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It’s the movie moment that Star Wars fans and film lovers have been waiting for. When The Rise of Skywalker opens in cinemas on December 19th, it will conclude the latest chapter in the Star Wars series - and perhaps provide some tantalising clues as to what comes next.
The Rise of Skywalker sees the return of JJ Abrams to the director's chair. It was Abrams who brought us the nostalgia-fest that was The Force Awakens in 2015, kick-starting the latest trilogy which was followed by Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi and which concludes with the latest film. It was also Abrams who was heavily involved in bringing Ireland’s epic Skellig Michael to movie fans the world over. He’d spent the previous summer scouting locations while on vacation with his Irish American wife, Katie McGrath, who has west of Ireland roots.
So where does The Rise of Skywalker fit into one of the biggest series in movie history, and what can fans expect?
The movie follows on from the dramatic events at the end of the last film, where a heroic stand-off took place between Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Kylo Res (Adam Driver). Meanwhile, Rey uses her Force powers to rescue the remaining surviving members of the Rebel Alliance - but the sight of a boy wearing a ring bearing the Rebellion’s emblem suggests she may have new help.
The Rise of Skywalker will conclude the trilogy of films that began in 2015 and will also conclude the so-called “trilogy of trilogies”. The nine films are often known as The Skywalker Saga because although many stories and new characters have grown around it, each trilogy tells the story of the Skywalker family.
The original trilogy first enthralled movie fans from 1997 to 1983 with the original Star Wars film, followed by The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
That was followed by a prequel trilogy from 1999-2005 featuring Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. While they were released after the original movies, as a prequel series they are chronologically the first act.
Star Wars reveals are rare as fans and producers alike want to avoid spoilers. But Abrams has stated that a period has elapsed since the dramatic events of The Last Jedi when we join the new film.
“What I will say is that the movie doesn’t pick up immediately after the last film,” he said in a public interview earlier this year. “Some time has gone by.” It’s also been hinted that while Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) spent much of the last movie apart, this film will be “an adventure that the group goes on together” according to Abrams. Footage that briefly showed Rey with a red lightsaber also has fans wondering if she’s been drawn to the dark side.
There has long been fan speculation that Finn and Poe (Oscar Isaac) had a romantic connection. But in an interview with Variety, Boyega said that idea is not further explored in The Rise of Skywalker. “They’ve always had a quite loving and open relationship in which it wouldn’t be too weird if it went beyond it,” he said. “But at the same time, they are just platonic at the moment.” Abrams added: “That relationship to me is a far deeper one than a romantic one.”
It has also been revealed that there are several new additions to the cast. They include Keri Russell, who plays a masked character named Zorri Bliss from the planet Kimiji.
English actor Richard E Grant plays The First Order’s Allegiant General Pryde and raved about the movie on social media having seen an early cast preview. “What it achieves, weaves & resolves is a total emotional meltdown & resurrection of the Spirit,” he tweeted. In an accompanying video, he added: “I cheered. I shouted. I fist-pumped the air. I cried. I stood and cheered. It’s absolutely as you’d hope it was going to be. I’m so proud to be in it and I can’t wait for you to see it.”
Naomi Ackie also joins the cast as Jannah, a Resistance warrior who comes into contact with the group when they’re in need of help.
In a poignant move, the late Carrie Fisher will appear as General Leia in The Rise of Skywalker. The actress died in late 2016, but Abrams has used footage recorded of her for The Force Awakens to complete Leia’s story. Daisy Ridley says she found the experience incredibly emotional.
“It was definitely difficult. It was emotional doing it, because you're also weirdly picturing her. You're not picturing how the scene is going to be,” she said at a press conference for the film. “It's really sad. And it's going to be really sad. But also, it's amazing that they have all this footage that is woven into the story in such a strange way.”
It sounds like The Rise of Skywalker is going to be an intense and emotional fan experience, with big story threads and epic battles reaching a conclusion.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits Irish cinemas on December 19th. To book tickets, visit: Here.