With Marvel’s Phase Four announcements stealing the show at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, there was little in the way of Star Wars news.
The ninth instalment of the saga, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, is due for release on 19th December, and some nifty-looking red Sith Troopers aside, the juiciest titbit of information came from super-fan and Clerks director Kevin Smith.
Talking at IGN Live, Smith relayed how crew members at Pinewood piqued his interest about a certain Star Wars Episode IX set, claiming: "You have to see it. When you see it, it will melt your mind".
According to Smith, Rise of Skywalker director JJ Abrams revealed the set was to be used for the last shot of the movie. Abrams also said that rather than spoil the surprises, Smith should wait to see it on the big screen and experience it alongside other fans.
Given the final shot will also, by default, be the very last shot of the current Star Wars trilogy (not to mention the wider Skywalker saga), it’s safe to say that excitement is running high. Just what could this entail? Here are some thoughts…
You don’t need the services of a Bothan spy to know that Mark Hamill is returning as Luke Skywalker. (He’s listed in the credits so it’s hardly a spoiler-ific revelation.)
Luke’s presence might pertain to the evolution of the Force throughout the franchise. It was in 1977, with the release of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, that we first became aware of the Force, as the wise Obi-Wan (Alec Guinness) died and passed on to become more powerful than we could possibly imagine. From there, he was heard giving ghostly Force advice to Luke as he prepared to blow up the Death Star.
Fast forward to 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and the Force Ghost of Yoda (Frank Oz) physically struck Skywalker with his cane and summoned lightning down to destroy the uneti tree and (presumably) the sacred Jedi texts. This proved controversial with fans, but director Rian Johnson argued all of this has long been established in wider Star Wars lore.
It stands to reason, then, that The Rise of Skywalker will see a further evolution of the Force Ghosts’ powers. Will they have a direct hand in the downfall of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and The First Order?
And with Yoda’s appearance in The Last Jedi, and Obi-Wan’s voice emerging in Rey’s vision in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, could we be about to witness the return of the deceased Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) during the final shot of the movie?
Return of the Jedi (1983) concluded with a trio of what we now understand as Force Ghosts, beaming benevolently upon our heroes and the Ewoks as they celebrated the fall of the Empire, so it’s perhaps not out of the question.
Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is now surely set up as the 'Big Bad' that oversees the whole saga. His cackle closed the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker, and reintroduced his character for the first time since he (apparently) plunged to his death in the second Death Star’s core in Return of the Jedi.
Palpatine’s seeming resurrection raises some huge questions for the Star Wars universe. Is this the mastering of immortality that the evil Sith lord prophesised in 2005's Revenge of the Sith? Has the tragedy of Darth Plagueis not yet played out in full?
The wreckage of the second Death Star appeared in the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker, so could Palpatine have been dwelling inside the wreckage this whole time?
To stage the current trilogy’s denouement at such an important location would be a fitting end. Could the Emperor’s throne room be the set of the final shot? Perhaps the return of Palpatine holds clues to Rey’s parentage?
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Rey and Kylo’s duel of the fates
The Star Wars saga has forever hinged on the battle between the dark side and the light side of the Force. The path towards the dark side corrupted Anakin Skywalker and led him to becoming Darth Vader, while his son, Luke, was initially tempted but eventually prevailed in his bid to stay in the light.
In the current trilogy, the tormented Kylo Ren, formerly Ben Solo, is trying to resist being pulled toward the light from the dark. In The Last Jedi, Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) natural allegiance to the light was threatened by self-doubt, particularly as she quested to discover her family’s ultimate fate.
Although she eventually clung to the side of good, it doesn’t seem so unlikely that in The Rise of Skywalker, we might see a reversal of sorts whereby Rey is drawn towards the dark and Kylo Ren heads towards the light.
In truth, it’s more likely that the Star Wars universe will be left with characters who occupy shades of grey, instead of two clear distinctions. As Kylo Ren says; “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to”, and it seems much more likely that the universe will be left with characters without such cut and dry allegiances. There are no more Jedi and no more Sith, with Force users forever known as Skywalkers.
So how might this play out in the film’s final moments? Rather than concluding with a nostalgic return to a familiar location, perhaps Abrams will wipe the slate clean, and land us in a brand new environment as we prepare to welcome a whole new interpretation of the Force?
This in turn may allude to the future Star Wars trilogy that’s set to begin in 2021.
Whatever happens, it makes sense that the final shot will include something that no Star Wars fan will see coming. The franchise has spent 40 years blowing our minds… but melting them? Not so much.
This suggests something that is going to make us question everything we know. We, for one, cannot wait. But patient, we must be.
Robb Sheppard is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.