- "The saga will end. The story lives forever."
- ―Final trailer
Star Wars: Episode IX The Rise of Skywalker, marketed as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, is a 2019 film directed by J.J. Abrams from a script by Abrams and Chris Terrio. It is the third and final film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. The film, produced by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, is a continuation of 2015's The Force Awakens, which Abrams also directed and co-wrote, and 2017's The Last Jedi. Lucasfilm has referred to The Rise of Skywalker as the final installment of the Skywalker saga.
The film stars Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong'o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, with Ian McDiarmid and Billy Dee Williams. Fisher, who passed away in 2016 prior to the film's production, appeared via unused footage from The Force Awakens. The film was first announced after The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm Ltd. in 2012. Colin Trevorrow was initially announced as the director and writer of the film, but he and Lucasfilm parted ways in September 2017, with Lucasfilm citing "creative differences" over the project. On September 12, 2017, Abrams and Terrio were announced as the new director and writers.
Principal photography began in 2018, and filming wrapped in 2019. Footage from The Rise of Skywalker was first made public on April 12, 2019 at Celebration Chicago. The film was released on December 20, 2019. Unlike the first two installments of the sequel trilogy, the film received mixed reviews from critics, but was much better received by the audience and fandom, who praised it for celebrating the entire saga. It is currently the forty-sixth highest-grossing film of all time.
- "At last. Snoke trained you well."
- ―Palpatine, to Kylo Ren
A year after the battle of Crait, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren leads a vicious assault against Alazmec colonists on Mustafar, seeking a wayfinder owned by Ren's grandfather, Darth Vader; he requires the device as a guide in his hunt for the returned Sith Emperor Palpatine, who he perceives as a threat to his power. The Leader slaughters many colonists alongside his stormtroopers before retrieving the device and slotting it into his ship, allowing its dark power to lead him through the crimson energy storms that surround the fabled Sith vastness of Exegol.
Landing at the foot of an enormous citadel, Ren ignites his blade and enters, eventually reaching a vast chamber lined with worn statues of Sith legends. As he descends into its depths, he hears the Emperor mocking him; Ren's declaration that he had killed Snoke is dismissed: "I made Snoke."
Lightning dances around the young Dark side adept as he listens to the taunting words, spoken in a voice transitioning from that of the Emperor himself to that of Snoke and, finally, to that of Vader: "I have been every voice...you have ever heard...inside your head."
Ren, unshaken, proceeds further into the citadel, walking for some time among the towering effigies. His path lit by his blade, the young man eventually wanders into a maze of unfamiliar equipment tended by robed acolytes. Tall cylinders filled with a sickly golden liquid hold motionless, incomplete bodies with the mutilated visage of the dead Snoke; the Emperor's earlier words that he created the previous Supreme Leader are confirmed. Among these machines, bound by innumerable tubes and wires to machines of support and sustenance, is the emaciated figure of Palpatine himself. Ren raises his blade, but the Emperor speaks and stays his hand, explaining that the First Order was merely a harbinger of what he could bring about. A threat from the Supreme Leader seems to amuse Palpatine, who assures the Supreme Leader that he has died before, and issues a familiar promise: the dark side is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.
Ren asks what Palpatine would give him; the Dark Lord replies simply: "Everything."
At the surface, the ice cracks and yields as innumerable Star Destroyers ascend from the frozen sea into the tempestuous sky.
With this, an ominously smiling Palpatine orders Ren to kill Rey and so end the Jedi Order, in the act becoming what his legendary grandfather could not, and so that the younger man will take his place as Emperor when the Resistance ends. However, he also issues a warning: that Rey is not who he expects.
A vital mission
- "He's definitely cheating."
- ―Finn, on Chewbacca's playing of dejarik
Meanwhile, on the Millennium Falcon, ex-stormtrooper Finn and Resistance pilot Poe Dameron engage the Wookiee Chewbacca in an intense game of dejarik. The Wookiee takes some time considering his next move, and his human opponents jokingly suggest that he may be cheating. The implication infuriates Chewbacca, forcing Finn and Poe to calm him. Before their game can resume, an alarm sounds from the cockpit. Passing Klaud, a Resistance technician, in the corridor, the trio arrive in their seats just as the Falcon exits hyperspace.
The Falcon arrives at the Sinta Glacier Colony to meet a Resistance informant, the Ovissian Boolio, who tells them about a spy and gives them a message in the form of a data encoder, ordering them to give it to Leia. Finn proceeds to insert the message into R2-D2.
Before more can be said, several squadrons of TIE fighters scream into the system, prepared to take down the Falcon. As Finn prepares for the action and heads to the gunner cockpit, Boolio tells him to win the war before heading off.
Forced to head into the depths of the colony by a wall of TIEs, the Falcon destroys a number of its pursuers before jumping to hyperspace through one of the colony's walls. The remaining fighters pursue them regardless, and Poe begins lightspeed skipping through a number of systems, whose dangers the First Order pilots are unable to evade. Poe is able to outmaneuver the enemy, though his reckless trick-flying heavily damages the Falcon.
