A new trilogy of Star Wars films concludes in 2019 with Star Wars: Episode IX, with director J.J. Abrams returning to close out the latest arc of the iconic sci-fi saga after directing 2015’s franchise-relaunching Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. The latest updates on the film shed a bit more light on the future of some of the trilogy’s prominent new additions to Star Wars canon, and offer some hints about how much of a conclusion Episode IX will really be.
Directed by Abrams from a script he co-wrote with Academy Award winner Chris Terrio (Argo, Justice League), Star Wars: Episode IX is described as “the concluding chapter in the sequel trilogy” and is scheduled to hit theaters December 20, 2019.
Their story will go on
Don’t let the description of Episode IX as a “concluding chapter” mislead you: The stars of the sequel trilogy aren’t going away.
In a November 2017 interview featured on The Star Wars Show, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy indicated that many of the main characters introduced in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens will continue their stories in Episode IX and beyond the sequel trilogy.
“We’re sitting down now, we’re talking about the next 10 years of Star Wars stories, and we’re looking at, narratively, where that might go,” Kennedy said. “Future stories beyond Episode IX with these new characters — Rey, Poe, Finn, BB-8 — but we’re also looking at working with people who are interested in coming into the Star Wars world and taking us places we haven’t been yet. That’s exciting too because it’s a vast galaxy far, far away.”
Going back to the beginning
After original Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow exited the project in September 2017 due to creative differences with the studio, it didn’t take long for Disney and Lucasfilm to find a new filmmaker to helm the movie — and he was a familiar face to fans of the franchise.
Abrams was named the new director of the film just a week after the post was vacated, with the film’s new co-writer Terrio also announced at that time.
“With The Force Awakens, J.J. delivered everything we could have possibly hoped for, and I am so excited that he is coming back to close out this trilogy,” said Kennedy in a statement accompanying the announcement on StarWars.com.
Given the success of Abrams’ franchise-relaunching sequel The Force Awakens, the decision to bring him back for Episode IX seems like a safe bet for the studio.
Released in 2015, The Force Awakens went on to break a slew of box office records, earning $936.6 million in U.S. theaters and more than $2 billion worldwide. It’s currently the highest-grossing movie of all time domestically, and in third place on the all-time worldwide box office charts (after Avatar and Titanic). The film also received overwhelmingly positive reviews from professional critics and fans alike, and currently ranks third (after Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strike Back and the franchise-starting Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope) and among the best-reviewed films in the franchise on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
Release date, updated
Not too long after Abrams was announced as the director of Episode IX, the film also received a new release date.
Star Wars: Episode IX will now hit theaters December 20, 2019, several months later than its original release date of May 24, 2019.
The new release date has the film arriving in theaters just a week after the sequel to Wonder Woman, and on the same weekend as a live-action feature based on the popular Broadway musical Wicked. It also allows the film to carry on the tradition set by the two serialized installments of the Star Wars franchise that immediately precedes it, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, which were both assigned December premieres.
The Leia question
The death of Star Wars franchise actress Carrie Fisher in December 2017 was felt throughout the film’s fandom and left some big questions about how the studio would handle her character in the remaining sequels.
“Obviously, with Carrie having passed away, it shook everybody,” Kennedy told Entertainment Weekly in April 2017. “We pretty much started over.”
Fisher had finished filming most of her scenes for Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi before her death, but the part she was to play in Episode IX had to be revised significantly. It was initially suggested by Fisher’s brother, Todd Fisher, that the studio had enough existing footage of the actress to use in Episode IX.
“How do you take her out of it? And the answer is, you don’t,” he said. “She’s as much a part of it as anything, and I think her presence now is even more powerful than it was, like Obi-Wan — when the saber cuts him down he becomes more powerful. I feel like that’s what’s happened with Carrie. I think the legacy should continue.”
However, several months later — likely after Abrams and Terrio had begun hashing out the story for the film with the studio — Kennedy indicated (in an interview with Good Morning America) that Fisher was no longer expected to appear in Episode IX.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) April 14, 2017
“We had not written the script [for Episode IX] yet, but we regrouped and started over again in January,” said Kennedy of the studio’s plans for Episode IX. “Sadly, Carrie will not be in IX. We’ll see a lot of her in VIII, which is great.”
Update: We added an update on the likely characters in Episode IX and beyond.