Star Wars Episode 9's Cast, Release Date, And Everything Else We Know About 2019's Last Jedi Sequel
By Kevin Wong on
Are you looking forward to Episode IX?
The latest Star Wars trilogy has turned out quite divisive. Episode VII: The Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams, was criticized for being too safe--a stylish remake of A New Hope rather than its own film. Then, the Rian Johnson-helmed Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi came out and did the opposite. Though it tried different things and broke a lot of established Star Wars archetypes, it was criticized for going too far to subvert audience expectations.
Now, the Star Wars fandom has Episode IX to look forward to in 2019. Can this final film rectify the public sentiment, or have things splintered beyond repair? Is there a grander artistic vision at play, or has this entire process been a series of short-sighted decisions, one after the other? Here's everything we know so far about Star Wars: Episode IX, along with some of the more recent speculative rumors.
1. We know the release date
The current release date for Star Wars Episode IX is December 20, 2019. This is a change from the original release date: May 24, 2019.
The first six films in the main franchise were all released in May. The December release window began with The Force Awakens in 2015 and continued with The Last Jedi in 2017.
2. J.J. Abrams is back in the director's chair
Colin Trevorrow, who directed and co-wrote Jurassic World and co-wrote Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, was originally slated to direct Episode IX. He dropped out of the project due to creative differences and was replaced with J.J. Abrams, who helmed The Force Awakens.
This has proven to be a controversial choice, especially from fans who disliked The Force Awakens. But in hindsight, Abrams might have been better off directing the whole trilogy.
When Abrams gave Rian Johnson his rough ideas for the Last Jedi, Johnson opted to not use them and started from scratch. This might be the reason why the new trilogy feels like a patchwork of competing visions. If Johnson tried to subvert Abrams' original story, will Abrams now try to undo that subversion, now that he's back in charge? This could get ugly.
3. Billy Dee Williams is back as Lando
Abrams is bringing back Billy Dee Williams to reprise the role of Lando Calrissian. And not a moment too soon; we're quickly running out of classic characters who can make meaningful cameos. Han Solo died in VII. Luke Skywalker died in VIII. Carrie Fisher died before she could film her scenes as Leia in Episode IX.
So much of Star Wars is based on echoes and allusions to the past. And seeing familiar faces might give this trilogy the emotional conclusion that it needs.
4. Lando's daughter?
According to a Reddit user who claimed to be an Episode IX extra, Naomi Ackie will be performing the role of Veranada Calrissian, Lando's daughter.
This makes a lot of sense; Star Wars has always been a story about families and one generation either following, or not following, in the footsteps of the prior one.
Last Jedi fans might be disappointed though. Johnson took great effort in The Last Jedi to "free" Star Wars from the restrictions of being a "Skywalker saga," If true, this decision might set those efforts back. Many will see this as a course correction. But other might view this as a regression, that makes the Star Wars universe smaller than it ought to be.
5. Picking up old plotlines
Now that Abrams is directing the film, lots of plotlines, which were apparently ditched by Johnson, could be back in play. He could easily retcon Rey's lineage; Episode IX could explain that Rey is actually descended from Obi-Wan or a great Jedi warrior, but Kylo told her the opposite in The Last Jedi to play on her insecurities.
We could see the Knights of Ren, which were alluded to in The Force Awakens and never mentioned once in The Last Jedi. We could get a resolution to the Finn and Rey romantic tension, though this might be tricky, since Rose is in love with Finn.
It'll be interesting to see how Abrams responds to characters that he had no part in creating, and whether he restores his old characters to their original trajectories.
6. Sidekick for BB-8?
The site Making Star Wars is a hotbed for Star Wars leaks and rumors. And a recent report on the site says that in the new film, BB-8 will be getting a sidekick droid that will look up to and follow him.
Could this work? It's all in the delivery and presentation. BB-8 was very well-received by the fandom, and a smaller, younger droid might recreate some of the chemistry we see between C-3PO and R2-D2, especially if the saga continues beyond IX. So long as Abrams focuses more on characterization than gags or cutesy humor, it'll be fine.
7. Repaired Kylo helmet?
The same on-set report states that Kylo Ren will be wearing a helmet in this new film, even though he took it off and smashed it in The Last Jedi. According to the source, this new helmet could actually be the old helmet, repaired and welded together, which makes a direct allusion to Darth Vader's patched together, broken state.
8. A brand new planet: Batuu
The planet of Batuu is now a part of the Disneyland and Disney World "Star Tours" attractions, and it will also be the site for the new "Star Wars Land" themed area in Disney Hollywood Studios, set to open in 2019. This might mean that Batuu will play pivotal role in the new film, slated to release the same year. According to the Disney Parks official blog:
"This remote outpost on the galaxy’s edge was once a busy crossroads along the old sub-lightspeed trade routes, but its prominence was bypassed by the rise of hyperspace travel. Now home to those who prefer to stay out of the mainstream, it has become a thriving port for smugglers, rogue traders and adventurers traveling between the frontier and uncharted space. It’s also a convenient safe haven for those intent on avoiding the expanding reach of the First Order. While Batuu may be new to us, it is clearly already familiar to many characters from the Star Wars saga as a stepping off point for epic adventures."
9. Carrie Fisher is back as Leia Organa
And lastly, after a good amount of vacillating back and forth, Abrams has confirmed that yes, Carrie Fisher will be making an appearance in Episode IX via unused footage from her Force Awakens appearance. Abrams was granted permission by Fisher's daughter, and said in a statement that he has "found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia."