After months of intense buildup and nonstop speculation, the very first trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX, officially titled Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, was unveiled at Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Celebration. Picking up after our heroes escaped imminent doom at the hands of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the newly appointed Supreme Leader of The First Order, the movie has the daunting task of bringing the 40-plus-year Skywalker saga to a close. That’s no small feat for J.J. Abrams, who has acknowledged that his film is a response and conclusion to all eight main movies that precede it.
Our first glimpse of one of 2019’s most anticipated blockbusters offers a slew of footage to closely dissect and (over)analyze. Notably, the trailer arrives at a particularly precarious time in Star Wars history. Despite soaring to mouthwatering box-office heights ($1.3 billion worldwide, to be specific), The Last Jedi still earned slightly less than Wall Street expected while dividing the brand’s fan base. Solo: A Star Wars Story then underwhelmed six months later to become the saga’s lowest-grossing effort. Now, Disney CEO Bob Iger has said that Lucasfilm will take a “hiatus” from Star Wars movies after The Rise of Skywalker. But similar to the underlying theme of the franchise, there are reasons for hope.
“The Star Wars franchise so very nearly tripped up on its own embarrassment of riches, with four recent movie releases in over three and a half years clamoring for box-office attention,” Mark O’Connell, a cultural pundit and the author of Watching Skies: Star Wars, Spielberg and Us, told Observer. “Very quickly, Disney and Lucasfilm had to be wise to both this and the sometimes cruel skills of social media to fan the more toxic flames of fandom.”
He continued, “As the proposed finale of the Skywalker saga, which began in May 1977, and the first release since the House of Lucas received unwarranted backlash over 2017’s The Last Jedi, a great deal of new hope is riding on this ninth episode. This is less about ending a saga, and more about ensuring and preserving its future—both on the theatrical and domestic screen.”
The trailer is light on plot specifics and opts more for a feeling of completion, teasing a finale to the four-decade-long journey. We’ve seen Disney use a similar marketing strategy with Avengers: Endgame. Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker opens the proceedings with a voiceover, saying, “We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight,” as Rey (Daisy Ridley) squares off against a TIE fighter in a desert location. She seems even more powerful and competent than the last time we saw her.
A quick burst of shots includes X-Wings, Kylo Ren in battle and someone who appears to be fixing Kylo’s old helmet. We briefly see Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) together, and then Chewie and none other than Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. Where are they off to? Doesn’t matter, we’re here for it.
Battles continue to rage in the desert with new stormtroopers firing at Poe, Finn and C-3PO. Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Rey embrace as Luke says, “We’ll always be with you. No one is ever really gone.” OK, now we’re crying.
Finally, the trailer ends with laughter from what we immediately believe to be Darth Sidious, a.k.a. Palpatine. Actor Ian McDiarmid was on stage at Star Wars Celebration, after all.
All told, the teaser raises even more questions, but damn if we’re not thoroughly excited.
“The unveiling today of this eagerly discussed title and trailer marks the first official invite into the story and movie world of J.J. Abrams’ latest installment of a 42-year-old saga,” O’Connell said. “Episode IX now pulls back its Jedi hood to reveal the sights, sci-fi palette, beats and cinematic wonder of what happens when cinema’s biggest franchise looks back to its past as it soars into its future. Franchise cinema and pop culture are certainly all the better for what looks to be a return to epic fantasy storytelling.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will hit theaters December 20.