Updated: Oct 29, 2020
SPOILERS AHEAD FOR ALL THE STAR WARS FILMS & THE RISE OF SKYWALKER TRAILERS
In less than a month and over 40 years after its debut, one of the most iconic and well-known series in cinematic history, Star Wars, will be coming to an end. Though more material existing in the same universe is sure to be released for quite some time, Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is meant to be the final installment in the 9 film “Skywalker Saga” that has come to define Star Wars. Since Disney acquired the beloved franchise in 2012, new life has been brought to Star Wars with a surge of media including new Episodes & spin-off films, animated & live-action television series, comicbook series, and video-games. Though much of this new material has been reasonably well-received, the Star Wars fandom seems to be divided about the direction of the “Sequel Trilogy”.
The Force Awakens seemed to bring back the nostalgia and feel of the Original Trilogy (which many fans complained was not present in the Prequel Trilogy), and introduced the audience to new characters and mysteries that they were excited to revisit in the coming films. However, many fans still had complaints about the film too closely mirroring its predecessors and playing it too safe. The Last Jedi seemed to go in an entirely different direction, contradicting certain themes and character arcs laid out not only by its immediate predecessor, but by the films of the Original Trilogy as well. Though The Last Jedi was a well-made movie with certain stand-out scenes, it now seemed as if the Sequel Trilogy did not have one cohesive story from start to finish, with little relevance to the prior two trilogies.
Going into The Rise of Skywalker, fans are looking to Disney and Lucasfilm to deliver on a proper ending to not only the Sequel Trilogy, but to the entire Star Wars Saga. It is certainly difficult to end such a long-running cult-classic, and in addition, the circumstances surrounding the Sequel Trilogy have left many extremely difficult tasks for the film to deliver on.
The New Group
In The Force Awakens, fans were introduced to the faces of the Sequel Trilogy: Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren. Throughout Episode VII & Episode VIII, there has been mixed reception on these lead characters. Though many seem to think Kylo is a good villain and Rey is a strong protagonist, Finn and Poe have struggled (especially in The Last Jedi) to prove their relevance to the overall story of Star Wars. Even so, none of these characters have seemed to live up to their iconic predecessors of the first six films. Fans are hoping that the coming film can establish Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo as some of the most beloved characters Star Wars has ever seen, and perhaps come somewhere close to the glory of characters like Luke, Han, Leia, and Darth Vader.
In late 2016, the pop-culture community was devastated by the death of beloved Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher. Fans were also left wondering what her role would be in The Last Jedi & The Rise of Skywalker, as it was implied that she was to have an expanded role in each of the films, especially the finale. When The Last Jedi was released, it seemed that Lucasfilm chose not to diminish Leia’s role in the film at all, and still had her set to be an integral part of what came next.
It is said that Lucasfilm will be using scenes filmed but not used in the preceding films of the Sequel Trilogy in order to have Leia appear in The Rise of Skywalker. Fans are hoping that Leia’s presence will still have an important place in the plot of the final film, even if she is not able to physically be on screen for much of the movie. If the filmmakers are able to weave in deleted scenes while still making it service the overall plot of the trilogy and continue Leia’s character arc, it would certainly be a masterful feat that would honor Carrie’s legacy and properly close the book for such an iconic character.
Perhaps fans' biggest complaint about The Last Jedi was its portrayal of the Original Trilogy’s protagonist, Luke Skywalker. Luke, a hopeful and resilient Jedi when we last saw him in Return of the Jedi, seems to have abandoned the ways of the Force and the Jedi when we see him again in the Sequel Trilogy. In the final scene of The Force Awakens, Rey finds Luke and offers him his original lightsaber (which was his father’s before him), and Luke seems to be conflicted about the offer. When The Last Jedi begins, Luke is more definitive about his position, and immediately tosses the saber over his shoulder, representing his rejection of the Jedi ways.
Much of Luke’s time in this trilogy so far has been spent whining about the Jedi while still sort-of teaching Rey about the Force (only to prove to her the Jedi have to end). Though he eventually comes to his senses and helps the Resistance before becoming one with the Force, this is a staunch turn around from the Luke of the Original Trilogy, a character who never gave up on his family, friends, or values (even when his mentors told him different). This attitude is ultimately what brought Anakin Skywalker back to the light-side of the force, destroyed the Sith, and took down the Empire in Return of the Jedi.
Going into The Rise of Skywalker it is almost certain that Luke, though deceased, will still play a large role through the Force, and will likely communicate with Rey, Kylo, or both at some point in the film. Hopefully, the film can redeem him further than the ending of The Last Jedi, and reinstate Luke as the righteous Jedi Master that fans were hoping to see in this trilogy.
