the fact that obviously, no one at Lucasfilm knew Carrie Fisher would tragically pass away in 2016. Statements from Lucasfilm suggest the story for Episode IX would have been very different had Fisher been alive to play Leia again. Finally, Rian Johnson certainly didn’t write The Last Jedi with the knowledge that Fisher would die or that Trevorrow would be fired, meaning, the events of The Last Jedi could be seen as slightly incongruous with whatever Abrams cooks up.

I heard Leia is still in the movie. What’s up with that?

Carrie Fisher is appearing in The Rise of Skywalker as General Leia Organa, daughter of Anakin Skywalker, sister of Luke Skywalker, widow of Han Solo, and mother of Ben Solo AKA Kylo Ren. This is being achieved by using archival footage of Fisher from The Force Awakens. Apparently, J.J. Abrams had enough material left over to make it work. Disney, Lucasfilm, and the Fisher family have repeatedly said that Leia will not appear as a CGI recreation and that what you’ll see onscreen will actually be filmed footage of Carrie Fisher. J.J. Abrams has recently said Leia is “the heart of the movie,” suggesting her role is fairly large.

Who else is coming back?

Rise of Skywalker will also feature the return of Billy Dee Willians as Lando Calrissian, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, and, somehow, the character of Emperor Palpatine will laugh his way into the movie, too. Notably, two of these three characters are technically dead. Luke died in The Last Jedi and the Emperor was thrown down a shaft by Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi back in 1983.  Mark Hamill has already said that Luke is almost certainly back as a Force ghost, kind of like what Obi-Wan did in the old movies. However, Lucasfilm and actor Ian McDiarmid (who played the Emperor in all three prequels and Return of the Jedi) have been tight-lipped about how that character will return. Bottom line: the Emperor laughs in the first trailer for Rise of Skywalker, his face is on the new poster, and he has a voiceover in the second trailer. So yeah, he’s back.

What about Rey’s parents?

In The Last Jedi, it was revealed by Kylo Ren that Rey’s mysterious parents from The Force Awakens were drunk junk-dealers who sold her into a life of servitude, Oliver Twist-style. Basically, they were nobodies. If you throw a rock, you can finally find someone around you right now who has a strong opinion about this twist one way or another. So, how will The Rise of Skywalker address it; even if you don’t want it too? Well, J.J. Abrams has said “there will be more” to the story of Rey’s parents. So, get ready for that. (Hey, let’s be honest, Star Wars has never been great about showing functional families!)

Is Rey the new Darth Vader?

The second trailer for The Rise of Skywalker ends with Rey all in black busting out a foldable red lightsaber. Does this mean she’s going to become a villain? Right now nobody knows, but we’re holding out hope that this is a little more complicated than it seems and that Rey will not let our kids down.

Can I buy tickets yet?

Nope, but that may change very soon. We’ll let you know when it does.

How many trailers are there?

Right now, there are two trailers for The Rise of Skywalker. The first one which debuted at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando this past spring. As of the end of August, there was a “special look” trailer shown at the Disney D23 convention. Here are both trailers back-to-back.

When does the movie come out? 

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker will be out in movie theaters around the world on December 20, 2019. That’s a Friday, so, that means there will really be screenings as early as Thursday, the 19th, and reviews about a week before that. So, if you really want to save yourself from spoilers, avoid the internet, or any human interactions starting around December 15.