A Few Observations About “The Rise of Skywalker”
*SPOILER WARNING* This article contains spoilers for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and Episode VII: The Force Awakens. It also includes several theories based on the trailer for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker which may or may not turn out to be correct. If you don’t want to be exposed to any of these things, stop reading now.*
The Existing Rhythm
By now, everyone who wants to has seen the new trailer for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. There are a lot of incredible scenes hinted at in this trailer, and I’m going to break down a few of the easily-missed things you may have overlooked in your excitement. Before I start, I want to remind you that many of these theories that I’m presenting are based on something that George Lucas said when he was creating the prequel trilogy. He described the films as rhyming poetry.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace was very much reminiscent of Episode IV: A New Hope with a young, unassuming protagonist on a desert planet suddenly finding out that he is a holder of a greater power and is destined to be the deciding factor in an overarching conflict for the fate of the galaxy after an older, wiser mentor figure shows up and imparts what knowledge he can before his death at the hands of a far greater threat.
Connected Story Elements
When J.J. Abrams did Episode VII: The Force Awakens, we see a very similar storyline again, this time focusing on Rey, but all the story elements are there and it very much rhymes with the previous two initial installments of their respective trilogies. Even each of the third installments has alliterative titles: Return of the Jedi, Revenge of the Sith, The Rise of Skywalker. I also want to point out that when I am using some approximations of size later on. It’s from data I’ve gathered from various sources and made my best estimation. Now that I’ve gotten that covered, on to this new trailer.
First off, we see Rey (Daisy Ridley) standing alone in a desert. Which desert it remains to be seen. Could she have returned to Jakku? Or, as many people besides me have theorized, will we see a return to Tatooine, home planet of both Anakin and Luke Skywalker? It would fit with the rhyme scheme established by Lucas and continued by Abrams. I’m not going to focus on her feats of Force-aided acrobatics here, rather on her lightsaber. The saber we see is very reminiscent of the saber Luke receives in A New Hope that we learn was actually his father Anakin’s.
The final test of a Jedi is to construct their own unique lightsaber. This saber we see Rey using is very much based on Anakin’s original design, but with some noticeable differences. There is a secondary black grip wrapped around its hilt above the vertically-placed, evenly-spaced grips on the bottom of the hilt. Personally, I found this to be fascinating, but it makes sense because she had the broken piece of the saber to start with so it would follow logically that the only thing that would change is the top half of the saber hilt.
Ruins of Past Wars
Next, I want to point out the Death Star wreckage that we see towards the end of the trailer. Now, we were shown two of these massive space stations in the original trilogy. The first was destroyed by Luke at the end of A New Hope, and the second was destroyed by Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) in the final climactic battle in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi moments before Luke escaped with his now-redeemed father, Anakin. The first Death Star was destroyed when Luke fired two perfectly-placed shots that detonated the reactor core above Yavin IV. The second was destroyed above the forest moon of Endor when the power station was destroyed. I point out these differences in the manner in which these superweapons were nullified because I think it makes a huge difference in what I’m about to propose.
I think this Death Star we see in this trailer is on Endor’s moon. There was a difference between the explosions as well. Sure, the effects looked very similar, but when the first Death Star exploded, there were no planets, moons, or other celestial bodies in frame. When we see the second Death Star destroyed, it’s directly above the moon and we can clearly see large chunks of debris streaking across the sky.
Looking at The Numbers
Now, you may be thinking that this planet we see now looks nothing like what we last saw in Return of the Jedi, and you’d be correct. Right off the bat one main difference is that we see what looks to be an ocean, which we never saw in the film. Secondly, the reason it looks so different is that a massive object such as the Death Star exploding in such close proximity to a planet or moon would cause massive amounts of devastation. When you take into account that the Death Star is 6.25% of Earth’s size, and the forest moon is 40% the size of earth you realize that the forest moon is only 6.4 times larger than the Death Star.
To put that into perspective, the object that created the Chicxulub Crater, and the impact that is commonly thought to have killed off the dinosaurs was, on the higher side of the estimate, 50.3 miles in diameter, or 1/133,876,125,000,000,000 the mass of Earth. Of course, this isn’t taking into account that this impact happened on its surface, not in orbit. Of course, I understand that this is a sci-fi fantasy film in which science is not exactly at the forefront of anyone’s mind (parsecs, anyone?).
Factor in suspension of disbelief inherent to all films, would it not be unreasonable to think that the explosion of the Death Star had a catastrophic effect on the forest moon of Endor, and the life upon it? I think the Ewoks are extinct, and maybe we see something about that. Surely if they are indeed on that moon, Chewbacca will remember the time he and his friends were nearly eaten by a bunch of feral teddy bears.
That Iconic Laugh
Lastly, we come to perhaps the most jarring and out of place moments in the trailer; Emperor Palpatine’s laugh. When we last saw Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) on screen (chronologically of course) he was being thrown to his death by a redeemed Anakin Skywalker. The question facing us as the audience is obvious; how did he survive, if indeed that’s what’s being implied? There are a number of ways he has been shown to live on in the comics and novels of the expanded Star Wars mythology. In the now-ignored “Legends” canon, he had many clones hidden around the galaxy into which he would transfer his consciousness once a physical body was destroyed.
In a recent comic, he is shown to have recorded interactive holograms to pass on orders and instructions for furthering his plans posthumously. Maybe he could even be the first Sith Force ghost. I’m of the opinion that he will have survived because of what the term “Skywalker” really means, as well as the precedent set in Episode VIII: The Last Jedi in which we see Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) fly through space without any protection except the Force. I theorize that the Emperor, who was VASTLY superior in the use of the Force, would be able to do something more impressive.
It’s Been Done Before
I theorize that even if he was in rough shape physically, he would have been able to hold himself intact and keep himself alive through his pure hatred and anger powering his Dark Side abilities. There is a precedent for this as well. In the Knights of the Old Republic II video game there is a character named Darth Sion whose body is scarred and battered and has been “killed” before but uses his incredible will and mastery of the Dark Side to keep himself alive.
I think that it would not be beyond the scope of his abilities for Palpatine to do this. J.J. Abrams has already introduced new Force abilities, like Kylo Ren’s “Force Freeze” to stop a blaster shot in The Force Awakens. I also believe that, as these are rhyming films, we will see Palpatine be instrumental to the redemption arc of Kylo Ren, returning him to his true identity of Ben Solo.
Of course, none of these things are entirely certain. Like with the Marvel films, we may have gotten some CGI-aided misdirection in the trailer and everything I said might be completely wrong. That would be fine. I just like theorizing and talking about the possibilities of films in which I have considerable interest, and I love me some Star Wars.
What do you think? Do you agree with any of my theories, do you have any of your own? Think I’m way off? Let me know.
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is set to come out in December.
Patrick Rahall covers entertainment for MFST. Follow him on Twitter at PatrickRahall.