A Jedi rises
- "Be with me. Be with me. They're not with me."
- ―Rey, as she meditates
On the jungle world of Ajan Kloss, which serves as the hidden base of the Resistance, Rey meditates solemnly, floating in the air alongside a number of rocks. She tries to maintain her composure and balance, but ultimately fails and, with a sigh, lowers herself to the ground. General Leia Organa, who had been watching nearby, comforts the discouraged acolyte, assuring her that nothing is impossible and that she will be able to commune with the Jedi who came before her, as she hopes to.
Reinvigorated, Rey accepts Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber and takes off running on another bout with her training course. She expertly runs and leaps through the obstacles, imbuing her actions with the Force. She blocks every bolt from her hovering training droid, but pauses and stares as it is revealed that Kylo Ren, to whom she is bound through the Force, is communing with his grandfather's helmet and speaking to her from his chambers far across the galaxy.
A vision, induced by Ren, terrifies the Jedi: the ascensions of the Sith Eternal fleet above Exegol; the face of her murdered mentor and Ren's father, Han Solo; the pained words of her master, Luke Skywalker, as she tapped into the dark side; her duel with and alongside Ren against the Praetorian Guard of Snoke; the departure of her parents from Jakku, leaving her behind in the grip of Unkar Plutt. In a rage, she ultimately batters the training remote with her staff, but damages BB-8 in the process. Rescuing the droid from beneath the tree that had collapsed on him, Rey returns to the base and concedes to Leia that she feels tired and unready to wield the saber of her master. BB-8 excitedly volunteers to take up the mantle, which Rey dismisses; smiling, Leia kindly reminds her never to underestimate a droid.
Some time later, in the midst of Rey's studies of the ancient texts she retrieved from the First Jedi temple, the Falcon returns. It has been, however, severely damaged in the course of its escape from the First Order squadrons; Rey berates a fatigued Dameron for this, but he rebuffs her by noting that BB-8 is in similarly poor condition due to her earlier training accident. Rey dismisses the pilot, quipping that he's a difficult man, before hugging Finn, who jokingly joins her in condemning his companion. Although Rey is further angered by the revelation that Poe lightspeed skipped with the Falcon, a maneuver that the aging freighter cannot support, but the pilot admits the true cause of his concern: Rey is "the best fighter [the Resistance] has," but she has spent her time since Crait training and furthering her knowledge of the Force rather than participating in the war against the First Order. "We need you out there, not here," Dameron says before stalking off to begin briefing the Resistance on the information his group had obtained.
Poe cheerlessly informs those gathered that the message sent across the galaxy is confirmed: Palpatine has returned, heading an unprecedented fleet, with ambitions of vengeance and conquest. Rose Tico is dubious that the Emperor has truly risen again; Beaumont Kin raises the point of cloning and that the dark side held secrets only the Sith knew. Dameron further exposits that the designs of Palpatine have led to the creation of the Final Order, true successor to the Empire. In sixteen hours, the armada will embark from Exegol on a mission of galactic subjugation.
C-3PO chimes in, noting that Exegol is not on any star charts, and is described in lore as the Hidden World of the Sith. With this dismal news, the Resistance quietly debates their options until Rey, holding up one of her tomes, informs Leia that she needs to speak with the general privately. Showing her pages in the book, Rey explains that Luke had been searching for a wayfinder much the same way his former apprentice Ren had been doing, with a similar goal of reaching Exegol. However, his hunt had been left incomplete at its final step; if the Resistance could complete it, they could locate the wayfinder and use it to reach Exegol. Leia refuses to support this new mission, claiming that it is too dangerous, but the scavenger admits that she will go with or without the general's blessing, knowing that her newest mentor would do the same.
Accepting this, Leia dispatches her student to the desert of Pasaana, where a contact will be waiting. Though Rey plans to go alone, Poe, Chewie, and Finn tell her that they will accompany her. Though initially unwilling to accept the help and claiming she must accomplish the task alone, with a small speech from Finn, Rey accepts their aid. C-3PO also join the group aboard the Falcon as it undergoes repairs, stating to R2-D2 before departure that, should he not survive, the astromech was the "best friend he ever had."
Finn briefly says farewell to Tico, confident that he will return, and Rey speaks once more with Leia, wishing that she could tell the princess of Alderaan everything she wanted to. Reassuring her student once again, Leia simply says: "tell me when you get back." The two hug, and Rey, emboldened, departs with her friends aboard the Falcon.
Rise of a dark warrior
- "We have a spy in our midst. Whoever that traitor is, it won't stop us."
- ―Kylo Ren, to the Supreme Council
A metalsmith, Symeong Sith alchemist Albrekh, stiches Ren's helmet back together as he looks on surrounded by his Knights of Ren. With that, the Supreme Leader convenes a meeting of the First Order Council aboard his Star Destroyer, including General Armitage Hux and Allegiant General Enric Pryde.
