When it finally opened in cinemas, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens put to an end to months – or even years – of speculation. However, we were not satisfied for longer. No sooner had we come out of the cinema than we were speculating about what might be ’round the corner for Episode VIII, the as-yet untitled sequel that looks set to be one of the most anticipated films of all time.
Buzz is going to be strong, and with the film set to be released at the end of 2017, we have plenty of time to speculate. Expect to see plenty of fan theories springing up and new announcements sending the internet into overdrive. A few leaked set photos thus far have already got tongues wagging, and any released information between now and then is going to be examined and re-examined a hundred times over.
There are so many questions yet to be answered. Is Rey a Skywalker – maybe even Luke’s daughter? What will happen to Kylo Ren next? Is Han Solo really dead? What will Chewbacca do now that his best friend is gone? How and where will Finn and Rey next meet? Unfortunately, we can’t give you the answers to all of those questions right now. What we can do, however, is tell you a few things that we already know about the upcoming film. You can draw your own conclusions from these facts – while some of them may seem to hint at the storylines and characters we will see, these are the only things that we know for sure.
10. Luke and Leia
We know already that Luke will have a much bigger role in this film, and expect Leia to as well. Luke didn’t even have any speaking lines last time out and barely appeared for a few seconds, but Daisy Ridley has confirmed that she and Mark Hamill have been doing a lot of rehearsing together. This seems to indicate a lot of screen time for our returning hero. With Han Solo out of the picture, Leia will take a more central role – trying to find her son, directing her army, avenging her lost love, and perhaps having a say in her brother’s role too.
9. A New Villain
We also know that Benicio Del Toro has accepted a role in the film, as an unspecified new villain. We don’t know much about the character at all, but it’s clear that the Dark Side is going to be very busy with a swelling cast. Interestingly enough, Del Toro was originally signed on to play Darth Maul until many of the character’s lines were cut from the script, so this is his chance to reclaim a spot in the franchise. Rumour has it that Joaquin Phoenix was originally offered the villain role but turned it down – pinpointing some similarities between the actors’ looks might help shed some light on the character’s direction.
8. Set Locations
We know that the studio work is being done in London, but it also looks like we can expect some great locations to pop up. The force is apparently strong in Croatia right now, according to the latest photos from the set – showing robed actors standing around in full costume. We can’t tell much from them, but they are pretty exciting all the same. Filming kicked off in Skellig Michael, an Irish island, so clearly large outdoor locations and majestic real buildings are going to feature in the film’s universe. We don’t know what they will show us, but we know it’s going to look amazing.
7. The Release Date
We also have a big reason to get excited: we already know the release date, and can start ticking off the days on our calendars. Originally, it was announced that the film would be released exactly forty years and one day after A New Hope, on May 26, 2017. Now that has been pushed back to December 15 – allegedly because of the huge success the pre-Christmas release date ensured for The Force Awakens. Although, we’re not sure the high attendance was just because they released it at the right time… Maybe someone should remind them this is one of the most popular film series of all time?
6. The Code Name
Okay, so we don’t actually know the real name of the movie yet. But we do know what they are calling it right now. Space Bear. They’re calling it Space Bear. This is easily the best codename for a film we’ve heard in a while; The Force Awakens was known as Foodles Production Ltd during filming, while Return of the Jedi was known as Blue Harvest. But Space Bear. Come on. If this movie doesn’t have a lot of Chewie in it – or at least some ewoks – we will be sorely disappointed and will be making a complaint to advertising standards.
5. The Script
We have also heard some little titbits about the script – a lot of people involved with it are saying that it is very, very good, but that doesn’t really give much away. After all, if it wasn’t good, we wouldn’t expect them to be filming it. The most telling piece of information that we have so far comes from John Boyega, who has described the script as being very dark – much darker than The Force Awakens. Could we be about to see some more torment for Kylo Ren before he chooses which side to stick with? Or will his choice of the Dark Side lead to more heartache for our heroes?
4. New Actors
We do know a couple of other details about the cast, besides those who are returning and the new Del Toro villain. Two actresses – Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran – are confirmed as having roles. Now, at the moment that doesn’t mean too much: we aren’t sure whether they will be good or bad guys, or incidental characters. We also don’t know whether they will appear on screen, under prosthetics, or with a voice role. But we do know they’re in, and they are interesting choices. Dern is of course best known for her role in Jurassic Park, while Tran is very much a relative newcomer.
3. Small Delays
Even though filming has only just started, it has already been subject to some small delays. Bad weather caused the postponement of some scenes, and script rewrites also pushed the original start date back. They finally did confirm that filming was underway on the 10th of February, and hopefully that release date being moved back has given them some breathing space. We certainly wouldn’t want to see it pushed back any further, as 2018 is far too long to wait for another glimpse of this storyline. It may be wise to keep an eye out for further updates – as we know, anything can happen, particularly when your actors are aging (looking at you, Harrison Ford).
2. The Team
We already know a little bit about who is going to be involved with actually making the film. Much of the main cast is returning (minus a death here or there), and J.J. Abrams will be staying on board – though this time as xecutive producer rather than director. He will be handing the helm over to Rian Johnson, who will serve both as the director and the writer. This was confirmed way back in 2014, and filming has got underway without any challenge to that decision. This is good news for continuity, as Abrams will keep creative control in some areas to keep everything true to his vision for the first movie in the set.
1. And The Rest?
The truth is, we probably aren’t going to know much more about the movie until release date: we had to wait until the night to find out the key details of The Force Awakens, after all. Character names and roles as well as storyline developments are going to be kept very much under wraps. One thing that might shed a little light is the release of Rogue One, in December 2016. Although it is set back in the past, between the original trilogies, it might give us some hints, background information, or prophecies of what is to come. We hope!