In-keeping with tradition, Vanity Fair have got the inside scoop on the ninth Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker, due for release in December.
Writer Lev Grossman dishes on JJ Abrams' return to the Star Wars saga following 2015's The Force Awakens. His feature is accompanied by stunning photos from Annie Leibovitz, who teases reveals of new planets and characters, as well as returning old faces.
These include the first look at recent Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant as the imperious-looking Allegiant General Pryde (who appears alongside Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux). It's also revealed that the dreaded Knights of Ren, loyal followers of the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), alluded to in The Force Awakens, will be returning to the fold following their absence from The Last Jedi.
We've also got a glimpse of Billy Dee Williams as a returning Lando Calrissian, piloting the Millennium Falcon alongside Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca (Joonas Suoatamo) and droid BB-8.
Then there's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes actor Keri Russell, making her debut as helmeted character Zorri Bliss.
In a wide-ranging article Grossman identifies several key plot points of interest, including the presence of British actor Naomi Ackie (Lady Macbeth) playing a character called Junnah, who is pictured riding a creature named an orbak alongside Finn (John Boyega).
"It feels very grounded," Ackie says of the enduring appeal of Star Wars. "There’s the kind of spectacular-ness, and the supernatural move-things-with-your-mind magic stuff, but then there’s also this really grounded, rugged nature where everything is distressed and old and kind of worn out and lived-in. And I think playing with those two ideas means that you get this feeling that it could almost be real. Like, in a galaxy far away, it could almost be the case that you could have this."
Abrams himself emphasises how important it is that the ninth Star Wars movie feels like a culmination – not just of this saga, but of the nine-movie franchise as a whole. "The idea of the movie is kind of how I felt going into the movie as a filmmaker," he says, "which is to say that I’ve inherited all this stuff, great stuff, and good wisdom, and the good and the bad, and it’s all coming to this end, and the question is, do we have what it takes to succeed?"
Of course, the central cut and thrust of the narrative is the give and take between Ren and aspiring Jedi knight Rey (Daisy Ridley). The ying and yang between the light and dark sides of the Force has been the lifeblood of the Star Wars saga, and The Last Jedi initially appeared to play around with our expectations, as we wondered if Ren would in fact be drawn back to the light.
Of course, the calculating Ren eventually used the murder of his mentor Snoke (Andy Serkis) as a power grab opportunity, filling the vacuum to become the leader of the First Order. (Hence the resurgence of the Knights of Ren in this movie.) The question therefore remains: who is the Skywalker implied to be ascending in the movie's title? Is it in fact Ren himself, who is technically a member of the Skywalker family given he's the son of Leia (the late Carrie Fisher)?
This pivotal battle between the two central characters, not to mention the overt emphasis on family and legacy, is underscored by the handsome-looking Vanity Fair covers.
"This trilogy is about this young generation, this new generation, having to deal with all the debt that has come before," Abrams says. "And it’s the sins of the father, and it’s the wisdom and the accomplishments of those who did great things, but it’s also those who committed atrocities, and the idea that this group is up against this unspeakable evil and are they prepared? Are they ready? What have they learned from before? It’s less about grandeur. It’s less about restoring an old age. It’s more about preserving a sense of freedom and not being one of the oppressed."
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is released on 19th December. Don't forget to tweet us your thoughts on the movie @Cineworld.
Image credit: Annie Leibovitz, Vanity Fair