During the Star Wars Celebration, another candidate for a national holiday when Disney eventually buys the United States, co-writer and director J.J. Abrams finally pulled the curtain on some Star Wars: Episode IX details—namely the title, The Rise of Skywalker. Sitting at a panel with Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, panel moderator Stephen Colbert, and a number of cast members from the film, Abrams hinted as carefully as one could about aspects of the story and production.
For one, Episode IX will be more of an adventure film, featuring the trio of Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron all together. In The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, the big three were separated for the most part—Rey and Poe didn’t even meet until the end of The Last Jedi, two-thirds of the way into their own trilogy, which is absurd. Relatively newcomer Naomi Ackie, best known for appearing in the 2016 film Lady Macbeth, will portray a new character named Janna. Returning cast members include Kelly Marie Tran as Rose and Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, the latter having a slick costume that’s well, pretty much just Donald Glover’s from Solo.
The end of the panel brought a teaser trailer, which featured some interesting tidbits calling back to all the films to come before. Rey (Daisy Ridley) has a repaired lightsaber, and faces off against Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in his ship. That’s right—Rey, on foot, fights a spaceship. Although Mark Hamill wasn’t present at the panel, his voice is present in this teaser, along with the late Carrie Fisher who will be in this film through unused footage from previous films. Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) are adventuring with Rey, and the group appears to encounter what I believe to be the remnants of the Death Star, followed by the familiar cackling from Emperor Palpatine. To make the reveal even more obvert, Ian McDiarmid, the Emperor himself, appeared on stage to introduce an encore of the teaser trailer.
If this is truly the last entry in the “Skywalker saga,” then perhaps bringing the big baddie of the film series makes sense. However, with Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi carving its own space for these new characters, I was hoping that this final film would instead focus on the Rey vs. Kylo Ren dynamic. Plus, with the lightsaber repaired and Kylo Ren rebuilding his mask, it seems to me that The Rise of Skywalker is undoing some of the progress that The Last Jedi made in the year-long gap between the stories. But hey, seeing the Emperor ham it up is always good fun, ain’t it? I just wish the title was shorter and snappier. Now we have three movies in a row with “The” starting the title off. Forget the “sequel trilogy,” because we’re living in the era of the “The” trilogy.
Also, which Skywalker is “rising?” My money is on long-lost eccentric cousin Bill Skywalker. Time to shine.