It seems like only yesterday we were getting to know new Star Wars characters named Rey, Kylo, Finn, and Poe. But their stories are set to conclude with the arrival of Star Wars: Episode IX later this year. Perhaps they'll appear in more sequels, or perhaps they'll die in this one. Right now, nobody knows much about the final installment of the sequel trilogy. We seek to remedy that situation.
We don't know the title of Episode IX yet, but we do know the film will introduce a number of new characters (and bring back old ones) while finishing the character arcs of Rey and Kylo Ren. The two rivals share an intimate connection, displayed in Episode VIII, and they could fall in love or be revealed as family members just as easily as they could wind up killing one another.
Episode IX, co-written and directed by J.J. Abrams, has done a great job keeping things under wraps while filming at Pinewood Studios in London. Production started in August 2018 and very few details have emerged thus far. That said, we're going to do our best to answer some burning questions about the movie.
What will Episode IX be about?
The core question. Nothing big has been revealed, but we can speculate based on the end of Episode VIII - The Last Jedi. The major thing to take away is the birth of the new rebellion. Luke tells Ren, "The rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi." And, after Rey asks how they'll build a rebellion from the scattered remains of their fleet, Leia tells her, "We have everything we need." Throw in the fact Lando Calrissian is making a return and it makes sense the beginning of the film may focus on the recruitment of new rebels and the growth of the rebel army.
Expect Episode IX to circle back to Return of the Jedi as far as formula. Abrams wasn't shy about virtually remaking A New Hope when he directed The Force Awakens so it makes sense he'd look to the past once again. Abrams is concerned with his films "fitting" within the Star Wars universe so he's not taking any risks. That means Rey and Kylo will face each other the same way Luke faces the Emperor and Darth Vader in Jedi. Meanwhile, the rebels will deal with General Hux and what's left of the bad guys. Look for Ren to start a new First Order and take the place of Supreme Leader Snoke with Hux leading his army. The final act will feature Rey and Kylo facing off and we'll learn more about their Force connection. We don't believe Rey's parents were simple junk traders. She and Kylo must be family in some way. Our guess is they're cousins and Luke is Rey's father after all. She is too powerful to not be a Skywalker. (And don't dismiss the Obi-Wan theory either.)
One Reddit user theorized the rebels and First Order would team up to fight a new enemy, the Grysk, who are featured in the novel, Thrawn: Alliances, but we're not seeing it. Introducing a new villain at this stage seems unlikely, as does an alliance.
What's Episode IX going to be called?
The Return of the Rebels? The Force Returns? Part Neuf? The Secret of the Ooze? All stellar choices, but we just don't know yet. Production is scheduled to wrap in February and some fans are expecting a title announcement when that happens. This handy timeline comparison charts the release schedules for the past three Star Wars films, if you want to speculate further.
What new characters will appear in Episode IX?
In addition to Lando (Billy Dee Williams ), the film will introduce a handful of new characters. Unfortunately we don't know their names. However, they'll be played by Richard E. Grant, Keri Russell, Dominic Monaghan, Matt Smith, and Naomi Ackie.
Grant, who's nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars this year, seems likely to play a villain. His British accent and penchant for playing evil precedes him. Some fans think he might be playing Grand Admiral Thrawn, a character who's appeared in a few Star Wars novels as well as Star Wars Rebels, but Grant disputed that rumor.
Matt Smith seems like a First Order type. Russell (who's co-starring with Adam Driver in Burn This on Broadway this March) seems destined to play a rebel (maybe Lando's partner). Ditto for Monaghan, who may be playing a character named Arvyl, according to one Redditor. Also. Hayden Christensen is rumored to have a role, likely as Force ghost Anakin Skywalker. One report says Abrams came up with an Anakin Force ghost that flickers between Anakin and Darth Vader, which is pretty cool.
What's going on between Rey and Kylo Ren?
As we mentioned previously, they have a Force connection nonpareil. After fighting Snoke and his Imperial Guards at the end of The Last Jedi together, Kylo pleads with Rey to join him so they can rule the galaxy in tandem. Rey rejects him and eventually closes the door on their connection at the end of the film. Their stories will resolve the entire Sequel Trilogy and they're most certainly not finished. One huge question is whether or not the former Ben Solo rejects the Dark Side of the Force and steps back into the light. The son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, Ben was destined for greater things, but turned while being trained by Luke as a Padawan. (That history may be shown in flashback.) So, if Episode IX follows the same formula as Episode VI - The Return of the Jedi, as we discussed, Kylo Ren is ripe for a conversion. We're guessing the ending will be set up for Kylo's redemption, but he'll ultimately choose the Dark Side instead... and Rey will kill his ass. Abrams won't give us the same thing all over again. He'll subvert our expectations.
Is Luke Skywalker really dead? Was he the last Jedi?
Yes and no. Luke died after projecting his image across the galaxy at the conclusion of Episode VIII. However, Mark Hamill is listed amongst the cast of Episode IX. What gives? Luke will likely appear in flashback or as a Force ghost, or both, in the new sequel. "I will not be the last Jedi." He tells Kylo Ren in Episode VIII before the camera instantly cuts to Rey. Yes, Rey will carry on the torch carried by Luke, Leia, and Anakin before her. Expect her to be fully powered by the Force in the new film and a true Jedi master similar to Luke in Return of the Jedi.
Will Carrie Fisher appear as Leia one last time?
Yes. Fisher's brother, Todd, revealed on Good Morning America recently that Abrams was using old footage of Leia from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi to incorporate in Episode IX. If you were excited for another CGI Leia (like in Rogue One), sorry to disappoint. Todd Fisher says, "There's a lot of minutes of footage. I don't mean just outtakes... This is unused, new content that could be woven into the storyline. That's what's going to give everybody such a great kick. It's going to look like it was meant to be. Like it was shot yesterday."