Ren, who has found and killed Boolio, slams Boolio's decapitated head on the table and informs them that they have a spy in their midst, but that it is irrelevant. A moment of tense silence leads him to ask if Hux, his rival in the First Order power structure, is troubled by his appearance; the general quietly dismisses this concern, while another officer says that she likes Ren's reassembled helmet.
Quinn speaks up, dismissing the Sith Eternal as "a cult, conjurers and soothsayers." Pryde refutes these concerns, stating that the resources of the First Order will be increased ten thousand fold by the incorporation of the Sith fleet into their own ranks. With a spiteful glance at a glowering Hux, Pryde notes that the influence of this ancient power will "correct the error of Starkiller Base." Unconvinced, Quinn wonders aloud if the ships are truly a gift, and what Palpatine might demand in return. In response, Ren brutally chokes the general through the Force and lifts his body to the ceiling.
Mission to Pasaana
- "The Aki-Aki Festival of the Ancestors! This celebration occurs only once every forty-two years!"
The Falcon comes out of hyperspace over the desert planet of Pasaana. They land at Luke's coordinates and arrive at the Aki-Aki Festival of the Ancestors. Wandering among the crowd for a while, the group tries to keep a low profile. As Rey gazes at some Aki Aki youngsters, a child approaches her. Translated by Threepio, the child says she is named Nambi Ghima and offers a necklace to Rey, who smiles and accepts the kind gesture. When Ghima inquires as to the Jedi acolyte's family name, she replies that she doesn't have one.
At that moment, Kylo Ren establishes a connection with Rey through their bond. Speaking to her through this, Ren informs his quarry that Palpatine wants her dead. Rey comments that he is serving another master, but the fallen Jedi dismisses this, stating that he has plans of his own. After insisting that he will turn her to the dark side, Ren reaches out and grabs her necklace, pulling it through the Force into his own hands. Rey realizes the First Order will soon be coming and runs off to warn her friends.
As they reconvene and prepare to escape, a stormtrooper finds them but is quickly shot by a mysterious figure. This masked savior asks Rey and her team to follow him. Once they enter a transport, he reveals himself to be Lando Calrissian, the man who destroyed the second Death Star at the Battle of Endor many years prior. He shows them a hologram of a Sith Wayfinder and explains that only two were ever created. He further reveals that he once accompanied Luke on a mission to track a man named Ochi, whom they believed held information key to locating one of the devices, but when they arrived, they found his ship abandoned. Lando apparently remained behind on Pasaana. The old hero of the Rebellion offers them directions to Ochi's ship, which remains in the desert where he left it.
Squadrons of TIEs and First Order dropships fly overhead as the crew hurries through the crowds to the fringes of the festival, eventually stealing a pair of skiff speeders. They are quickly spotted, however, and First Order treadspeeders begin a fierce pursuit, aided by jet troopers. They prove no match for the gang of heroes and are swiftly dispatched, though the chase drives the speeders into the Sinking Fields, where the damage done by the troopers fells them and sends the heroes into the quicksand.
They fall through it into a web of caves below the surface, quickly joining up as they use the glow of the Skywalker blade and Poe's diminutive flashlight to guide themselves through the confusing network of tunnels. The group eventually locates Ochi's remains, revealing that the Jedi hunter was swallowed by the sands and never escaped. Alongside his bones is a dagger, which is inscribed with a Sith language that Threepio recognizes but is unable to translate due to restrictions on his programming. Dameron laments to the droid that this is "the one time we need you to talk, and you can't."
As they are about to depart and look for a way out, the team is cornered by an aggressive vexis snake. They prepare to fight the beast, but Rey notices that the serpent is injured. Using Force healing, Rey manages to appease the creature, which tunnels through the rock to create an escape for the team. At the same time, it is revealed that the Knights of Ren have arrived on Pasaana, and are hunting them.
The team hurries to Ochi's ship. As they near it, Rey pauses, the Force having informed her that Ren has arrived. She sends her friends ahead to the ship before running back into the desert to confront her nemesis. In the distance, Ren's new TIE fighter roars through the desert only meters above the sand. As it nears her, Rey runs into a leap and, as the ship flies beneath her, she severs a wing with her lightsaber and sends the ship into a tailspin. It crashes in a fireball some distance away.
During this time, however, Chewbacca and the dagger have been captured by the Knights and stormtroopers while the Wookiee was leaving to retrieve Rey. Finn observes the latter forcing the Wookiee onto a transport, and runs to Rey to inform her of this. Kylo Ren, having emerged from the wreckage of his ship, advances across the desert and engages in a duel of the Force with Rey, each of them pulling the First Order transport to their side. In this struggle, Rey accidentally releases a burst of Force lightning, destroying the vessel and seemingly killing Chewbacca. Ren allows the Jedi and her allies to escape in Ochi's vessel, as his own troops have captured the Falcon.
