The title of the latest and final instalment of the Star Wars franchise – Star Wars: Episode IX The Rise of the Skywalker – has sci-fans in a frenzy about a possible return of the sage Jedi master, Yoda.
But the first online trailer of the final episode has revealed a very different “miracle” character resurrection.
Actor Carrie Fisher’s untimely death from heart problems in 2016 seemed to confirm the end of her famous portrayal of Princess Leia Organa, who captured the world’s imagination with her side hair-buns and gold ‘slave bikini’ in the early Star Wars instalments.
That was until makers of the franchise controversially used computer-generated imagery (CGI) to include her in the 2016 film, Star Wars: Rogue One.
But producers ruled out using the technology to do the same in The Rise of the Skywalker.
Then on Friday, director of The Rise of the Skywalker, JJ Abrams, speaking alongside cast members, told 10,000 fans at a Star Wars Celebration convention in Chicago, the final instalment of the saga, that began in 1977 with Star Wars: A New Hope, wouldn’t happen without Fisher.
“Princess Leia lives in this film in a way that’s mind-blowing for me,” Abrams said.
The director explained Fisher would appear once again as Princess Leia in Episode IX, thanks to scenes that were filmed, but not previously used, in the making of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015.
Abrams said some of the Fisher footage would also include an interaction with the actor’s real-life daughter, Billie Lourd, who had a cameo role in The Force Awakens and as Lieutenant Connix in The Last Jedi (2017).
“Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us,” Abrams said.
“With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honour Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.”
Disney’s first online trailer, which has already been watched more than 17 million times, shows Fisher embracing new Jedi hero, Rey, played by Daisy Ridley.
The film will feature the return of the evil Emperor Palpatine to threaten the young heroine, Rey, and the Resistance.
When asked at the convention by comedian and TV presenter Stephen Colbert, ‘How did you approach filling the void left by Carrie in this movie?” Abrams confirmed nobody else could play Princess Leia.
“As I’ve said, we couldn’t,” Abrams said. “Carrie was the best. She was glorious. She was amazing.
“It was impossible – there was no way. What are you going to do? You don’t recast that part, and you don’t suddenly have her disappear.”
Instead, the director explained the film was written around the unseen footage of Fisher to ensure her inclusion in the final movie.
“The idea of having a CG character was off the table. We never even wanted to try,” he said. “And the idea of saying, ‘Well, what if we could actually write scenes around her?'”
Star Wars: The final episode
The trailer has prompted numerous fan theories debating whether any Jedi ghosts may return in the final battle between good and evil.
In the clip, Rey is seen catching her breath in the desert. with actor Mark Hamill’s (Luke Skywalker) unmistakable narration: “We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now.”
The actor asked his Twitter followers on Saturday if they recognised his laugh at the end of the trailer.
The character Rey has so far only been taught by Luke Skywalker, but the use of ‘we’ in the narration could suggest the young Jedi may be taught by other Force ghosts in the series before, such as Yoda, according to Esquire magazine.
But while Abrams has been candid about the film process, the director has disclosed little about the plot and the meaning behind the movie’s title.
“This movie is about this new generation, what we’ve inherited, the light and the dark, and are they ready?” he told the convention in Chicago.