This morning, Lucasfilm gave us our latest, shocking glimpse at the final chapter in the Skywalker Saga. Although fairly light in content, that doesn’t mean the footage wasn’t jam-packed with clues and hints about what to expect—or what to prepare yourself for—in The Rise of Skywalker.
After a montage of clips from Star Wars’ past, the special look’s new footage opens with our heroes Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) looking over a large settlement of some kind—with Poe looking a bit defeated.
This is the same planet we saw the speeder chase and Rey’s dance with a TIE fighter seemingly flown by Kylo Ren in the first trailer, so what the team and the First Order are doing there really remains to be seen. Vanity Fair’s set visit from a few months ago named the planet as Pasaana, so add it to your handy list of Star Wars single-biome desert worlds if you haven’t done so already.
This unknown jungle world is also one we’ve glimpsed a few times and will do so again later in this trailer. We see Leia Organa (the dearly missed Carrie Fisher, included in the movie through scenes originally shot for The Force Awakens) look on at someone with a smile. Given her outfit matches the one we see her embracing Rey in a similar environment in the first trailer, it’s presumably Rey she’s smiling at.
In the skies above an unknown world, a Resistance fleet jumps in from lightspeed. It’s a motley crew, but the shot reveals some familiar additions to the scattered guerilla’s group. Recent merchandise leaks confirmed the return of the Y-Wing bomber, joining the T-70 X-Wing from The Force Awakens and the RZ-2 A-Wing interceptor from The Last Jedi, but newly revealed here is the return of a Return of the Jedi classic: the B-Wing, a veritable flying tank of a bomber.
Whether like their predecessors they’re actually updated designs or just mothballed ships from the Age of Rebellion repurposed by a desperate Resistance remains to be seen, but it’s likely a slightly updated design. Gotta sell them spaceship toys, after all! Also glimpsed among the fleet is a lone Corellian Blockade Runner, and what appears to be a new design—a heavily armed gunboat seen on the right
It’s not just the Resistance picking up some familiar ships, though. This shot is perhaps the biggest reveal of the trailer, next to a certain dark vision we’ll get to later: hidden in a sea of storm, an entire fleet of Star Destroyers. This wouldn’t be too surprising if they were of the First Order design seen in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, but they aren’t. They’re of Imperial design, and there’s a reason for that—one you won’t know if you haven’t been reading some of the Star Wars novels that have fleshed out the time period between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.
Basically, before he died (and, err, seemingly got better?) Emperor Palpatine was obsessed with a sector of the galaxy called the Unknown Regions—unknown because it was uncharted by the old Republic and Empire, the edge of mapped space in the galaxy. While we’ve had inklings of what’s beyond it—Grand Admiral Thrawn’s people, the Chiss Ascendancy, call the region home, and Batuu, home of the Star Wars theme park at Disneyland and Disney World, gets its name from sitting on, well, the Galaxy’s Edge. But Palpatine believed a great source of power emanated from the region and dedicated his time to finding it himself...or would’ve if his apprentice didn’t chuck him down a ventilation shaft.
Palpatine may not have gotten out there, but his most loyal servants did. The Emperor sent his flagship, the Super Star Destroyer Eclipse, out to a set of coordinates he had calculated to the Unknown Regions, and members of the Imperial Remnant, led by Admiral Rae Sloane, maneuvered entire fleets out to join them as the Galactic Civil War came to an end over the skies of Jakku. It’s out of this remnant that the First Order built up its own flotilla of vessels and trained its armies, biding its time to re-invade the galaxy—but it’s clear that there’s a lot of old Imperial tech out there for them to be using, too.
It’s a sinister discovery that’s seemingly made by both Finn, and newcomer Jannah (Naomi Ackie), who are aboard what could be the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit, lit in a way that matches these stormy scenes. We’ve not seen a lot of Jannah so far, but there’s been ceaseless speculation that she has familial ties to Lando Calrissian (the returning Billy Dee Williams), so if this is the Falcon’s cockpit, where we’ve previously seen Lando hanging around once more, maybe that speculation will just continue to grow.
This might actually be a different ship though, despite some cockpit similarities—note that a Resistance Pilot is at the controls behind Jannah, and there’s a B-Wing flying away in the background. Is it that unidentified gunboat seen in the fleet earlier, or did the new B-Wings get alarmingly roomy all of a sudden?
