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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – analysing the final trailer

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has unveiled its final trailer, and there's plenty of Star Wars lore to unpack. Scroll down beneath the poster to read our breakdown of the climactic trailer for the climactic entry in the current trilogy.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker final movie poster


1. Rey's quest for identity

"People keep telling me they know me... But no-one does," says Rey (Daisy Ridley) at the outset of the new trailer. This underpins the ethos of the Star Wars saga in a nutshell: no-one truly knows themselves until they face great challenges and hardship.

In this movie, directed by JJ Abrams, Rey is bounced between the twin poles of the light and dark side of the Force. It's a (presumably intentional) mirror of the internal struggles that have coursed through the original and prequel trilogies.

In the original trilogy, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) attempted to resist the seductive lure of the dark side, culminating in his confrontation with Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) in 1983's Return of the Jedi.

In the prequels, we discovered the tragic story of Luke's father, Darth Vader, as Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) gave way to the dark side. This resulted in his full-blown transformation into Vader in 2005's Revenge of the Sith.

In both instances, we have father and son characters embracing their respective destinies on opposing sides of the Force. So which way will Rey fall? In the previous trailer for The Rise of Skywalker, we were teased with 'Dark Rey', a cloaked figure wielding a new red lightsaber that very much looked like a Sith weapon.

It's highly likely this is a vision, a portent of what she could become should she succumb to the dark side (think Luke's vision on Dagobah in 1980's The Empire Strikes Back). Nevertheless, staying on the side of the light looks like it will be a struggle for Rey, as she's caught between Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and a resurgent Palpatine.

One might imagine that The Rise of Skywalker is a remake of sorts of Return of the Jedi, just as The Force Awakens was seen as a retooling of 1977's A New Hope.

But more than that, this latest trailer is a reminder of legacy, and of the archetypal storytelling tropes – nobility vs evil, the quest for self-knowledge versus the greater good – that has kept Star Wars popular for more than 40 years.


2. Palpatine's plan

So how could Palpatine possibly be alive? After all, he was thrown into the Death Star core by Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi. Of course, 'alive' is a relative term in the Star Wars universe, particularly in the wake of the controversial events of The Last Jedi.

It may be the case that Palpatine no longer has a flesh and blood presence, but has instead passed into the Force as an all-powerful ghost, allowing him to manifest and manipulate proceedings. In The Last Jedi, Yoda (Frank Oz) emerged in front of Luke to destroy the sacred Force texts with a bolt of lightning, so maybe Palpatine can manipulate the elements even in the absence of a physical body.

It would be a continuation of the principles of The Last Jedi, and Abrams has said that he's not about to betray Rian Johnson's script. Abrams told Empire: "If I had done [The Last Jedi], I would have done things differently, just as Rian would have done things differently if he had done [The Force Awakens]."

He adds: "But having worked on television series, I was accustomed to creating stories and characters that then were run by other people. If you’re willing to walk away from the thing that you created and you believe it’s in trustworthy hands, you have to accept that some of the decisions being made are not gonna be the same that you would make. And if you come back into it, you have to honour what’s been done."

As for Palpatine's plan, we might imagine he's aiming to bring Rey and Kylo Ren together so that they may form a trio and rule the galaxy. As with Luke, Palpatine clearly senses Rey's formidable Force abilities – when fused with Ren's sense of rage, she could be unstoppable.

Again, it could be seen as a mirroring of the themes in Return of the Jedi: Palpatine manipulated Vader to bring Luke to the Death Star, where the young Jedi threatened to give way to the dark side.

Of course, in that instance, Palpatine was planning for Luke to kill his father, thereby securing his fall into the dark – might he be plotting a similar stand-off between Rey and Ren? In the former instance Palpatine failed, so maybe he's been vengefully hatching this new scheme from beyond the grave for the past 30 years?

We get deliberate echoes of Return of the Jedi through the trailer's stunning visual imagery (courtesy of cinematographer Dan Mindel) – the shot of Palpatine's devastated Death Star throne room, plus a later one of him looming from said throne, show that the past hangs heavily over the Rise of Skywalker storyline.


3. Rey and Ren together

At the close of Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader found redemption in his vanquishing of Palpatine. Throughout the whole movie, tension was high as to whether he would again tap into his innate goodness, as his son Luke suspected he would, or play into the Emperor's hands.

The same yin and yang tension may well underpin the narrative for The Rise of Skywalker. Rey and Ren have been established as enemies throughout the course of this current Star Wars trilogy, barring a brief 'frenemy' interlude in The Last Jedi where it looked like Rey would join Ren following the death of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).

She ultimately resisted, however, which appears to set up the many warring lightsaber battles seen in the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker. However, there's one brief shot where they appear to be working together by shattering some kind of statue. (Note also that Ren has dug up his old mask from somewhere – perhaps he has spares lying around?)

Does the narrative spun by Abrams and screenwriter Chris Terrio suggest that both characters eventually turn the tables on Palpatine, combining their Force abilities to vanquish him in a spiritual and emotional sense? After all, he feeds on fear, so by undermining his strength and finding solace in one another, this might be the way for Rey and Ren to find their own redemption while extinguishing Palpatine altogether.




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4. C-3PO's farewell

C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels has been with the Star Wars saga since A New Hope – he is, in other words, a stalwart of the series alongside the likes of Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams.

But all good things must end – there's a section in The Rise of Skywalker trailer where Threepio prepares to say goodbye to his friends. Is this the curtain call for one of the longest-running Star Wars characters? And what is the context in which he says goodbye? Is he about to go out in a blaze of glory while serving the resistance? 

In the trailer it looks like his circuits are getting some kind of an upgrade, so maybe Threepio is about to sacrifice himself as some sort of distraction for the rebels? Because goodness knows he's not a fighter. But then that would be staying true to the essence of a hugely popular Star Wars character. (A circuitry upgrade may also account for the character's red eyes seen in the previous trailer.)


5. Luke and Leia at one with the Force

The exact nature of Carrie Fisher's role in The Rise of Skywalker is yet to be revealed. We know that Leia's appearance is constructed of unused footage from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, but we're yet to see how this is threaded into the narrative.

The last line in the final trailer for The Rise of Skywalker is a voiceover from Leia, adding "always" to Luke's line, "The Force will be with you". At the risk of being morbid, maybe Leia has already passed away at the outset of the story, and continues to counsel Rey in a Force ghost capacity? (This may be what's happening in the scene where we see the two hugging.) With Leia now completing her brother's sentences, we might imagine some kind of Force-led unity and peace between the two characters.

This would be a suitably powerful way of showing that Leia is now at one with the Force, just like her brother Luke who made his own journey into the next place at the end of The Last Jedi. It would also be a nice way of reinforcing Carrie Fisher's own legacy, and her everlasting impact on the Star Wars universe.


Click here to book your tickets for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
, opening in Cineworld cinemas on 19th December. What did we miss in the trailer? Let us know @Cineworld.