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Who will be the last Jedi? Everything we know about 'Star Wars: Episode VII'

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Director Rian Johnson’s addition to the Star Wars canon, Episode VIII — The Last Jedi, may seem like a distant point in a galaxy far, far away, but make no mistake: December 15 will be here before you know it. And while there’s no doubt the actual premiere is the big payoff, all the rumors leading up to the film are what make the Star Wars universe … well, the Star Wars universe.

To that end, we’re loading up this bastion of Star Wars lore with all the news, rumors, and clandestine whispers we can find to help you analyze the details and get you geared up for the big night. Keep in mind that this post does contain some spoilers, so if you’re looking to head into theaters in blissful ignorance, turn back now.

It’s all The Last Jedi from here on out, so stop searching your feelings, and follow us below.

New alien races revealed

The end of The Force Awakens gives the impression that Luke Skywalker had been alone on the ancient planet of Ach-To until Rey, Chewbacca, and R2D2 found him. That’s apparently not the case.

The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly includes details on two all-new alien races joining the Star Wars universe in The Last Jedi, The Porg and the Caretakers. Both of the species inhabit Ach-To’s Hebridean islands along with LukeThe Porg are a race of tiny puffin-like furballs that were originally revealed in July during D23. We now have some new images of them, including one of Chewbacca and a tiny Porg buddy in the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit.

The other species, the Caretakers, are an all-female, fish-like race of nuns who act as the, er, caretakers of the Jedi temple Luke now inhabits. According to director Rian Johnson, these nuns merely “tolerate” Luke’s presence in their beloved holy site.

While the Porg will be CGI, the Caretakers will be played by human actors.

It’s interesting to note that the Caretakers are yet another group of non-Jedi/Sith Force worshipers, a common element in the recent Star Wars films. We’ve seen other characters like Chirrut Imwe in Rogue One, as well as Maz Kanata and Lor San Tekka in The Force Awakens, represent a devotion to the Force despite a seeming lack of Force-sensitive individuals inhabiting the galaxy. With both Luke and the title of The Last Jedi threatening the end of the ancient order, it’ll be interesting to see if any other new Force factions crop up in the film.

Introducing C’ai Threnali

During 2017’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, Lucasfilm introduced a new character that will debut in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Like the X-Wing fighter pilot Ello Asty from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the new character named C’ai Threnali is a male member of the Abednego species and a pilot in the Resistance.

As reported by IGN, C’ai Threnali was introduced as a life-sized character model stationed at The Last Jedi booth amid a re-creation of a Resistance war room. The official description of the character reads as follows: “A skillful fighter pilot of Abednedo descent, C’ai Threnali flies as Poe Dameron’s wingman following the evacuation of D’Qar.”

D23 brings fresh footage

During Disney’s biennial fan event D23 expo, Lucasfilm, and Walt Disney Studios released a behind-the-scenes video for Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi that offered some fresh footage from the much-anticipated film.

Along with some new scenes featuring Daisy Ridley’s Rey training with Jedi master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the video offers a peek at several explosive scenes with both the New Republic’s Resistance forces and what appears to be the remnants of the Galactic Empire and the rising First Order.

Several other, familiar faces also appear in the video, including John Boyega’s former stormtrooper, Finn, and Oscar Isaac as Resistance pilot Poe Dameron. Veteran franchise actor Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) also appears in the video, and in a bittersweet series of scenes, deceased actress Carrie Fisher can be seen in her last performance as General Leia Organa.

New faces, new names, and a look behind the scenes

As part of Vanity Fair’s coverage of The Last Jedi, the magazine released a series of photos of the cast and creative team in May 2017, snapped by celebrated photographer Annie Leibovitz. The photos were accompanied by a behind-the-scenes video that offered a peek at the cast in costume, various sets, and maybe most importantly, more than a few light sabers.

Among the photos released by the magazine are the first, official looks at a few new characters joining the franchise in The Last Jedi.

Among the fresh faces photographed in costume is Benicio Del Toro, who reportedly plays “a shady character of unclear allegiances … who goes unnamed in the film but is called DJ by the filmmakers.”

The magazine’s report also reveals that the new character named Rose Tico, played by Kelly Marie Tran, will play one of the biggest new roles in the film. Rose is described as “a maintenance worker for the Resistance” who becomes involved in “a mission behind enemy lines with [John] Boyega’s Finn.”

