“It’s all such a long way from here…”
~ Luke Skywalker, 0 BBY.
Yes, we may still be a year from Star Wars: Episode IX, but already some of us are looking at the stars. What is reportedly the final chapter in the Skywalker saga began principal photography back in August this year, and is expected to wrap in February, due for its December 2019 release.
This only allows around nine months for post-production, scoring and editing of course, but the teams at Lucasfilm and ILM have done sterling work so far on this new tighter schedule in the Disney-era.
What’s less certain is the direction that this instalment will take. JJ Abrams reprises his position as director, having last helmed 2015’s The Force Awakens, a well-received if relatively ‘safe’ chapter in the saga. This was narratively followed by Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi in 2017, which turned out to be arguably the most divisive Star Wars movie to date.
With Abrams co-writing as well as directing, rumours have surfaced that Episode IX is something of “a course correction” for the brand. It’s unclear as to whether this refers to the story itself, or a fix for the perfect storm of fanboy controversy, erratic marketing and event-movie fatigue which led to May 2018’s Solo seriously underperforming its projected targets.
What we do know officially is that Mark Hamill is set to return as Luke Skywalker in some capacity (although to anyone who’s seen the seven episodes preceding The Last Jedi, this in itself is hardly a surprise).
Additionally, the late Carrie Fisher will feature in the film via unused footage of General Leia Organa from the Force Awakens shoot, in what is sure to be a blessing for narrative continuity. The original plan for the sequel trilogy was for Episode VII to be Han’s movie, VIII to be Luke’s and IX to be Leia’s. Obviously Carrie’s untimely passing in December 2016 meant this could no longer be the case (certainly not in the intended format), but skilful writing should be enough to utilise the footage and its dialogue to give the princess suitable closure in the saga.
In terms of the youngsters, we can expect to see Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Adam Driver return to the central roles as Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren, and there’s no reason to assume that Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux won’t be tagging along for the ride, too.
Stepping into the Galaxy Far, Far Away for the first time are Naomi Ackie, Dominic Monaghan, Matt Smith and Richard E. Grant, all names added to the roster with the levels of character-secrecy we’ve come to expect.
But how ambiguous is the film’s episode-title? How far down the line from The Last Jedi will this take place? Which newly-uncovered aspects of The Force will be explored? Will Ben Solo be walking around shirtless again?
At his point, we don’t have answers to any of those. But that’s not going to stop us spending the next twelve months debating it all anyway…
Star Wars Episode IX is currently set to be released on Friday, 20 December 2019, although previous entries in the Disney-era have moved the date earlier for international territories. Either way, it’s unlikely that Lucasfilm will keep the information to themselves once it’s finalised…