The annual Star Wars Celebration event in Chicago wrapped up its panel on the upcoming Episode IX this afternoon by treating fans to the first teaser trailer for the film directed by J.J. Abrams, who returns to the franchise after sitting out 2017's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, for which Rian Johnson took over the director's chair. The panel itself did not reveal much about the film other than some still images and a few behind-the-scenes shots, and was largely devoid of any information concerning important plot points or character beats in the story, and so the story was with the teaser trailer. Along with the trailer came the title reveal, a la the Avengers: Endgame method of Disney marketing, as the words The Rise of Skywalker first appeared with the trailer's title card, having been unspoiled or previously revealed as the titles of Force Awakens and Last Jedi were before their teaser trailer drops.
The trailer itself begins as Last Jedi's did, with the LucasFilm logo showing up on screen amidst Rey's heavy breathing, and then a close-up of her as she reflects on the challenge she's about to face. Directly after, the narration begins with the comments "We've passed on all we know; a thousand generations live in you now, but this is your fight." Whoever is narrating this is unclear, but from my estimation it sounds mostly likely Luke, probably referring to Rey having been studying the sacred texts she rescued from the burning tree on the island, or maybe just referring to his own teaching or that of another Jedi or...look, the Star Wars trailers, and indeed the J.J. Abrams Star Wars trailers in particular, revel in how vague they are and what "boom" moments they can unleash upon an unsuspecting audience at the last possible second, but the most consistent thing about a lot of them is that misdirection is their main game, so I won't go on too long speculating about what things could be when what they actually are is very likely something entirely different than anyone's bothered to bring up at this point.
From there, the teaser goes on to, well, tease some pretty cool stuff, from whatever Rey was attempting to do back-flipping over a spaceship with the lightsaber out (which survived that throne room scene somehow), to some shots of characters we've come to know like Finn and Poe on a rocky planet, a couple nice o.g. member shots of Billy D. Williams returning as Lando and Carrie Fisher's unused Force Awakens footage, to the whole main team of these past two movies together, facing down part of the ruins of a destroyed death star. The "boom" moment, though, actually had no footage associated with it. After that death star shot (which does look impressive) suddenly cuts to black, we hear an ancient and disturbed laugh ripple through our ears: the laugh of one Emperor Palatine. There's technically nothing there to say for sure that it's him, but Abrams loves hyping up legendary baddies like nobody's business, so I think it's a pretty safe bet to say most assumptions of who it is are correct. How Palpatine works into the film? I have absolutely no idea. And then the title card comes up, and the words Star Wars slowly part to reveal the rest of the title, The Rise of Skywalker.
I don't personally love the title, but I don't hate it either. At first it felt like Abrams was too needlessly reaching back into his "mystery box" that he loves to make people think is way more important than it is by insinuating there's still this child of destiny who's special and is meant to carry to Skywalker mantle, but then again, it's a title that you can infer a lot of different things from, and my only hope with it is that this doesn't become the movie that retroactively tells us that all the results of the questions Rian Johnson answered in The Last Jedi were actually fake-outs and there really has been this legendary connection to the original trilogy regarding the plot this whole time. I'm not saying that's going to happen (after all, Abrams set it up himself that Rey's parents were no one), but it could, given the level of fanboy angst and frankly embarrassing whining directed at Johnson's take on the material.
The only truly certain things about this particular entry in the Star Wars franchise are now the title (The Rise of Skywalker) and that, as the trailer reminds us in text placed somewhere towards the middle of its length, this will be the final movie in the mainstream Skywalker saga. Bob Iger also announced recently that Star Wars films will be taking a break for a while after this one's release, and that makes sense given the weight this one holds, and the fact that most of Disney's energy will probably be more focused on the curation and acquisition of content for the mouse house's new streaming service, Disney+. Whatever the case, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is sure to be a monster blockbuster hit (as most Star Wars movies are nowadays), this trailer did just enough teasing to get me more interested than I otherwise would have been, and I'll certainly be among the first to add my money to the film's box office. December can't get here soon enough.
- The Friendly Film Fan
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Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time. Writer for Bitesize Breakdown.