We finally have it: the title and first trailer for Star Wars Episode IX, better known now as The Rise of Skywalker. Let’s just take a moment to all collectively scream about how freaking awesome it looks, okay?
— Star Wars (@starwars) April 12, 2019
Right. Now that we’ve gotten that out of our systems, it’s time for the bread and butter of every run-up to a Star Wars movie: speculation. I’m going to preface this post by saying that I can be wrong about many Star Wars theories, so please know this is entirely speculation and I could be wildly off base. The fun of speculation is that everyone has different theories. This just happens to be mine.
Right, let’s talk about that title first of all. This trilogy has been entirely about inheritance, and JJ Abrams even confirmed that this is about a new generation of heroes dealing with what they’ve inherited from the light and the dark. The Skywalker inheritance has been key to the franchise, both in terms of Kylo’s “mighty Skywalker blood” and connection to Darth Vader and the Skywalker saber calling to Rey and her being trained by Luke in her own way.
And yet, while our villain is the child of legacy characters, our heroes are not. Poe comes from humble beginnings. We don’t know who Finn’s family is. Rey is a nobody from Jakku, at least according to Kylo. They are not the children of Luke or Leia, yet they’ve inherited their heroism. Which brings me to my main point, something Twitter has been abuzz with since the title dropped: the Skywalker of the title is not Luke, Leia, or Kylo, but Rey taking on the title Skywalker to begin a new order of Force users.
The Jedi were an order that somewhat fell from grace and legend due to corruption, the Clone Wars, and Palpatine’s machinations. Skywalker could symbolize hope, as it symbolized hope for those in the Rebellion. Rey has been hearing the legends of Luke Skywalker all her life on Jakku, as she makes clear to Finn when he first tells her that BB-8 has a map to Luke. Luke wasn’t what she expected, but he still helped her save the Resistance at the end of it all. The idea of Episode VIII being about the last Jedi (Luke) while Episode IX is about the rise of the new legend of Rey and her as a “Skywalker.”
After all, the Force Awakens trailer included the title card “every generation has a story.” This trailer changes that to “every generation has a legend.” Rey is that legend.
This is not to say that Kylo won’t be important as a biological Skywalker. He seems to be evil in the trailer, though on second and third glance thanks to an eagle-eyed friend of mine, he might be taking out a Knight of Ren in the one shot we really get of him. I do think redemption is in the cards with him, though I’m hoping without a purely happy ending or a wedding to Rey. However, he might not be the Skywalker rising here, as his redemption could lead to death or exile.
It is worth noting that the trailer seems to end with a version of his theme, which could invalidate my idea that the title refers to Rey rather than him or the pair of them.
Luke’s voiceover also points to Rey leading a new generation of Jedi. “A thousand generations live in you now… but this is your fight,” implies that Rey, like Luke before her, will stand alone against evil. But she won’t be alone. The panel hinted that there would be a significant time jump between The Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker. Rey has had plenty of time to both read the Jedi library she salvaged from Luke’s island and to meditate, and to possibly learn from Force Ghosts. She has the wisdom. As Yoda says, everything she needed she already possessed.
Speaking of Force Ghosts, it seems as though the Emperor Palpatine has been keepings some secrets. The villain that haunted the Skywalker family since day one is making an appearance in this film, which makes sense since the heroes will be making a visit to the ruins of the Death Star. The trailer concludes with his ominous laugh, and Ian McDiarmid appeared at the panel to tease the audience.
My newest theory comes from the ideas planted in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy. In those books, set after the fall of the Empire, tease a contingency plan Palpatine had that involved the Dark Side of the Force, ancient Sith artifacts, and the planet Jakku. I used to think that Palpatine’s plan was to summon Snoke, but now I think he’s alive in a Force Ghost capacity and is getting his revenge once and for all.
In the Aftermath novel Life Debt, Leia feels a dark presence circling her son. Was that Force Snoke, or was it Palpatine already seeking a new Skywalker apprentice? He could have tricked Kylo into believing he was the ghost of Anakin/Darth Vader, therefore luring Kylo in with the promise of his past. Kylo does tell the destroyed helmet of Vader to “show me again … and I will finish what you started.”
And now, Kylo is Supreme Leader. He’s finishing what Palpatine started, not Anakin or Vader.
I’m really digging the potential weirdness of this film. I want this film to delve into weird Force mythology. I want Rey to rebuild a Jedi order. I sort of want them to go to the world between worlds from Star Wars Rebels. Hopefully, JJ Abrams is giving us a supremely interesting look at the Force and balance as he brings an end to the saga itself. I really hope this film gets theological with its Force chatter and gives us a brave new galaxy to explore once the saga concludes.
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