And the teaser to this episode strongly suggests the degree to which the original trilogy characters might get less screen time — as that new generation of warriors fully ascends.
“This is your fight,” we hear Luke Skywalker say in voice-over, as Rey (Daisy Ridley) is seen wielding a lightsaber on a desert surface.
The teaser was unveiled after CBS’s Stephen Colbert moderated the opening panel at Star Wars Celebration, hosting such guests as “Episode IX” writer-director Abrams, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and veteran Star Wars actors Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian).
“I got lucky” to work with Abrams, Williams said, adding: “Lando never left me.”
But Episode IX is about how the new generation has “inherited the light and the dark, and asking the question as they face the greatest evil, are they prepared? Are they ready?” Abrams said.
Among that new generation of actors, guests onstage in Chicago, were Ridley, John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca) and Naomi Ackie (a new character named Jannah).
Here were some of the takeaways from the panel and teaser:
1. Who is the next Skywalker?
Abrams is not above wicked misdirection, but the title reveal of “The Rise of Skywalker” combined with the footage stokes strong speculation that Rey will be revealed to be of Luke and Leia’s bloodline.
2. Carrie Fisher’s performance will be all her.
Leia will return in “Episode IX,” despite Fisher’s death since the trilogy’s most recent film.
A “CG character was off the table,” Abrams told the crowd, noting of Fisher: “She was glorious.”
The director added: “You don’t recast that part, and you don’t suddenly have her disappear.” Turns out, Abrams said, the filmmakers had enough unused footage of Leia from “The Force Awakens” to create a performance.
Abrams said the creative team asked themselves: “What if we could write scenes around her?”
“Leia lives in this film in a way that is kind of mind-blowing to me,” he said, noting her daughter, Billie Lourd, appears in scenes, too.
The Chicago crowd chanted Tran’s first name, and the actress was clearly moved by the moment. The online harassment that Tran has endured was receiving a full-throated shout-down here, as fans voiced their embrace of their new and beloved Rose Tico.
When questioned by Colbert about further possible sparks between Finn and Rose, Tran coyly said: “Finn is a very eligible bachelor.”
4. The sequel timeline doesn’t match up precisely.
Abrams teased fans by saying that the ninth episode doesn’t pick up exactly where the last one left off.
Teased Abrams: “Some time has passed.”
5. There’s a new robotic creature in town.
Abrams introduced a small rolling character named D-O, which essentially looks like a megaphone on a wheel. But can it be embraced as being as winningly cute as BB-8?
6. And the new villain is . . .?
Emperor Palpatine, previously portrayed by Ian McDiarmid, seems to make his return. His villainous laugh serves as the climax to the teaser.
“Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker” opens Dec. 20.