In the (very) early hours of Tuesday morning, Disney and Lucasfilm released the final full trailer for Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, the ninth and concluding chapter in the Skywalker saga.
As is tradition, very little of the plot was divulged, with the trailer relying heavily on the unbridled impact of John Williams’ legendary score, and some stunning new imagery.
But was there anything they could possibly show us to top that incendiary image of Rey clutching a dual-bladed red lightsaber?
A preliminary teaser video on social media already seemed to have the answer, unveiling a split-second of the Millennium Falcon swooping into formation at the head of a vast Resistance fleet; a fleet featuring, among others, The Ghost from Star Wars: Rebels and a Hammerhead corvette, last seen colliding into two Star Destroyers in Rogue One.
The full trailer itself begins on an unknown forest world, with Rey engaged in her training, sprinting through the jungle with the unmistakable sounds of seeker droids in pursuit.
She leaps across a wide chasm, and we cut to the dank interior of the decaying Death Star. Finn provides a voiceover: ‘it’s an instinct… a feeling. The Force brought us together’. The two spent almost the entirety of The Last Jedi separated by light years, but Rise Of Skywalker looks to be returning our renegade stormtrooper and scavenger to the emotional heart of the film.
Back on the forest planet (the stone structures call to mind Yavin IV, but given its prominence in galactic history, this seems an unlikely place to hide from the First Order), the Resistance gathers.
‘We’re not alone: good people will fight if we lead them’ Poe declares. Despite a year passing in-universe between the two films, the Resistance is still clearly on the back-foot, searching desperately for allies.
There’s a small glimpse of the war to come, as Rose Tico is seen at the head of a retreat; Dominic Monaghan’s still unnamed Resistance character, and Lieutenant Connix (Billie Lourd) waiting behind her.
A Corellian Corvette lifts off from between the trees: the red markings lead us to assume this is the Tantive IV. Though many reference books claim it was destroyed shortly after the opening of A New Hope, what better symbol to spread hope across the stars than the ship that first escaped with the Death Star plans all those years ago?
Then we rejoin Rey amongst the windswept, tidal wave-adorned remains of the second Death Star. ‘People keep telling me they know me… no-one does’ is her defiant narration.
A snide jab at Kylo Ren’s obsession with her (he appears from the waves to declare ‘but I do’), or a clue to more discoveries about her past? Director J.J. Abrams has been adamant about honouring the many twists of The Last Jedi, but lest we forget: ‘Always in motion, is the future…’
Swarms of TIE Fighters race towards a strange icy continent that appears to be free-floating in outer space; a wonderful reimagining of the island-like planets of Flash Gordon, one of Star Wars’ earliest influences.
Lightning strikes, illuminating a terrifying throne, the shape of which is directly lifted from Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for Return Of The Jedi.
As Imperial-era Star Destroyers rise from the ice (sealed away for safekeeping by Palpatine before his fall?), the voice of the Emperor is heard.
‘Long have I waited. And now, your coming together is your undoing’ Palpatine declares over the aforementioned shot of the Resistance fleet forming, as Finn, Poe and Threepio join Rey and Chewie in the cockpit of the Falcon.
There’s some fresh glimpses of Rey and Kylo duelling in the rain, an explosion in deep space (the first casualty of the First Order/Resistance space battle?) and Rey riding a janky speeder across violent seas.
Things take a reflective pause as C-3PO is worked upon by tiny alien mechanic, Babu Frik. Rey, Finn, Poe and the rest are gathered in a tiny hut (spot the abandoned Battle Droid in the corner over Threepio’s left shoulder), watching the golden droid intently.
‘What are you doing, Threepio?’ Poe asks nervously. ‘Taking one last look sir… at my friends’ – cue the waterworks from us. J.J. Abrams and Anthony Daniels have both said Rise Of Skywalker will give the much-lambasted droid his moment in the sun, and the D23 spot showed him with ominously red-tinted eyes.
Our theories? A change in programming to make the timid droid fit for a fight (a leaked image shows Threepio laden with Chewbacca’s bowcaster), or an attempt to salvage his memories from the prequel era, which may help in the fight against Palpatine. Whatever lies in store for cinema’s fussiest robot, he may not be the same again…
‘Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi… your destiny’ comes the reassuring voice of an off-screen (likely Force Spirit) Luke Skywalker as the Resistance is seeing clashing with stormtroopers aboard a First Order ship, and in a high-speed chase on the desert planet, Pasaana.
Finn’s cheer fades into the gleeful chuckle of Lando Calrissian as he and Chewie pilot the Falcon into battle. Y-Wings, B-Wings, X-Wings and more soaring among the seemingly endless fleet of newly-christened TIE Dagger fighters and the Imperial Destroyers (adorned with enormous ventral cannons that we assume cause the destruction seen in the D23 teaser).
Finn, Jannah, Rose and more ride across the surface of a First Order destroyer (has the Order turned against their Imperial progenitors?) atop fierce Orback creatures, intercut with Rey and Kylo Ren facing down in what remains of Palpatine’s throne room on the second Death Star.
Rey’s saber is lit, but Kylo is unarmed… will their unsteady alliance be reforged? Perhaps not, as Rey is seen smashing the altar upon which Ren keeps the husk of Darth Vader’s mask.
She appears to be wielding some kind of knife in her left hand: maybe she sees that Kylo (now re-helmeted) is forever lost to the shackles of his lineage. If smashing the symbol of his entitlement won’t do, perhaps more cloak-and-dagger methods are a last resort?
She is then brought face-to-face with Palpatine, sat atop some kind of throne (the shot is brief, but suggests the throne is moving or rising).
Rey raises her lightsaber for one last fight as Luke and Leia respectively utter the space saga’s most famous refrain:
‘The Force will be with you…’
Carrie Fisher is given top-billing on the poster, and her final word in the trailer is a beautifully-placed emotional gut-punch.
The whole trailer is laden with this bittersweet tone, as the Skywalker Saga reaches its conclusion, wrapping up over four decades of storytelling.
As much as we’ll miss these characters, these ships, these worlds, the trailers too will be a hard act to follow.
From that first enigmatic teaser for The Force Awakens, to the heist movie antics of the marketing for Solo, the Disney-era Star Wars trailers have always stood out amongst the choppily-edited, tell-don’t-show sizzles for similarly-budgeted blockbusters.
With Star Wars soon to disappear from cinema screens until December 2022, and the first Avengers saga now behind us, it may be the last true ‘event’ trailer we have for quite some time.
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker will be released in UK cinemas on 19th December.