Few directors place as high a premium on secret-keeping as J.J. Abrams, but the tight ship Abrams has so far captained on Star Wars: Episode VII sprung quite a few leaks late last week, when a flood of revealing plot details and leaked concept art hit the web. Abrams can't be happy about how much got out, but for Star Wars fans willing to wade into spoiler territory, this heady rush of new information should be just the thing to keep appetites whet until the film's December 2015 release date. What have we been able to piece together with some certainty about Episode VII, and what questions still remain unanswered? Let's dive deep into what we've learned since the movie started shooting, but be warned: Here come some big-ass spoilers.
Who Are the Leads?
According to reports, John Boyega (Attack the Block) and Daisy Ridley will be toplining Episode VII, and most likely two more Star Wars sequels beyond that. Devin Faraci at Badass Digest claims that Boyega's character is a stormtrooper gone good — yes, stormtroopers still exist 30 years after Return of the Jedi — and rumor has it that Ridley, who teams up with Boyega, will be playing the daughter of Han and Leia. Oscar Isaac is thought to be the film's third lead, a Lando Calrissian type who's piloting the Millennium Falcon when we first meet him.
What's It About?
For a family-friendly franchise, the Star Wars movies have always had a real thing for amputated limbs, and Episode VII is no different: According to Faraci, the very first thing we see after the new film's opening title crawl is Luke Skywalker's severed hand, floating in space. The poor, lonely appendage is still gripping Luke's old lightsaber, and when Boyega and Ridley discover it, they decide to return the unusual bounty to its former owner, setting off the events of the brand-new trilogy.
Their quest proves easier said than done, though, because Luke Skywalker hasn't been seen in 30 years. In order to find him, our new leads will have to team up with Han Solo and Chewbacca, who now pilot a Super Star Destroyer. They'll need all the help they can get, too, because Luke isn't simply missing — as our ragtag team of heroes soon discovers, he's being held prisoner by the film's new baddies.
Who Are the Villains?
According to multiple sources, including Latino Review and Indie Revolver, the movie's primary enemies will be the Inquisitors. They're a shadowy cabal that defend the evil Sith and hunt down Jedi, and Episode VII posits that they've been part of the Star Wars saga all along — you just haven't seen them until now. That will be remedied with a flashback sequence — the franchise's first — which will depict the Inquisitors serving Darth Vader. (A young Princess Leia is also said to be present during these flashbacks, and she'll be played by Carrie Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd.) You won't have to wait until Episode VII to get a taste of the new trilogy's Empire-supplanting bad guys, either: They appear in the animated Star Wars Rebels, debuting this fall on Disney XD.
But who's our lead baddie this time around? Who's the heir to Vader, the Emperor, Darth Maul, and countless others who have dwelled within the dark side of the Force? None of the rumor-mongering sites have so far learned his name, but the main villain is said to be a cyborg, and Indie Revolver nabbed a piece of concept art that finds him cradling Darth Vader's broken helmet. Head here to take a look, or let this physical description whet your appetite:
He’s tall and thin and terrifyingly creepy, with glowing red eyes to match his red lightsaber. He’s got some robotic upgrades, like Vader – but no mask. The cybernetic bits weave in and out of him. He’s got a human upper lip, a steel jaw … and the robotic hand that JJ Abrams posted an image of.
When Adam Driver was first cast in Episode VII, the trades indicated that he'd be playing the new film's archnemesis, so will he be our central cyborg? So far, no one's said for sure, but Badass Digest added that there's at least one more antagonist in the film: John Boyega's commanding officer, played by Game of Thrones favorite Gwendoline Christie. She'll be pursuing Boyega after he deserts her cause, and she's got some nifty new stormtroopers on her side, including a chrome trooper blessed with the ability to cloak.
So that's what we do know about Episode VII, and it's a tasty, tantalizing assortment of tidbits indeed. Still, there's plenty of questions about the movie that have yet to be answered, and they include ...
Who is Lupita Nyong'o playing?
Early versions of the Episode VII script were said to include a mixed-race descendant of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and we know that Abrams auditioned a great many black actresses before casting 12 Years a Slave Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o. Will she be playing this character? Latino Review heard in March that Nyong'o could also be up for a villainous Sith, but it's still unclear whether she'll be repping for good or evil, or even whether she's started shooting her role yet.
Nyong'o wasn't yet cast in Episode VII when the production released a photo of its table read back in April, but several other actors who were there — including Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, and Andy Serkis — are also playing roles that remain a mystery to us. Which brings us to another of our unanswered questions ...
Will there be a major motion-captured character?
The technology of motion-capture performance has come a long way since George Lucas introduced the reviled Jar Jar in The Phantom Menace, and no man has done more to advance the art than Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and Caesar in the new Planet of the Apes films. His presence in the cast, then, would seem to suggest that there's an important motion-capture element to Episode VII, but is Serkis playing multiple mo-capped characters or just one essential alien? Non-human sidekicks are a pivotal part of any Star Wars movie, but so far, we don't know what Episode VII has planned in this regard.
What Will the Movie Be Called?
Several months ago, I heard that Disney was mulling a two-part reveal concurrent with Comic-Con: Alongside a revamp of starwars.com, they'd divulge the title of Episode VII. Somewhere along the way, though, the studio scuttled that plan, and though the website did indeed get a makeover, the title remains unknown to us. Did Abrams nix the reveal, or is he still yet to settle on a name? Considering all that's leaked from Episode VII so far, this may be one of his last significant cards to play ...