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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – analysing the new footage

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker premiered some exciting new footage at the Disney D23 Expo last weekend. 

Bear in mind, this isn't a trailer per se – more a minute's worth of tantalising eye candy from a galaxy far, far away.

Director JJ Abrams has certainly brought the visual dazzle to this final instalment of the Skywalker saga, but really we're more interested in the character development of Rey (Daisy Ridley). Not to mention, the spectre of the evil Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), thought dead at the end of 1983's Return of the Jedi, leaves us with a lot of questions.

Scroll down beneath the video to read our analysis, and what it could mean for audiences this December.


Dark Rey

No, it's not Amanda Lamb from those Scottish Widows adverts – the cloaked figure in the trailer is Rey, seemingly having gone over to the Dark Side. Or has she?

It's highly likely this is a vision, a warning of what will happen to Ridley's Jedi character should she stray from the path. This has overtones of a similar scene in The Empire Strikes Back, in which Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is struck with a terrifying premonition on the planet of Dagobah. In that instance, of course, we were made aware of the terrifying connection between him and Darth Vader (David Prowse) well in advance of the shocking twist.

Abrams has himself stressed the importance of legacy to this new Star Wars movie, particularly regarding the late Carrie Fisher's presence as Leia (her role is composed of unused footage from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi). So maybe entire sequences from the earlier trilogy will be reflected and mirrored?

Not to mention, it underlines Rey's character development, as she yings and yangs between the two poles of the Force. In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, she sought answers as to the status of her parents, and her self-doubt made her vulnerable to the dark side.

Ultimately, she rejects Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), with whom she's been communing in strange 'Force visions', overcoming the revelation of her parents' death to join the rebel alliance on the planet of Crait. Ren, meanwhile, having killed mentor Snoke (Andy Serkis), is enveloped by the dark side and rises to become even more powerful than before.

Rey's journey is set to intensify in The Rise of Skywalker as, we assume, her powers become all-the-more impressive and she ascends further into the realms of fully-fledged Jedi warrior. And of course, that sense of inner doubt will only increase as well – throughout the franchise, it's never been easy for a Jedi to sustain their abilities while deflecting the seductive forces of evil.

Dark Rey revealed in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker


Darth Vader

Towards the end of the footage, we hear Darth Vader's laboured breathing, which is more than enough to send a chill down the spine. What's significant is its application in the context of Rey's emotional journey.

One might assume Vader to have some sort of presence in the movie – or at least his pre-Sith character, Anakin Skywalker. Rumours have been flying that Hayden Christensen will reprise his role as Anakin from George Lucas's prequel trilogy, so is the breathing an implicit reference to that? As (arguably) the most significant Skywalker of them all, is he the one whose rise is foretold in the title?

Unlikely – instead, it's probably intended in a figurative and emotional sense. Let's not forget Anakin's story is the most important cautionary tale in the Star Wars saga, the tale of an innocent kid who grows up to become a noble Jedi before his own weaknesses cause him to cave into the dark side.

Vader's story could therefore portend what happens with Rey – a well-meaning scavenger strong in the ways of the Force, trained on the side of the light, but corrupted by the dark. This emotional tussle is the bedrock of the franchise, a reminder that the aeons-long battle between good and evil, even within ourselves, shows no signs of abating.


Palpatine

How on Tattooine is evil Sith lord Palpatine still alive? He was quite definitively vaporised in Return of the Jedi, thrown into the Death Star's core by Darth Vader after the latter switched allegiances to save his son Luke.

But just because one is devoid of a physical presence doesn't mean they can't play a role. The Last Jedi controversially altered the concept of 'Force Ghosts', who are now capable of physically interacting with their environment (see Yoda burning the sacred Jedi texts as an example).

Perhaps Palpatine's body has been obliterated but his soul lives on in some undisclosed realm of the Force? He was always the most powerful dark side figure in the original trilogy, so maybe he went to ground, in a spiritual sense, before reviving with the emergence of Rey.

One suspects Palpatine recognises Rey's extraordinary and instinctive Force abilities, and where he failed to convert Luke in Return of the Jedi, he will endeavour to succeed with her.

This again goes back to the mirroring theme. If The Force Awakens bore comparisons with A New Hope, maybe The Rise of Skywalker is this trilogy's Return of the Jedi? Perhaps we'll return to the emotional struggles and nuances with which the original trilogy concluded?

It would be a neat way of resolving the Skywalker saga, and would give weight to Palpatine's words, "You journey nears its end".

Such themes are encapsulated in the poster, which has a machiavellian Palpatine looming in the background over everything – no doubt everything is proceeding as he has foreseen.

Palpatine on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker poster



C3PO

Look, we've no idea why the fussy droid (Anthony Daniels) is imbued with glowing red eyes, but we're open to suggestions. Is he to become Palpatine's minion? Answers on a postcard please.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is released on 19th December, so tweet us your thoughts on the storyline @Cineworld.