Never mind that though, C-3PO’s gone rogue! Yes, it would appear our poor protocol droid has been co-opted by someone for nefarious deeds, judging by this shot of him rising out of some kind of droid scrap facility with glowing red-eyes. But who on earth would want to corrupt poor Threepio? This doesn’t exactly look like a First Order base, so it doesn’t seem like it’s them doing the tinkering.
Also, side-note: if you think an evil Protocol Droid isn’t a threat, well...you should read about a wonderful fella by the name of Triple-Zero in Marvel’s excellent Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra comics. This red-eye-stare is very Triple-Zero, who’s been known to actually disguise himself as Threepio before!
Before we have time to linger, however, we cut to this ominous shot of a mountain being torn apart by a furious beam of energy. It looks an awful lot like the planet we previously saw in the first trailer—as a ship that looked similar to the one Rey’s parents were seen in flying away from Jakku was passing over. But regardless of wherever it is, what’s causing this destruction?
Is it just a normal orbital bombardment from a capital ship, or, given the red hue’s familiar glow, is it a Starkiller shot? Please don’t say there’s a Starkiller II. There’s only so much poetry that can rhyme in these movies.
Back on the jungle world from earlier, a frustrated Rey lashes out, flinging her lightsaber—the blade of Anakin and Luke Skywalker, seemingly repaired after it was torn apart in The Last Jedi—clean through a tree and nearly through the remote probe from the Millennium Falcon. No blast visor required! Given the shot of Leia earlier, it’s hard not to speculate if these two are linked: is Leia trying to help teach Rey the ways of the force now that Luke’s gone?
Meanwhile, Kylo Ren gets out of his new TIE—not the Silencer of The Last Jedi, but something more akin to a First Order take on the classic Imperial TIE Interceptor—on what looks like the surface whatever world those Imperial Star Destroyers were floating above, judging by the ominous skies behind him. And at long last, we get a new line of dialogue here from none other than Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) himself: “Your journey nears its end.” It’s cut to obviously make us think it’s talking about Kylo, but, given what we’re about to see... maybe not?
Before that though, the moment immortalized on the new poster shown at D23 plays out: Rey and Kylo Ren, dueling in the rain aboard the remnants of the second Death Star. It definitely is part of the former battle station—note the Turbolaser waves crash against on the left-hand side, and we can see the broken top shell of the Death Star’s firing array in the background.
We don’t know what this planet is yet, but it’s presumably somewhere near Endor, just wherever the exploded ruins of the station were flung to upon its destruction. Unless someone went through an awful lot of trouble to haul Death Star scrap somewhere else. I wouldn’t put it past Palpatine at this point!
But as all falls dark and we hear rasping whispers—including something that sounds a lot like the wheezing cybernetic breath of Darth Vader—as we cut to a dark vision indeed:
Rey. Clad in black robes, cold and distant...as she unsheathes a double-bladed lightsaber, ignites its crimson blade, and unfolds it ready for combat. Fun aside first before we start freaking out: this isn’t actually the first folding double-bladed saber we’ve seen in Star Wars canon. Jedi-turned-Separatist saboteur Pong Krell, seen in Clone Wars’ fourth season, actually wielded a pair of such-designed dual sabers in his four arms. And beyond that, the saber-staff wielded by the Jedi Temple Guards and their leader—Rebels’ fallen Grand Inquisitor—could also fold up.
But anyway, on to the freaking out. Our hero hasn’t fallen to the Dark Side, surely? Well...it’s a teaser trailer. We’re obviously meant to think literally that this is the case, but Star Wars trailers not only love a bit of deception—remember how cleverly shot the scene of Kylo Ren raising his hand out to Rey to join him from The Last Jedi was used to tease a similar thing—but Star Wars itself is full of dark portent and mysterious visions of things that could yet come, from Empire Strikes Back’s Cave of Evil to Rey’s own experience on Ahch-To in The Last Jedi. Is this really her, or a tempting vision of what she could be, by Palpatine’s design? Or has she really taken a dark path to seek mastery of all ways of the Force?
As always, we’ll have to wait and see.
All in all, the new footage doesn’t really tell us all that much about the movie itself, just like director J.J. Abrams, a stalwart defender of the mystery box approach, would like it. It’s all emotion, devoid of context—but there can still be some educated guesses made about just what Rey and her friends will face as they go into battle with the fate of the galaxy at state...and what they could possibly stand to lose.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters December 20.
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