In the first trailer of The Rise of Skywalker, fans were shocked when they heard the iconic evil laughter of the Emperor. Since then, it has been confirmed that Palpatine will play a significant role in the final film. This seems fitting for the character, as he was the main villain of the first six Star Wars films. However, one of many problems with the re-entry of the Sheev Palpatine is that he was thrown down a shaft to his death thirty years prior to the events of the Sequel Trilogy.
There are a few methods presented in Star Wars lore that can give Darth Sidious an opportunity to come back in order to influence the events of The Rise of Skywalker. Could his essence have survived through the Force? Could he have cloned himself? Did he manipulate the midi-chlorians to cheat death? Could he have time-traveled through “The World Between Worlds” seen in Rebels? No matter how the Sith Lord comes back, one question will still remain: was it all part of his plan?
A difficult task that The Rise of Skywalker has thrust upon itself in bringing about the return of Palpatine is presenting it in a way that doesn’t side-line the other villains and stories presented in the Sequel Trilogy, showcases the Sith Lord’s masterful manipulation, and doesn’t diminish the sacrifice made by Anakin Skywalker in Return of the Jedi. The previous two films have spent a significant amount of time solidifying Kylo Ren as the new villain of this Sequel Trilogy. Therefore, if his turn to the dark-side is prematurely reversed just so Palpatine can re-enter as the main villain, it would certainly take away from Kylo’s overall antagonist-arc.
Though it would also be mindblowing to learn that the events of the Sequel Trilogy and the Sith Lord’s return were the endgame of his master plan from the start, having Vader’s betrayal being just a phase of Palpatine’s overarching scheme would certainly take away from Anakin’s sacrifice. After all, why would the first six movies focus on The Chosen One and his redemption in order to save the galaxy if, in the end, it meant nothing and didn’t save the galaxy? However, this doesn’t mean that Palpatine's return should come out of thin air either. In essence, fans are hoping that the re-entrance of Palpatine is well thought out way of advancing the story and connecting all nine of the films rather than Disney saying “well, our last director killed off the other big-bad too early, so let’s bring Sheev back!”
Ben Solo, better known as Kylo Ren, is one of fans’ favorite characters in the newest Star Wars films. Though people, both inside and outside the universe, have had a hard time accepting the demise of Han Solo at the hands of his own son, this was one of the things that has solidified Kylo as one of the main villains of the Star Wars universe. He also successfully turned against his master, Snoke, and took control of all the forces of The First Order. Was this finishing what Vader started, or is there more that the character hopes to achieve in the pursuit of his grandfather’s legacy?
As we mentioned earlier, the re-entrance of Palpatine has the potential to side-line the “big bad” status Kylo has just recently acquired in The Last Jedi. There is no doubt that there is still some semblance of light in Kylo, but if he turns too early in the film just to fight Palpatine with the rest of the main characters, it would seem like an immediate reversal of the arc that The Last Jedi has built for the character. It would also mirror the arc of Darth Vader extremely closely, and only further fan’s complaints about the Sequel Trilogy too closely mirroring the Original Trilogy. Is there a way that Lucasfilm can balance the light and dark within this character, while also maintaining his role as a main villain alongside Palpatine?
And can we please get an explanation on the Knights of Ren…?
Who is Rey?
One of the things that left fans wanting more after The Force Awakens was groundwork that the film laid for the mysteries of this trilogy. Who is Rey? Who is Snoke? The Last Jedi seemingly gave us the same answer to both of these questions, no one. Though the fans are still hoping for some type of explanation on Snoke, that mystery has seemed to fall by the wayside as the villain is quite dead. However, fans are still hoping for more of a revelation on Rey’s origins. Though her parents may ultimately be “no one,” there must be some significance of her role in the saga and her strength in the Force.
There are still countless fan theories of who Rey could be and why we saw a dark version of her in one of the trailers (especially because it seems a bit late in the game to turn her to the dark side). Her origins could still be connected to The Chosen One prophecy, cloning, or even the Skywalker bloodline. Each of these theories has its own merits, and we aren’t going to discuss them in detail, but we are hoping that The Rise of Skywalker is able to connect Rey’s origins to the larger picture of the saga while not contradicting the previous two movies in the trilogy.
