Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the highly anticipated final entry in the Skywalker Saga. While this will not be the last Star Wars movie ever and Star Wars media in the form of TV shows and video games is still being produced, the movie will mark the conclusion of the nine-film cycle which revolves around the Skywalker family, often thought of as the core of the Star Wars movies.
The sequel trilogy, which consists of The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and now The Rise of Skywalker, introduces many new characters to the Star Wars canon, while also featuring characters that audiences know and love from the original trilogy.
This article will not contain spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker as we’ve written it before watching the movie but will contain spoilers for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Here’s what we can expect from the heroes and villains of the latest cinematic Star Wars adventure.
REY (Daisy Ridley)
Rey has come a long way from being a scavenger on the planet Jakku to training under a reluctant Luke Skywalker. Rey has sometimes been derisively called a ‘Mary Sue’, a term for an idealised character, often female, with no flaws – a ‘strong female character’. Ridley addressed this in an interview with GQ, saying “There is an interesting conversation that’s happening with this use of ‘strong’. It’s not because Rey is strong that she’s amazing. It’s all the complexities of a human,” Ridley emphasised, saying it is Rey’s struggles more than her strength that make audiences empathise with her.
One of the main arcs in the sequel trilogy is the relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren – in The Last Jedi, it seems like she almost redeems him, only for him to back away from her and become the new Supreme Leader of the First Order. There are some fans who are rooting for Rey and Kylo Ren to get into a romantic relationship and have termed the potential pairing ‘Reylo’. “People talk about toxic relationships and whatever it is. It’s no joke and I think it’s dealt with really well because it’s not skimmed over,” Ridley told Entertainment Weekly.
Then, there is the question of Rey’s parentage – Kylo Ren told her that her parents were “nobodies”, an answer which many fans deemed unsatisfactory. It is likely that The Rise of Skywalker will expound on the question of who Rey’s parents are. “The parents thing is not satisfied — for her and for the audience,” Ridley acknowledged. “That’s something she’s still trying to figure out — where does she come from?” Also tantalising is the scene in the second trailer of Rey in a dark cloak wielding a collapsible double-bladed red lightsaber, which indicates that she will at least be tempted by the Dark Side, if not actually succumb to it.
FINN (John Boyega)
Of the three main heroes in the new trilogy, Finn has had arguably the most dramatic journey, going from First Order Stormtrooper to hero of the Resistance. Boyega, an ardent Star Wars fan who requested that Harrison Ford autograph his Han Solo action figure while making The Force Awakens, felt a great sense of comfort making the final film in this trilogy. “I stepped onto The Rise of Skywalker set as if I was stepping into my kitchen to make breakfast,” Boyega told Total Film. “I was full of confidence. You know everybody in the kitchen. The whole family is there. There are good vibes. Great conversation. You know the day is going to be good.” Boyega pushed for Finn to have a larger role in the film, after some fans felt his character was relegated to an ultimately unsuccessful side-mission in The Last Jedi. “I definitely wanted more after Episode VIII,” Boyega told Entertainment Weekly. “[Rise of Skywalker] makes Finn’s Episode VIII arc make more sense. We got to bring out a side of Finn we haven’t seen.”
POE DAMERON (Oscar Isaac)
Hotshot pilot Poe Dameron may be unmatched at the controls of the X-Wing fighter, but over the course of the previous two films, he has learned to rein in his impulses and become more responsible. Many fans love the bond that is shared between Poe and Finn – after all, it was Poe who helped Finn escape The First Order in The Force Awakens. Behind the scenes, Boyega was the first actor that Isaac screen-tested with while auditioning for the movie. If more Poe and Finn is what you want, Isaac promises that The Rise of Skywalker will deliver. “You get to see Finn and Poe figuring stuff out together. They're on missions together, there's a lot of camaraderie, there's tension ... as people that are very close have,” Isaac told Entertainment Weekly. “Ultimately, they believe in each other and they're a team." Isaac told Metro that filming The Rise of Skywalker “has been the most fun for me, particularly working with John Boyega because we have just had so much more to do together, and we just really connected in a great way.”
KYLO REN (Adam Driver)
Kylo Ren, the main villain of the sequel trilogy, is in many ways a tragic figure – unable to live up to the legacy of having Han Solo and Leia Organa as parents and Luke Skywalker as an uncle (and thinking that Luke wanted to kill him), Kylo eventually idolised his grandfather Darth Vader and was seduced to the Dark Side by Supreme Leader Snoke. In The Last Jedi, Kylo killed Snoke, succeeding him as Supreme Leader of the First Order. Driver, who mostly works in smaller indie films, said he doesn’t find working on Star Wars very dissimilar, and that it’s about “taking moments and breaking them into pieces and making sure you’re truthful,” as he told Total Film.
As mentioned above, fans will closely watch how the relationship between Kylo and Rey progresses and is resolved. “Some of the most interesting scenes in The Last Jedi are the conversations between Rey and Ren,” screenwriter Chris Terrio told Empire, explaining that the connection has been there since the interrogation scene in The Force Awakens. "When Ren takes off his mask, there’s a nakedness about him with Rey that he doesn’t express to anyone else. Rian [Johnson] developed that in fascinating ways and we’ve been able to develop it even further.”
“I don’t think it’s all one thing,” Driver told Entertainment Weekly about the nature of the Reylo connection. “Part of the fun of playing it is the boundaries of it keep changing. At times it’s more intimate, sometimes less intimate. Sometimes is co-dependent. And then it’s obviously, adversarial.” Kylo’s allies The Knights of Ren, seen in a flashback in The Force Awakens, will appear in this movie too.
