Celebration is upon us and as expected, we have a new teaser and the long-awaited reveal of the title we’ll all think sounds kind of silly for a few months and then repeat so many times it’ll sound as natural as “Boba Fett.”
With Disney’s announcement of its upcoming Disney+ streaming service and word from studio heads that the property will go on a hiatus after Episode IX (a welcome bit of news in my opinion), there is a lot to process. We won’t, though: Everybody’s going to be stuck on that glorious new title.
The Rise of Skywalker surely rubs more than a few fans the wrong way at first blush. We did just come off of The Last Jedi, whose thesis was that the saga’s central family of space wizards need not be the linchpin of the entire series. We also need to wonder if it doesn’t somehow subvert our expectations, as The Last Jedi did.
Here are just a few theories of what this cryptic title could mean. I’m sure we’ll all do the healthy thing and not chew on them from now until December 20.
Luke will come again in our hour of need.
You know (because I told you) that Star Wars was conceived as a monomyth/hero’s journey with Luke Skywalker at its center. His parallels with Arthurian legend in particular are compelling. We’re talking about a humble young man who has destiny thrust upon him in the form of a wise old sage bearing a magic sword, with the eventual reveal that he’s of a storied bloodline with a responsibility to set right the injustices of a dark time.
That all ends with a valiant last stand, and the promise that our hero will return to take up arms again when we need him the most. That part is left as an ellipsis in the old stories starring Charlemagne or King Arthur because we’re still waiting for the Once and Future King to return from Avalon. In the galaxy far, far away, though, are we going to see this hour of need come to pass? Will it be Rey and the gang’s goal to bring about Luke’s return? Luke’s voiceover, presumably to Rey, is new dialogue and seems to be him abdicating the mantle of destiny to her. Maybe that’s the clever subversion, and the last pep-talk she needs before heading out to bisect a TIE fighter or two.
Working against this theory is that making the whole movie about bringing back Luke would steal the thunder from the new heroes and also basically replicate the plot of The Force Awakens. I don’t know if I could be convinced that this is the right approach to take.
There was always another Skywalker.
Regular readers of Paste will note that I am an avowed Leia fan, ready to argue she is one of the best things about these damn movies. Could we be about to see a major vindication for her character, putting her at the center of the action that defeats the First Order and brings peace to the galaxy after her lifetime of badass struggle?
As I wrote before, I would love nothing more. I also don’t know how it could be achieved with the limited amount of footage they have and without resorting to recasting or using digital trickery, which you’ll recall the filmmakers have said they would not do out of respect for actor Carrie Fisher, who died in 2016. It seems unlikely they could pull this one off.
Rey is stoking the flames of Luke’s legend, or has adopted his mantle.
The ending of The Last Jedi was controversial among those who really just don’t seem to get the point of Luke’s heroic transformation. Rather than crush star destroyers with his mind, he flexed his Force powers and handed Kylo Ren and the First Order a humiliating loss which we are assured spread all over the galaxy by word of mouth. With the Resistance decimated, surely propaganda and proselytizing are important as Rey and Leia seek to rebuild a fighting force that can stand up to the resurgent Empire.
Working against this theory is that it seems a bit too abstract to be the meaning behind the title. Consider that director JJ Abrams’ title for Episode VII was pretty straightforward, Rian Johnson’s for Episode VIII played coy. Abrams tends to be a guy more interested in making a thrill ride of an action movie with some heart, not in making philosophical statements with his titles.
“Skywalker” is a term for “grey” Jedi, or the successors of the old Jedi religion.
The sharp-eyed have pointed out the parallels between the previous two trilogy-ending titles in the grand saga: Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith. The Rise of Skywalker does at least partly conform to that construction, and we are talking about groups of space wizard laser sword warriors in both previous cases. Could Rey be seeking a third way, some reconciliation or refinement of the Force, throwing away the old Jedi Code to make an order of knighthood that is more inclusive and less complacent in the face of evil?
We do see that she still carries the blaster she got from Han Solo all the way back in The Force Awakens. Maybe it signals that she’s keeping in mind lessons from the scoundrel as well as the Jedi Master. Could “Skywalker” be a new title for members of the order she’s founding?
This is an intriguing one, but falls apart for me just by looking at the title itself: “The Rise of Skywalker” rather than “Rise of the Skywalker” or, I guess, “Skywalkers.” It would be wonderful to see that the time jump has given Rey a leadership role in a fledgling group of heroes, but it also doesn’t look like she’s going to be running around with anybody but her muggle friends in the footage we’ve seen thus far.
The “rise of Skywalker” was the Emperor’s diabolical plan all along, which he will return from the grave to explain in a villainous monologue.
Here’s my own contribution, which I’m sure others online have probably brought up by the time this humble article reaches publication: That last villainous cackle at the end of the teaser really does sound like Emperor Palpatine, and the last image resembles the shattered remains of a Death Star’s main weapon array. That’s a line from the man and a reveal of the place where he met his end right on top of one another, so he’s either going to figure in somehow or we’re being willfully misled. If Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi can come back to counsel Luke, and if, as we suspect, Luke is bound to come back to counsel Rey, it isn’t a stretch to think that the site of Darth Sidious’ death could still harbor some echo of his malevolent consciousness.
There’s also the fact that Palpatine’s character was the antagonist of the first six movies, portrayed as a master manipulator whose grand strategies involved planetary political upheaval and galactic-scale war. The guy loved playing the long game. There’s a popular and quite plausible fan theory that Palpatine even used his influence in the Force to engineer the virgin birth of Anakin Skywalker, sowing the seeds for the destruction of the Jedi through Darth Vader and, he hoped, his eventual corruption of Vader’s heir—a new Sith lord to surpass him and usher in an age of darkness.
Luke put a stop to that by rejecting the Dark Side, but could Palpatine be reaching out from beyond the grave to see his plan come to fruition through Kylo Ren, or even Rey? We know he enjoys pitting his minions against one another, and the thought of Rey’s victory stemming from refusing to fight for some asshole’s amusement would be pretty well in keeping with the series’ philosophical bent. It might even be some pathway to redemption for Kylo Ren, if you’re into that.
Then there’s the strongest argument for it, which is that JJ Abrams loves to do stuff that people thought was cool before. Everybody loves Palpatine’s scenery chewing, therefore Abrams will find an excuse to do it.
But what about Rey being a Skywalker all along?!?!?!
Kenneth Lowe can feel your anger. You can follow him on Twitter and read more at his blog.