If you didn’t feel a lump in your throat during the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer released Monday night, check your pulse.
The first jerker of tears is the simple fact that this is it: the last ever full trailer that will ever be released for a Skywalker saga movie. Star Wars Episode IX isn’t just the end of a trilogy — it’s the end of 3 trilogies and 44 years of storytelling. George Lucas couldn’t get the rights to make Flash Gordon like he wanted, and now we’re here.
You’d expect something epic, and the final Rise of Skywalker trailer delivered. From Rey (Daisy Ridley) doing superheroic leaps between the trees of a jungle planet like she’s Lara Croft, through Star Destroyers rising like zombies out of the ground, to an actual cavalry charge, this two-minute sample showcased the best of what this ultimate finale has to offer in terms of scenery. (Lightsaber battles in the Death Star wreckage, including the Emperor’s throne room itself? Check!)
An unexpected death?
But it also hinted at the fact that we’re likely to lose a few more favorite characters before this saga is complete. Top of the death watch list now, surprisingly, is ol’ goldenrod himself. C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) is seen with his head hooked up to wires, “taking one last look at my friends.”
Now it’s entirely possible that this is a J.J. Abrams-style fakeout. Threepio, the galaxy’s most anxious droid, has a long history of assuming he’s about to expire in just about any scene he’s in. How much weightier a story, then, to have this be a double fakeout — and for the battered old protocol droid, who was revealed in Episode I to be the handiwork of the future Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker, to finally follow his fabled “maker” into oblivion.
Speaking of the dearly departed, it seems we’re also going to say a final belated farewell to the character of General Leia Organa (the late, beloved Carrie Fisher, who would have been 63 on Monday). Lucasfilm vowed that it wouldn’t stage a CGI resurrection, and director Abrams dug up enough footage of Fisher from The Force Awakens to have her at least play a cameo here (note Leia hugging Rey, a scene repeated from the first trailer).
But note also the very last line of the trailer: “The Force will be with you,” says Luke, in voiceover, as we see Rey with lightsaber drawn, all shook up, eyes glistening with tears, like she’s seeing a ghost. Or ghosts: “Always,” adds the voice of Carrie Fisher.
And if you’re not choking up at the thought of both Luke and Leia, side by side again at last, on the other side, both Force ghosts advising the next generation … are you absolutely sure you’re not a droid?
The Emperor Awakens
Ghostly apparitions are the order of the day in The Rise of Skywalker. We also hear, but do not see, Emperor Palpatine (Iain McDiarmid). We do see what appears to be his throne. “Long have I waited,” says Palpatine, as Star Destroyers appear from underground. “Your coming together is your undoing.” It’s an echo of the famous “Your overconfidence is your weakness” / “Your faith in your friends is yours” dialogue between Luke and Palpatine in Return of the Jedi.
Indeed, a shot of what appears to be an entire screen-filling rebel fleet — complete with Millennium Falcon — suggests there are more than a few Return of the Jedi references, not least of which would be Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) in the cockpit of the Falcon again.
If the remnants of the Resistance have assembled near the planet where the Death Star remnants fill the oceans, and if Palpatine has been playing patsy all along, that would clearly set the stage for the Emperor to spring another Jedi-style trap — while overconfidently chiding his foes for daring to assemble.
“We’re not alone,” says Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). “Good people will fight if we lead them.” Just as Palpatine has form for springing traps, Poe has form for wandering into them (as we saw in The Last Jedi.) Will the hotheaded, devilishly attractive fool never learn?
Speaking of weakness, overconfidence, and attraction, let’s briefly discuss Rey and Kylo Ren. “People keep telling me they know me,” says Rey. “No one does.” And Kylo replies as he emerges from the soaking ocean mist, helmet off, lightsaber drawn: “But I do.” Yep, that getting-in-your-head game from Last Jedi continues, and the likelihood of Kylo finding some form of redemption by film’s end increases — at another point in the trailer they are seen destroying what appears to be Darth Vader’s helmet together.
RIP Team Reylo, killed by getting everything they could possibly want.
How much of this is going to go the way we think, and how much is Abrams-style misdirection? We’ll find out when The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20.