Disney dropped another trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker during their annual D23 Conference on Aug. 24, and it ended with a shocking twist: Rey (Daisy Ridley) in a dark cloak wielding a red, double-sided lightsaber, like the one that bad guy Darth Maul carries. Newly minted Jedi Rey, it seems, may turn to the Dark Side.
Director J.J. Abrams, who helmed The Force Awakens, the first movie in the latest Star Wars trilogy, is returning for The Rise of Skywalker. Abrams is well known for his penchant for twists: His early TV shows, including Alias, Lost and even Felicity were filled with fake-outs and surprises. Now it seems like Abrams is up to his old tricks. The Dark Rey reveal — as it has come to be called on Twitter — is the second major shock to come from the Rise of Skywalker footage: The very first trailer for the film revealed that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who seemingly died at the hands of Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, will return.
LucasFilm head Kathleen Kennedy has said that Rise of Skywalker will definitively wrap-up the “Skywalker Saga,” and that future Star Wars films will explore whole new characters in entirely different parts of the galaxy. That means that all these questions will hopefully be answered in Episode IX, out Dec. 20.
Here are the major takeaways followed by a thorough analysis of the new Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker footage:
Rey may break bad
Let’s assume that the shot of Rey with a red lightsaber isn’t a fake-out, and that Rey turns to the Dark Side for at least part of the film. There are a lot of ways that could happen.
Many fans are still questioning whether Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) lied to Rey about the identity of her parents in The Last Jedi — or whether Abrams will simply retcon Last Jedi director Rian Johnson’s decision to make Rey’s parents “nobodies” and attach her to another character.
For a long time, fans have assumed that Rey’s ability to master her Jedi powers so quickly could only be explained by the fact that she was related to some other Jedi like Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) or Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness). But it’s also possible that her ability to manipulate the Force comes from a genetic connection to a villain, say, Emperor Palpatine. Yes, the twist of Rey being related to a major villain would closely mimic the “I am your father reveal,” but Abrams proved with The Force Awakens that he loves to call back to the original Star Wars movies.
However, attaching Rey to some well-known character would undermine the entire message of Last Jedi, which ends with a random street urchin using the Force to grab a broom: In short, anyone can be a Jedi. Assuming that Rey’s parents really were nobodies, it’s possible that she experiences some sort of crisis of confidence that either Palpatine or Kylo tries to exploit.
Or Rey may just be undercover
Star Wars characters have a long history of going undercover in order to infiltrate the enemies’ headquarters: Think Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Luke Skywalker in the storm trooper outfits in A New Hope, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) in Empire uniforms in Rogue One and Finn (John Boyega) in a First Order disguise in The Force Awakens. Abrams could easily concoct a circumstance in which Rey’s lightsaber is taken from her, and she has to find another.
There is a secret in Rey’s past
We have yet to get an explanation as to why Rey can’t remember her parents, or seemingly anything about her past. Though Johnson’s movie seemingly resolved the mystery of Rey’s parents, there may still be an event in her past that could impact the present.
There’s a pretty compelling theory on Reddit about how Rey may once have been a Jedi in training with Kylo, learning from Luke. That theory posits that Luke sensed danger not in Kylo but in Rey, and that Luke tried to kill her that night in the tent. (This theory presumes that Kylo and Rey were a couple and sleeping together in the tent the night that Luke entered it — not a major stretch given their connection in Last Jedi.) The poster analyzes the way that the scene is shot to argue that there is another person in the room. Rey’s memories could have been modified or lost, and Luke’s actions inadvertently push Kylo to the Dark Side.
There’s no explanation for why both Luke and Kylo would hide this information from her, but the theory does address the question of why Rey remembers so little about her past. Whether or not she knew Luke, Leia, Han and Kylo before their adventures began in The Force Awakens, there is some secret in her past.
The meaning of the film’s name is still a mystery
Who is the titular Skywalker? We’re no closer to finding out. Luke Skywalker died in the previous film, The Last Jedi. Could the name be referring to a Luke Skywalker force ghost? Or perhaps the titular Skywalker is Leia — though actor Carrie Fisher’s death in 2016 means that she will not be as prominent in the film as Abrams had originally planned. (Abrams salvaged unused footage from past movies and built a new script around those scenes in order to ensure Leia got a satisfying ending too.)