As the Jedi hunter's ship hurries away from Pasaana, Rey mourns that she has apparently killed Chewbacca. Finn attempts to reassure her, stating that he knows the good person he believes her to be, but she dismisses his words, claiming that no one knows the truth behind who she is. As the Wookiee had the dagger, a further setback is revealed: they have no way to reach Exegol. C-3PO, however, reveals that he has retained the information from the dagger in his memory. A plan to hack the protocol droid's programming restrictions is formed, and following a tip from Poe, the heroes set course for Kijimi. During the trip, BB-8 finds and reactivates the droid D-O on Ochi's ship.
A new mission
- "Spice runner?!"
- ―Finn, after finding out Poe's former occupation
The heroes of the Resistance make their way to the snow-dusted planet of Kijimi to execute their plan to discover what secrets the Dagger held. The Resistance team arrives on the planet and bump into Zorii Bliss and her crew. She reveals that Poe has a colorful past, once worked as a spice runner and still owes her money. A skirmish occurs before Rey gets the upper hand and Zorii agrees to bring them to Babu Frik to hack C-3PO's programming to read the Sith language on the Dagger. Unknown to them, the Knights of Ren have tracked them there.
Zorii Bliss brings them through a back alley and into a little bar in order to get to the droid ship. Frik tells everyone that he can unlock the message to be read, but in doing so C-3PO's memory will be wiped. Still reeling from the loss of Chewbacca, the heroes argue about finding another way to get the job done, but in an act of self-sacrifice C-3PO voluntarily consent to the modifications, knowing that he will be lost in the act. Frik completes the hack and Threepio is now able to read the message inscribed on the Dagger.
The translated text points them to the location of Emperor's wayfinder. Having served his purpose, 3PO's memory wipe begins and he shuts down. Once the memory wipe is complete, Threepio reboots with a completely empty memory.
Outside the bar, Zorii and Poe reminisce about old times. There is some lingering connection there even though they had some sort of falling out in the past. Poe tries to convince Zorii to join them. She turns him down, but she understands the good in what Poe is trying to do and gives him a First Order Captain's Medallion as a gesture of goodwill to help them get through First Order security. She had been saving to buy this medallion on the black market as her ticket off Kijimi and away from her spice running days, but she gives it to Poe.
As the First Order arrives, Rey senses that Chewie is alive. As the heroes escape on Ochi's ship, the group makes the decision to use the passage device to board the Star Destroyer and recapture the Falcon and save Chewie. The device works, and their ship lands without question. Rey uses a mind trick to confuse the stormtroopers, enabling them to find Chewie; though Rey splits off, feeling as if something is calling to her. Meanwhile, Poe and Finn find Chewie, but their rescue attempt fails and they are all taken captive.
The calling Rey feels is caused by the dagger which draws her to it in Kylo's living quarters. Rey finds and grabs Ochi's blade, but when she does, it gives her visions of what happened to her parents. Ochi found and killed them with that dagger and that her parents were trying to hide her from Ochi. When she breaks free of the vision a bond with Kylo begins.
He discovers that she is on his Star Destroyer and a lightsaber duel breaks out between the two of them across two different locations, Kylo on the surface of Kijimi and Rey aboard the Star Destroyer. During this encounter, Kylo reveals that there is more to the story behind Rey and her parents. Ochi was sent to find and recover Rey, not kill her. Her parents just got in the way, so he killed them. She is still wanted for the darkness that resides within her. It's clear that by this point, Kylo is fully committed to the Sith Lord's mission for him.
A new revelation
- "You're a Palpatine."
- ―Kylo Ren, to Rey
When it appears that all is lost for Finn, Poe, and Chewie, who have been captured by the First Order, General Hux arrives and surprisingly not only allows them to escape but points them in the direction of the Falcon. Hux was the mole within the First Order that Finn and Poe had received information from. When asked, he tells them that he wasn't doing it to help the Resistance, but rather because he didn't want Kylo Ren to win.
Ren arrives and faces off Rey, in which he reveals that she is Palpatine's granddaughter; her father was the son of the Emperor. Kylo once again offers for Rey to join him, but she refuses, escaping in the Falcon.
After they leave, Pryde kills Hux for treason against the First Order and assumes control of the First Order military. Palpatine contacts Pryde and demands that he use one of the specially equipped Star Destroyers to destroy Kijimi as an act of loyalty and Pryde complies. Pryde tells Kylo that even though they don't have the dagger, they know where the Resistance is going because they scanned it while it was still in their possession.
Mission to Kef Bir
- "He said you'd come. He said you were the last hope."
- ―Jannah, of Rey's team
The information learned from C-3PO's translation of the dagger's writing leads to the location of a second wayfinder device which turns out to be aboard the wreckage of the second Death Star on the ocean moon of Kef Bir.
The team eventually meets a woman named Jannah. She heard about them from Babu Frik and at their urging, offers to take them to the location of the Wayfinder the next day.
While fixing the Falcon with Finn, Jannah reveals she was once a stormtrooper known as TZ-1719 and that her whole tribe were former troopers. They mutinied at a battle in which they were told to fire on civilians.
But soon, the group realizes they had not seen Rey. She had, in fact, taken a skimmer and was headed to get the wayfinder.
