Nearly 42 years after the release of the original “Star Wars,” audiences got their first look on Friday at the ninth chapter in this blockbuster science-fiction saga, set long ago in a galaxy far, far away.
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” whose title and teaser trailer were released at the Star Wars Celebration convention in Chicago, closes out a new trilogy of films that started in 2015. The first in that series, “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens,” directed by J.J. Abrams, reconnected viewers with venerable heroes like Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) while also introducing new characters like the mysterious scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), the renegade storm trooper Finn (John Boyega) and the villainous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
A 2017 sequel, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” directed by Rian Johnson, caught us up on the fate of the hero Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who had been largely absent from “The Force Awakens.”
The new teaser trailer for the next installment, for which Abrams returned to the helm, begins with a tantalizing glimpse of Rey, alone on a desert planet and wielding her light saber as a mysterious starcraft charges at her. (Can we presume it is piloted by Kylo Ren, her sometime ally and more frequent foe?) The voice of Luke Skywalker is heard to say: “We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight.”
There are all-too-brief looks at characters new and old, including Billy Dee Williams as the interstellar cad Lando Calrissian and Carrie Fisher, who died in 2016, as Leia, using footage shot for “The Force Awakens.” A piece of onscreen text vows: “The saga comes to an end.”
And then there is a mysterious, villainous laugh, coming from an unseen figure. (Disney confirmed on Friday that this was indeed the cackle of the actor Ian McDiarmid, who will reprise his “Star Wars” role as the nefarious Palpatine in this new movie.)
The new film is scheduled for release on Dec. 20.
This is at least the third time fans have been promised closure to the long-running narrative of the Skywalker clan: Everything looked well and fine at the end of George Lucas’s “Return of the Jedi” in 1983, which wrapped up the classic original “Star Wars” trilogy. Then Lucas had to go and make a second trilogy of not especially beloved prequel films, telling the story of Anakin Skywalker’s metamorphosis into the sinister Darth Vader, which concluded in 2005 with “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.”
But that bargain was altered after Disney acquired Lucasfilm and its “Star Wars” franchise in 2012, leading to the new trilogy and stand-alone movies like “Rogue One” and “Solo.” At present, people like Johnson, as well as David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (the showrunners of “Game of Thrones”), are developing their own “Star Wars” movies that will chronicle new characters and plot lines.
So you can expect the larger, post-Skywalker franchise to continue until the heat death of the universe. As Luke says near the end of the teaser trailer, “No one’s ever really gone.”
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