J.J. Abrams Teases Emperor's "Extraordinary Power" in 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'

J.J. Abrams arrives for the 2019 Hammer Museum Gala - Getty - H 2019
Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic
The filmmaker and his cast appeared at Comic Con Experience in Brazil on Saturday to tease the return of the great villain: "I can't wait for you to see how and why that character's back."

The end of the Skywalker Saga is nigh, and writer/director J.J. Abrams joined the cast of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on stage at Brazilian convention Comic Con Experience in São Paulo Saturday afternoon to talk about the experience of making the final chapter and tease what lies in store for a galaxy far, far away ahead as the story heads toward its conclusion.

Accompanying Abrams were Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac, with the four talking about the experience of making a feature that doesn’t just bring a nine-movie cycle to a close, but also their working relationship.

“It’s changed a lot of our lives, and it’s [been] amazing turning up to work together,” Ridley told an excited crowd about what it was like to be involved in the franchise since 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “It’s so joyous.”

Boyega, who said he delayed his arrival on his final day on set so that he and Ridley would wrap together, agreed. “Not a lot of actors get a chance to experience that. We literally laughed our way through Episode IX, it was such a joy.”

The four purposefully stayed away from offering spoilers for the movie ahead of its debut two weeks from now — although Abrams did say that the film, like the series as a whole, is about “the light and the dark side."

“On the dark side, I can’t wait for people to see the story. I think it’s the most intense story these characters have been through," Abrams said. "On the light side, it’s the first time we see these group of characters have an adventure together.” 

Everyone on stage was effusive about one significant part of the final chapter: the return of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian.

“Growing up, he was my favorite character,” Isaac said. “He looked a little different, he was such an interesting character — you couldn’t tell if he was good or bad, and all of that comes back in this one.” Boyega agreed, calling Williams “the coolest dude in the galaxy, man,” and adding, “If you watch the movie, Finn’s reaction to meeting Lando was completely my reaction to meeting him. I’m so happy J.J. caught that.”

On the return of another familiar face — Ian McDiarmid's Emperor Palpatine — everyone was a lot more circumspect, but Abrams teased, “That character, as you’ll see, he’s got such extraordinary power. I can’t wait for you to see how and why that character’s back and what it means for these characters,” he said, gesturing toward Ridley, Boyega and Isaac.

In honor of the panel, Disney unveiled a new promotional video:

Other topics were briefly addressed, from Ridley’s feeling about the issue of Rey’s parents (“I wasn’t a huge Star Wars fan going into this, so I was always confused with the obsession with parentage,” she said; she went on to say that, for her, the new trilogy is more about the idea of building your own family, as Rey does with Finn and Poe) to Isaac and Boyega’s recurring love of fan culture surrounding Finn and Poe’s relationship. In response to the question “Where do we find Finn and Poe’s relationship in this film?” Isaac quickly answered, “In bed,” prompting laughter from Boyega.

That’s not to say that Isaac wasn’t aware of the responsibility he and his fellow cast members have to fans. “To have been a part of contributing to a story that spans 42 years, that is part of an entire saga that has inspired the imaginations of millions of people, particularly to tell the very end of that nine-episode arc, it’s an astounding thing,” he said when asked about what he’ll take away from the experience.

Abrams, in response to the same question, said, “I think everyone agrees that Star Wars has this incredible heart and hope and sense of possibility. As crazy as everything is in the world, that sense of possibility, that there are more of us, that there is goodness to be found, [that’s] really a beautiful thing. What George Lucas did was extraordinary.”

The panel closed with some exclusive footage from the movie: an extended version of the chase sequence released on Twitter a couple of weeks earlier, as stormtroopers chase Finn, Poe, C3-PO, Rey, Chewbacca and BB-8 through the desert on speeder bikes, mud bikes and…well, flying stormtroopers.

The thrilling sequence is reminiscent of both the speeder bike chase from 1983’s Return of the Jedi and, less obviously, the pod racing sequence from 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, perhaps foreshadowing the ways in which the final chapter will hark back to earlier moments from the saga. And, for those who were worried, don’t be; the good guys get away. This time.

The Star Wars panels followed the first trailer for Ryan Reynolds' Free Guy as well as Marvel's Kevin Feige unveiling the first look at Eternals.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arises in theaters Dec. 20.