There’s also a photo of Laura Dern’s character, “a prominent officer in the Resistance named Vice Admiral Holdo.”

More photos and reporting from the magazine’s coverage of The Last Jedi can be seen at the Vanity Fair website.

The first trailer

As many fans (and industry pundits) predicted, Disney and Lucasfilm premiered the first trailer for Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi during 2017’s Star Wars Celebration event in Orlando, Florida.

Packed with ominous imagery and suggesting that the time of the Jedi could indeed be nearing its end, the trailer hinted at dark things to come for Rey, Finn, and the rest of the franchise’s current cast of characters.

A big chase

The spies of MakingStarWars.net have been keeping an eye on production, and they’ve seen some interesting things. Based on the website’s intel, there will be an interesting chase scene with Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) on horseback. Rumor has it the pursuit will take place on Canto Bight, a gambling-heavy planet, and they’ll be riding on special space race horses called falthiers. Apparently, the chase will culminate in Finn and Rose’s escape to a coffee shop of sorts that the site describes as “like a neon Starbucks.”

That which we call a rose

Fans of the franchise were introduced to Kelly Marie Tran during the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando in mid-April, as Deadline reports. We’ll see a lot of the actress in The Last Jedi. Her character, Rose, is a maintenance worker for the Resistance who gets caught up in the action thanks to Finn and Rey (Ridley).

Being able to reveal her role was probably a relief to Tran; she initially had to tell her family and friends that she was working on an indie flick in Canada because she was not allowed to tell them she snagged a role in Episode VIII. Oh, the secrecy.

A dark turn?

There have been hints that the Luke Skywalker we know won’t be the one who shows up in The Last Jedi. Ridley hinted at big surprises during the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando.

“Rey has a certain expectation as to what she might be getting from Luke and what that might entail,” she said, according to Deadline. “It’s difficult when you meet your heroes, because it might not be what you expect.”

She hinted that the iconic character could be “being challenged or going in a different direction,” and Hamill threw fuel on the fire with similar comments about his character.

“It was as shocking to me to read what Rian [Johnson] had written as I’m sure it will be for the audience,” he said, according to the International Business Times.

An ominous title

All of the speculation regarding the film’s full title was finally put to rest on January 23, 2017, when the project’s official title was revealed to be Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.

The announcement was made on StarWars.com, and although it answered a long-standing question about the film, it also prompted even more guessing games among fans.

Could the titular last Jedi be Luke? Per Yoda’s dying speech in Return of the Jedi, “When gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be.” Maybe the title refers to Rey, who is poised to study under Luke in the upcoming film?

As Jedi is both the singular and plural form of the word, there is a lot of ambiguity in the title. If foreign translations of the title are accurate, however, it seems there will be more than one Jedi in the film. The Spanish translation of the title is Los Últimos Jedi; unlike in English, adjectives in Spanish match the noun they modify in number, and “últimos” is the plural form of the word.

The other foreign translations of the title, such as the French and Italian, also use plural adjectives, so the evidence seems overwhelming. Exactly how many Jedi can fans expect to see? For now, we must wait to find out.

BRICK BY BRICK

Johnson — the director of LooperBrick, and three episodes of Breaking Bad — signed on in 2014 to write and direct Episode VIII, as well as to provide a film treatment for Episode IX (to be directed by Jurassic World‘s Colin Trevorrow). Though legitimate leaks from Disney or the film’s set are few and far between — in fact, the Star Warsteam reportedly hired out drone operators to prevent unauthorized drones from capturing on-set footage in Croatia — Johnson’s Tumblr page provides some photographic insights into the film’s production timeline.

In particular, one photo shared by Johnson stirred up conversation and controversy. Shared in June with the not-so-cryptic caption, “In the home stretch,” Johnson’s snap of (ostensibly) a Jedi robe in front of a rocky backdrop drove fans to wild conclusions about the robe’s owner and the potential hidden meaning behind the photo.Principal photography for Episode VIII began in February, per the official website. After nearly five months of filming, Daisy Ridley (Rey) confirmed that the movie was finished shooting via her Instagram account.

And that is a wrap on Star Wars Episode VIII. My heart is brimming. #reyoutpic.twitter.com/uoEHE37pS3

— Daisy Ridley (@_DaisyRidley_) July 13, 2016

In July, the official Star Wars account on Twitter also posted a brief video confirming that filming had indeed concluded on Episode VIII.

