But in this galaxy not so far away, it was The Force Awakens' J.J. Abrams who returned to the franchise after Trevorrow's departure to co-write and direct The Rise of Skywalker. The film – the final installment in the Skywalker Saga -- follows writer-director Rian Johnson's polarizing The Last Jedi, though The Rise of Skywalker is proving equally divisive.
And though there is certainly a push-and-pull relationship between Episodes VIII and IX, Abrams is adamant that there was no disturbance in the Force between Johnson and himself.
"We had conversations with Rian at the beginning. It's been nothing but collaborative," Abrams told Vanity Fair during a post-screening Q&A over the weekend. "The perspective that -- at least personally -- I got from stepping away from it and seeing what Rian did, strangely gave us opportunities that would never have been there, because of course he made choices no one else would have made."
Still, below are all of the major ways that The Rise of Skywalker either undoes, course corrects or simply ignores what came before it in The Last Jedi.
The Reveal of Rey's Parentage
In The Last Jedi: Rey (Daisy Ridley) was revealed to be the daughter of junk traders. The Force Awakens first teased Rey's backstory -- as a child, she was orphaned on Jakku -- though her lineage was made so enigmatic that fans were left assuming that her parents not only had to be somebody we knew, but they were someone important.
The Star Wars franchise has always revolved around the notion of a Chosen One, but Johnson upended it when Adam Driver's Kylo Ren informed Rey her parents were "filthy junk traders who sold you off for drinking money." Rey was not important because of where she came from, but because of who she was.
In The Rise of Skywalker: Rey's parents may have disguised themselves as nobodies -- just a couple of junk traders on Jakku -- but were in fact somebodies, or at least descendants of an especially important somebody: Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Kylo is the one to reveal this twist, too, giving Rey the update that actually her parents (played in cameo by Killing Eve's Jodie Comer and Billy Howle) were in hiding, lest Rey's grandpa, Palpatine, track down his Force-sensitive progeny and lure her to her place on the Sith throne. (The connection also allows for Palpatine to resume his duties as the franchise's big bad, after The Last Jedi killed off Supreme Leader Snoke.)
The "Return" of "Luke Skywalker"
In The Last Jedi: Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker was no longer the idealistic hero of the original trilogy, but had become a disillusioned veteran, of sorts, embittered and cynical in his later years. While his former comrades were leading the Resistance, Luke recused himself to the island, Ahch-To, to live in isolation, forsaking his faith in the Jedi and wanting nothing to do with these wars among the stars. When Rey shows up on his doorstep with his familial lightsaber, he takes it and then flippantly tosses it off.
In The Rise of Skywalker: Luke appears as a Force ghost -- after his heroic final sacrifice in The Last Jedi -- after Rey crashes Kylo's TIE Fighter on Ahch-To. When she attempts to hurl away her lightsaber in the fire, Luke catches it and scolds her, "A Jedi's weapon deserves more respect." It's Luke who encourages her to once again embrace the ways of the Jedi, admitting he had previously been afraid. Later on, Rey hears his voice when she calls on the Jedi of the past.
How Johnson chose to depict Luke proved to be his most divisive upending of expectations. Upon the release of The Rise of Skywalker, he was once again made to defend his choice to treat Luke "as a true mythic hero overcoming recurring wounds & flaws" and not "a video game character who has achieved a binary, permanent power-up."
Where'd You Go, Rose Tico?
In The Last Jedi: Kelly Marie Tran's maintenance tech-turned-Resistance fighter established herself as the heart of this trilogy. After a chance encounter with her personal hero, Finn (John Boyega), Rose inspires him to continue fighting and, in the climactic final battle, saves his life. We leave her as one of the Resistance's most heroic members and in a blossoming romance with Finn.
In The Rise of Skywalker: Rose has been almost completely sidelined, relegated to a glorified extra in the scenes at the Resistance base. There is no resolution to her relationship with Finn and she's mostly tasked with delivering expository dialogue while staring at a computer monitor, while the other heroes set out on their adventure.
When asked how fans would feel about her character's arc in The Rise of Skywalker, Tran told ET, "I think that we're all going to be really happy with what this movie does." Alas, on this particular point, we must disagree -- especially after the racist and misogynistic harassment Tran received from toxic corners of the fandom. Rose Tico deserved more. To make this right, we'll settle for nothing less than her own Disney+ series.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now in theaters.