Eleven things we learned from The Rise of Skywalker panel!

We’ve already talked significantly about the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker, and we’ll talk plenty more about it to come, but I wanted to go back and highlight some of the things we learned about the film from the panel.

The panel was hosted by Stephen Colbert and featured director J.J. Abrams, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Naomi Ackie (Jannah), and some droids (BB-8, R2-D2, and D-O).

Here are eleven takeaways that I had from the panel.

1. There will be a time jump

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This isn’t too surprising or new, but J.J. Abrams did confirm that there will be a time jump in The Rise of Skywalker.  Whereas The Last Jedi takes place almost immediately after The Force Awakens, this one will take place a while after TLJ. “What I will say is the movie doesn’t pick up immediately after the last film,” J.J. Abrams said.  “Some time has gone by.”

2. The heroes go on an adventure together

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“And what I’ll say is that in this movie,” Abrams continued from the previous statement, “and you can tell by that picture, it’s the very beginning of it, but this is an adventure that the group goes on together.”  The picture Abrams refers to is the one above, and so we get a glimpse of where our heroes are at the beginning of the film.  They’re on this jungle planet, and we see Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewbacca, and BB-8 standing in front of the Millennium Falcon talking with C-3PO.  So I’m guessing that this is probably the team that goes on an adventure together, as Abrams described.  But we also see Snap Wexley and a new alien (who we’ll get to in just a moment) in an image on what looks to be the same planet, and Rey’s hug with Leia shown in the teaser looks to be on this same planet as well.  Additionally, we see Kylo Ren fighting on what looks like a jungle planet (although it’s on fire then), so I wonder if that could be the same place as well?  But I digress – the main takeaway here is that our heroes go on this journey together.  And that’s good news for those who wanted to see the big three of this trilogy together in this final film.

3. They wrote scenes around Leia

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Abrams was asked about how they approached filling the void left by Carrie Fisher, and he responded by saying,

“Well, as I’ve said, we couldn’t.  And as Chris Terrio, the co-writer, and Kathy, and Michell Rejwan, producer, as we all talked about how to move on, I mean she was the best.  She was glorious.  She was amazing.  And we all just loved her, and I knew her from many years before as well before Episode VII, she was the greatest.  It was impossible [to fill that void].  There was no way.  What are you going to do?  You don’t re-cast that part, and you don’t suddenly have her disappear, and the weird miracle of having had a number of scenes from The Force Awakens that had gone unused, looking at those scenes and starting to understand that there was actually a way to use those scenes to continue her story, so that it would be her.  The idea of having a CG character was off the table, we never even want to try, and the idea of saying, ‘well, what if we could actually write scenes around her?’ so it would be her performance, she’s in the movie.  And the crazy thing is, and I say this, emotionally, every day it hits me that she’s not here.  But it’s so surreal because we’re working with her still, if that makes sense.  She’s in scenes.  She’s so alive in scenes, and the craziest part is how not crazy it feels.  She is there in these scenes.  And some scenes with Billie [Lourd], her daughter, who is in the movie as well.  Princess Leia lives in this film in a way that is kind of mind-blowing to me.”

So the approach that Abrams and company took – which shouldn’t surprise us – is that they wrote scenes around the footage they had of Carrie Fisher, and it seemed to work perfectly.  Also, while it’s possible he could mean a couple of different things by his statement about Billie Lourd, it seems to me as if Leia might have some screentime with Lieutenant Connix, played by Lourd.  And that’d be pretty cool.

4. They’re currently editing and doing visual effects

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Asked where they’re at in the process right now, Abrams said, “Well, we’re editing, and we’re doing visual effects. When you wrap a movie like this, as you all know and can imagine, the directing doesn’t stop, the story creation doesn’t stop, so you keep … the process continues, and so we’re editing, and things are going pretty well so far.”  In another interview, Abrams said that the film right now is about ninety minutes, as they’re not done editing yet.

5. This movie is about this generation… facing the greatest evil

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The first two films of the sequel trilogy have done a fantastic job of introducing us to new characters, but they have also relied heavily upon the legacy characters.  This time, though, it sounds like the focus is definitely on the new generation of heroes.  And they’re going to face quite the threat.  “This movie, in addition to being the end of three trilogies, it also needs to work as its own movie,” Abrams said.  “And that’s been part of the fun of it, part of the challenge of it, but this movie, it’s about this new generation, and what they’ve inherited, the light and the dark, and asking the question, as they face the greatest evil, are they prepared?  Are they ready?  And it’s been really incredible to look at this thing that George created and to bring it to a close in this way about this new generation.”  When Abrams said that early in the panel, I think everybody was quite intrigued as to who or what the greatest evil might be.  But as we got a look at the teaser trailer, I think we now know: Palpatine.  He’s back.  And whereas in previous generations others were fighting against him, this time it’s this generation’s turn to face him.

