Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the seventh episode of the Star Wars saga. Production was announced by George Lucas in 2011, years after initially claiming that the story of Star Wars ended with Return of the Jedi. In 2012 Lucas sold Lucasfilm, along with the entire Star Wars franchise, to The Walt Disney Company who then assembled a new team to rework Episode VII to their own design. This marks the start of a new trilogy of Star Wars movies, and effectively reboots the franchise by casting off the old Star Wars Expanded Universe, opening the doors for new stories to take place in various media.
The film was widely anticipated and went on to break several box office records, and is currently the third highest grossing film of all time, behind Avatar and Titanic (unadjusted for inflation, as of February 2016). It won a Bafta for Best Special Visual Effects at the 2016 British Academy Film Awards, and was the American Film Institute's Movie of the Year for 2015.
The Force Awakens is set roughly 30 years after the end of Return of the Jedi and follows new heroes Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron, as they assist the the Resistance in the fight against the evil forces of the First Order, which has risen from the ashes of the defeated Galactic Empire.
The run up to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is, as expected, full of rumour and speculation due to the lack of concrete details being released by Disney and Lucasfilm, but one fan theory concerning Rey has been laid to rest by Lucasfilm Story Group member Pablo Hidalgo.
When asked whether Han Solo was Rey's father, Hidalgo flat out shut down the long-established theory.
The theory hinges on Han and Leia's estrangement, which was clear from The Force Awakens, but Hidalgo's tweet confirms that this does not fit with the established canon timeline of events.
So, who are Rey's parents?
Although this has been a fairly huge discussion point amongst fans throughout production of the Star Wars sequels trilogy, Rian Johnson's take on the question during The Last Jedi would have us believe that Rey's parents were nobody special. Actress Daisy Ridley previously stated that she knew who Rey's parents were, and Episode IX's former director Colin Trevorrow had also said that the answer to the question would be satisfying as she was important to the saga.
Of course, this was said before Trevorrow left the project due to creative differences, and while returning director JJ Abrams has remained tight-lipped about the facts of Rey's parentage he has promised that "there's more to the story than you've seen."
Other theories point at John Williams' film score for hints, with Rey's theme containing motifs from both Luke Skywalker's and Darth Vader's themes. Then of course there is the rumour that she is a Palpatine, having been fathered by the erstwhile Emperor or conceived by his manipulation of the Force, and the surprise reveal of Ian McDiarmid at Celebration Chicago this year lends more weight to this theory. Further rumours still try to connect the dots to prove that Rey is the grand-daughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Ultimately we'll find out if the question is answered when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is released this December.
The Han Solo spin-off film is currently in production for release in 2018. Although we are still a long way from having any details of the storyline, we do know that we will see a young Han Solo in action.
So far four actors have been confirmed, so let's take a look at our new Han Solo and the people who will be joining everybody's favourite scoundrel.
Alden Ehrenreich - Han Solo
Taking up the mantle of the eponymous smuggler, Han Solo is the young Californian actor Alden Ehrenreich. He was chosen after a lengthy casting period that aimed to find an actor who could capture the spirit of the character made famous by Harrison Ford.
Ehrenreich was first discovered by Steven Spielberg, which led to several television roles before he had his big screen debut in Francis Ford Coppola's Tetro. He later went on to star in Beautiful Creatures, Stoker, and the Coen brothers comedy Hail, Caesar!
On 5 May 2015 he was confirmed as being cast in the lead role of a young Han Solo in the second of the Star Wars spin-off movies.
Donald Glover - Lando Calrissian
Joining Han Solo as the irrepressible Lando Calrissian is Donald Glover, who has already had a varied career in entertainment having made a name for himself in almost every avenue of show business.
Glover has written for NBC comedy 30 Rock and had an acting role in Community. He is also due to appear in Marvel's Spider-man: Homecoming superhero reboot. Incidentally, Stan Lee supported Glover for the lead role in Sony's The Amazing Spider-man.
Glover has also released several rap albums as Childish Gambino, and also DJs and produces electronic music under the name of mcDJ.
