Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is edited very precisely, referencing the original Phantom Menace teaser trailer and Return of the Jedi, but also showing us the heroes we love back together for one final adventure. When I was creating my breakdown of the trailer, one part seemed out of place to me. It’s a shot of a small spaceship flying toward a rocky and snow-covered planet drenched in fog under cover of night. We don’t know where this is or who is operating the spacecraft.

While the planet is new, the shot isn’t as dramatic as the rest of this trailer. Is this shot in there to show us that Abrams will be bringing us to new and different worlds, a reaction to the New Hope criticisms of Force Awakens? One thing is for sure: Abrams uses these trailers to create discussion. He wants us to speculate and ask questions. But maybe this shot is actually – (big comedic, dramatic pause) – the key to unlocking J.J. Abrams‘ mystery box.

What Might This Spaceship Mean for the Final Installment of the Skywalker Saga?

Twitter user @GenghisDingus was the first to bring this to my attention over the weekend. The ship in this shot looks very familiar to a ship we previously saw in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And from every freeze frame I have done of the new trailer and that film, they look like the exact same ship. It’s very possible that it could just be an A-Wing or something similar (we do see an A-wing crash later in the trailer), but for now let’s explore what it might mean if it is the same spaceship.

The appearance of the ship in Force Awakens happens during Rey’s “forceback” sequence – she touches Luke’s lightsaber and finds herself adventuring through a montage of moments from the original trilogy as well as more modern events: Luke watching his Jedi Temple burn, the Knights of Ren slaughtering people, and even some visions of her past.

We see her being abandoned on Jakku as a young child, Unker Plutt isholding her hand as she yells to the sky “Come back!” We have to assume she’s calling for her parents or whoever left her on Jakku. Unker tells the girl to be quiet as she screams more and the camera pans up to the mysterious ship flying away. It may also be worth mentioning that clips of past Jedi and Sith can be vaguely heard in the background of the forceback sequence, but this shot alone has very hard to hear quotes from Palpatine and Obi-Wan Kenobi.  You can watch the whole sequence below.

Did J.J. Abrams Have Plans for Palpatine When He Was Developing Episode 7?

It might be a complete coincidence that Emperor’s voice appears right before this clip in The Force Awakens, but note that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said at Celebration that the idea to bring Palpatine back into this story was made “long ago.” She doesn’t say when, but considering Colin Trevorrow was working on this film just a year and a half ago; I think it’s probably a good assumption that Abrams had Palpatine in his original plans when developing Force Awakens.

Many of the books and comic books that were in development during Force Awakens spent a significant amount of time showing us that Palpatine was working on something before (and after) his death, and had even sent sentinel droids bearing his likeness to employ the Emperor’s Contingency plan. That plan is unknown, but basically involved the creation of the First Order. So I think it’s safe to assume that Abrams was playing with the idea of involving Palpatine in the new trilogy even as far back as Episode 7.

But it is interesting to note that if you read The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it appears that Snoke came together very late in the process of production. There are a lot of discussions of Jedi hunters and alternate bad guys in the early development stages, but not much in terms of an Emperor-type figure. The book almost reads as redacted, missing big pieces of information that Abrams didn’t want public.

In fact, J.W. Rinzler co-wrote a making-of book for The Force Awakens, which was delayed and delayed and eventually vanished from the Lucasfilm Books publishing schedule. The book was finished and turned in and has simply disappeared from existence. Many fans believe that it has vanished because it delves into a lot of the plans that Abrams set up for this trilogy, revealing George Lucas’ original treatment for the sequel trilogy, which was abandoned (yet used in parts) for Force Awakens and Last Jedi. Also, Abrams is the kind of filmmaker who changes his mind a lot throughout production, so maybe they didn’t want to reveal some of those changes. It’s often speculated that Rey’s parentage was originally revealed in the filming drafts of Force Awakens (fans point to that Leia hug near the end, and Han’s interactions with Rey, which appear to be from an earlier version of the script).

A brief but interesting aside: George Lucas originally only wanted the Emperor to appear in-person in Episode 9.

Did Kylo Ren Lie to Rey About Her Heritage?

So why would that same ship appear in Episode 9? J.J. Abrams has already said that “there is more to the story” of Rey’s parents. Maybe The Rise of Skywalker will explore that.

In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren tries to convince Rey to join him. He has ulterior motivations and what he says here possibly can’t be trusted. At this moment, he tells her that her fears were true, that her parents were “filthy junk traders who sold you off for drinking money, they’re dead in a pauper’s grave in the Jakku desert.” But in Rey’s forceback we see that whoever left her behind on Jakku, left in a nice-looking spacecraft. Not a hunk of junk.

Why would they be buried on Jakku if they clearly left that desert planet? I mean, I guess they could have returned to the planet later and never came back to see Rey. Or maybe they were just hitching a ride on it. But Rian Johnson is a very smart writer and filmmaker and I think he purposely gave details that didn’t quite line up with what was shown in this flashback sequence in case the next filmmaker wanted to do something different.

Kylo could be telling the truth, but he also might not be. How does Kylo even know that her parents are nobodies? He saw inside Rey’s mind and in a moment driven by personal motivations, he may just be saying what he thinks might turn her to his side. Or it’s possible that Kylo is repeating what Snoke told him, and that’s another unreliable narrator to add into the mix.

Honestly, I’m not arguing for Episode 9 to change Rey’s parentage, but I also don’t think we’ve gotten the entire honest answer. And no, that doesn’t mean that she’s going to be a Skywalker, or a Kenobi. I understand that many people wish she were just a nobody thrust into extraordinary circumstances, making this universe bigger rather than a few families. The fact that her heritage is presented as such a mystery in Force Awakens suggests to me there is still more to the story of her heritage. I don’t think Rey’s journey of discovery is over in the climactic moments of The Last Jedi.

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