Recently, Star Wars: Episode IX reference photos made their way online, so what do they reveal about the upcoming movie? This December, the Skywalker saga comes to a close with J.J. Abrams' latest film, which is just about to wrap production. Anticipation for the project remains high, even though very few details are known at the moment. Lucasfilm has been transparent about a few Episode IX aspects (namely, the plan for General Leia in the movie), but it largely remains business as usual for the studio. Secrecy reigns supreme.
With official updates few and far between, fans have had to scour the internet to find whatever they can on the ever-churning rumor mill. Things are starting to pick up there, with reports about new villains from the mysterious "Beyond" and Lando Calrissian's role coming out lately. As viewers wait impatiently for the title reveal and first trailer, there was something else to dissect. Reference photos and concept art highlighting various actors and characters appeared online, offering fans their best look at the movie so far. And while they obviously don't spill out all of the movie's spoilers, they still paint an interesting picture. Here, we break down everything we learned from the pictures.
Rey's New Costume
It's Star Wars tradition for characters to receive new wardrobes for upcoming films. Not only can this be an intriguing storytelling device (Luke's all-black garb in Return of the Jedi), but it's also a not-so-subtle merchandising opportunity. So it isn't surprising to see Rey has new clothes for Episode IX. One of the reference photos showed the young Force user dressed in all-white attire with a brown belt wrapped around her waist.
Visually, it's a direct contrast to Luke and Anakin in the third installments of their respective trilogies. It implies that instead of being tempted by the dark side, Rey will remain pure on the light and stay on her heroic path. At the end of The Last Jedi, she seemed to clearly make this choice, severing her connection with Kylo Ren and committing herself to the Resistance and helping the Jedi Order evolve. It'll be interesting to see how her arc plays out, since there's a chance Rey could still be swayed.
Kylo Ren's Repaired Helmet
One of the first Episode IX tidbits to drop was the revelation Kylo Ren would have a new helmet. The mask was one of the villain's defining features during Force Awakens buildup, but was destroyed early in The Last Jedi. Word is this "new" helmet is the old one fixed, held together by "red crystalline bonding material." Concept art of the helmet illustrates this, essentially confirming this rumor is in fact true. At least for a portion of Episode IX, Kylo's face will be covered.
Some might bemoan this development as Abrams backtracking from what Rian Johnson did, but it's important to understand the context. Kylo smashed his helmet to pieces after being reprimanded by Supreme Leader Snoke. He was attempting to appease his master, but then obviously decided to take things in a much different direction. The former Ben Solo was likely fond of his headgear, and now that Snoke's out of the way, he can wear it freely without anyone criticizing him. The helmet is inherently part of Kylo's identity. He'll likely take it off for stretches so audiences can see the full range of Adam Driver.
Droids are as much a part of Star Wars as lightsabers and the Force. The original movie began with R2-D2 and C-3PO guiding viewers into the adventure, and each subsequent film has made sure to give robotic companions their just due. BB-8 has been one of the stars of the sequel trilogy, but he hasn't been alone. The Last Jedi introduced BB-9E, a so-called "evil BB-8" that worked for the First Order. Episode IX will continue to add to the canon with another fresh addition to the droid lineup.
The gallery includes a reference photo of a model of an unnamed droid. He or she will apparently "annoy BB-8" during the film, indicating there will be droid hysterics in Episode IX. Frequently, the robots are a source of comic relief, so hopefully the mismatched pair can deliver a few laughs along the way. Star Wars 9 might get a little heavy with all that's on its plate (it does need to definitively end the saga, after all), so some levity would be greatly appreciated. And ideally, this new droid won't take away time from Artoo and Threepio, the two legends who just wrapped up their work on the movie.
Another staple of the Star Wars franchise is for each film to have its own take on the famous cantina sequence. Whether it's Saw Gerrera's hideout in Rogue One, Dryden Vos' lair in Solo, or Canto Bight in The Last Jedi, filmmakers frequently look to populate one location with all sorts of wild creatures and aliens. Episode IX won't be any different, as there was plenty of concept art showcasing new aliens, including some dressed in elaborate-looking costumes.
With so little information to go off of, it's difficult to say how these will factor into Star Wars 9. Going by Star Wars history, most of them will likely be background characters to flesh out scenery as our heroes embark on their quest. It's noteworthy that one of the alien is called "horned pilot," hinting that he or she will be a Resistance member partaking in a space battle.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019