This December, the Star Wars sequel trilogy will come to an end and just last week we received our final look at this ‘final’ film in the ‘Skywalker Saga’. There may be some schisms in the fandom and the Star Wars brand may be growing ever more diluted, but there’s nothing like a good trailer to bring people together in their love of the franchise, and to sell tickets of course. I’ve got mine; have you got yours? I was anticipating The Rise of Skywalker but maybe not as much as the previous instalments of the trilogy, my focus being on The Mandalorian (which we won’t get in the UK until 2020!) and the return of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. But this trailer did its job well, and I’m now counting down the days and wearing my speculation hat 24/7, as well as rewatching all the other films that I’ve already seen far too many times in ‘preparation’. It’s our best look yet at the saga’s conclusion and I think the trailer succeeded it showing us just how you can bring this epic story to a close.
I’m probably wrong and this isn’t to say many talented people didn’t put a lot of thought and effort into the trailer but making a good Star Wars trailer seems pretty easy. Or at least making a bad one seems very difficult. The music does most of the work and that’s the case here. The Rise of Skywalker trailer has a phenomenal arrangement of John Williams’ music and add to that images of space ships and lightsabers and it’s hard not to get goosebumps and feel emotional. I’m sure I’m not alone in the fact that I’ve already watched the trailer an embarrassing number of times, and while some of those instances were to see what details I could pick out of the background (a B-1 Battle Droid!), many were to simply experience that joy of sight and sound that only Star Wars can bring. The trailer sounds fantastic and looks it too. Visually I was a little disappointed with the previous glimpses we’ve had of the film (it’s near impossible to make yet another desert planet look interesting at this point) but I thought what we saw in this trailer was beautiful. Rey and Kylo battling atop the Death Star ruins seems like an awesome set piece and the colour palette of the strange and cold floating ice glacier lair of the Imperial remnants is great, and unique for the series.
I love that the trailer seems to show everyone coming together in this final fight against the Dark Side. Luke’s sacrifice and the legend born from it has grown the Resistance from the small group huddled aboard the Millennium Falcon at the end of The Last Jedi to a large fighting force ready to battle for the fate of the galaxy. To me that’s what this sequel trilogy has all been about: people coming together to find themselves and a group of friends to fight for. That’s the path of Rey and Finn, and the antithesis of Kylo’s journey, and so it’s great to see that thematic underpinning be brought to the forefront as the galaxy unites against the First Order. And for all the fancy themes I can talk about it’s just pretty cool to see all those ships come together for what promises to be an epic space battle. I’ve enjoyed the ship combat in Episodes VII and VIII (particularly the bombing run in The Last Jedi) but none have matched the scale of Return of the Jedi or Rogue One. Featuring so many ships is also a neat way of uniting all 9 films in the saga for one final action sequence, with ships from the prequel, original and sequel trilogies all being featured. As well as what might be the Ghost from Star Wars: Rebels, which makes me very happy.
The trailer also goes some way in abating my concerns that JJ Abrams will ignore certain character beats and plot points from The Last Jedi and continue purely what he started in The Force Awakens. I love The Last Jedi and it’s my favourite of the four currently-released Star Wars films of this new Disney era but if you don’t like it then that’s cool. I can see why people would have issues with the film, it’s just a shame that the Internet has given birth to such ridiculous fervorous hatred on the subject. But like many TLJ fans, I’m a little concerned that some backpedaling will be done to rewrite aspects of that film. Happily, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Poe is heard discussing leadership, continuing on his journey of being a leader of the Resistance that began in the previous film. Kylo is seen more without his mask than with it which gives me hope. I’m guessing the sequence aboard the wreckage of the second Death Star is early in the film and he’s mask-less in everything we’ve seen set there, which possibly means that he rebuilds his mask at a later point in the film for a specific reason rather than magically having it again at the start of the movie. And Rose! I liked Rose a lot in The Last Jedi, even though I didn’t buy the romance between her and Finn, so I’m happy we saw her in the trailer. I also like that the film seems to be focused on all the new characters from what we see in this trailer and not the legacy characters. We get brief shots of Lando, Chewie and Leia but nothing of Luke and I’m happy about that. This isn’t their movie. Although C-3PO’s moment was quite touching.
Not all my concerns have been abated however. I’m still wary of Palpatine’s return, both the exact nature of his resurrection (I don’t want it to undermine Vader’s turn in Return of the Jedi) and in him overpowering the other villains in the film. As for the first point of contention, we get no further details so I’ll have to wait for the film to see, but Palpatine’s presence does seem to dominate proceedings. I want Kylo to be the main antagonist but that now seems unlikely. And what of the First Order and those characters? Where’s Hux and Pryde? The First Order has been underdeveloped in this trilogy and it seems like they’ve fallen to the wayside to make room for Sidious. I’m also concerned that the film will have another big super-weapon for our heroes to destroy. In the previous trailer we see a huge red laser hitting a planet which has me worried, and nothing in this final trailer proves or disproves another super-weapon. That plot point has been so played out and I don’t want another Starkiller Base. I’m also wary that the film could be doing too much. It’s set to be the longest film of the franchise but is there really room to squeeze in seemingly unnecessary and superfluous characters like The Knights of Ren?
One big thing I like about the trailer is that there’s no quick final shot meant to incite discussion and an unnecessary mystery to the film. In the D23 footage we get that brief shot of Dark Side Rey that doesn’t seem to fit with what we know of the film and feels to me like a simple and cheap trick to get people talking. I love to speculate but I prefer what we got with this final trailer. A tone-setter and snapshot look at the feel and plot of the movie rather than whatever images will just get people talking. This trailer didn’t need a twist like that and thankfully it doesn’t have one. The biggest thing we get is the brief shot of Rey and Kylo working together to destroy a shrine to Darth Vader which I wish wasn’t in the trailer and instead kept for the movie, but we have no idea of the context surrounding it. It’s intrigued me but I think it was an unnecessary inclusion.
The Last Jedi twisted what Star Wars could be in order to explore the world and characters in a different way, which I enjoyed a lot, but if this trailer is anything to go by then The Rise of Skywalker is totally embracing classic Star Wars, which it probably should considering it’s the last film of the saga. Similar to The Force Awakens, it seeks to capture that magic of the originals and, based on the trailer, I think it has succeeded. An epic lightsaber duel between hero and villain who share a personal connection. A huge space battle between a ragtag fleet of rebels and a fascistic evil force. Even the shot of the space horses charging across the hull of a Star Destroyer seems like classic Star Wars. The idea of nature helping the heroes take down a technological behemoth brings to mind the Ewoks. Does it look kinda goofy? Sure it does, but I say that’s a good thing. Star Wars is goofy. The trailer balances these classic Star Wars ideas, plot points and images with a sense of newness and it feels fresh, changing just enough and offering new journeys while maintaining – hell, celebrating – the essence of Star Wars. That’s the greatest success of the trailer, and I’m excited to see if the film manages to succeed at it when it releases in less than two months.
What did you think of The Rise of Skywalker’s final trailer? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.