As with The Force Awakens, it appears Episode VIII will be a mysterious affair with intrigue swirling around every facet. Legendary composer John Williams, a 50-time (!) Academy Award nominee and five-time winner, told Variety in a June interview that “… if I can do [the music for Episode VIII], I certainly will.” Williams scored Episode VII, and is confirmed to be scoring the next installment in the Indiana Jones franchise as well. It appears the musical mastermind has developed an affinity for aspiring Jedi Daisy Ridley. “I’m happy to do it,” said Williams, “but the real reason is, I didn’t want anyone else writing music for Daisy.”

Though Episode VIII was originally slated for release in May 2017, the studio’s decision to push the movie back to December appears to have had some far-reaching effects on the film industry. Though it’s unclear if Episode VIII is primarily responsible, following the news of the Star Wars delay, 20th Century Fox announced that James Cameron’s Avatar 2 would not be ready in time for its tentatively scheduled Holiday 2017 release.

It seems likely that Fox doesn’t want to compete with Episode VIII, as Episode VIIbroke domestic box office records and currently stands as the third-highest grossing film of all time, behind Titanic and the first Avatar.

New heroes and familiar faces

Many fans were excited about The Force Awakens casting of Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones) as silver-plated stormtrooper Captain Phasma, and some were subsequently disappointed when Phasma’s role in Episode VII boiled down to a few stern lines for and an easy capture. Those fans may take solace in the confirmation of Phasma’s return for Episode VIII. “[Phasma] is an important character … A baddie in the best sense of the word,” said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy in December. Here’s hoping her shiny chrome armor will house a bit more of that Brienne-of-Tarth toughness.

Though Disney and Lucasfilm generally keep their cards close to the chest when it comes to casting, a few actors and actresses of note have been confirmed as having roles in Episode VIII. Laura Dern (Jurassic Park, Wild) and Kelly Marie Tran — known for her appearances in several short films and College Humor videos — are both set to appear in as-yet undisclosed roles.

The bigger casting coup by Johnson & Co. comes in the form of Academy Award-winning actor, Benicio del Toro (Sicario, Traffic). The actor has made his bones portraying eccentric and unique characters that often reside in the gray areas between “good” and “evil,” but his role is still shaded in mystery.

“They don’t let me talk about it that much,” said del Toro in a 2015 interview with rac1.org. “I’m like the villain,” Toro added, “but we’ll see.”

Despite the inclusion of veterans del Toro and Dern, the new trilogy has largely put its future in the hands of young, up-and-coming actors, including Ridley, Jon Boyega, and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), emboldening the studio to bring in more of the same. Collider reported in October that 33-year-old upstart Gugu Mbatha-Raw (BelleBeyond the Lights) could be joining the Episode VIII cast. However, Screenrant reported in January that 24-year-old British actress Bel Powley (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) might be in line for the same role.

As of September 2015, been rumored that three other women were in the running for an unclear — but significant — role.

Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), and Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) reportedly read alongside Boyega for chemistry purposes, which indicates that Rey might not be the only romantic interest for Finn in Episode VIII. It’s unclear whether the role they’re competing for is the same as Mbatha-Raw and Powley’s.

At least one Hollywood mainstay could have a cameo in Episode VIII, however. According to Makingstarwars.net, Tom Hardy (Max Max: Fury RoadThe Dark Knight Rises) may also make an appearance.Hardy recently touched on the cameo rumors, too. When asked if the rumors were true, Hardy did not deny them — not explicitly anyway — telling The Hollywood Reporter, “I don’t know if I can even say that.” Hardy went on to say that the internet is a “glorious web of deceit and misinformation,” but when the interviewer asked if the rumor about his alleged role was misinformation, he merely said “It could be, couldn’t it?”

On top of all the new casting decisions, most of the stars from Episode VII have been confirmed for the sequel. We’ve already mentioned Ridley, Boyega, Christie, and Driver, but below are some others set to appear in the next installment.

Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker

Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron

Anthony Daniels as C-3PO

Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata

Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke (motion capture)

Domnhall Gleeson as General Hux

Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca

A DARK TIME FOR THE REBELLION?

