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John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac in Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker

As we head into December, the question on every Star Wars fan’s mind looms. Will Rise of Skywalker close out the iconic 40-year saga in a satisfying way? It’s a tricky business to deliver a conclusion to a franchise such as this and it’ll be heavy on the shoulders of co-writer/director J.J. Abrams. Yet, the Force Awakens helmer seems confident in what is to come with Episode IX and admits he feels “infinitely better” on his second go-around. In Abrams’ words:

We had more reshoots on Episode VII than this one. We had more story adjustments on VII than this one. We didn’t know if these characters would work, if the actors would be able to carry a Star Wars movie. There were a lot of things we didn’t know. On this, we knew who and what worked, and everyone is doing the best work I’ve ever seen anyone do. But the ambition of this movie is far greater than Force Awakens. What we set out to do was far more challenging. Everything is exponentially larger on this.

Remember, just a few years ago J.J. Abrams had the so-called impossible task to relaunch the Star Wars franchise after 10 years away from the silver screen. He was starting from scratch with quite a few unknown actors playing new characters at the center of the continuation of the famed Skywalker Saga. And as Abrams explains to EW, there were a lot more adjustments made to Force Awakens story then for Rise of Skywalker. There were a lot of question marks about what would work and what wouldn’t.

So compared to that nerve racking experience, preparing for the world to see Rise of Skywalker is less pressure then one might expect. Yet, he does point out the unique challenges of closing out the long-running storyline – such as the movie’s scale being much larger this time around. The cast has only become larger since Force Awakens and the movie will seek to wrap up a number of storylines from Emperor Palpatine to that of The Last Jedi’s Rose Tico.

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The core trio of the new trilogy Rey, Finn and Poe will finally get to work all together this time around for the first time. The late Carrie Fisher’s Leia will come back to the big screen for a final appearance to wrap up the princess’s arc, thanks to some unused footage from Force Awakens. Just how the writer/director is moving forward with the risky choices made in Rian Johnson’s Last Jedi that alienated some fans back in 2017 is anybody’s guess.

But it seems as though J.J. Abrams has a more confident and clear vision for the end of the Star Wars saga in Rise of Skywalker. The filmmaker came on to the project in late 2017 after Jurassic World’s Colin Trevorrow left due to creative differences. (Yet, his name is still oddly on the “story by” credit for Rise of Skywalker).

It’s been a prime time packed with Star Wars content since Abrams brought the franchise back in 2015. This current chapter will close out what some would call an overstuffed approach to the universe in the past few years as Disney will take a big-screen Star Wars hiatus after Rise of Skywalker, coming to theaters on December 20.