Will Natalie Portman be in Star Wars: Episode IX? I don’t know, how drunk is this movie?
This week, “leaks” surfaced online that Portman will reprise her role as Padmé Amidala, mother of Luke and Leia, former Queen, Senator and Jar Jar Binks’s secret drinking buddy. Now, the specifics of these leaks shouldn’t be taken seriously, because they’re just fan speculation being presented as leaks. (Speculation is fun, but let’s call it what it is!)
First of all, the recent Natalie Portman theory-presented-as-a-leak claims Padmé could appear through the goofy time-travel stuff introduced in an episode of Star Wars Rebels called “The World Between Worlds.” This seems really unlikely for one simple reason: the World Between Worlds allows people to actually go back in time and change something. Introducing this kind element Episode IX would both confuse casual fans and also create new stakes that are impossible to reconcile. If J.J. Abrams is smart, he’ll let the World Between Worlds stay lurking in the shadows of the cartoons. Sure, it’s “canon,” but let’s not get carried away with that stuff.
More obviously, Abrams doesn’t even need something this complicated to make a flashback happen. In fact, if we stick to the realm of real Star Wars news, this week, photographs emerged that 100 percent confirmed what many of us had heard in 2014: An actor named Robert Boulter shot scenes for The Force Awakens dressed as young Luke Skywalker circa The Empire Strikes Back. Eventually cut from the final film, these scenes would have been part of Rey’s “Force Back” flashback visions she had of the past when she touched the Skywalker family lightsaber and, for a quick instant, was transported to Cloud City, standing in the same hallway Luke stood where he faced Vader.
This is the part of The Force Awakens where we can hear Vader’s breathing. It’s okay if you don’t remember it, a lot happens crazy fast in that scene. The point is, if Abrams wants to do flashbacks (or “Force Backs”) he’ll do them like he did in Episode VII: by using the Force.
With that in mind, which flashbacks should be included? In my opinion, there are only three that are crucial.
3. Something That Establishes Why Leia Isn’t in Most of the Movie
It seems like a foregone conclusion that Episode IX will have a time jump. There’s no way you can pick up right on the Millennium Falcon after the end of The Last Jedi. It would be weird. Plus, because of Carrie Fisher’s tragic passing in 2016, the movie almost has to do Leia’s appearance as a flashback. Abrams has even said that they’re using footage left-over from The Force Awakens which makes sense, because Rian Johnson straight-up told yours truly in 2017 that “there isn’t a ton of her that we shot that we didn’t use” of Carrie Fisher in The Last Jedi.
If Abrams is using footage of Fisher from The Force Awakens, he might be cleverly re-purposing deleted scenes where Leia is talking about the politics of the galaxy. In fact, there’s one deleted scene in particular that seems perfect for this kind of flashback.
If you watch the officially released deleted scenes from The Force Awakens, there’s one called “Leia and the Resistance” where she talks to one of her aides about how they have to get “the Senate to take action against the First Order.” Here’s the thing, Leia’s hair actually looks sort of different in this scene than it does in the rest of the movie, which means it would be pretty easy to repurpose it for a different time period, one in which Leia is communicating to what’s left of the Senate for different reasons. Plus, the officially deleted scene is only 16-seconds long, so there’s got to be more material there. In any case, and however he makes it happen, Abrams will need a flashback about Leia.
2. Han and Luke Share Screen Time to Argue About Ben Solo Becoming a Jedi
There’s no research or evidence to support this will happen, but because this might be it for the old school Star Wars actors, it feels like a huge crime to omit Harrison Ford. Sure, Han Solo died in The Force Awakens, but what about a flashback that shows him and Luke fighting about Ben Solo joining Luke’s school?
Not only would such a reunion be an emotional gift to the fans, but it could also work with the plot beautifully. Maybe the Force Ghost of Luke needs to show Kylo Ren that his father loved him by showing him a memory from the past. Maybe Rey has a weird mind-meld with Kylo and accesses a memory he’s buried, one that proves his father and his uncle both loved him.
Because Fisher can’t be in the movie as much as we’d all want her to be, it seems only right Harrison Ford should return for a secret cameo. If a Han Solo flashback does happen, you will have heard it here first. And, if I’m right, you all can buy me shots. I’ll buy you all shots if Natalie Portman appears via time travel. (Seriously, if you can find me in a bar, at a normal time in 2020, and Natalie Portman appears in Episode IX via time travel, I will buy you a shot. What is more likely? The time travel or me hanging out with you, dear reader, in a bar randomly? Hmmm?)
1. The Freaking Knights of Ren Standing in the Rain
You really think the guys standing around wearing the creepy black Sith Armor and helmets aren’t going to get explained in Episode IX? Come on! If we go back to flashbacks that we know about, this is the one that hasn’t been completed. Who was the dude Kylo Ren stabs in this flashback? Was this one of Luke’s students at the Jedi school or some other random sucker? What did this have to do with the old family Skywalker lightsaber, if anything? WHO ARE THE KNIGHTS OF REN?
The notion that all of these questions would be answered quickly in lines of dialogue in Episode IX feels cheap. If the Knights of Ren don’t appear contemporarily, they’ll have to explained in another way. Or, more interestingly, Episode IX could avoid having Mark Hamill appear as Luke’s ghost entirely, and instead, have him appear in these Knights of Ren flashbacks as a still-alive Luke Skywalker, wracked with guilt over having just considered killing Kylo Ren while Kylo was still wearing a comfy nightshirt.
Will other flashbacks happen? Maybe? Will Natalie Portman or Hayden Christensen or Ahmed Best be invited? Who knows. But if you’re placing bets on these things, I’d stick with the three I’ve suggested above. For all the twisty reputations contemporary Star Wars has, these movies are actually more predictable than you realize. And that’s because the ability to twist a plot is insignificant next to the power of audience demands.
Star Wars: Episode IX is out NEXT YEAR on December 20, 2019.