If Disney had followed their original plan, Star Wars 9: The Rise of Skywalker would've released a few months back, and the sequel trilogy would already be over. Following their purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012, Disney swiftly announced a brand new trilogy of Star Wars movies spearheaded by J. J. Abrams. Beginning with The Force Awakens, the sequels brought together old legends with a brand new cast of younger characters and pitted a revived Empire, now known as the First Order, against a revived Rebel Alliance, now known as the Resistance.
The sequel trilogy started strongly with The Force Awakens receiving critical praise and going on to become one of the highest grossing movies of all time, but Disney's Star Wars plans haven't been entirely smooth sailing. Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi proved to be a highly divisive film, and efforts to release spinoff ventures between the main episodes met with mixed results and behind the scenes production difficulties that involved script rewrites and numerous personnel changes. The advent of Disney Plus has also shifted some focus away from the big screen and towards the world of streaming.
However, if Disney had adhered to their original release schedule, the Star Wars sequel trilogy would've ended back in May. Star Wars 9: The Rise of Skywalker was at one time set to release on May 24th 2019, taking advantage of both the summer blockbuster window and Star Wars Day a few weeks prior. This date was pushed back to the current December 20th release immediately following the directorial merry-go-round that saw Colin Trevorrow exit the project during pre-production and J. J. Abrams return to the franchise as the director of Star Wars 9.
The fact that this delay came only a day after Trevorrow's departure was announced strongly suggests that, had the director's appointment panned out better, Star Wars fans would have already witnessed the conclusion to the Skywalker trilogy, and found out exactly how Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren's stories end. However, it's interesting to note that this wasn't the first Star Wars sequel subject to a substantial delay, with The Last Jedi similarly pushed back from May 26th 2017 to December 15th 2017 without any reported background issues cited for the setback. Perhaps, therefore, Star Wars 9 was destined for a December release regardless from the start.
While fans might've received their long-awaited answers quicker if Colin Trevorrow's Star Wars 9 had released in May 2019 as planned, there are advantages to the December reschedule. Since the franchise returned, Star Wars releases in December have become something of a tradition, with only the ill-fated Solo bucking the trend. A December release usually means a lack of significant competition and ensures Star Wars is at the forefront of everyone's minds when it comes to compiling their "end of the year" lists. The previous delay of The Last Jedi also suggests that Disney perhaps half-expected Star Wars 9 not to meet its original release date, even without the director change.
Crucially, a December 2019 release also means a shorter gap between Star Wars 9: The Rise of Skywalker and the next set of movies from David Benioff and D.B. Weiss which are due to begin in December 2022. Had the sequel trilogy wrapped up in May, fans would likely still be dissecting the final movie's secrets and thoughts might've already turned to the future.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019