To borrow a line from Darth Vader, the circle is now complete.
For more than 40 years, the “Star Wars” movies centering on the Skywalkers have been a force unlike any other in this galaxy or beyond. And now, the epic saga is coming to an end.
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” out Friday, marks the ninth and final film in a series created by George Lucas that began with the original “Star Wars” in 1977. In the four decades since Luke Skywalker left the Tatooine desert to become a Jedi master, the “Star Wars” franchise has inspired generations of moviegoers who truly believe The Force is with them.
Among them is director J.J. Abrams, who was 10 when the first “Star Wars” soared into theaters.
“It’s hard to separate it from what it’s always been to me, which was a mind-expanding, sort of glorious world that George created that blew the roof off of my imagination and made all things possible,” Abrams told the Daily News recently. “I just feel like, selfishly, to have been part of it at all, to even be a footnote in that, is something I feel incredibly blessed about.”
The 53-year-old Abrams returns for “The Rise of Skywalker” after kicking off the latest “Star Wars” trilogy with “The Force Awakens” in 2015. “The Last Jedi,” directed by Rian Johnson, premiered in 2017.
Abrams’ mission for the upcoming film was to create a satisfying conclusion to a movie series known as the Skywalker Saga that’s seen the ascent of Darth Vader, the heroics of Luke to defeat the Evil Empire and, now, the efforts of new protagonists Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron to overcome the villainous Kylo Ren and the militant First Order.
“Because I directed ‘The Force Awakens,’ this was something that was sort of years in my head, not just as a filmmaker, but as a fan,” Abrams told The News. “I remember hearing George Lucas many, many, many years ago in an interview say that he always saw this as sort of three three-act plays. So really, I always kind of felt there was another story, another few chapters in this thing.
“The idea was to tell a story that if you look at all nine movies as one story, you’d have a sense of utter inevitability and, hopefully, emotional potency.”
“The Rise of Skywalker” promises to be a stunning swan song to the space opera. And yes, the Millennium Falcon makes a triumphant return.
“That was the thing I was dying to do, which is to have Rey, Finn, Poe, droids all go out on a crazy, breakneck adventure,” Abrams said. “That was what we got to do on ‘Episode IX.’”
It’s the latest jaunt in a series that’s featured Skywalker shockers at every turn, from Lord Vader telling Luke, “I am your father,” to Leia and Luke locking lips before finding out that they were brother and sister in “Return of the Jedi.” And fan favorite Han Solo was killed by his son, Kylo, leaving Chewie and legions of Warsies devastated.
The current trilogy has been a blend of old and new, as Luke, Leia and Han each returned in “The Force Awakens,” set 30 years after what transpired in their previous movie together.
Returning in “The Rise of Skywalker,” meanwhile, is Lando Calrissian, the last of the original heroes to come back, with Billy Dee Williams reprising the role for the first time since 1983.
Although the lead characters have changed, Williams believes the spirit of “Star Wars” has carried on.
“It’s still pretty much about the question of good and evil,” Williams, 82, told The News. “I think that’s the underlying theme with these stories. It’s the demons outside of yourself and the demons within yourself.”
The events of “The Last Jedi” left the Leia-led resistance on its last leg in its fight against the First Order, with Rey, Finn and Poe finally together at the end.
For the new movie, Abrams was able to revisit some past ideas.
“Working with (writer) Larry Kasdan on ‘Force Awakens,’ we had a million discussions about all sorts of things that didn’t end up, didn’t fit in ‘Force Awakens,’” Abrams said. “So when I unexpectedly came back to work on this one, it was like opening a time machine or time capsule or a crate full of ideas of things we had discussed that suddenly weren’t far flung, in the future, two movies away. Suddenly it was, like, now.”
Leia is again set to play a role in the new film. However, Carrie Fisher, who portrayed the character, died in 2016, before production began for “The Rise of Skywalker.”
Abrams found a way to incorporate her, rivaling some of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Jedi mind tricks.
“We were never going to recast Leia,” he said. “We were never going to do a digital Leia. But when I realized we had this footage we hadn’t used on ‘VII’ — and it was maybe the luckiest thing for this movie that I had done ‘Force Awakens,’ because I knew that stuff so well — I remembered we had all these moments. I thought, this is nuts, but what if we wrote scenes around her? So we did.”
Abrams always approached “Episode IX” as the complete conclusion of the Skywalker Saga, rather than as an ending that could double as a new beginning.
As someone who’s been part of a galaxy far, far away since the original trilogy, a long time ago, Williams appreciates the staying power of the series.
“It’s a phenomenon,” Williams said. “The fact that it’s lasted for 40 years is pretty amazing.”
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