With somewhat quieter-than-expected fanfare, the trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX was revealed last week (and with it the title, “The Rise Of Skywalker”). Naturally it set the internet ablaze with quick-trigger analysis, and the takes coming from all directions more or less covered every conceivable piece of criticism or praise. Rather than just giving an opinionated response to the trailer then (really it was a fairly standard Star Wars trailer), we thought we’d break it down objectively and discuss the biggest question: Now what?
First, a few neutral observations on the trailer:
- This is very much Rey’s moment. Aside from some Mark Hamill voiceover work, all you hear and see for the first 35 seconds of the two-minute clip is Rey. This, followed by the words “every generation has a legend,” leaves no doubt that there’s heavy emphasis on establishing Rey even more fully as this trilogy’s Luke.
- Following up on the point just made, this trailer also seems to hint heavily that Rey is in fact a Skywalker (despite Kylo Ren’s assurances in Episode XIII that her parents were no one special). For one thing, it’s called “The Rise Of Skywalker,” and no one else seems poised to “rise” dramatically. For another, Rey hugs Leia (who will very much be appearing in this film) in a deeply emotional way as Hamill’s voiceover says, “we’ll always be with you.” Last, though probably not importantly, she sort of literally sky-walks early in the trailer when she vaults an imperial ship. We should never put it past a Star Wars movie to throw us a twist, but the obvious evidence is that Rey is a Skywalker.
- Kylo Ren appears to still be fighting for the Dark Side, which was probably a given, though not entirely so. He’s seen advancing through a battle in the same direction as a stormtrooper in the background, so while we don’t know whom he’s fighting, we probably know with whom he’s fighting (unless this is another good guy-in-a-stormtrooper suit charade).
- As he did with Episode VII, director JJ Abrams seems very determined to link this film to Star Wars projects past and connect to fans’ nostalgia. We get shots of C-3PO, Lando and Chewbacca piloting the Millennium Falcon, and as mentioned, scenes of Leia, despite Carrie Fisher’s tragic death. It looks like a movie full of call-backs and cameos.
- There’s a decided sense of finality in some of these scenes, as well as in the words that flash across the screen: “The saga comes to an end.” It’s as if they feel the need to assure us that this is the case.
- It’s heavily implied that Emperor Palpatine has a role to play, perhaps as the franchise’s ultimate villain all over again. Just as our band of heroes approaches what appears to be a fragment of Death Star half-hidden underwater, Hamill’s voiceover declares, “No one’s ever really gone,” and we hear the distinctive cackle of the emperor. The easy speculation is that this hints that Rey and Co. will have to go searching for some shade of Palpatine (if not the Sith lord himself) in the ruined Death Star.
That pretty much covers the breakdown. Love it or hate it, this trailer pretty much does what it’s meant to do, which is to spark conversation and drum up interest. As the trailer itself reminds us though, the saga is about to come to an end. That means the trailer also starts the conversation fans always knew they’d face again, which is what comes next. We have a few ideas on this front as well.
- More Spinoff Films – Han Solo’s origin film might not have been quite the hit Disney and Lucasfilm wanted, but it was no flop. Meanwhile, Rogue One is a lot of people’s favorite Star Wars film since the original trilogy. Rumors have been all over the spectrum in terms of whether or not more spinoffs are coming, which subjects they’ll cover, and when they’ll arrive. But it’s very unlikely that they won’t come at all.
- TV Content – This, we know for sure is happening. In fact, hot on the heels of the Episode IX trailer, Disney finally made some big announcements regarding its Disney+ streaming service (which is expected to be a legitimate competitor to Netflix). Among the announcements was the reveal of “The Mandalorian,” a coming Star Wars series that’s already produced promising teasers. This and more TV content will keep the Star Wars universe expanding for the foreseeable future with or without spinoff films.
- Broader Gaming Network – There’s never been any shortage of Star Wars games, but this still feels like an area in which Star Wars can expand post-saga. The franchise could expand its mobile game selection quite easily one would think, and could also look to online casinos for easy, licensed material, as many other entertainment franchises do. Disney has resisted casino games in the past, but with providers in busy markets like western Europe and Oceania offering huge game selections and appealing bonus incentives, the market for such games grows larger every day. Plugging in Star Wars titles is a no-brainer cash cow. Then, of course, there could also be additional console games, and likely will be – either continuing the Battlefront series or branching out.
- More Of The Main Saga – Last but not least there’s also the idea that in another five or 10 years we start to hear word of a straightforward continuation: a fourth trilogy, continuing the main saga. As stated, at times it’s almost as if this new trailer has to remind us or reassure us that this is an ending rather than just another Star Wars film. But once upon a time we felt the same way about Return Of The Jedi. That too was very much an ending to the main story, with very few noteworthy loose ends left untied. It shouldn’t surprise anybody if, down the line, the saga is picked up again – no matter how much The Rise Of Skywalker seems to wrap things up.
It’s a lot to digest, but these days that’s half the fun of it all. From now on, and particularly once major cultural phenomena like Avengers: Endgame and Game Of Thrones are behind us, 2019 will become a long, speculation-riddled wait for Episode IX.