It feels like it's been forever since Star Wars: The Last Jedi hit theaters and launched Porgs straight to the top of our list of favorite things in a galaxy far, far away. To say we've been anxiously awaiting the next film in the latest (and wildly popular) Star Wars trilogy is a bit of an understatement. But now, the end of the generation-spanning Skywalker saga is actually in sight, as the first teaser trailer for J.J. Abrams' highly anticipated Star Wars: Episode IX — which we now know is titled The Rise of Skywalkerand will hit theaters Dec. 20 — was released Friday at Star Wars Celebration 2019.
When we last saw Rey (Daisy Ridley), she had successfully used the Force to rescue General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac), as well as the other Resistance fighters who were trapped by the First Order, after refusing to team up with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) once the two defeated Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) in one hell of a cool action sequence.
The biggest reveal of the short trailer for The Rise of Skywalker is that Emperor Palpatine, the villain played by Ian McDiarmid in the previous two Star Wars trilogies and who we all thought was dead, will be back. You can hear his menacing laugh at the end of the teaser. McDiarmid himself appeared at Star Wars Celebration to goose the crowd after his unexpected return.
According to Abrams, there will be a bit of a time jump between the two films. "The movie doesn't pick up immediately after the last film. Some time has gone by," the director said during the panel for the film, which is being described as an epic adventure.
Palpatine likely won't be the only person "returning" from the dead. Although Luke Skywalker essentially died after using the Force to take on his nephew at the end of The Last Jedi, Mark Hamill is expected to appear in the new film. The late Fisher, whose character, Leia, is still alive in the franchise, will also appear through previously unreleased footage shot for The Force Awakens.
At Star Wars Celebration, Abrams discussed how the Star Wars family decided to handle Fisher's death. "It was impossible. There was no way. What are you gonna do? You can't recast that part, and you're not just going to have her disappear," Abrams said. "The idea was what if we could write scenes around her, so she could be in the movie, and we have her performance. Every day it hits me that she's not here, but it's so surreal because we're working with her still. She's in scenes."
Meanwhile, Billy Dee Williams is also returning to the franchise as Lando Calrissian for the first time since 1983's Return of the Jedi. Lando is glimpsed in the teaser trailer flying his beloved Millenium Falcon alongside Chewbacca. (The character, and the Falcon's origin story, was a key part of last year's Solo: A Star Wars Story, which starred Donald Glover as the dapper Lando.)
The Rise of Skywalker will be the final Star Wars film for the foreseeable future as Disney is shifting its focus to creating content for its new streaming service Disney+, which launches Nov. 12. Expected on the service are The Mandalorian as well as a Rogue One prequel focused on Diego Luna's Cassian Andor.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on Dec. 20, 2019.