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First Look At Hamill's Luke In The Rise Of Skywalker Revealed

The Rise of Skywalker will feature at least one Skywalker who just won't stay down.

As part of an extensive cover story on the forthcoming ninth episode of the main Star Wars series, Vanity Fair shared a plethora of new set photos — one of which gives us our first look at Luke Skywalker in the new film, and others which confirm some heavily rumored plot points.

First things first: yes, the original Skywalker will be returning for the final installment of the saga which now bears his name, although it's still unclear in what capacity the character will appear. Is Luke a Force Ghost? Will he be seen in flashbacks, perhaps as a means of clarifying the events which Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi posited as the catalyst for Kylo Ren's turn to the Dark Side? Or, will writer/director J.J. Abrams simply find a way to bring him back from the dead? It's difficult to say, but this photo — an image of Mark Hamill as Luke with his trusty companion R2-D2, standing untouched amidst raging flames — is pretty darn majestic.

Hamill's involvement in the film has only added to the speculation around its title, which could be summed up as: exactly which Skywalker is going to be rising here? There simply aren't many left (assuming that Abrams isn't holding back a bombshell about Rey's actual parentage). Yes, Ren is technically a Skywalker, but he doesn't seem to be in a hurry to veer toward the Light Side of the Force (more on that in a moment), and with Luke having apparently cashed in his chips at the conclusion of The Last Jedi, there's really only one remaining choice: Carrie Fisher's General Leia. 

Sadly, Fisher passed away in 2016, but Abrams explained to Vanity Fair that this did not preclude Leia's involvement in The Rise of Skywalker's story. Reviewing unused footage of Fisher left over from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Abrams realized early in the new film's production that there was a way to include Leia without resorting to CGI trickery. "It was a bizarre kind of left side/right side of the brain sort of Venn diagram thing, of figuring out how to create the puzzle based on the pieces we had," Abrams said. "There are moments in this movie where Carrie is there, and I really do feel there is an element of the uncanny, spiritual, you know, classic Carrie, that it would have happened this way, because somehow it worked. And I never thought it would."

We'd all love to see Leia get her Skywalker moment, but it seems unlikely that there was enough good stuff left on the cutting room floor from The Force Awakens to give the character as beefy a narrative as would be required to, you know, title the film after her. Which brings us to Ren, the former Ben Skywalker, who seems to be gathering forces of a decidedly sinister nature in the new film. Ever since the mysterious order known as the Knights of Ren were first referred to in The Force Awakens — and then ignored altogether in The Last Jedi — there's been speculation that they would play a significant part in this final chapter, and one of the set photos shared by Vanity Fair seems to confirm that this will indeed be the case.

Adam Driver, who portrays Ren, may have offered a bit of insight into what lies in store for the character in Rise of Skywalker, pointing to his odd but undeniable connection with Rey as a narrative development that has not yet been fully explored. "He had been forging this maybe-bond with Rey, and it kind of ends with the question in the air," the star said. "Is he going to pursue that relationship, or when the door of her ship goes up, does that also close that camaraderie that they were maybe forming?" 

Driver also pointed out that Ren has not undergone the kind of self-discovery arc typical of major characters in Star Wars films — not yet, anyway — instead being defined almost solely by his past and the expectations that have been placed upon him by both sides. "How do you form friendships out of that? How do you understand the weight of that?" he asked. "And if there's no one around you guiding you, or articulating things the right way ... it can easily go awry."

The new photos also teased a significant role for new character Zorri Bliss (Keri Russell) by offering us an up-close-and-personal look at the "masked scoundrel," who sports a bodysuit equipped with twin blasters and a downright eerie, insect-like headpiece.

We still have no idea exactly who this character is or what side of the fence she'll be playing, and Russell herself hasn't been much help, only offering, "I do have the coolest costume. I will say that." No argument here, Keri; we can only hope that forthcoming promotional materials, the inevitable onslaught of trailers leading up the flick's release, or perhaps one of those spoiler-y Lego sets will give us a better idea as to the character's allegiance and motivation.

While the rest of the photos shared in the set (all snapped by legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz) were not quite as provocative, they were certainly no less freakin' awesome. Here are the Aki-Aki, the native race of the planet Pasaana, as portrayed by locals of the area in Jordan where much of Rise of Skywalker was shot:

Here we have Anthony Daniels in his iconic role of C-3PO, receiving a touch-up from a crew member while BB-8 helpfully assists:

Here's newcomer Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca (taking over for the late Peter Mayhew), Daisy Ridley as Rey, Daniels' C-3PO, and John Boyega's Finn prepping for a chase sequence:

And last but not least, here's Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron, Suotamo's Chewie, and a photobombing BB-8 alongside Billy Dee Williams, making his triumphant return to the franchise as Lando Calrissian:

A tip of our hats goes to Leibovitz and Vanity Fair for giving us these amazing images to chew on for the next, oh, seven months or so. Of course, we'll keep our finger on the pulse of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker for any leaks, confirmations, rumors — anything we can get our mitts on, really — worth reporting in the coming months. Until then, remember... the Force will be with you. Always.