Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim brought about the best kind of disturbance in the Force: a plethora of Star Wars material to analyze, discuss, scrutinize, and, of course, complain about.
The iconic sci-fi franchise is set to release the ninth and final episodic installment in December. Entitled The Rise of Skywalker, the film is set to wrap up the legend of the Skywalker family, one begun in 1977. The D23 Expo unveiled a new look at the upcoming movie, featuring footage new and old. Disney released the showcase on Monday morning.
So, what did we learn? What did we see? Let’s break it down.
(WARNING: SPOILERS FROM PRIOR STAR WARS FILMS BELOW)
All Around Me Are Familiar Faces
The trailer’s first portions fully consist of footage from the prior eight episodes (spin-offs Rogue One and Solo are cast aside). As the Prequel Trilogy’s Jedi heroes are displayed, we hear the voice of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) declare “We’ve passed down all we know. A thousand generations live in you now.” It’s very likely he’s speaking to Rey (Daisy Ridley) the Sequel Trilogy’s heroine who underwent Luke’s reluctant training in The Last Jedi.
Despite his on-screen passing in the prior episode, we know Luke will appear in the conclusion in some way, shape, or form, likely as ghost fueled by The Force.
His former Jedi Masters Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) and Yoda (Frank Oz) used this same method in prior installments. While we’ve heard Luke’s declaration in a prior trailer, the inclusion of the line over footage of fallen heroes potentially hints at even more Force ghosts arriving. Luke mentions “a thousand generations”…so could more, like Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), or even Luke’s father Anakin (Hayden Christensen) appear?
Five For Fighting
Released footage of the film thus far has paired a group of old and new. The Sequel Trilogy’s trio of Rey, Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) appear to be teaming up with franchise mainstays Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels). This Fab Five is seen on Pasaana, yet another desert planet in the Star Wars galaxy, descending upon a colorful village.
It’s possible we’ve met some of these residents in a Vanity Fair showcaseearlier this year.
The prior trailer featured this very same group in a much greener and wetter setting, gazing at the partially submerged remains of the Death Star. Thus, it’s possible this special mission, which they’ve chosen to accept, will take up a majority of the film’s plot.
A big concern in this new footage arise, however: where’s R2-D2 (Jimmy Vee)? Everyone’s favorite cylindrical droid was present with this group in the last trailer, but nowhere to be seen in the new footage. Here’s hoping its simply just a case of maintenance.
Rise of Skywalker may be best remembered for how it will portray Princess/General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). Despite Fisher’s passing in 2016, she is set to return to her most famous role one last time. Those close to the film have repeatedly stated that Leia will not be recreated through CGI (previously seen in Rogue One), but that the film will work around existing footage Fisher filmed for the prior two sequel films. This is the only time Leia appears in the new footage, so we might have to wait until December to understand just how much Leia is involved.
If there ain’t spaceships trying to blow each other up, it ain’t Star Wars, right?
The franchise appears to be ending its episodes with a literal bang, as we’re teased epic battle through shots of Resistance ships emerging from light speed across the backdrop of a sunset. Their shadows should be well familiar to fans at this point, as A-Wing, B-Wing, and Y-Wing fighters all join the familiar X-Wing design. Also appearing is the Tantive IV, or some form of it, the first ship seen on-screen in the Star Wars franchise.
Shortly after, countless Star Destroyers are revealed in the bright flash of a lightning strike. Later in the video, a red laser destroys an environment. Has the Force Order gone with yet another Death Star/Starkiller Base? We know the Death Star ruins will be around. Nothing a little galactic renovation can’t fix, right?
Rookie of the Year
The new footage, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, doesn’t feature much of the new characters set to debut in Episode IX. The lone exception appears to be that of Jannah, played by Naomi Ackle. Jannah appears alongside Finn in what is likely the Millennium Falcon. Behind them, a white-gloved figure occupies the pilot seat previously occupied by the late Han Solo (Harrison Ford). There’s no way to tell just yet, but the pilot could well be Zorri Bliss, another new character portrayed by Kerri Russell. Character details have likewise been sparse, but both Jannah and Zorri appeared in the aforementioned Vanity Fair shoot.
Absent from the new trailer is another newcomer, First Order antagonist Allegiant General Pryde (Richard E. Grant). Fellow Sequel Trilogy arrivals General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) likewise seem to sit the trailer out, though each is confirmed to be in the film. Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) appeared in the first trailer and through archive footage in the new one, but nothing new just yet.
“You probably didn’t recognize me because of the red…eyes?”
C-3PO returns for his record ninth tour of duty in a Star Wars film, and it appears our favorite gold translator has gotten a bit of an upgrade. The normally mild-mannered, if not outright cowardly, 3PO appear to bear red eyes, the same color so many Star Wars villains have brandished before. Save for an accidental battle droid switcheroo in Attack of the Clones, we can’t imagine him getting violent, much less going evil. But, until proven otherwise, we’re assuming over four decades of jokes finally got to the old Ewok god, the true menace (?) of the franchise.
Rey of Fire
So, we REALLY need to talk about Rey.
The new footage ends with the real possibility that the saga could end with one of its biggest heroes turned to the Dark Side. We’re hopeful enough that Rey will find the light by the end…she’s constantly seen brandishing the inherited Skywalker lightsaber. There’s even a shot of what’s sure to be a climactic sea battle between herself and series antagonist Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Even so, there have been questions of her toying with the Dark Side before.
For example, the climactic battle in The Force Awakens features Rey’s first showdown with Kylo. The villain appears to have the advantage until he offers to teach her the way of the Force. Hearing those words, Rey channels a newfound energy, one that allows her to deliver a wound to Ren. It’s possible she unknowingly stepped into the power of the Dark Side.
Furthermore, we know that the grand-Star Wars baddie of them all, Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), will be back for the finale. We even hear his voice toward the end, along with the trademark heavy breathing of Darth Vader. A popular fan theory, one of undoubtedly thousands that touch on Rey’s parentage, dictates that Rey was somehow spawned through Palpatine and his Dark Side powers. He hinted the Dark Side was able to create something like that to Anakin, the future Darth Vader, back in Revenge of the Sith. A deleted line from that film confirmed Palpatine used such methods to create Anakin through the Force. Is it possible Rey is part of his grand design?
Of course. Star Wars marketing has thrown us off before. Trailers for Force Awakens heavily featured Finn brandishing the Skywalker lightsaber. He would up using it only briefly before being incapacitated by Kylo in the final film. Rey’s transformation, complete with a flashy new lightsaber, could also be part of a dream sequence.
Either way, we’ll be there this holiday season to find out.