On 21 October 2016 he was confirmed as being cast as Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo movie.
Playing an unknown role in the Han Solo movie is Emilia Clarke, who shot to fame as Danaerys Targaryen in HBO's television adaption of Game of Thrones.
Clarke recently starred as Sarah Connor in 2015's Terminator: Genisys, and had the lead role in the 2016 worldwide success Me before You. She was also voted Sexiest Woman Alive by Esquire in 2015.
In November 2016 she was confirmed as part of the Han Solo movie's cast, although no details have been released about the type of role she has.
Han Solo's mentor will be played by Woody Harrelson, who should be a stranger to nobody with his impressive list of acting credits since the 1980s which include Zombieland, The Hunger Games, and Now You See Me. His first role was as the bartender in the classic television comedy Cheers.
Outside of acting, he is a vegan, environmentalist, and also considers himself an anarchist.
He was confirmed for the Han Solo movie in early January 2017, and has said in interviews that his character will be a criminal as well as Han Solo's mentor.
New pictures from Pinewood apparently show X-Wing starfighters that will appear in upcoming spin-off movie, Rogue One. The pictures from TMZ show classic Star Wars trilogy style X-wing's with individually distinct engines, unlike the updated versions that appear in The Force Awakens. This fits in the known time period for Rogue One, which is said to include the mission to retrieve the plans to the Empire's first Death Star prior to the original Star Wars movie, A New Hope.
Making Star Wars has also reported on some leaked character details, including a character named Galen played by Mads Mikkelsen who may be the Imperial scientist in charge of the Death Star project.
Meanwhile, rumors have surfaced that a young Han Solo cameo could happen in the movie, as Disney and Lucasfilm reportedly come close to selecting the actor who will play the smuggler in the later Han Solo movie which is scheduled to release between episodes VIII and IX. According to Variety, producers have a shortlist of actors aged between 17 and 34, including Miles Teller (Divergent), Ansel Elgort (The Fault in our Stars), Scott Eastwood (Gran Torino), Emory Cohen (Smash), and Blake Jenner (Glee) amongst others.
A trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars story is also rumored to be attached to the release of Captain America: Civil War later this year, while the film itself is scheduled for release on 16 December 2016.
There's no denying that Solo: A Star Wars Story has been somewhat divisive amongst the fan base, and one of the sources of controversy is the creative liberties that have been taken with the design of the Millennium Falcon.
Does the new design (okay, so technically it's an older design) add to the rich backstory of the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, or is it just a shameless merchandising cash grab? Well, whichever side of the fence you're on we're here to take a look at what's going on with our favourite YT-1300 freighter.
At the time of Solo: A Star Wars Story, the Millennium Falcon was owned by Lando Calrissian, who has kept the ship in pristine condition with a gleaming white and blue paint job. Even the interior is in good order; not a missing panel or trailing power cable in sight.
The most immediately obvious thing about this design is that instead of the iconic forward mandibles we have a longer, tapered nose cone.
The forward area has long been believed to be used for cargo transport and storage. After all, the Millennium Falcon is a freighter. Perhaps the cargo hold used to be much bigger and damage forced a reconfiguration of the forward area? It's also possible that either Calrissian installed the streamlined cone as an aesthetic modification, or Han Solo removes it as part of the special modifications he makes to the ship himself.
Another theory is that the cone is actually some sort of secondary vessel or escape pod. This doesn't seem to be an entirely new idea, however, as seen in this unreleased Kenner mini rig concept from the 1980s.
Other differences include a single dorsal cannon instead of the famous quad cannons, and a sensor dish that lies flat against the hull of the ship. Maybe they just forgot the retract it during that attack run on the second Death Star, eh?
The Hasbro set released to accompany the movie features removable panels revealing a more worn surface below the paintwork, hinting that the Millennium Falcon is not likely to reach the end of Solo in the same condition we see in the trailers.
Solo: A Star Wars Story hits cinemas in the UK on 24 May 2018, and across the US on May 25.