Rey, Finn, BB-8 and Poe Dameron have been on an epic journey since 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And one year from now, their adventure is going to meet some kind of conclusion when Star Wars Episode 9 comes to theaters.
The movie has a lot to live up to. Abrams will need to find a way to offer an ending to the revived Star Wars movie universe following a mixed reception to The Last Jedi and Solo's box office flop. Also, it's not like his Force Awakens was criticism-free — some fans knocked it for evoking the original Star Wars film too predictably. Not to mention, he'll need to find a graceful way to allow for Leia Organa's exit following the death of actress Carrie Fisher in 2016.
But with production underway, there is plenty of time before Star Wars returns to movie theaters. Here's everything we know about the film so far.
Release date: When can I see Episode 9?
Star Wars Episode 9: (Insert eventual subtitle here) will hit theaters around the world on Dec. 20, 2019.
Who's the director?
J.J. Abrams is directing. Originally, Colin Trevorrow was tapped to helm the movie, but he parted ways with Lucasfilm in September 2017 over creative differences. However, unlike the director change that befell Solo, where Ron Howard took over the project after original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were in production for six months, Abrams began work on the project during preproduction.
Cast: Who will be in it?
The official cast announcement on July 27 came just before the start of filming, confirming that Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams are back. It also noted that Fisher's Leia will return through the use of unseen footage from 2015's The Force Awakens. Episode 9 was originally supposed to heavily feature Fisher, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy confirmed to Vanity Fair, but Fisher died in December 2016. The studio further confirmed that it wouldn't digitally re-create her like it did for 2016's Rogue One.
"Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie's legacy and role as Leia in Episode 9 by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII," J.J. Abrams said in the July casting announcement.
Naomi Ackie, Richard E. Grant, Keri Russell, Dominic Monaghan and Matt Smith also join the Star Wars galaxy in yet to be named roles.
Composer John Williams will also score the movie, as he has with every numbered entry in the Star Wars saga.
And while it's not impossible for Harrison Ford to potentially return as Han Solo, there are no official announcements quite yet.
Plot: So, what's going to happen?
This early we can only speculate, so let's go over what we know about a few characters' whereabouts and how things could move forward.
Rey: After turning down Kylo Ren's offer to let both the First Order and the Resistance perish and instead conquer the galaxy together, Rey is last seen on the Millennium Falcon with the sacred Jedi texts taken from Ach-To. It's likely she will continue her own version of Jedi training using a combination of the texts, personal practice and maybe some off-screen mentorship from Leia Organa. Also, she JUST MET Poe Dameron, so it's time to see what her dynamic with the fly boy might be. One other thing: Will J.J. Abrams choose to flesh out the story of her parentage, or will he keep her as an orphan that was sold off by her parents for drinking money?
Finn: Finn is now possibly dating Rose and reunited with his bestie Rey, and Finn and Rey are expected to stay paired up for Episode 9. While he's fresh off defeating Captain Phasma during The Last Jedi, there's still plenty of room to flash back to Finn's Stormtrooper history should it be relevant to the new movie.
Kylo Ren: The new supreme leader of the First Order could be looking over his shoulder, making sure no one has any evidence he's the one who killed off Snoke. That said, after having his connection to Rey cut off by the end of The Last Jedi, Kylo might now be fully embracing his role as a Sith leader.
Leia: After her gorgeous and surprising ability to fly through space using the Force left her in a coma, Leia woke up to finish off the movie, but her condition is otherwise unknown. Due to Fisher's death, we can expect either a time jump that would sadly reference the off-screen passing of her character, or some other plot point that would separate her from the other Star Wars characters. There may be a book or some other piece of extended material filling in whatever gap Episode 9 can't without having the actress. Editor's note: The studio announced July 27 that it'll use unreleased footage of Fisher from The Force Awakens in Episode 9.
What about the rumors?
There are a lot of rumors on the internet already about Episode 9, including the possibility of some surprise appearances:
- While The Last Jedi picks up immediately after The Force Awakens, it's possible there will be a time jump before Episode 9. John Boyega told Yahoo he's growing his hair out for the new movie, and we'll have to "wait for the trailer to see why." Adding fuel to this fire, an interview Boyega gave to Empire magazine appears to further confirm a time jump, with the print version of the article stating "John Boyega has confirmed the film takes place roughly one year after the events of The Last Jedi." While it's not a direct quote, and it's possible Boyega wasn't meant to confirm this detail, it's perhaps the most specific statement we have heard regarding Episode 9's spot in the Star Wars timeline.
- Yoda appeared as a Force Ghost during The Last Jedi, and the New York Daily News says an "insider" revealed Yoda is returning for the 2019 movie. Since Yoda in ghost form can also bring down a lightning bolt, it's awfully weird he isn't more involved in assisting Leia's Resistance.
- Editor's note: This has now been confirmed: Young Lando made his debut in this year's Solo, but what about older Lando? According to Fantha Tracks, Billy Dee Williams may return to play his Star Wars character in Episode 9. While we can't verify Fantha Tracks' sources, an appearance of some kind is overdue. Williams also canceled a September appearance at Saskatchewan Entertainment Expo citing "film schedule conflict." If nothing else, we'd like to see Lando's reaction to learning that old friend Han was killed by his son.
- Many of the Black Squadron pilots that backed up Poe in the assault on Starkiller Base were absent in The Last Jedi, but Marvel's ongoing Poe Dameron comic book series revealed the mission Leia sent them on immediately after The Force Awakens. Greg Grunberg, who played Snap Wexley, recently hinted to Yahoo that he's "getting itchy to go over there and do it" — a reference to his character's facial hair and Episode 9's filming location in England.
- Could Obi-Wan Kenobi, as embodied by Ewan McGregor, show up in Episode 9? According to The Sun's sources, McGregor is going to be secretly shooting scenes for the 2019 movie. While there is no way to vouch for this, McGregor did record a line that played in 2015's The Force Awakens super briefly that was meshed with a similarly sounding phrase recorded by original Kenobi actor Alec Guinness. The phrase wasn't much, McGregor remembered the result as "Rey, these are your first steps" during a 2016 appearance on The Graham Norton Show. Therefore, it wouldn't be at all shocking to see some version of Kenobi in Episode 9, but the real question is — how much?
As more rumors pop up, we'll add them to this list.
And what about *that* cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story?
We don't yet know what the deal is with *that* character who appears in Solo. I'd speculate he'll appear in some Star Wars movie, but likely not Episode 9. We can tell you all about the character's appearance in Solo, though, and all about that character's history (along with why it's doubtful Episode 9 will be what pays that cameo off).
What other Star Wars things can I watch?
There's a lot on the way as long as you're willing to expand beyond the movies.
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First is Star Wars Resistance, an animated series coming to the Disney Channel this fall that takes place just before The Force Awakens. The show comes from creator Dave Filoni, who just wrapped the Star Wars Rebels series and also led Star Wars: The Clone Wars. While Resistance will showcase new characters, it will also feature Poe Dameron and Captain Phasma as voiced by Oscar Isaac and Gwendoline Christie, respectively.
A live-action Star Wars TV series by Jon Favreau is in the works, also heading for Disney's upcoming streaming service. But details about that specific Star Wars series aren't yet available.
And if all you care about are Star Wars movies, you can also look forward to TWO trilogies. The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson will create one, and the other is from Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
This guide, first published June 19, 2018, is regularly updated as we hear more news about Star Wars Episode 9.
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