Biggest News From The Star Wars 9 Celebration Panel
Lucasfilm finally peeled back the curtain on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, revealing lots of new information during Celebration Chicago. In the build-up to the convention, the mystery box surrounding the film was locked tight, with even the official title kept under wraps until the big day. But now the floodgates are open, and already Episode IX is delivering surprises few people would have predicted a couple of months ago.
Due to the nature of the marketing strategy (the trailer came at the very end of the presentation), director J.J. Abrams and company were somewhat limited with what they could talk about and had to dance their way around certain topics. However, the panel did showcase some cool bits from the upcoming film, and we're going to run them all down here.
Other than the title, this was the biggest reveal of the entire panel. Sheev Palpatine, overarching villain of the first two trilogies in the Skywalker saga, is returning for the final chapter. Once again, he will be portrayed by the one and only Ian McDiarmid, who first appeared as the character in 1983's Return of the Jedi. The nature of Palpatine's reemergence is, of course, heavily guarded for now, but all signs point to him being the movie's big bad that must be defeated in order for freedom to truly be restored to the galaxy. It'll be interesting to see how much of Palpatine is showcased in the rest of marketing. Lucasfilm may want to preserve as many of his scenes as possible and rely more on the sequel trilogy's established characters to sell the film.
Palpatine isn't the only Return of the Jedi character coming back for Episode IX. Last summer, it was confirmed Billy Dee Williams would reprise his iconic role as Lando Calrissian. The actor was among the many on hand for the panel, and Lucasfilm gave fans their first look at the old smoothie from the film. Lando's costume seems heavily inspired by Donald Glover's outfit in spinoff Solo: A Star Wars Story, with the yellow shirt prominently featured. Calrissian also made a brief appearance in the trailer, flying the Millennium Falcon with Chewie.
The sequel trilogy gave Star Wars fans plenty of new characters to fall in love with, but unlike Luke, Han and Leia in the original trilogy, this new group hasn't spent much time together. Finn went on separate adventures with Poe and Rey in Force Awakens, and then the trio was separated for much of Last Jedi. During the Rise of Skywalker panel, Abrams confirmed the Resistance heroes would embark on a new mission together, allowing their relationships to further develop and flourish. Part of the Star Wars charm is watching the characters play off each other, so hopefully there's some fun banter and interactions that rank among the best the saga's seen.
The subject of the trilogy's most infamous plot hole (will it ever be "another time" to ask that good question?), the Skywalker family lightsaber has been a key component of the sequels so far. Of course, during The Last Jedi, the weapon was literally torn into two halves, though Rey was seen at the end keeping both pieces for herself. Fans wondered if Rey would construct a new lightsaber or simply restore the old one, and it looks like it's the latter. During the panel, Daisy Ridley stated that the lightsaber lives, and the trailer footage showed her wielding it. Whether it's fixed at the start of the film or not remains to be seen.
Rose Tico was not seen in the trailer, but Kelly Marie Tran is in Episode IX. The actress sat on the panel and a new image of Rose talking with Rey was shown on the screen. While that was happening, Abrams took the opportunity to say how thankful he was that Rian Johnson cast Tran in The Last Jedi, which was a huge, public display of support for her. Tran was incessantly harassed online following The Last Jedi's premiere, and it got to the point where she had to leave social media. Lucasfilm seemed to make it a point to champion Tran and her contributions to the films, which is nice to see considering all that happened. How Rose factors into the larger story remains to be seen.
Every Star Wars film introduces new characters to the canon, and Rise of Skywalker is no different. Among the many fresh faces is relative newcomer Naomi Ackie, who plays someone called Jannah. Not much was revealed outside of that, but it was confirmed she will cross paths with the main trio, perhaps going along on the adventure with them. At first glance, Jannah would appear to be aligned with the Resistance's cause, but betrayals are known to happen in Star Wars, so Jannah's true nature is one of the many questions remaining about Episode IX.
Droids have always been a vital part of the Star Wars franchise. R2-D2 and C-3PO established that legacy back in 1977, with the likes of BB-8, K-2SO, and L3-37 following in their footsteps during the Disney era. Before the book closes on the Skywalker saga, Abrams and company gave the story one last cute robotic companion. His name is Dio (also known as D-0), and a working prop was brought on the Celebration stage to show off. Much like BB-8 once upon a time and then the porgs, Dio looks like he's taken the mantle of the "adorable cute thing" that'll sell merchandise like hotcakes. It's only a matter of time before Sphero welcomes Dio to their app-enabled droid family.
Star Wars is famous for its intricate creature designs, which populate the galaxy with a wide variety of interesting aliens that are instantly recognizable in the pop culture zeitgeist. It's why just about every film has its own version of "the cantina scene," allowing the creature shop to go wild and let their imaginations run free. For Rise of Skywalker, there's a new alien character, and it sounds like he has a decent role. He's called Klaud, and Abrams described him as a friend of the Resistance that Chewbacca brings in. It's unknown who plays Klaud, but he's already left an impression on viewers. The juxtaposition of him next to a Wookiee could be very amusing.
Moviegoers waited a very long time to learn some official details about Rise of Skywalker, and the first tastes were quite tantalizing. Obviously, this is just the beginning of what should be an eight-month long marketing campaign, slowly building up hype and anticipation until the film's premiere this December. After being in the dark for a while, it's nice to know at least a few things about the movie.