Star Wars fans erupted into a tizzy last week when the trailer and title were released for the ninth – and final – entry in the Skywalker saga. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” promises to wrap up the 40-year saga by bringing together characters from all three trilogies.
There’s a breathtaking shot of Rey (Daisy Ridley), who has been developing her Jedi abilities throughout the new trilogy, somersaulting onto a TIE fighter. General Leia (the late Carrie Fisher) and Rey share an emotional hug. We see charming smuggler Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) reunite with his original ship, the Millenium Falcon. And whose sinister laugh is that at the end? Why, Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) – maybe you’re not dead after all!
But the most provocative thing about “The Rise of Skywalker” may be the title itself. After 2017’s “The Last Jedi” divided fans, the name of the newest Star Wars film is an intriguing choice. With J.J. Abrams, who directed the franchise’s return in 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” back at the helm for Episode IX, the title is almost certainly a reaction to Rian Johnson’s polarizing film.
In “The Last Jedi,” the dark but conflicted Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) tries to convince Rey to “let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.” The phrase defined Johnson’s agenda to push the beloved franchise past the Skywalker saga and into the future.
To bring home the point, “The Last Jedi” shockingly kills off franchise protagonist and legendary Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). It also claimed that Rey – who “The Force Awakens” insinuated had connections to key characters in the saga – was the daughter of nobodies. Then the film ends with an unknown boy with a broom using the Force, an indication that the future of the Jedi lies with characters outside the Skywalker family.
However, the trailer for “The Rise of Skywalker” demonstrates an intent to close out the trilogy where the franchise began – with the Skywalkers. Though Luke is now dead, his voiceover permeates the new trailer. “We’ve passed on all we know – a thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight,” Luke says.
Luke may well be referring to the legacy of the Jedi living on in Rey. But could he be suggesting something more specific?
After “The Last Jedi,” some fans were upset that the film did not establish Rey as a Skywalker. A popular theory after “The Force Awakens” was that the blue lightsaber that belonged to Luke and his father, Anakin, called out to Rey because she was Luke’s daughter, and therefore the weapon was rightfully hers. Could “The Rise of Skywalker” be referring to Rey’s true parentage? In the trailer, Rey has apparently pieced back together the blue lightsaber, which was torn in half in “The Last Jedi.” Abrams may seek to connect the bread crumbs he set up in “The Force Awakens” and confirm a family connection between Rey and Luke.
However, “The Rise of Skywalker” could also refer to a known Skywalker in the movie. Kylo Ren’s real name may be Ben Solo, but as the son of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia, the character is really a Skywalker through his mother.
The trailer shows Kylo Ren piecing together his Darth Vader-like helmet after breaking it in “The Last Jedi.” Though Kylo Ren seems firmly on the Dark Side after killing Snoke in “The Last Jedi,” Luke says in the trailer that “no one’s ever really gone.” Does this mean that Kylo Ren – like his grandfather, Darth Vader – can still be redeemed? And if so, what part might Rey have to play in it?
With “The Rise of Skywalker” not set to hit theaters until Dec. 20, these questions will keep Star Wars fans speculating for months. Though the trailer was light on plot details, it’s probably safe to expect that “The Rise of Skywalker” will do some course-correcting after “The Last Jedi.”