GENERAL LEIA ORGANA (Carrie Fisher)
Leia is one of the most influential characters in sci-fi fantasy, a princess who was no shrinking violet and who fought bravely for the Rebellion. In the sequel trilogy, Leia has become a political leader in the New Republic and a Resistance General leading the fight against the First Order. Actress Carrie Fisher tragically passed away in December 2016, before the release of The Last Jedi. Instead of using computer-generated imagery to ‘resurrect’ Fisher, director J.J. Abrams combed through unused footage from The Force Awakens, integrating that with new footage of the other characters to put Leia in The Rise of Skywalker. “It was like finding this impossible answer to this impossible question,” Abrams said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “Suddenly we had classic Carrie in these amazing moments. So when you see her in the movie, it’s her, she’s there. It’s not like there’s some crazy digital trickery,” Abrams said. Speaking to Total Film, Abrams said that he worked to ensure Leia’s arc in the film was not compromised, saying “We got to tell the story with Leia that we would have told had Carrie lived.”
ROSE TICO (Kelly Marie Tran)
Rose, a Resistance engineer who finds herself fighting on the frontlines after the death of her pilot sister, was one of the main new characters introduced in The Last Jedi. In The Rise of Skywalker, Rose has risen to become the leader of the Resistance Engineering Corp. “It’s pretty clear that she is sort of moved into a different position within the Resistance,” actress Kelly Marie Tran told Entertainment Weekly. She said that Rose is “definitely in a different space, in a good way.”
Certain sections of Star Wars fans strongly disliked the character, targeting Tran with harassment and abuse, leading to her completely leaving social media. Tran wrote a powerful op-ed in The New York Times opening up about this harassment (link to: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/21/movies/kelly-marie-tran.html) which opened with the line “It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them.” Tran has since gone to therapy and said her mental health has improved. “I was very much someone who was working a day job, struggling to be an actor, and suddenly, I was in Star Wars. I think that sort of transition takes a lot of emotional work, if that makes sense. But I'm in a really good place now,” she shared on Good Morning America.
ZORII BLISS (Keri Russell)
One of the mysterious new characters who will be introduced in The Rise of Skywalker is the helmeted Zorii Bliss, played by Kerri Russell. Russell has a long association with director Abrams, going back to the 1998 TV series Felicity, which Abrams co-created. Zorii Bliss is a Spice Runner on the ice planet Kijimi and is more roguish figure than clean-cut hero. She has crossed paths with Poe Dameron before. Russell told Town and Country Magazine that appearing in a supporting role, and having her visage concealed behind a helmet, appealed to her. “It was very attractive, the idea of not being the lead. The mask—I felt safe in it. And tough. No makeup. You don’t have to be embarrassed by anything.” Russell said Abrams was inspired by Speed Racer or a similar cartoon he watched as a kid, in which he felt drawn to a motorcycle helmet-clad character because of the mystery of never seeing her face.
JANNAH (Naomi Ackie)
English actress Naomi Ackie is being hailed as the possible breakout star from The Rise of Skywalker. She plays Jannah, a fierce warrior who wields a bow and arrow astride a horse-like creature called an Orbak. Jannah is a newfound ally to our Resistance heroes, and Ackie told The Evening Standard, “If Jannah offers anything then it’s the warrior spirit, just when [the other heroes] need it.” Ackie further described Jannah as having “an all or nothing vibe” and undertook rigorous preparation to play the physically demanding role, including strength training, archery practice and horseback riding. Jannah’s unique-looking bow has two grips, and Ackie has confirmed that the character is ambidextrous. “She’s got a lot of history involved with the issues in the film,” Ackie hinted in an interview with The Los Angeles Times, promising that “Once you find out her story, you’re rooting for her and you can understand why she’s fighting.”
ALLEGIANT GENERAL PRYDE (Richard E. Grant)
Oscar-nominated actor Richard E. Grant, respected star of stage and screen, continues the tradition of established English actors playing villainous high-ranking military officials in Star Wars. Grant plays Allegiant General Pryde of the First Order, whom he described as “completely humourless, evil incarnate”. Grant said that Abrams cast him based on his similarity in demeanour and screen presence to Peter Cushing, who portrayed Grand Moff Tarkin in A New Hope – “Because of what I look like and my accent and all that,” he told io9. The secrecy of the project meant Grant never had a complete script and auditioned with an interrogation scene from a 1940s British war movie. Grant also gave his own short review of The Rise of Skywalker. “Nothing prepares you for this. I cheered, I shouted, I fist pumped the air, I cried…it’s absolutely everything that you hoped it was going to be,” Grant said in a self-recorded video he uploaded to social media immediately after watching the film for the first time.
LANDO CALRISSIAN (Billy Dee Williams)
82-year-old Billy Dee Williams makes his much-anticipated return to the Star Wars galaxy. Williams play the roguish, smooth-talking Lando Calrissian, a long-time ‘frenemy’ of Han Solo, in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. “He was a general in Return of the Jedi. He became a part of the rebel force and he had one heroic deed, blowing up the Death Star…He’s been through quite a few journeys, I would imagine,” Williams told Parade, adding the caveat that he cannot say more about the character beyond what we already know about Lando from the earlier movies. Williams praised the actors playing the heroes of the Sequel Trilogy, singling out Daisy Ridley as “pretty extraordinary” and having “a great presence”. The Rise of Skywalker puts Lando back in the pilot’s seat of the Millennium Falcon, the ship he owned before losing it to Han Solo in a game of Sabaac – an event depicted in Solo: A Star Wars Story, which featured Donald Glover as a younger Lando.