The second lightsaber of Anakin Skywalker, one of the most iconic weapons in cinematic history, has played a central role in each trilogy of Star Wars. Prior to The Force Awakens, the last time we saw the saber it was flying down a chute with Luke Skywalker’s severed hand. But, when Star Wars came back into our lives in 2015, so did the lightsaber. Fans had two main questions coming out of the first film of this trilogy: how did Maz Kanata get the weapon, and why did it call to Rey and give her visions?
Coming out of The Last Jedi these questions were left unanswered, and it also seemed the lightsaber was broken. When The Rise of Skywalker trailers came out, it was immediately clear that the saber has since been repaired, and will continue to play a role within this trilogy. This weapon has seen many acts of heroism and bloodshed over the three Star Wars trilogies, and we are interested to see what answers it has for us and what its newest master will be able to achieve while wielding it.
One thing Star Wars has always done exceptionally well is weaving in and building upon the lore of its universe. Though Star Wars is most notable for the main nine “Episodes,” there are also two spin-off movies, two animated shows, a newly released live-action show, and multiple other comics, books and video games. Not to mention all the “Legends” media that is technically no longer canon. All of these mediums have served to expand this universe, introduce new characters, and even revisit characters that we got to know from the Episodes.
Regardless of this, Star Wars has always made it a point to keep one cohesive story throughout the Skywalker Saga, which can be understood if someone chooses just to watch the films within it. However, this hasn’t stopped the creators from meticulously weaving in things from other media within the films. Whether it is a split-second frame or the mention of a planet or side-character, Star Wars never seems to forget that it exists in a larger universe. Though these moments might go over the heads of audience members who have not engaged with some of this extraneous media, fans who have become a part of the universe beyond the Episodes seem to always get something out of each easter-egg.
Rebels fans already got a taste of this in The Rise of Skywalker trailer where The Ghost can be seen flying into battle with the rest of the Resistance ships. Hopefully, there will be more nods to the rest of the Star Wars lore that could perhaps give hints about some of the characters who have survived until this era, or partially canonize something from legends.
The Chosen One
Though the notion of “The Chosen One” existed within the Star Wars universe during the Original Trilogy, audiences were first introduced to the prophecy in 1999 with the release of The Phantom Menace. Though this prophecy is mentioned throughout the rest of the prequels, it is still ultimately unclear what this prophecy actually means. It is said that The Chosen One will “bring balance to the force” and “destroy the Sith.” However, that seems a bit contradictory as destroying the Sith and only having the light prevail doesn’t really seem like balance.
Episode I introduced Anakin as The Chosen One, and when the Star Wars Saga only consisted of six films, it seemed that he fit the role to a certain extent. After all, he did bring an end to the Sith by killing Palpatine and dying thereafter. But does destroying the Sith even matter if dark-side users like Snoke and Kylo have risen again? Are the Sith really destroyed if Palpatine is back?
It seems there is no clear explanation on what “The Chosen One” or “Balance in the Force” really means, but we are hoping The Rise of Skywalker can give us some clarity on these ideas and how they have affected the events of the entire saga. The final film could also take a different route. It could blur the lines even further and introduce multiple people serving different purposes of The Chosen One (in fact, other Star Wars media has seemed to suggest Luke could also be The Chosen One). Perhaps the prophecy will somehow connect to Rey, Kylo, or both, focusing more on the balance of the Force rather than one side winning over the other. Regardless, fans are wondering if this convoluted idea will be addressed during the final film, and whether this will be one of the aspects that connects the entire Skywalker Saga together. And who knows, maybe Anakin Skywalker himself will appear in The Rise of Skywalker in order to address the issue.
Connecting the Dots
Probably the most difficult task that The Rise of Skywalker has to tackle is ending both the Sequel Trilogy and the entire nine-Episode Skywalker Saga. It must address the plotlines of the Prequel Trilogy as The Force Awakens & The Last Jedi have failed to do (like the Prequels or not, they are an integral part of the series), build on the legacy of the characters of the Original Trilogy who still have a role to play, and answer the arcs laid out by the Sequel Trilogy in order to establish its place as a relevant part of the overarching Star Wars story.
The Star Wars Saga, started over four decades ago and spanning over 70 in-universe years, is one that has continuously defined pop-culture and has been held near and dear to fans’ hearts. When it comes to Star Wars film releases, there has been no shortage of conflict throughout the series’ long run. The final installment seems to have many difficult tasks to balance in order to avoid similar backlash and heal the divisiveness among fans. Hopefully, The Rise of Skywalker, in just two-and-a-half hours, can deliver on these tasks while staying true to the spirit of Star Wars, presenting a new story within itself, and ending ALL the plotlines of the past.
Written by Nick Mandala
Edited by Jake Zall