6. Finn has found his place

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One of the key elements of Finn’s story in the previous two films is that he’s trying to find where he belongs.  In TFA, he leaves the First Order, but instead of wanting to join the Resistance he is simply trying to flee the First Order.  In TLJ, all he really cares about is Rey, but as he goes on his adventures in the film with Rose, he comes to embrace the Resistance – in fact, he’s the one who suggests fighting on Crait.  So this time, in The Rise of Skywalker, Finn has found his place and made his decision: he’s a part of the Resistance.  “On this adventure,” John Boyega explained, “I think Finn has just found his footing and his identity within the Resistance. I think the last two movies Finn couldn’t decide where he belonged, and in this film he’s a full-fledged Resistance, sexy young man. As you can see by the picture.”

7. Phasma is really dead

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As we know in Star Wars – and evidenced even at this same panel, in fact – villains don’t always stay dead.  It happened with Maul, it has now apparently happened with Palpatine… and many have wondered whether it will happen with Phasma, since we never really saw her die in TLJ.  But when asked about it, John Boyega didn’t even hesitate, and left no room for further questions: “Phasma?  She’s gone.  Rest in peace.  Old news.  She’s gone.  Got rid of her.”  Asked a follow-up question of whether he gets any closure in the film, Boyega responded: “Any closure?  Emotional closure, sure.  I mean, I don’t think about her at night and stuff.  But I definitely feel like there’s some kind of closure within who he identifies with, who is family, what is love, what is friendship, and that’s what defines him in this movie.  But Phasma?  Yeah, she dead.  She dead.”  It sounds like reviving one dead villain is enough for this film, and rightly so.  Phasma is dead.

8. Rey’s Force powers

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In The Last Jedi, we saw Luke Skywalker use a stunning new Force power to project himself across the galaxy to face the First Order.  So host Stephen Colbert asked Daisy Ridley whether we’ll see any new Force powers from Rey in this one, and she re-directed the question to J.J. Abrams.  “I’ll say this,” Abrams said, after initially joking about Ridley deflecting the question to him.  “There are some extraordinary things that the character, and Daisy, did in this movie. … And some of the things, obviously we don’t want to say at this moment, but I will say that some of the stuff that happened was possible because we had the most incredible stunt coordinator. … Anyway, yes, there are some other things, and you’ll see them soon.”  So that didn’t necessarily confirm anything, but Abrams did say that we’ll see some new things and that Ridley and Rey do some pretty extraordinary things in The Rise of Skywalker.  And I’m definitely here for it!

9. Luke’s lightsaber lives

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As seen in the teaser, the Skywalker lightsaber lives.  But before that teaser was shown, Ridley was asked about the lightsaber. “Well, my answer is not the end of the story, because there are many more months to come and a film to come,” she said, “but the lightsaber that Rey inherited from Luke lives.”  I’m curious as to whether there’s any significance to Ridley saying that this answer isn’t the end of the story or whether she’s just not wanting to give away too much information, but either way, the final film of the Skywalker saga will have the iconic lightsaber.

10. Meet Jannah

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Naomi Ackie was on the panel as well, and she’s obviously a newcomer to the Star Wars saga.  We knew pretty much nothing about her character, but she revealed that her character’s name is Jannah – and we got our first look at Jannah from The Rise of Skywalker in the image shown above.  As for her role in the film?  “I mean, all I can really say is like the original group are going on like this epic, epic adventure together, and I’m like so excited about where Jannah crosses paths with them,” Ackie said.  “It’s wicked.  It’s good.”

11. New creatures introduced

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In addition to Jannah, we also got a look at several other newcomers to this film.  One such character is the droid D-O (seen above), who is a new buddy to BB-8 in this film.  They actually rolled the droid out on stage for the audience to get a look at, which is pretty cool, and then we got a look at D-O in the teaser also.  All we really know about him is that he’s friends with BB-8.

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This creature, standing alongside Snap Wexley (who makes his return in this film!) on what looks to be that same planet mentioned earlier, is Klaud.  Eagle-eyed viewers will note that this is actually the same creature from the leaked poster we got a look at, and now we know his name and have an official look at the character.  According to J.J. Abrams, Klaud is a friend of the Resistance who was brought in by Chewbacca.

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This is a look at the other new creatures showed during the panel.  Abrams spoke about how they were able to even top what they did with The Force Awakens for this one when it comes to the creatures created: “But there were so many, when we did Episode VII I felt like there was no way to top what had been created in terms of creatures. When you see this movie you’ll see that Neal and the whole creature team did it. And it’s an incredible thing what they’ve made, what they’ve built, and the actors who performed them and puppeteered them, it was remarkable.”

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