It’s here: we finally have our first look at Star Wars: Episode IX, or rather, The Rise of Skywalker. It’s a teaser that is, unsurprisingly, full of mystery, one with more questions than it has answers. But that didn’t stop us combing over the footage for what few clues we could find.
The trailer opens with Rey (Daisy Ridley) on an unnamed desert world—there’s all the possibility in the world that this is potentially Tatooine or Jakku, given Star Wars’ penchant for returning to familiar biomes, or perhaps even Jedha from Rogue One, given the rock formations. But it could very easily be another sand world to be added to the Star Wars canon.
The outfit she’s wearing is new, although was recently seen in a leaked marketing poster for The Rise of Skywalker. It’s an interesting evolutionary blend between the scavenger regalia she wore in The Force Awakens and the Resistance greys she wore in The Last Jedi, but now in all white and with a hood. But the most interesting thing is perhaps not her gear, but the familiar weapon dangling on her waist: the Lightsaber of Anakin and Luke Skywalker.
Destroyed in The Last Jedi thanks to a force tug-of-war between Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), it has now been fully repaired, hinting at not just the still-unknown period of time which has passed between the climax of Rian Johnson’s movie and the beginning of J.J. Abrams’ return to the director’s chair. It’s probably pretty decent if Rey has not only had time to reforge the weapon but, as some very intriguing voiceover dialogue hints, do some important reading as well.
As Rey draws her weapon, we cut to a ship roaring in from the distance (we’ll get to that soon enough), but over this footage, we hear from none other than Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) himself, presumably speaking to Rey as a Force spirit, just as Obi-Wan and Yoda had done so to him in his early days as a Jedi. “We’ve passed on all we know,” Luke intones. “A thousand generations live in you now...but this is your fight.”
Luke’s plurality is interesting—does he simply refer to himself and Yoda, or to the wider legacy of the Jedi that came before them? Prior Force Ghosts presented in the films retained their own sense of identity, so it’s interesting to see Luke speak collectively as if speaking for the Force itself, if not for himself. If it even is Luke as a Force Ghost, and not some manifestation of the Force, or perhaps even the Ancient Jedi texts Rey managed to secret away from Ahch-To, using his voice to guide her.
The ship in the distance speeds by to reveal that it’s none other than Kylo Ren’s TIE Silencer. First introduced in The Last Jedi, the vessel seems much the same...
...as it gets closer and closer to mowing down Rey! The closer look reveals the Silencer actually has a slightly different lick of paint, with more red markings on the ship’s cockpit as well as what looks like white panels on the wings compared to the black of the original.
Whether or not this is an entirely new fighter or an updated paint job remains to be seen, but interestingly enough, this actually brings the Silencer in line with the difference between the standard TIE/fo and the TIE/sf (those stand for “First Order” and “Special Forces,” respectively, fact fans). But let’s be real, it means you get a new toy out of all this. Wouldn’t be the first time the Silencer had a design tweak because of that!
A new look isn’t enough to bother Rey, who just decides instead to take a leap right into the Silencer’s path. And before you perhaps bristle at the thought of a Prequel-esque feat of acrobatics making its way in here, force users have been taking rather large leaps of faith since 1980. Also? It’s cool as hell.
An unidentified ship races toward a city at night, as we get a look at what appears to be another new world, although it certainly has similarities to some we’ve seen before (like I said, it’s not like Star Wars hasn’t set a precedent for going back to places we’ve seen already alongside new locations!). The mountainous regions and snowy climes are very evocative of Solo’s Vandor, for example.
Our first good look at Kylo Ren sees him seemingly spearing a poor masked warrior with one of the crossguards on his lightsaber. Yeowch. Given that the First Order ends The Last Jedi in an interesting position of quasi-ascendance—sure, the New Republic Senate is devastated and their massive fleets have emerged from the Unknown Regions, but there was that whole thing where their flagship got hyperspaced into shreds—it’ll be interesting to see how much Rise of Skywalker’s time jump has changed the First Order into an invading force or a ruling Empire.
Speaking of Kylo Ren, here’s a very interesting shot: the mask he shattered after Supreme Leader Snoke mocked it in The Last Jedi is being repaired. The previously mentioned leaked poster (and since-officially-unveiled Rise of Skywalker merchandise packaging) shows Kylo Ren wearing the reforged mask, but note here: He’s not the one rebuilding it. Those are some very furry, very alien hands.
So who could it be? That same poster seemingly showed off what appears to be the Knights of Ren from The Force Awakens, who were very much absent from this trailer and have been long rumored to be a part of Rise of Skywalker due to their Last Jedi absence. Could this be one of the Knights, working at Kylo Ren’s behest?
Back on the same desert world we saw Rey and Kylo Ren on, however, we get our first good look at Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac). At the panel preceding the release of the trailer, Boyega mentioned that Finn has come into his own sense of identity as a Resistance member in The Rise of Skywalker, and part of that is down to a new outfit he’ll have in the film. Also, note that he’s carrying Rey’s staff for her while she’s off being chased by the Silencer, which is very sweet of him—and a reminder that our disparate heroes will be united in this film after spending much of The Last Jedi apart.
BB-8's got cute competition! Say hello to D-O, a new practical droid that made its debut at the Episode IX panel as well. This cute, duck-like little droid will seemingly be tagging along for the ride as BB-8's new buddy.
