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Palpatine smiling in Revenge of the Sith

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It's hard to believe, it but we're just a week away from the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. J.J. Abrams' return to the beloved space opera will end the main franchise as we know it, dating back to George Lucas' A New Hope. The upcoming blockbuster will see the return of Ian McDiarmid's Emperor Palpatine, in a mysterious role. But it turns out that was probably not George Lucas' vision for the sequel trilogy.

J.J. Abrams kickstarted the Star Wars franchise back up with The Force Awakens, creating a slew of new characters and circumstances to play out on the silver screen. Prior to that movie's release, Abrams met with George Lucas to discuss the galaxy far, far away. Eventually Abrams asked about Palpatine, as he tells it:

I remember saying, 'Is he dead, George?' at the time, and he said, 'Yes, he is. Absolutely dead.’

Well, that seems pretty cut and dry. George Lucas was sure that Palpatine was dead for good ahead of the sequel trilogy. So smart money says that he wouldn't have brought back the hooded villain for Episode IX.

J.J. Abrams' comments to USA Today show how much control the filmmaker has taken of the Star Wars franchise. He had big shoes to fill when he dove into the iconic franchise, but it seems like his work on The Force Awakens gave him more confidence and the ability to take risks. Palpatine is one of them, and his inclusion has been a major point of the conversation ahead of Episode IX's release.

Just how the Emperor factors into the story of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker remains a mystery. The franchise is known for its security, so the footage revealed has been limited. While Palpatine hasn't been seen yet, actor Ian McDiarmid's voice was heard over a number of the trailers.

Ahead of the release of Episode IX, fans can re-watch the Skywalker Saga on Disney+. You can use this link for a free 7-day trial to the streaming service.

While Palpatine's role in The Rise of Skywalker was originally a shock to the generations of fans, J.J. Abrams has explained his inclusion ahead of the movie's debut. Palpatine was the overarching villain of the first two trilogies, so it makes sense that he would factor into the franchise's conclusion. It's the final battle of Good vs Evil, so the Sith mastermind seems like the perfect character to drop in, and further raise the stakes.

All of our questions will finally be answered when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20th. In the meantime, check out our 2020 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

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