With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story winding down its theatrical run and officially hitting home release in about a month, it's almost time for Lucasfilm to fully switch gears to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth episode or Skywalker Saga film, and the direct continuation of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But fans aren't waiting for official promotion to begin, and the rumors and speculation are already rampant. Sitting in the top spot of ComicBook.com's anticipation rankings for all movies, The Last Jedi is the movie fans say they're anxious for in 2017. Jason Ward at MakingStarWars is one of the best rumor/news gatherers out there for Star Wars news, and has some fresh context of where the galaxy is when The Last Jedi begins.
It's important to note - the very start of The Last Jedi will take place just seconds after the end of The Force Awakens, a first for the Star Wars franchise. That means the state of the galaxy at the very beginning of the film is literally identical to what it was at the end of TFA, though what that precisely means is still up for debate. Both sides of the conflict in the Sequel Trilogy, the First Order and the New Republic/Resistance took heavy losses in Force Awakens, after all. The First Order lost Starkiller Base, their superweapon and mobile headquarters, but the New Republic was functionally destroyed, as the homeworld of the Senate, Hosnian Prime, along with several other entire planets were obliterated by the weapon. With no governing party, it's hard to see how the New Republic can do anything against the First Order, and thus the Resistance should fall into place as the functional leadership of the galaxy (with, presumably, General Leia at its head). However, there has been speculation about a bit of a time jump after the opening scenes, showing how Rey progresses in her training with Luke, much of which stemmed from her new look in the film.
As it stands, it sounds like Supreme Leader Snoke and the First Order are moving into a more desperate mode of operation, and that could be terribly dangerous for the galaxy at large. Think of them as a wounded dog, no longer content to bark, and now ready to bite anyone that comes within reach.
"For Snoke, the loss of the Starkiller Base was as significant as his wins. His forces are no longer a secret to the galaxy at large. Those who used to laugh at the idea that The First Order was a threat are either dead or no longer laughing. The Cold War-style standoff is publicly over after the full-on assault on the Republic and the senate," Ward writes. That means the galaxy also acknowledges the First Order's danger and is no longer holding Leia nd the Resistance back, though, and "a very overt war is on the horizon." He confirms that means General Organa will have a lot of new recruits, and a more centralized leadership role.
Of course, that's also tainted by some sadness and apprehension - if Leia's role is indeed going to grow and escalate in The Last Jedi, it will also have to come to some sort of drastic and tragic conclusion, after the tragic loss of actress Carrie Fisher in December. That loss has reportedly already changed plans for Star Wars: Episode IX, but while all her scenes were filmed (principal photography ended last June), it could still affect the last act of The Last Jedi as well.
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Star Wars: The Last Jedi, from writer/director Rian Johnson, is in post-production now for a December 15, 2017 release. The film follows-up and continues the story of the next generation of the saga as Rey, Poe, Finn, and Kylo Ren find their place in the galaxy and follow the legacy of Luke Skywalker, Leia, and Han Solo. Daisy Ridley returns to star as Rey, with other returning stars John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Mayhew, Andy Serkis, Anthony Daniels, Lupita Nyong'o Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa. Benicio Del Toro and Laura Dern join the cast in as-yet-unrevealed roles.
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