After a lively presentation featuring moderator Stephen Colbert, director J.J. Abrams, producer Kathleen Kennedy, and various members of the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker cast, Abrams unleashed the first teaser trailer for the film, finally ending months of speculation about the film’s title and revealing a few key things. Let’s take a look and some of the things we learned from the teaser and the Star Wars Celebration presentation as Star Wars returns to the Skywalker Saga and its key ideas one last time.
Despite becoming one with the Force at the conclusion of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) continues to offer Rey (Daisy Ridley) advice from the same place Obi-Wan counseled him long, long ago. Early in the trailer, he tells her that 1000 generations of Jedi experience lives within her, but the fight she will face is hers alone.
From the start, it seems the fight will be with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), her most obvious rival in this latest contest for the balance of the Force. But late in the trailer, the familiar laugh of Sheev Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) can be heard, suggesting the “great evil” Abrams teased during the panel presentation will indeed be the original Sith architect of the Empire, tying the first episode back into the ninth.
McDiarmid made a brief appearance on the Celebration stage to simply say “roll it again” for an appreciative crowd.
But the sense that no one is gone also informed the shots of Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa. As previously reported, Abrams used material from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi to keep her alive in the story. “Emotionally, everyday, it hits me that she isn’t here, but we’re still working with her every day,” he said. “She is there in these scenes — in some scenes with Billie [Lourd], her daughter. Princess Leia lives in this film in a way that is mind-blowing to me.”
Prior to rolling the teaser, Ridley was asked about the status of the Skywalker lightsaber seemingly destroyed at the conclusion of The Last Jedi. “My answer is not the end of the story,” she said. “But the lightsaber Rey inherited from Luke lives.”
This proved to be true in the teaser, with Rey igniting the laser sword shortly before Kylo’s TIE fighter reaches her on an unidentified desert planet. While the saber may not be a Star Wars: Episode I — Phantom Menace detail — Anankin (Jake Lloyd) was far too young in that film to construct it — it is one of the longest standing icons of the entire series. And while broken in the last film, its appearance here is, ultimately, appropriate.
So let’s talk about that desert planet for a moment. Star Wars loves its deserts. Despite Luke telling C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels) that Tatooine is the planet furthest from the bright center of the universe, it is a shockingly important world in terms of galactic history during the Skywalker Era. It remains to be seen if the desert planet in the teaser is Tatoonie, Jakku, or yet another desert planet, but considering that environment’s prevalence in the Skywalker Saga, it has to be a key element of The Rise of Skywalker.
But it is not the only biome one can expect to see in the film. In the teaser, we get brief shots of an icy, mountain world, a dying forest bathed in red sunlight, and even a return to the Yavin star system. During the panel, Abrams also revealed a photo featuring the Millennium Falcon and many of the characters in a jungle environment. Abrams called the film an “an epic space adventure on many worlds,” and it would appear to be true. But will the Falcon crew hop to as many worlds as the Rogue One group? Time, of course, will tell.
Perhaps one of the most emotional shots in the teaser for Star Wars old-timers is the glimpse of Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) at the controls of the Millennium Falcon. As it happens, Lando is even back in his yellow-and-blue shirt from the Solo: A Star Wars Story era, recalling the circumstances under which he lost the ship in the first place. It’s a good look on Williams, who also appeared on stage with the cast. “I didn’t expect to be in this new adventure, but I got lucky,” he said when asked about returning to the role. “I regard this as a real highlight.”
But he, of course, defended the scoundrel’s actions in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back when Colbert asked him about selling out the rebels to Darth Vader. “I get sick and tired of being accused of betraying Han Solo,” he joked. “He had to figure something out! Did anybody die?” he continued, pausing only as the crowd applauded. “I had to figure out a way to prevent the complete demise of my friend and his friends.”
Of course, it remains to be seen if Lando will prevent any more deaths with his return to the series. But based on the character’s excitement to be back in the saddle — presumably for the first time since his Star Wars: Return of the Jedi run on the second Death Star — we can’t wait to see what he does with the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.
“BB-8 has a new friend,” said Abrams shortly before rolling the teaser. A new, even smaller droid wandered onto stage. “His name is D-O,” said the director. Looking like a tricycle wheel with a shuttlecock affixed at the top, he immediately elicited sounds of what we can only call “affection” from the crowd in attendance. He appears briefly in the teaser alongside BB-8, but both the preview and the director were mum on his ultimate role in the saga’s final chapter. Like BB-8 and the porgs before him, expect D-O to be your favorite new cute Star Wars character. Provided you enjoy cuteness in your Star Wars, that is.
For those that do not — which is equally valid — the teaser also offers a brief glimpse of Kylo Ren’s helmet being reforged. Rumors persist that the long-teased Knights of Ren will finally make their debut in this story. And if they are aligned with the great evil of Palpatine, expect a certain darkness worthy of concluding Star Wars. Funny they all feature McDiarmid’s characteristic laugh.
Another iconic Star Wars element resurfaces in the teaser in the form of Death Star wreckage Rey, Finn (John Boyega) and the others spy in the distance. Considering the terrain, we’re assuming the piece of the infamous battle station landed on one of the planets in the Yavin system, if not the moon of Yavin IV where the rebels maintained their secret base in the original Star Wars, Rogue One, and the final season of Star Wars Rebels.
The image evokes both the original film and the haunting image of a smashed Star Destroyer in the Force Awakens teaser. Of course, fans will immediately wonder how a piece of the space station could survive the explosion as depicted in Star Wars, but debris of that magnitude does not seem out of the realm of possibility. Remember all the jokes about the second Death Star raining debris across the forest moon of Endor and ending the Ewoks in the resulting ecological disaster?
Despite the presumed improbability of the wreckage surviving for 30-odd years, it shook the Celebration stage audience as they saw it for the first time.
When The Phantom Menace teaser first debuted 20 years ago, it boldly declared “Every Saga Has A Beginning.” The Rise of Skywalker echoes that sentiment by declaring “The Saga Comes To An End.” Despite a title more appropriate for a Star Wars prequel or reboot, The Rise of Skywalker definitely declares a conclusion to the great filmic experiment that began over 40 years ago, something that Abrams, Kennedy, and the cast stressed during the panel. And the emotions surrounding that were felt on the Celebration stage, even as the crowd cheered Rey on in her leap atop a TIE Fighter. Emotions, we expect, that people will feel when the film comes out this Christmas.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens on December 20, 2019.