Most likely, the Skywalker in question is either Kylo Ren, the son of Han and Leia, or Rey, whose parentage may still be in question and could, technically, make her a Skywalker.
This may be the end of the Dark Side and the Light
In addition to the new footage, LucasFilm released the first poster for the movie at D23. The scene shows Rey facing off with Kylo. In the picture, Rey wields her traditional blue lightsaber, the one used by Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) in the prequels and Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy. Kylo has his red lightsaber, and he looks to be the villain. But the face of Emperor Palpatine looms over them, suggesting he is puppeteering the fight. Could he try to turn Rey to the Dark Side? Are Rey and Kylo going to switch sides?
All of these questions presume that the balance between the Dark Side and the Light must persist. But in The Last Jedi, both Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker questioned whether balancing the Force was truly the best way to go about things. Kylo lobbied Rey to “let the past die” and start a new order with him that was neither led by Jedis nor Sith Lords. Rey rejected this idea, but it could come up again.
Luke, despite clashing with Kylo, came to a similar conclusion in his talk with Yoda, the Force Ghost. All the books containing the knowledge of the old Jedi were destroyed during that conversation, and Yoda urged Luke to let the past go. Could the age-old struggle between Dark and Light finally come to an end?
We broke down every second of the D23 Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker footage
0:12 The first shot we get in this trailer is of Luke Skywalker before he begins his grand adventure. This scene harkens back to the very beginning of a series that will be wrapped up with this film. But it also reminds us that “Skywalker Saga” began with Luke. Perhaps it will end with him too.
0:15 There are a lot of shots from the original trilogy and prequels in this trailer. These shots were probably chosen carefully and for a very specific reason. So let’s concentrate on the not-obvious ones, i.e. the ones that aren’t just of Luke, Leia, Han and Darth Vader. We get a shot of Obi-Wan Kenobi, who thus far has had no role in the new films. Some fans have speculated that, like Yoda, he could show up as a Force Ghost in the movie. This possibility seems all the more likely given that Ewan McGregor, who played Obi-Wan in the prequels, announced at D23 that he’ll be starring in an Obi-Wan television series on Disney+.
0:30 Boba Fett is a fan favorite and this shot was sure to get a cheer out of the D23 crowd. Maybe the supposedly dead bounty hunter will get name-checked in the new movie? More likely he was included to remind us that the new Star Wars TV show The Mandalorian, about a similarly-clad gunslinger, is hitting Disney+ in November.
0:39 Well this scene looks pretty familiar. Remember how LucasFilm released the poster for The Rise of Skywalker, and this picture was Emperor Paplatine watching as Rey and Kylo fought? That looks an awful lot like this shot of Luke and Darth Vader battling it out in front of the emperor. Could history repeat itself?
0:45 Upon rewatch of the trailer, this shot of Darth Maul seems very important. It felt a bit odd that he was included at all: Yes, the fight scene between him and Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi was basically the only good thing to come out of the prequels. But he seemingly has no relevance to the current trilogy. Except…we’re going to see Rey using a lightsaber that looks an awful lot like this one in this very trailer.
It’s also probably worth noting that Solo: A Star Wars story revealed (to film fans, at least) that Darth Maul did not actually die in Phantom Menace. He survived being cut in half (because…the Force, I guess). So technically he could still be alive and show up in The Rise of the Skywalker. Or maybe Rey is related to him? Or maybe he just left his lightsaber lying around somewhere for her to pick up.
At this point, Luke intones, “We’ve passed on all we know.” Like, how to build double lightsabers?
0:50 Luke continues, “A thousand generations live in you now.” I don’t think it’s a mistake this line is paired with this image of Anakin and Padme, Luke and Leia’s parents and Kylo Ren’s grandparents. They were the beginning of the Skywalker clan as we’ve come to know them. If Luke is speaking to Rey, then perhaps that could indicate a connection to the Skywalker family.
0:59 Luke goes on to say, “But this is your fight.” And we see our first look of Rey, specifically during her first fight with Kylo Ren and the Dark Side in The Force Awakens. Again, it’s a teaser for a showdown between Rey and Kylo. But it’s also a hint at a theme the cast has been talking about for several years: The first two movies focused on how the past influenced the present. But now it’s time for the younger characters to take hold of the franchise, make it their own, and determine the fate of the galaxy.
