The first trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has arrived. So what do we know about J.J. Abrams's return to the Star Wars saga? After all, it's the ninth episode in the wider Star Wars story arc and is set to resolve the Skywalker storyline in emotional and spectacular fashion. Here's what we know so far.
1. It's the final Star Wars movie for a while
We hate to say it, but Disney CEO Bob Iger has confirmed the Star Wars franchise will be going on pause after The Rise of Skywalker – at least on the big screen. The movie will wrap up the wider saga storyline, exploring how Rey (Daisy Ridley) ascends to the role of Jedi master, having been tutored by the now deceased Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Good thing too, because she is brewing for a final confrontation with new First Order leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
Speaking to Bloomberg, Iger announced that Episode 9 would be the last film for a while although "other" movies were "in development". He added: "We will take a pause, some time, and reset, because the Skywalker saga comes to an end with this ninth movie."
Still, it's not all bad news – as last week's Star Wars Celebration confirmed, the small-screen iterations of the franchise are set to flourish with the likes of Jon Favreau's spin-off series The Mandalorian (see below). The series stars Kingsman actor Pedro Pascal as the titular character, in a story that takes place "after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order". It follows "a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic".
2. It IS Palpatine's voice in the trailer
Yes, those are Ian McDiarmid's unmistakeable tones as one of the most sinister Star Wars villains of all time. Don't believe us? Well The Rise of Skywalker director JJ Abrams has himself confirmed the news to Empire magazine's James Dyer. More than that, he expressed surprise that the news didn't leak beforehand.
We were all poleaxed by the trailer's reveal of sinister Sith lord Palpatine. We only heard his voice, but it was enough to re-establish his evil presence in the saga. The last we saw of him, he was chucked into the energy core of the Death Star by Darth Vader in 1983's Return of the Jedi.
3. George Lucas got involved
Abrams says series godfather George Lucas assisted in the addition of Palpatine to the storyline.
Speaking with IGN, the director said: "This movie had a very, very specific challenge, which was to take eight films and give an ending to three trilogies, and so we had to look at, what is the bigger story? We had conversations amongst ourselves, we met with George Lucas before writing the script."
Abrams added: "These were things that were in real, not debate, but looking at the vastness of the story and trying to figure out, what is the way to conclude this? But it has to work on its own as a movie, it has to be its own thing, it has to be surprising and funny and you have to understand it."
No doubt Palpatine's return ties into the apparent reveal of the Death Star wreckage in The Rise of Skywalker trailer...
4. Mark Hamill has stirred up speculation surrounding the title
Luke Skywalker himself Mark Hamill is always terrific value on social media, needling and joking with fans. As speculation rages as to the meaning of The Rise of Skywalker, Hamill took to Twitter to humorously offer some outrageous theories of his own.
5. J.J. Abrams has given his own interpretation of the title
"The title feels like it’s the right title for this movie and I know it’s provocative and asks a bunch of questions, but I think when you see the movie, you’ll see how it’s intended and what it means," Abrams told ET Live (via NME) at Chicago's Star Wars Celebration.
"But in the flow of titles, this movie had a very weird responsibility. It had to be the end of not just three movies, but nine movies, and the idea of having to incorporate the stories that have come before, strangely, is the story of the movie. Which is to say it’s the characters in the film inheriting everything that’s come before in previous generations, whether it’s sins of the father, whether it’s the wisdom they’ve acquired, and the question is can this new generation… are they up to the task?
Can they stand up to what they have to? So in a way I feel like we, coming into this movie, have inherited a lot, and the question is 'can we do enough'?"
6. The movie will further explore Rey's parentage
Although The Last Jedi appeared to confirm that Rey's mysterious parents were in fact nobodies, it seems there's more to her backstory than meets the eye...
"I will say that we knew, going into this, that this movie, it had to be a satisfying conclusion," Abrams tells ABC News. "And we were well aware that that’s one of the things that’s been out there. I don’t want to say that what happens in Episode 8 [didn’t happen]. We have honoured that. But I will say that there’s more to the story than you’ve seen."
What possible twists could be in store? We'll have to wait and see...
7. The Carrie Fisher scenes are "mind-blowing"
Carrie Fisher sadly passed away in December 2016 before undertaking filming on The Rise of Skywalker. This left Abrams and the film-makers in a bit of quandary: how to resolve Leia's character arc and give Fisher the send-off she deserves?
As it turns out, her role will be made up entirely of unused footage from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Abrams has teased these scenes at Star Wars Celebration.
"Carrie was the best, she was glorious, she was amazing," Abrams movingly revealed. "The weird miracle of having a number of scenes that had gone unused… looking at those scenes and understanding there was a way to use those scenes and continue her story."
He added: "The idea of having a CG character was off the table, we’d never want to try. So the idea of 'what if we could work scenes around her'? And emotionally, every day it hits me that she’s not here but it’s so surreal because we’re working with her still. She’s in scenes, and so alive in the scenes. The craziest part is how not crazy it is.
In some scenes with Billie [Lourd], her daughter… Princess Leia lives in this film in a way that is kind of mind-blowing to me."
8. The story doesn't pick up immediately after The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi concluded on an optimistic note, as the previously despondent members of the Resistance were imbued with a note of hope. At the same time, Luke Skywalker passed into the Force and Rey stepped up to become the all-powerful Jedi warrior. One might expect there to be a direct symmetry between the closing scenes on the desert planet of Crait and the opening of The Rise of Skywalker. However, that isn't the case, as Abrams reveals.
"The movie doesn’t pick up immediately after the last film - some time has gone by," IGN quotes him as saying. "This is an adventure that the group goes on together. One of the great things about the movie is the dynamic between the characters. They are just the most wonderful together. That’s the thing I’m most excited for you all to see."
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker reaches us on 19th December. Tweet us your thoughts on the movie @Cineworld.