Star Wars Celebration Chicago is in full swing and it wasn’t long before Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and Episode IX director J.J. Abrams released a bit of information that is sure to keep the energy and buzzing high throughout the weekend. While some other topics are buzzworthy, such as the upcoming Disney+ live-action series The Mandalorian and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge theme park expansions, nothing was so highly anticipated as the panel and suspected trailer for the ninth installment of the Skywalker saga.
Moderator Stephen Colbert hosted the panel as Abrams and Kennedy were both on hand to say…almost nothing about the newest upcoming film. One by one they brought out the cast including Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and newcomer Naomi Ackie. Each had a chance to reveal a little insight into what it’s like to be coming to the end of the third act of the newest trilogy. As Colbert fired question after question, the secrecy surrounding Episode IX was evident as many of the cast would defer their questions to Abrams who would squirm uncomfortably before looking quickly to Kennedy before giving his potentially spoilerified answer. At one point, Ridley through a question to him about any new Force powers that Rey potentially learns to him to which he responded, “I used to really like Daisy.” Given that the film opens in 8 months and we had not even heard a confirmed title, fans were eager to get any tidbit about the new film.
So then they showed the trailer. A glorious two minute and four second look into what I assume Nerdvana looks like.
I won’t go in depth into what you see in the trailer. Watch it and enjoy it as it is intended. Instead, I’ll offer my thoughts. The trailer shows a great level of balance between the two styles we have seen in the sequel trilogy so far. We get the emotional depth and despair that was seen throughout Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi and the practical effects and light seen in Abrams’ own The Force Awakens. This is an important feature. To some, Last Jedi left a bitter taste in fans’ mouths, ruining the goodwill that Force Awakens and Rogue One had garnered. However, to others it was seen as the stepping stone into the future of Star Wars. Gone were the comparisons to the other movies and instead we got a fresh, sleek approach that took an unexpected path. The new film could not simply reverse what was seen in Last Jedi; it had to build upon it and from the aesthetic and brief character interactions seen it seems Abrams is indeed honoring its predecessor.
Yet, the nostalgia factor that drove Abrams’ freshman Star Wars outing was present as well. Mark Hamill’s moving voiceover, the first onscreen appearance of Williams’ Lando after 36 years, and, perhaps most movingly, the late Carrie Fisher as Leia hugging Ridley’s character all bared the mark of the nostalgia that made Force Awakens so popular.
But perhaps the biggest callback lie in the last seconds of the trailer as the main cast are looking out over what is the destroyed hulking façade of the Second Death Star, submerged a lake/ocean on what is presumably the forest moon of Endor. Hamill’s voiceover gives way to a familiar laugh before the title card appears revealing, at last, the title of the film: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
As the lights come back on in the auditorium, Ian McDiarmid stands on stage, confirming what has long been suspected. Emperor Sheev Palpatine will appropriately be back in the finale of the Skywalker saga.
The effect is instantaneous. The audience erupts. Facebook feeds are filled the emojis of excitement and suddenly Avengers: Endgame may no longer be the most anticipated movie of the year. Or to be more accurate, it is a good year to be a Disney stockholder.