1:00 That shot is quickly followed by one of Kylo and Rey’s hands almost touching when they are Force Skyping with one another in Last Jedi. That leaves no doubt in who Rey is supposed to be fighting — Kylo. But this scene depicts them not in conflict but rather growing close to one another. Perhaps the shot suggests that this battle isn’t a clear-cut lightsaber scrum between the forces of Light and Dark.
This scene is followed by a lot of quick hand-holding and touching shots — of Han and Kylo, of Luke and Leia, of Rey and Finn. Human connection seems like it will be a major theme in this movie. Maybe it’s the only thing that can overcome Palpatine, just like in Return of the Jedi.
1:14 The first footage we get of the new movie shows Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie and C-3PO encountering a village in the desert. This shot finally confirms that the planet is not Tatooine or Jakku, as fans previously speculated.
It’s notable that Ridley, Boyega and Oscar Isaac — the three actors who play central characters of this new trilogy — have not gotten to share scenes or go on a mission together in the past films.
1:17 Sadly, The Rise of Skywalker was originally supposed to be Leia’s big movie. Han played a major role in the first entry in the latest trilogy, The Force Awakens, and Luke was a central character in The Last Jedi. The Rise of Skywalker was intended to be Carrie Fisher’s time to shine as Leia, but her untimely death meant that Abrams had to rework the concept.
The director said at D23 that he was inspired by the thank yous Fisher wrote in her last book, Princess Diarist. Abrams was not originally supposed to direct The Rise of Skywalker but was brought on last-minute after LucasFilm announced Colin Trevorrow would no longer helm the project. In her book, Fisher thanked Abrams for putting up with her “two times.” Abrams had only worked with the actor once before she died, and Abrams took it to mean he was destined not only to make Episode IX but to find a way to build it around Fisher posthumously.
He salvaged unused footage from The Force Awakens to include Fisher. This looks to be borrowed from a forest scene in that movie and is likely where Leia says goodbye to Rey based on footage from the other trailer.
1:22 This is a concerning number of First Order ships. Have they always had this much firepower? Or is Palpatine’s return tied to the First Order’s sudden show of strength? And remember, the First Order has ship-tracking technology. So wherever the rebels go, the bad guys will follow.
1:23 We get our first look at Jannah, played by Naomi Ackie. She and Finn seem to be in some ship that is not the Millennium Falcon during a battle between the Resistance and the First Order. (A B-Wing flies by in the background.)
1:26 Rey isn’t the only one sporting red in this trailer. C-3PO has red eyes. Maybe he’s been turned to the Dark Side. Or perhaps he’s been put in some sort of battle mode. Promotional art for the film has shown him holding Rey’s staff. Maybe the skittish droid always had a switch you could flip to make him battle-ready, and the gang just figured out where that switch is located.
1:27 I really hope that this isn’t a blast coming from another Death Star or Death Star-adjacent super-weapon. Can’t the First Order get a little more creative? We got a brief reprieve from planet-destroying machines with Last Jedi, but it seems like Abrams just can’t resist returning to that well.
1:30 Rey uses her lightsaber like a boomerang and cuts down a tree with it before calling it back to her. Rey is probably in training in this shot, given that a small training droid is lurking behind her. Given that this scene is set inside a forest, it’s possible that she is continuing her Jedi training not with Luke but with Leia, who was shown in front of similar-looking flora and fauna in an earlier shot in the trailer.
1:36 In the last trailer, we saw Rey discovering the remnants of the Death Star crashed down on a planet. It’s likely that she encounters Kylo while looking through those ruins. Could they both be looking for a secret there?
Their pose and the vibe echoes the poster, which suggests that Palpatine might be watching this fight as well. We hear him intone over the shot, “Your journey nears its end.” We don’t know whether he is talking to Kylo or Rey, who have both been featured heavily throughout his monologue.
1:46 Now for the shot that nearly broke the Internet: Dark Rey. I’ve already covered this in the takeaways section, but here are all the possibilities:
- Rey does turn dark under the influence of Palpatine or Kylo permanently and the Star Wars saga ends with her turning evil and ruling the galaxy and/or a close friend of hers having to kill her
- Rey briefly turns dark but then Leia or Finn or someone good helps her to find the light
- Rey is pretending to turn to the Dark Side
- This is a vision or dream Rey or Kylo has of a possible future that does not come to pass — maybe even one that Palpatine plants
- Rey’s clothes and lightsaber don’t really matter. She’s still a hero, she just likes to rock black now