At Star Wars Celebration we learned the next entry in the Star Wars movie series will be called “The Rise of Skywalker,” and got an exciting teaser trailer that confirms the return of an iconic series villain. During the panel, which was chaired by noted Star Wars fan Stephen Colbert, director J.J. Abrams and multiple members of the cast provided information on the movie and their characters.

Asked about when The Rise of Skywalker takes place in relation to The Last Jedi, Abrams confirmed that some time had passed since we last saw Rey, Finn, Poe, and Rose. That’s somewhat different from what we saw at the start of The Last Jedi, which picked up pretty much immediately after the end of The Force Awakens.

“The movie doesn’t pick up immediately after. Some time has gone by,” Abrams explained. “In this movie, and you can tell by that picture [shown at the start of the panel], this is an adventure that the group goes on together. I think one of the great things about the movie–and getting to work on it–is the dynamic between the characters.”

The picture that Abrams is referring to, seen above, and depicts Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, BB-8, and C-3PO standing in a jungle environment in front of the Millennium Falcon. This, according to Abrams, speaks to one of the big themes of the movie, the idea of these characters who have been thrown together under the banner of the Resistance going on an epic journey together.

For longtime fans of Star Wars, it may come as a comfort to learn that Abrams opted to stick close to the series’ tradition of shooting in real locations, to give the places fans will be taken to during the film a sense of authenticity. “As with The Force Awakens, despite this being an epic space adventure on many worlds and places, [we built] exterior and interior sets … [we went to] locations around England and Jordan. We did everything we could to have it in-camera. We tried to keep it as real and as physical as possible–it was better for the actors and the movie.”

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is set to hit cinema screens on December 19. It stars Daisy Ridley as Rey, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, John Boyega as Finn, Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata, and Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux. New cast members include Naomi Ackie, Richard E. Grant, and Keri Russell.

A number of Star Wars veterans including Mark Hamill as Luke, Billy Dee Williams as Lando, and Carrie Fisher as Leia, will also be part of the story. Fisher died before production began, but will appear in footage originally shot for 2017’s The Last Jedi. Discussing this, Abrams said the team discussed how they would move on and came to the realization that “it was impossible,” which is why they used cut footage.

“The miracle of having scenes from Force Awakens that went unused, and looking at them and seeing that they could be used, is the idea of saying, ‘Well, what if we could write scenes around her?’ The crazy thing is, emotionally, every day it hits me that she’s not here, but it’s surreal because we’re working with her. Leia lives in this film in a way that is kind of mindblowing to me.”

Also returning to the franchise is Ian McDiarmid, who played Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi and the prequel trilogy. The teaser for The Rise of Skywalker ends with the iconic, creepy cackle of Palpatine, and with Luke providing voiceover suggesting that Palpatine will return to menace the galaxy. McDiarmid appeared on stage at Celebration to solidify the reveal. Here’s a look at how Palpatine might return to a galaxy far far away.

Star Wars Celebration will continue throughout the weekend, and we’re expecting to learn more about Respawn’s Jedi Fallen Order and the Disney+ series, The Mandalorian. Make sure to keep an eye on GameSpot, where we’ll have all the news as it breaks. You can also use our Star Wars Celebration roundup to stay on top of everything.



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