On Friday, Disney released a new teaser trailer for the latest Star Wars movie, and it confirms fans’ worst fears. The trailer is slick and fun to watch, but it reveals Disney’s intent to complete the ruination of the Star Wars film franchise.
Disney reveled that Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker will play to fan service in the same way The Force Awakens did, perhaps trying to undo the disastrous mistakes of The Last Jedi. The problem is, such a thematic shift will only worsen the damage of Episode VIII.
The Rise of Skywalker will bring back Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine, the ultimate villain in the first six films. “No one’s ever really gone,” Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) says in the trailer, followed immediately by Palpatine’s maniacal laugh. Disney confirmed this reveal by having McDiarmid speak at the Rise of Skywalker panel.
The rest of the trailer also appealed to fans: shots of Rey (Daisy Ridley) embracing Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), a heartwarming moment with Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) with Chewbacca going into light speed on the Millennium Falcon, and the reveal of a title featuring “Skywalker.”
The shots of Rey fighting a TIE fighter with her lightsaber and the new worlds that will be featured in the film are riveting, and many fans are very excited for this movie. The problem is, each of these artistic decisions bode ill for the film and what it means for the Star Wars franchise.
If Emperor Palpatine did not die at the end of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, that changes the meaning of the entire trilogy, and the one before it. Episodes I-III, the prequel trilogy, told of the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker, as orchestrated by Palpatine. Episodes IV-VI, the original trilogy, narrated Anakin’s redemption and the rise of Luke Skywalker, together with the ultimate defeat of Palpatine. If Palpatine is not dead, that cheapens the celebration of Return of the Jedi.
By far the worst thing about the new trailer is the title. The original titles were: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. The sequel titles were: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. Notice a trend? Both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi followed this trend — vague thematic words that describe the episode. The Rise of Skywalker is far too specific. It also feels cheap compared to the others.
Worst of all, the first two trilogies had a singular thematic arc. The shocking reveal of Darth Vader as Luke’s father was completely in keeping with the clues in the first two films. While the prequel trilogy was predictable, it filled in the story of Anakin and built on the style of the first three films. Hayden Christensen’s acting and Jar Jar Binks aside, the prequels had a great deal of the spirit of the first three.
The sequel trilogy is a mangled jumble of themes. The Force Awakens was clearly designed to interest fans of the original trilogy, and it went out of its way to mimic the original films. The Last Jedi was designed to shake things up, to “subvert expectations.” The problem is, each of the answers to questions The Force Awakens set up — Who is Snoke? Who are Rey’s parents? What happened to Luke? — was worse than a let-down. The death of Snoke, the poo-pooing of Rey’s parentage, and the devolution of Luke into a crotchety old man were not just let-downs — they were clear rejections of the themes of Star Wars.
In the epic science-fiction fantasy of Star Wars, parentage matters. The identity of a mastermind emperor matters. And Luke Skywalker is a hero who would never give up on the Jedi Order. The Last Jedi didn’t so much subvert these expectations as eviscerate them.
Even worse, the way The Last Jedi treated light speed destroyed the basic mechanics of the Star Wars universe. If a small ship can destroy a big ship by slamming into it at light speed, then every battle in history would be different. The Rebellion wouldn’t have tried to fly X-Wings close enough to the Death Star to blow it up — they would have just sent one X-Wing at light speed into the Death Star and destroyed it easily.
Sadly, Disney needed to start over with The Last Jedi, to rework the basic storyline and make it fit as a Star Wars film. Instead, it decided to go forward with the next cash cow.
The Rise of Skywalker seems a return to the style of The Force Awakens — Disney is going out of its way to bring discontented fans back into the fold. Disney seems unwilling to put in the hard work to make Star Wars what it originally was — and that work would require revisiting The Last Jedi, perhaps even just scrapping Episode VIII altogether.
Rather than telling a coherent thematic story, this sequel trilogy is a hodgepodge of disjointed films. Disney can certainly do better.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.