Speaking of buddies, Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo, who has now taken over full-time for former Chewie actor Peter Mayhew) has one in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon—but this one isn’t new to us or him, because it’s the legendary intergalactic charmer, and former Baron Governor of Cloud City, Lando Calrissian (the returning Billy Dee Williams)! We don’t know what Lando’s been up to since Return of the Jedi, but he’s back helping what’s left of the Resistance out for now, it seems. And seemingly raiding his Solo wardrobe: he’s basically wearing the same gear Donald Glover wore as the young Calrissian, weirdly enough. Has...it just been hanging out in the Falcon’s wardrobes all this time?
Cutting back to the desert world again, a speeder finds itself pursued by not just a speeder on the ground, but what appears to be a brand new kind of First Order Stormtrooper, evocative of the Clone Jetpack and Imperial Jumptroopers seen in prior canonical material like the Star Wars: Battlefront games.
That speeder, by the way, is piloted by Finn and Poe...and the very out-of-place C-3PO (Anthony Daniels)! At the Episode IX Celebration panel, Daniels teased that Threepio would have a much more involved role in Rise of Skywalker, and that previously mentioned leaked poster did show the Protocol droid ditching etiquette for Chewbacca’s bowcaster. So maybe he’s not as out-of-place as he seems.
A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot of a sunset battle in the lower atmosphere of a planet—it could be this desert world we’ve seen throughout the trailer—shows an unfortunate RZ2 A-Wing getting blown to bits in front of a First Order Star Destroyer.
We then cut to a very interesting shot indeed—one of the medals that Leia (the late, dearly missed Carrie Fisher) gave to Luke and Han (Harrison Ford) at Yavin IV at the end of A New Hope. Don’t worry, they canonically added in a comic that Chewie got one too, but take a look at the hands: They look a lot like they’re Leia’s.
Given that J.J. Abrams has long noted that the material used for Leia’s storyline in Rise of the Skywalker is drawn from deleted scenes shot for The Force Awakens, it stands to reason that this medal is actually Han’s, rather than Luke (it’s definitely not Chewie’s; he gave it away in that aforementioned comic). Perhaps originally she was reminiscing where her wayward husband was when this scene was first shot, and is now remembering him after his death at Kylo Ren’s hands.
Oh, don’t mind me, I’m just going to sit here and cry for a second.
“We’ll always be with you,” Luke’s voice adds, as if it already wasn’t tragic enough. There’s that plural again: is it just a coincidence here that it just so happens to apply to this Leia moment contextually, or has she moved on into the Force, and was part of the “We” he was mentioning earlier as well? The forested planet Rey and Leia embrace on seems to match one shown in a picture at the Episode IX panel—yet another unidentified world.
Rey, Finn, Poe, Threepio, D-O, BB-8, and Chewbacca gaze out from grassy knolls at something disconcerting. This environment matches up with previous set pictures that included Naomi Ackie’s new character in the movie, confirmed at today’s Celebration panel as being named Jannah. We don’t know much else about her, but the world she’s on?
It’s home to broken shards of the second Death Star. You would think this could possibly reveal that this world is, in fact, the forest moon of Endor since...where else could the Death Star have smashed pieces into? Well, an explosion that big could easily have flung segments far and wide into other planets in the same system, or even further. But what is most fascinating is that this isn’t actually a wholly new concept for this sequel trilogy: The idea of visiting the underwater ruins of the Death Star II, specifically the Emperor’s throne room, was considered for The Force Awakens.
So what could Rey and her friends be hunting for there? As revealed in The Force Awakens’ art book, originally the map leading to Luke’s location would’ve been the target of the underwater dive into the Death Star’s ruined superstructure. What could it be now that we already have that map? Some ancient Sith relic? A key to, perhaps, the Emperor’s survival beyond his apparent death in Return of the Jedi?
Because that sure as hell seems to be what this trailer implies in its final moments: As we fade to The Rise of Skywalker’s title reveal, Luke re-iterates a heartbreaking line from The Last Jedi: “No one’s ever really gone.” If this is the Force Spirit Luke, it’s obvious to intone what he could mean here to Rey. But given that immediately after, we hear the sinister, rasping cackle of none other than Sheev Palpatine himself (Ian McDiarmid, who surprised audiences at the Episode IX panel by appearing on stage as the trailer concluded).
Novels released in the wake of The Force Awakens—most notably Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy—have expounded upon the idea that Palpatine hid Observatories full of powerful, dangerous Force artifacts across the galaxy, to be safeguarded in the wake of his death. Could those same observatories now be what Rey and her friends are looking for? Could they find the key that’s lead to the potential return of Palpatine? Is it all a ruse?
Hell...it wouldn’t be the first time Star Wars has misdirected fans with stories about the Emperor being back, in some form or another. Even if those stories are no longer canon...
As I said before, The Rise of Skywalker’s first trailer is an enigma wrapped inside a mystery. It is tone, it is hints, but it is not a trailer that really tells us much at all what the climactic entry in the Skywalker Saga is actually about. But...that’s not really the point, at least yet. We’re meant to be left to our questions—who is that voice, where are our heroes, what are they up to, what does it mean for a Skywalker to rise, and who even is the Skywalker? Because we’ve still got a good long while left to see more of this grand conclusion to a story over four decades in the making.
All will be revealed, in the end, when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters this December.
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