Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker: release date, trailer, cast, when tickets are out and everything else about Episode IX

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It's almost here, the final instalment of Star Wars' 'Skywalker Saga'.

After nine films and more than 40 years, The Rise of Skywalker will bring the curtain down on a space-faring epic that started with the birth of Anakin Skywalker and ends with... well, who knows?

(Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

(Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

It's undoubtedly one of the biggest movie events of the year, so here's everything you need to know about it:

What will happen in Episode IX?

At this point, it's almost futile to guess upon what might happen in the next Star Wars film.

Plot points are so closely guarded and the trailers so loaded with red herrings and misdirection that just when you think you've cracked a brand new fan-theory, you'll be proven wrong when the film itself releases.

(Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

(Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

But a trailer released earlier in the year did give us a few clues.

It teased space battles, escapades on a desert planet and a showdown between Kylo Ren and Rey, balanced perilously on what looks like Death Star wreckage in the middle of the sea.

There was also voice-over in the trailer from Scotland's own Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine.

We haven't seen any footage of the character yet, but from the look of the poster and his voice appearing in two trailers, it seems like the Emperor's return is going to be a significant plot point in the upcoming film.

It's the final shot, however, that people are going to be talking about: Rey is shown dressed in black, wielding a red, double-bladed lightsaber which will instantly remind fans of the one Darth Maul carried in The Phantom Menace.

Whether this represents a turn to the dark side, a vision, a dream or something else entirely remains to be seen.

Then there was the second trailer, which gave us a taste of how epic will the finale be, unloaded more clues to whether Rey and Ren related, and suggested that a fan favourite character may die.

Who's in the cast?

All the usual players return in Episode IX - including Daisy Ridley as Rey and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren - alongside a smattering of new faces.

Former Doctor Who star Matt Smith has long been rumoured to be a part of the new film, despite him denying the claims himself.

"As far as I know, I'm not [in it]," Smith said shortly after Variety reported he'd be appearing in the sequel, though the emergence of promotional images of a new Top Trumps set featuring a blue alien creature that bears more than a passing resemblance to the actor has got fans in a stir.

Other new faces who will be popping up for the first time in a Star Wars film include Keri Russell (in a role which Variety described as calling for "action-heavy fight scenes"), Richard E. Grant, Dominic Monaghan, and Naomi Ackie.

Despite her untimely death in late 2016, Carrie Fisher will be making a posthumous appearance as the beloved Princess/General Leia Organa.

Using editing trickery, the plan is to re-purpose unused footage from both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, slotting it in seamlessly to the new film.

The smooth-operating fan favourite Lando Calrissian will be making a return on Episode IX, played once again by Billy Dee Williams.

Calrissian was last seen leading the charge to take down the Empire's second Death Star at the end of 1983's Return of the Jedi, so it will be interesting to see how the 30+ years between that epic showdown and Episode IX's timeline have treated the character.

Despite Luke Skywalker coming to a seemingly clear-cut end in The Last Jedi, actor Mark Hamill is set to feature in Episode IX as the Jedi leader once more.

With its history of Force ghosts and apparitions, the Star Wars saga can play with familiar characters even when they're long gone.

Who's directing it?

J.J. Abrams' handling of The Force Awakens, Star Wars' soft 2015 reboot was applauded for introducing a likeable band of new heroes while satiating fan's appetite for key character's nostalgia fuelled reappearances.

He's back to helm Episode IX, with producers no doubt hoping he can come up with something much less divisive than Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi.

But it's not quite as simple as that: in 2015 it was announced that Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow would be on board as the new episode's director.

He was let go from the project when it was reported that Trevorrow's working relationship with Star Wars' producer Kathleen Kennedy had become unmanageable after Trevorrow had been given multiple opportunities to work on multiple drafts of the script.

How do I get tickets?

Cinemas don't often schedule their screenings so far in advance of a film's release date, but when it's something as big as a new Star Wars film, they're often a little more prepared.

And with the release of the latest trailer, tickets are on sale now at most of the major cinema chains.

Will there be more Star Wars films?

With Episode IX, we will have reached the end of the Star Wars' sequel trilogy, but there will still be more adventures from the fabled galaxy to enjoy in the future.

In 2017 it was announced that Rian Johnson is writing and directing the first film of a new trilogy, which will differ from the Skywalker-focused films in favour of focusing on new characters.

On top of that, it was announced earlier this year that another series of films - also separate from the Skywalker saga - is being developed by Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss.

There may not be any more spin-off films (like that of Solo) though. After the poor performance of the Han Solo origins story film, Disney has changed its focus when it comes to Star Wars.

Fans can look forward to The Mandolorian, a spin-off TV series focusing on the exploits of Jango Fett coming to the Disney+ streaming services when it launches in the UK next year.

When can I watch it?

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker is due for release on Thursday 19 December.