Rey uses the dagger to locate the Wayfinder by aligning a plate hidden in the hilt with a specific part of the Death Star's wreckage, and discovering the two shapes match perfectly. Upon contacting the Wayfinder, she envisions herself as a Sith; a short duel between Rey and the Sith vision ensues. Shortly after, Kylo, having tracked the group to Kef Bir, finds and destroys the Wayfinder in an attempt to channel her anger, thus dueling Rey. Ren, however, gets the upper hand, but as a dying Leia calls to Kylo by his name Ben through the Force, Rey impales him. Sensing Leia's death, Rey heals Kylo and takes his ship to exile herself to Ahch-To, shaken by her Sith lineage.
As she prepares to throw the Skywalker lightsaber into the burning wreckage of Kylo's ship, Luke's Force spirit appears. He tells the story of Leia's Jedi training and encourages Rey to face Palpatine as he faced Darth Vader, giving her Leia's lightsaber and his old X-wing. Rey leaves for Exegol, using the wayfinder on Kylo's ship.
On Kef Bir, Kylo converses with a vision of Han Solo, his father, and throws his lightsaber into the water near the wreckage of the Death Star, reclaiming his identity as Ben Solo.
Upon the Steadfast, Palpatine communes with Pryde over a hologram. The Sith Lord discusses the failure of the late Kylo Ren before Pryde, now de facto leader of the First Order. Pryde, a loyal Imperial during the time of the Empire prior to the Galactic Civil War, pledges the organization to the Final Order to the Emperor. Palpatine then commands Pryde to join him on Exegol, and informs the Allegiant General that a Xyston-class Star Destroyer from the Sith fleet is to be transferred to the First Order, intending to prove the General's loyalty by ordering him to send it to a planet with ties to the Resistance. Subsequently, Pryde has the Star Destroyer sent to destroy Kijimi with its axial superlaser at the Palpatine's behest. With the deed done, the Sith fleet on Exegol sees itself headed by Pryde aboard the Steadfast.
Confrontation on Exegol
- "She will take her revenge, and with a stroke of her saber, the Sith will be reborn! The Jedi are dead!"
- ―Darth Sidious, to Rey and the Sith Eternal
Rey arrives on Exegol and transmits her location to the Resistance. She confronts Palpatine and the Sith Eternal, who demands that she kill him to transfer his spirit into Rey. The Resistance engages in battle with the Sith Lord's fleet, though they are overpowered, suffering losses like Temmin Wexley.
Ben overpowers the Knights of Ren and arrives to help Rey, but Palpatine rejuvenates himself by absorbing the life essences of Rey and Ben and then disables the Resistance fleet above with Force lightning. Palpatine tells Ben that he will be the last Skywalker and uses the Force to throw him into a nearby chasm, seemingly killing him.
A weakened Rey hears the voices of past Jedi (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, Ahsoka Tano, Yoda, Mace Windu, Kanan Jarrus, Aayla Secura, Luminara Unduli, Adi Gallia, Luke Skywalker and Anakin Skywalker), who lend their strength and encourage her to continue on. Palpatine furiously attempts to destroy Rey with lightning, but she deflects it back towards him using the two lightsabers, disintegrating his body and killing him once and for all. However, Rey dies from the effort of the powerful attack.
A hand appears at the edge of the chasm and an injured Ben pulls himself up, falling to his knees beside Rey and pulling her dead body into his lap. He embraces Rey's body. Pulling away, Ben puts his hand on her stomach and uses the Force to resurrect her. Rey awakens, smiling at Ben and touching his cheek gently. The two embrace before Rey kisses him. Moments later, Ben falls backward and dies. His body fades away as he becomes one with the Force; At that moment, Leia's body does the same.
After returning for Finn and Jannah, Lando leads the Resistance, now backed by reinforcements, including Zorii Bliss; who were able to destroy the remainder of the Sith Lord's armada, ending the First Order-Resistance war and beginning a new age of peace across the galaxy.
A war ends
- "People are rising up all over the galaxy. Poe, we did it."
"We did it."
- ―Finn and Poe Dameron
The Resistance and the Galaxy at large celebrate their victory. Maz Kanata bestows Chewbacca with a Medal of Bravery, which Han was rewarded with following the Battle of Yavin. Poe and Zorii exchange a look and it seems like Poe is trying to ask Zorii if she would like to celebrate with him privately, to which she shakes her head. Rey then returns and shares a hug with Finn and Poe.
Rey visits the Lars homestead on Tatooine, where she buries Anakin and Leia's lightsabers in the sand, having now built her own— a black-handled lightsaber with a golden blade. A local asks her name and, seeing spirits of Luke and Leia look on, Rey gives her name as "Rey Skywalker". Rey and BB-8 then watch the twin suns of Tatooine rise.
- "To have no script and to have a release date and have it be essentially a two-year window when you're saying (to yourself), you've got two years from the decision to do it to release, and you have literally nothing... You don't have the story, you don't have the cast, you don't have the designers, the sets. There was a crew, and there were things that will be worked on for the version that preceded ours, but this was starting over."