In a May interview with Variety at Cannes, Boyega intimated that the tone of Episode VIII would (as expected) be darker than the previous installment in the series, and “bigger.” (Powley was also present for the interview as both actors were receiving awards, though neither Boyega or Powley revealed any information regarding her possible appearance in Star Wars.) Isaac echoed Boyega’s claims in his Rolling Stone cover story, saying there’s “a lot more to do” in Episode VIII and that all three heroes — Rey, Finn, and Poe — will be tested.

Curiously, Rian Johnson offers a different view on the tone of the story. Speaking to USA Today, Johnson said he wants the film “to be a blast and to be funny and to be a ride the way The Force Awakens and the original Star Wars movies were.”

Like Boyega and Isaac, Johnson did reiterate that the protagonists would be tested, saying “I wanted to know more about each of them, and that doesn’t just mean information or backstory. Figure out what’s the most difficult thing each of them could be challenged with now — let’s throw that at them and dig into what really makes them tick by seeing how they handle that.”

Unexpectedly, Fisher may have also spilled the beans a little bit while speaking at July’s Star Wars Celebration event in London. After mishearing a fan’s question, she mentioned that the funeral for Han Solo would be taking place offscreen between Episodes VII and VIII. We can’t be sure, but avoiding on-screen cremations would be a departure for the series (see: Jinn, Qui-Gon; Skywalker, Anakin).

Fisher’s death and family dynamics

Fisher’s sudden death in December was heartbreaking for fans, not to mention her colleagues. For the people behind the new trilogy, however, it also poses a challenge, as they must now decide what to do with the character of Leia. Those decisions will likely only matter for Episode IXaccording to a report by Deadline, Fisher had already finished filming her scenes for Episode VIII.

Star Wars has always been a family affair, and to that point, rumors have been flying left and right about the relationship (and history) between Luke and Rey. There’s speculation regarding the First Order’s next move and the potential roles for both Finn and Poe.

Many fans foresee the reveal of a familial relationship between Luke and Rey, which could explain her preternatural Force sensitivity as well as her mysterious past. According to a rumor circulated via Reddit, the planet Ahch-To — where Rey meets Luke in the final scene of Episode VII — may be the site of some serious Force usage. The rumor involves Luke blowing up a building with his mind (!), a force power that we haven’t yet seen in the Star Wars universe. Given that telekinesis, mind control, and force lightning are already in the Jedi toolkit, pyrokinesis doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

While the rumors that Luke may be related to Rey are just that for now, Johnson did indicate that Luke is the emotional heart of the film, according to the USA Today interview. The director also emphasized the importance of Rey’s family issues, saying “that was a really powerful part of her setup and something I really wanted to dig into with this.” It seems like the film will not waste any time diving into their relationship, and may open where Episode VII left off, with Rey meeting Luke on a remote island. “I don’t want to skip ahead two years. I want to see the very next moment of what happens,” Johnson elaborated.

A March article from Inquisitr also details rumors that Laura Dern’s character could end up in a power struggle against Poe for control of the Resistance in the wake of some sort of injury to Leia. The piece also mentions that Luke and Rey are expected to travel the galaxy, rather than settle for a Dagobah-esque training montage on Luke’s lonely island. A casino-type setting is even rumored.

Anoter report from Inquisitr — this time, in June — claims that Luke and Rey are not blood related, but that Rey could be some kind of reincarnated Force prodigy that represents the light side of the Force. The report details a flashback showing a powerful tree that corrupts a boy and saves the life of a girl, leading to the creation of the Jedi order.

Rebels on the offensive and other rumors

More recently, a report surfaced on a mysterious blog that included several details about the plot in Episode VIII. Sourced from an anonymous insider referred to as “General Flux,” the site claims that Finn and Poe will go on the offensive in the next film, clashing primarily with General Hux and Captain Phasma. This makes sense from a story perspective, as Kylo Ren and Rey seem like natural enemies given their force sensitivity, which means Finn and Poe will require villains of their own to battle.

Fans of the animated series Star Wars Rebels may even see some familiar creatures in Episode VIIIAccording to a report by Making Star Wars, a species of birds called convorees inhabit the planet where Luke Skywalker is staying. These birds make occasional appearances in Star Wars Rebels, but their significance in Episode VIII — if they even appear at all — is a mystery.

That’s what we know so far, but check back with us often as this piece will see constant updates as we lead up to the big premiere.

Update: We added details on two all-new alien races joining the Star Wars universe in The Last Jedi, The Porg and the Caretakers.

This article was originally posted on Digital Trends

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