‘Rise of Skywalker’ first look reveals mysterious new characters

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Vanity Fair released its cover story on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Wednesday morning, giving fans the most concrete information on the final film in what Lucasfilm is calling the Skywalker Saga.

Like Marvel and Game of Thrones, just about everything associated with Star Wars is shrouded in layers of secrecy. So whenever official intel does drop—like a trailer or a magazine cover—the internet tends to stop at a standstill. For the next several hours, if not days, fans collectively pour over what’s said by the cast and crew along with the photos taken by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz.

The Rise of Skywalker cover story from Vanity Fair, which was written by The Magicians author Lev Grossman, reveals a lot and nothing at all, as Director J.J. Abrams, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, and the cast carefully tease the end of a trilogy—as well as an era of Star Wars. But there’s still lots for us to parse over. For instance, The Rise of Skywalker takes place about a year after The Last Jedi, and Abrams wrote many of the scenes around unused or cut footage of Carrie Fisher, who died in 2016; some of those scenes include Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd, who plays Lieutenant Connix.

“There are moments in this movie where Carrie is there, and I really do feel there is an element of the uncanny, spiritual, you know, classic Carrie, that it would have happened this way because somehow it worked,” Abrams explained. “And I never thought it would.”

Our first look at two brand new characters, as well as one we’ve met in action

We first met Jannah, who’s played by Naomi Ackie, in a photo released at Star Wars Celebration last month. Ackie is “allowed to say literally nothing” about the character, although fans have speculated for some time that she’s playing the daughter of Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). The cape that you can spot in a photo of Jannah and Finn riding “hardy orbaks” in a fight against the First Order’s “mechanized forces,” likely won’t squash any of that speculation.

But we do have some new information on the characters played by veteran actors and The Rise of Skywalker newcomers Keri Russell and Richard E. Grant.

Russell plays Zorri Bliss, who’s described as a “masked scoundrel” by Vanity Fair, wears a costume that evokes the color scheme of Amilyn Holdo in The Last Jedi as well as the look of bounty hunter Zam Wesell. (Some fans are already cheekily comparing Zorri’s mask to The Rocketeer.) Although we don’t know which side Zorri is on, according to Vanity Fair, her outfit helps her go unnoticed in the Thieves’ Quarter of Kijimi, a new snow planet that we’ll see in The Rise of Skywalker.

The allegiance of Grant’s character is much more apparent, at least at first. He’s playing Allegiant General Pryde, a member of the First Order who may rank above General Armitage Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), depending on what the rank of Allegiant General actually means.

The return of the Knights of Ren

We first spotted the Knights of Ren—the group of mysterious fighters who appeared beside Kylo Ren during the massacre at Luke Skywalker’s temple—in a vision Rey has in The Force Awakens. It’s suggested in The Last Jedi that some of Luke’s former students joined Kylo Ren after he turned.

The Knights of Ren are back in action in The Rise of Skywalker, appearing in a behind-the-scenes photo shared by Vanity Fair; the desert they filmed at is standing in for the planet Pasaana. Whether they’re here to attack the Resistance or someone else, however, is unclear. We’ll have to wait a while to find out just who is behind those mysterious knights.

The Rey and Kylo connection, along with a new Resistance bond

By far the biggest connection throughout the Star Wars sequel trilogy is between Rey and Kylo Ren, whose journeys mirror one another; The Last Jedi took that to another level after Supreme Leader Snoke forged a connection between them.

The connection may or may not still be there. But they’re working through some of the same issues they were the last time we saw them, although Rey is less certain that Kylo Ren is capable of redemption

“[H]e had been forging this maybe-bond with Rey,” Adam Driver told Vanity Fair, “and it kind of ends with the question in the air: is he going to pursue that relationship, or when the door of her ship goes up, does that also close that camaraderie that they were maybe forming?”

But the sequel trilogy’s new trio—Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron— are all largely on the same footing, which finally gives Rey a sense of family, although she does still feel somewhat isolated due to the weight that she carries on her shoulders. By the time we meet up with them again, Rey has advanced in her Jedi training.

Some aspects of the sequel trilogy were planned from the beginning

When The Rise of Skywalker is released, fans will surely question what Lucasfilm had planned from the get-go versus what was made up as the films were being made. According to Driver, the foundations of Kylo’s arc was among those storylines that were in the works for years.

“I knew little bits from my first meeting with J.J.,” Driver said. “An overall arc was very, not vague, the opposite, it was very clear—[there was] an end in sight even from the very beginning. The details obviously hadn’t been worked out, but we had talked about the very thing that we’d been working towards with this last one.”

But for Abrams, the previous films, including The Last Jedi, have pushed him in new directions he wouldn’t have gone otherwise. He tried to make The Rise of Skywalker more of his own. It’s not about retconning plot points that writer-director Rian Johnson landed on but rather challenging himself.

“Having seen what Rian did made me approach this from a place of instinct and gut,” Abrams explained. “I was making choices I knew I would not have made on VII, some story-wise, but more in terms of directing. I found myself feeling less like I’m going to try and do something that feels like it’s [only] true to the specifics of this franchise or the story.”

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You can read the full story at Vanity Fair.

Michelle Jaworski

Michelle Jaworski

Michelle Jaworski is a staff writer and the resident Game of Thrones expert at the Daily Dot. She covers entertainment, geek culture, and pop culture and has brought her knowledge to conventions like Con of Thrones. She is based in New Jersey.