- ―J.J. Abrams, on taking over from Colin Trevorrow
Long before Lucasfilm's acquisition by Disney in 2012, Star Wars creator George Lucas mentioned that he had plans to make nine films. Producer Gary Kurtz mentioned in a 1999 interview that Lucas' plans for Episode IX included the first appearance of the Emperor, a plot point ultimately used in the original trilogy's conclusion. Lucas once estimated to film Episode IX in 2011 back in 1976 and wanted Mark Hamill to make a cameo in the film "like Obi-Wan handing the lightsaber down to the next new hope". According to Hamill, Lucas's outline for the sequel trilogy had Luke Skywalker surviving until Episode IX and training Leia Organa in the Force. Hamill was an advocate for this version of the story.
In August 2015, Colin Trevorrow was announced as director for Episode IX. As J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson had to ensure a smooth transition between Episodes VII and VIII, Johnson and Trevorrow worked closely to ensure continuity between their respective films. With cinematographer John Schwartzman, Trevorrow planned to shoot on 65 mm film, and wanted to capture some footage in actual outer space. By 2016, Lucasfilm had developed a full outline, which Trevorrow then turned into a screenplay. He presented the completed script to Lucasfilm (as well as Lucas and Hamill) in early December of that year.
Various reports claimed that both Abrams and Johnson were involved with the story for The Rise of Skywalker, though they each denied this, with Abrams saying on his part "We don't write a treatment but there are countless times we came up with something and said 'oh, this would be so great for Episode VIII!' or 'Thats what we could get to in IX!' According to The Force Awakens co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, the Lucasfilm creative team developed a general idea early on as to how they wanted the film to end. This was echoed by Kylo Ren actor Adam Driver: "With Star Wars, I had one piece of information of where it was all going, and that's where it has been in my head for a long time, and things were building towards that." Carrie Fisher's brother, Todd Fisher, told yahoo.com that initial plans for the film had Leia playing a key role, reportedly becoming the "last Jedi" referenced in the title of its predecessor.
Death of Carrie Fisher
- "The minute she finished, she grabbed me and said, 'I'd better be at the forefront of IX!' Because Harrison was front and center on VII, and Mark is front and center on VIII. She thought IX would be her movie. And it would have been."
- ―Kathleen Kennedy, on Carrie Fisher's death
Carrie Fisher died on December 27, 2016. In light of this, Trevorrow met with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy in January 2017 to discuss possible story solutions. Kennedy said that the team had "pretty much started over" and it was reported that Jack Thorne was hired to rewrite the initial script. However, in September 2017, it was announced that Trevorrow had left the project due to creative differences, and that he would be replaced by Abrams. According to Kennedy, it was during the initial scripting phase that she realized Trevorrow wasn't the right person for the job; She attributed this to Trevorrow having not been present at the story conferences for The Force Awakens, during which a basic plan for the trilogy had been laid out. Disney reportedly agreed to pay a fee to Paramount Pictures so that Abrams could make the film, as he had been in breach of contract with the latter by his involvement in The Force Awakens.) Abrams pitched his story to Disney head Bob Iger in December 2017 and had a script ready by February 2018. As he told Rolling Stone, "I had no intention to return. But when the opportunity presented itself to finish a story that we had begun with these new characters, to tell the last chapter of their story, it felt like there was a chance to do it in a way where we could go beyond, and do better than we did in Seven."
Due to the time constraints and pressure of returning to the series, Abrams asked Chris Terrio to co-write the film. In May 2018, he told The Wall Street Journal: "I had a bunch of ideas from the beginning, back on VII, of where the story would go. I just never in my wildest dreams thought I would have a chance to execute them". The creative team met with Lucas, Johnson and Kasdan before writing the script; According to Abrams, Lucas explained many of his own ideas about the Force and the midi-chlorians. Terrio also spent some time doing extensive research into the Expanded Universe and recent Star Wars animation; He was influenced by many of those stories in writing the film, comparing the process to writing non-fiction: "When we would make a story decision, we were fully aware that this now will become canon, and so are we sure that this is the right story decision? Are we sure about it character-wise? Are we sure about it thematically? Does it seem like it gels with George's original intentions from Episode IV? Does it gel with what we learned in the prequels and what we learned in the sequel trilogy?" He thought of the core characters as analogous to children of revolutionaries who fought in the War of 1812.
Abrams and Terrio were determined to make a film that would conclude the Skywalker saga and tie together the previous eight chapters. The pair began the process by writing ideas on a series of dry erase boards at Bad Robot, and then transferring them to a Microsoft Word document. They would also meet in coffee shops to discuss the script, at which they would use code names to refer to the characters. During the process, they collaborated on ideas with Kennedy, Michelle Rejwan, Rick Carter, Roger Guyett, Kevin Jenkins, Michael Kaplan and Neal Scanlan. Kennedy and Rejwan gave them certain narrative beats that had to be hit. Kennedy described the process to Gizmodo: "Nobody was being overly polite. If you didn't think something made sense. If you couldn't follow it, if you thought, from a fan's point of view, that you're stepping outside the lines and it was a bogus kind of thinking, no one was afraid to say that because we knew how important this was to get right. And we didn't let things go." Abrams also described it as “this crazy challenge that could have been a wildly uncomfortable contortion of ideas and shoving in of answers and Band-Aids and bridges ... I feel like we've gotten to a place–without jinxing anything–where we might have something incredibly special.”
