Some countdowns can’t wait.
Right now, you might be sat on a sun lounger, sipping a pina colada and topping up your tan – but chances are, your mind is already racing ahead to the Christmas release of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.
To get your appetite good and whetted for this climactic finale to the Skywalker saga, let’s round up the nine essential facts that every Jedi must know.
That’s an easy one. You don’t need the soothsaying powers of Master Yoda to foresee that The Rise of Skywalker arrives in UK cinemas on 19 December.
You’ll know it’s time when you see the herd of über-fans dressed as Gamorrean Guards queuing around the block.
But why camp out when you could book your tickets in advance, right?
J.J. Abrams is back behind the clapperboard, and that’s great news for anyone who lapped up the franchise-restoring Force Awakens back in 2015.
According to early interviews, the director will be laying off the ’80s nostalgia and ripping up Star Wars protocol.
“On Episode VII, I was doing what to the best of my ability I felt Star Wars should be,” he reflects.
“It felt slightly more renegade on The Rise of Skywalker. Like, you know, f*** it, I’m going to do the thing that feels right.”
British film-industry stalwart Pinewood Studios provided the sets for the principal photography.
And if you recognise the arid desert landscapes of Wadi Rum, Jordan, that’s because this location has also starred in Lawrence of Arabia, The Martian and Rogue One.
“Wadi Rum is breathtaking,” Abrams told Roya News of his choice for the planet Pasaana, “and the perfect location for our film.”
All the new generation are back, including conflicted Rey (Daisy Ridley), courageous Finn (John Boyega) and cocksure Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac).
Expect the surviving original characters, too, including C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo).
But the biggest development is the return of Billy Dee Williams as fast-talking scoundrel (and original trilogy hero) Lando Calrissian. “It was very emotional,” noted the 82-year-old. “I was in tears.”
We lost the iconic Carrie Fisher back in 2016, and since then, there’s been a ping-pong of conflicting reports over her character’s possible return in The Rise of Skywalker.
Abrams drew the line at a CG simulation (“That idea was off the table”), but when he found unused Force Awakens footage, he wrote the new script around it.
“She’s so alive in the scenes,” he explains, “and the craziest part is how not crazy it feels.”
The First Order was foiled again at the end of The Last Jedi, but the principal villains are still alive, kicking and out for revenge.
Expect slippery Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) to try luring Rey to the Dark Side, while as eternal sidekick General Hux, Domhnall Gleeson will probably be even angrier than he was in Peter Rabbit.
Well, there’s a new-old one, if you follow us. The dry cackle in the Skywalker trailer announced that Senator Sheev Palpatine – better-known as the dastardly Emperor – is back in business, despite being dropped down a bottomless reactor shaft, then blown up along with the Death Star, in 1983’s Return Of The Jedi.
“It shocked me too,” admitted veteran actor Ian McDiarmid at April’s Star Wars Celebration.
“But as you know, in Star Wars, they’re very good at dealing in unexpected moments.”
Watch the Skywalker trailer in the context of Abrams’ recent comments and you’ll start to build up a picture of the movie to come.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that Episode IX will focus on the young guns and tee up the Star Wars universe for a fresh direction. “It’s the characters in the film inheriting everything that’s come before from previous generations,” Abrams told Entertainment Tonight.
“Whether it’s the sins of the father or the wisdom they’ve acquired. And the question is – are this new generation up to the task?”
That’s how it looks from the soundbites. Boyega has stated that “honestly, from the bottom of my heart, I don’t think I’m coming back”.
Isaac insists this ninth movie is “the culmination of the entire thing”. Ridley says “it feels like a really nice full stop”.
All the more reason to cheer on the galaxy’s greatest heroes, one last time, as they arrive at your local Odeon cinema on 19 December.
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