J.J. Abrams is bringing the biggest, baddest villain of the “Star Wars” galaxy back. The Emperor Palpatine will appear in “Episode IX,” which we learned is officially called “The Rise of Skywalker.”
Surprise host Stephen Colbert welcomed “Episode IX” director Abrams, president of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy and a large returning cast including Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Daisy Ridley (Rey), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) and Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca) to the main stage.
Here’s everything we learned about the end of the Skywalker story….
When Does “Episode IX” Start in the Galaxy Far, Far Away?
The first bits of plot details to come from the event were about timing, a simple fact that was particularly difficult for Colbert to get out. “Oh, I see, you asked me to come to Chicago to ask questions, not get answers,” the host joked.
Abrams explained that the next film will start many months after Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi.”
“The movie doesn’t pick up immediately after the last film; some time has gone by,” Abrams explained.
He then showed the crowd a piece of concept art reuniting Chewbacca, Poe, Finn, Rey, BB-8 and C-3PO under the Millennium Falcon. “This an adventure that the group goes on together,” the director said. The gang might appear together in the rendering, but there’s still someone missing: longtime castmate R2-D2.
How Will Carrie Fisher Return?
Another legacy cast member who wasn’t a part of the “Episode IX” shoot: Carrie Fisher, aka General Leia Organa. Lucasfilm had previously stated that Fisher’s death in 2016 wouldn’t deter them from using her character in the closing chapter of the Skywalker saga. Thankfully, Leia won’t be returning in a computer-generated form.
“The idea of having a CG character was off the table,” Abrams said.
Despite “Rogue One’s” decision to recreate the late Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin and a younger Fisher as Princess Leia, there will be no computer-generated Leia in this film.
“You don’t recast that part and you don’t suddenly have [Fisher] disappear,” Abrams said. The director explained that he pieced together new Leia moments with unused scenes from “The Force Awakens.”
“There was actually a way to use those scenes to continue her story,” he added.
Who is Jannah?
New to the Celebration stage was Naomi Ackie. After giving fans a first look at her character, Jannah (above), the actress dodged questions like a “Star Wars” pro.
When asked to comment on the fan theory that Jannah is actually Lando Calrissian’s daughter, Ackie joked, “He could have children all over the universe!”
However, Ackie did reveal that her character will cross paths with the Millennium Falcon crew at some point, which seems fairly obvious, as they’re all in the same movie. But hey, it’s something.
Billy Dee Is Back
Speaking of Lando, legacy star Billy Dee Williams held court on the Celebration stage, causing the crowd to cheer at the first image of the actor back in his iconic cape.
When asked how he returned to the character, Williams simply replied, “How did I find Lando again? Lando never left me!”
Williams did use the mic to clear up an age-old “Star Wars” spat. “I get sick and tired of being accused of betraying Han Solo,” Williams said. “All of a sudden I’m talking about me, not Lando Calrissian. He was up against Darth Vader… By the way, did anybody die?”
Not in that movie, Lando!
Luke’s Lightsaber: Not Dead Yet!
Meanwhile, original “Force Awakens” newbies kept a tight lip on “Star Wars” secrets, despite a few interesting details. For one, Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber — presumably lost — is in fact still around. “The lightsaber that Rey inherited from Luke lives!” Ridley exclaimed. It seemingly pops up in some of the first frames of the new trailer, wielded by Rey.
On a down note, she also confirmed that there would be no more shirtless scenes from Driver’s Kylo Ren, as seen in “The Last Jedi.” You win some, you lose some.
What’s Next for Finn?
As for Finn, Boyega explained that while his character may have seemed a bit lost in the last two films, “this movie he’s a full-fledged Resistance sexy young man.”
The character also has a whole new look, which includes new pants, something Boyega went wild over. “I saw the blue pants coming out of the cupboard and was like, ‘I’m in “Star Wars” now!'” And that was the big reveal about Finn: blue pants.
If you thought there was going to be another “Star Wars” movie without a new toy that your kids will demand, think again. The panel also brought out a whole new adorable rolling droid, D-O, which is totally different from the latest rolling droid BB-8.
BB-8 is propelled by a large ball and makes adorable chirping sounds, whereas D-O is propelled by a wheel, makes adorable chirping sounds and is green. It’s different!
The undisputed biggest cheer of the presentation went to Kelly Marie Tran. Rose received a standing ovation from the crowd, an act that forced Tran to wipe her eyes and cheer.
The audience was then presented with the first still of Rose from “The Rise of Skywalker,” proving that Rose has healed from her injuries in “The Last Jedi.” Abrams told the crowd that his favorite thing to come from Johnson’s movie was the casting of Tran. Same.
The Emperor Returns
After fans were treated to the premiere of the teaser trailer for “The Rise of Skywalker,” there was yet another twist. The stage glowed red as actor Ian McDiarmid appeared, smiled and, in his best Emperor Palpatine voice, commanded the Celebration crew to “roll it again.”
It confirmed the return of the galaxy’s great big bad. How McDiarmid will be used in the film is not certain, but his cackling laughs at the end of the first teaser have already sent the internet ablaze.
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” will hit theaters on Dec. 20, 2019.