The writers revisited some of the ideas Abrams and Kasdan had had for The Force Awakens, and also used some ideas that were present in Trevorrow's script. Certain aspects of the story changed significantly during pre-production, and the film had frequent dialogue changes from day to day. Producer Kathleen Kennedy claimed that Palpatine's return was planned from the beginning, although Trevorrow believed it was a new idea by Abrams. According to Terrio, he and Abrams didn't use anything from Trevorrow's script, although "There may have been certain elements that we used that had been in the original script and we weren't aware of it. The Guild makes the determination about those things." Regardless, Trevorrow and his frequent writing partner Derek Connolly received story credits in the final film. In regards to The Last Jedi's influence on the film, Abrams told Esquire: "As a filmmaker, working on episode IX, amazingly, nothing that he [Rian Johnson] did in Last Jedi got in the way of things that we had talked about wanting to do down the line, ideas that I had about where things might go, so... it wasn't like his story somehow derailed the things I wanted to pursue. In fact, strangely, they might have even helped strengthen them because we got to make some choices that sort of take advantage of the fact that Rian hadn't done the things that we were thinking about doing."
Lucasfilm dispelled rumors that it would digitally recreate Fisher in future films. Fisher's brother Todd said that he and Billie Lourd had granted Lucasfilm rights to use footage of her. Kennedy initially claimed that Ms. Fisher would not appear in the film, though Abrams later confirmed that Ms. Fisher will appear in the film via unused footage from The Force Awakens. Mr. Fisher credited this decision to Abrams, who said "It was like finding this impossible answer to this impossible question". According to Mr. Fisher: "There's a lot of minutes of footage. I don't mean just outtakes. This is unused, new content that could be woven into the storyline. That's what's going to give everybody such a great kick. It's going to look like it was meant to be. Like it was shot yesterday.” (He also claimed that unused footage from The Last Jedi would also be used; Abrams later clarified that no footage from that film was used due to nothing substantial being available.) Ultimately, ILM placed Fisher's facial performance onto a digital body, with an on-set stand-in serving as a visual reference for the actors. This allowed the character to be placed in new locations, and for the effects artists to give her different clothes and a new hairstyle that would be unique to The Rise of Skywalker.
- "We went into this movie very much in the mindset that this has to be conclusive. It has to. You have to get some answers. You have to learn some things."
- ―J.J. Abrams
Principal photography began at Pinewood Studios on August 1, 2018, under the working title of "trlXie" (originally "Black Diamond"). Production also took place in Wadi Rum, Jordan (the same filming location for Jedha in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) for three weeks. Some sequences were filmed with 65mm film and IMAX cameras. Because the film was under a shortened production timeline, the crew had to shoot everything they needed during principal photography, and Maryann Brandon began editing on set.
Abrams felt less creatively constrained in making The Rise of Skywalker than he did with The Force Awakens, citing Rian Johnson's work on The Last Jedi as the inspiration: "Rian helped remind me that that's why we're on these movies–not to just do something that you've seen before." According to Poe Dameron actor Oscar Isaac, the shooting of The Rise of Skywalker allowed for more improvisation than The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi; "It's a testament to J.J. coming back and feeling confident. There's less pressure for it to be right. We just want to make a good movie and have a really good time while doing it." Abrams shot many of the character interactions in long takes, with actors sometimes coming up with their own lines. Daisy Ridley also commented: "There was this thing: JJ would ask us to do the scene without speaking, just to feel the emotional... whatever. He was like, 'You never know what could come up.' We did that a couple of times. Then it became a joke, because we would just wet ourselves laughing."
Prior to shooting, members of the cast were trained in various specialties to prepare for the shoot, such as kickboxing, horseback riding, using a bow-and-arrow and holding a gun. Ridley performed the majority of her character's stunts herself. Filmmaker Kevin Smith visited the set (just as he did for The Force Awakens) and described what he saw: "Biggest set I've ever seen in my life. The dude's not directing a movie, it's like he's directing a small country." The script was under even greater security than those of previous films, with actors not allowed to take copies home; Despite this, a copy was put up for sale on eBay, after Finn actor John Boyega accidentally left it under his bed and it was found by a cleaning person. However, Lucasfilm was warned about it and recovered the script before someone could buy it. By December 11, 2018, Hamill had worked for "about a week" on the film, but had yet to shoot most of his scenes, which he expected to do alongside his work on the TV series Knightfall.
John Williams had begun work on the musical score by May 2019, and was scheduled to begin recording in June. Recording took a total of 11 days from July through November of 2019. Williams said that it will most likely be his final Star Wars project.
The film was the first project for a new ILM division in Sydney, Australia. Abrams told Entertainment Weekly that the film had significantly less post-production time than normal, and that it was "literally a practical race to get it finished.” However, he felt more confident about The Rise of Skywalker than he had The Force Awakens. The editing of The Rise of Skywalker was finished on November 24, 2019. Taken as a whole, Abrams described the film as "the most challenging" project he'd ever been involved with.
- "The beauty of working with Chris Terrio and producing with Kathleen Kennedy is that I think we have found a way — I hope, it's up for you to decide — to bring this story to a conclusion in a way that feels satisfying, surprising, amusing, shocking, all the ways that a story should make you feel."
- ―J.J. Abrams
The film was originally scheduled for release on May 24, 2019, but was later pushed back to December 20, giving the May 24 date to the live-action remake of Aladdin. Footage was first publicly screened at Disney's March 8 investor's conference, and briefly at CinemaCon 2019 as part of a montage of upcoming Disney films. The film was featured in a panel at Celebration Chicago, featuring director/co-writer J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy. The teaser trailer debuted at this event, which also revealed the film's title and teaser poster. During the convention, Abrams, Kennedy, and members of the cast were interviewed for Good Morning America. The film was featured in the May issue of Vanity Fair, the November issues of Empire, Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone, the December issue of People, and the January 2020 issue of Empire. A panel was held at the 2019 D23 Expo, featuring cast and crew, with the reveal of a new teaser poster and two show casings of footage; The latter of the two was later released online and aired on television.
The cast and crew made a number of television appearances to promote the film, including Good Morning America, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Live with Kelly and Ryan, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. The cast and crew participated in a livestream Q&A on December 2, a press conference on December 4. Brazil's Comic Con Experience on December 7, and the film's Japan premiere on December 11. On December 12, Amazon.com released an exclusive behind-the-scenes video. Tickets went on sale October 21, followed by the release of the final trailer on Monday Night Football and the theatrical poster. Lucasfilm collaborated with Porsche on a new Star Wars spaceship design that was built for the film's premiere, named the Tri-Wing S-91x Pegasus Starfighter. Beginning on December 18, AMC Theaters held a 27+ hour marathon of Episodes I through VIII, leading up to Episode IX. Adam Driver, Greg Grunberg and Mark Hamill each held Omaze fundraisers for which winners could attend the film's U.S. premier, which was held on December 16. As happened with The Force Awakens, a dying fan was given a screening of the film, with Bob Iger himself confirming it on Twitter.
In November 2018, Lucasfilm debuted the animated shorts Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures as an introduction to the saga for children, beginning a year-long lead-up to the film. In December 2018, Topps began a year-long campaign, dubbed "Star Wars Galactic Moments: Countdown to Episode IX," in which three cards are released each week leading up to the release of the film. Sith trooper merchandise debuted in stores on September 1, 2019, while the film's main merchandise push began on October 4, 2019, known as Triple Force Friday. Aside from The Rise of Skywalker, the event debuted merchandise for the TV series The Mandalorian and the video game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
Lucasfilm partnered with eight product brands to promote the film: Bose, Dannon, General Electric, General Mills, Porsche, Samsung, McDonald's and United Airlines—with each ad campaign beginning on November 1. Like with The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, the months leading up to the debut of The Rise of Skywalker saw the release of tie-in novels, short stories, comics, reference books, and activity books known collectively as Journey to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue introduced The Rise of Skywalker-themed content. Funko released an animated short inspired by the film. Lucasfilm hosted Star Wars Nights at NBA games in December 2019 and January 2020.
Several Disney-owned video games were updated with content from the film: Disney Emoji Blitz, Disney Magic Kingdoms, Star Wars: Commander, Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, and Star Wars Battlefront II. Beginning on December 12, Fortnite rolled out a series of The Rise of Skywalker skins and emotes, and on December 14 previewed a scene from the film in an in-game event. (The event concluded with exclusive Palpatine dialogue that has been interpreted as the transmission mentioned in the film's opening crawl.) Roblox also featured tie-in elements with the film. The 2020 video game LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will include levels from the film.
A Fandango poll ranked the film as the third most anticipated movie of 2019, behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe films Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel. In November 2019, the film was tracking for an opening box office of between $175 and $205 million.
The film has received mixed reviews from critics, currently holding a 53% critics score, however, the audience has reviewed the film much more favourably giving it an 86% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. It opened to $234 million domestic and $376 worldwide box office. Notably, it performed poorly in China, continuing a downward trend from The Force Awakens. To date, the film has made $1,001 million.
According to the 2017 reference book Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The Visual Dictionary, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing was no longer functional when we see it submerged in the waters of Ahch-To (one of its s-foils is also seen functioning as the door to Luke's hut in The Last Jedi). However, in The Rise of Skywalker, it is fully functional after Luke's force ghost lifts it out of the water, and Rey uses it to reach Exegol.
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Notes and references
- Star Wars: Episode IX The Rise of Skywalker on Wikipedia