No matter what happens in Star Wars 9, it will, for better or for worse, be the fulfillment of a prophecy. Speaking on the Today show Tuesday, Oscar Isaac had a final proclamation of sorts for the next Star Wars movie:
“It is the end of the entire Skywalker saga. Nine stories. This is the culmination of the entire thing.”
Since 2015’s The Force Awakens, Isaac has played Poe Dameron in the new Star Wars trilogy, a guy who is definitely not related to Luke Skywalker but is certainly wrapped up in the family drama. But at this point, that family drama extends backward more than it does forward. The culmination of “nine stories” means the three stories that form the backstory are part of this. Which means, like an awkward dinner with your parents, the ending of Episode IX has to directly deal with the wonky prequels.
Here are three ways Episode IX could realistically incorporate the prequels in a significant way, without annoying anybody.
Speculative spoilers for Star Wars: Episode IX are potentially ahead.
Incorporate Prequel Lore Into Classic Trilogy Flashbacks
The idea that the galactic melodrama of the Skywalker family would span nine films is not remotely new. If you bust out the liner notes for the double-vinyl John Williams soundtrack for The Empire Strikes Back, you’ll find this:
“The new motion picture is the further episode in an epic adventure spanning forty years. The whole adventure is divided into three trilogies, with Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back as the first two parts of the middle trilogy.”
Of course, Empire came out in 1980, the same time the vinyl was pressed for the soundtrack and those linear notes were written. The point? The notion that the core story of Star Wars is nine movies is nearly written in stone — or vinyl — as far back as fans knew that the 1977 film Star Wars isn’t really the first part of the story. Lucas has often insisted it was a “trilogy of trilogies,” too. So what? Well, the easiest way to reference the prequels in Episode IX is to do it via the classic films. Remember when Luke Skywalker just casually said “Darth Sidious” in The Last Jedi? That’s the kind of approach Episode IX could take in terms of tying it into the prequels.
But, instead of just having a classic trilogy character use nomenclature from the prequels, Episode IX could go the extra parsec. Let’s have a flashback featuring Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine seeing Luke as a young boy, but have Obi-Wan played by Ewan McGregor. Or, perhaps Leia remembers being a child on Alderaan, which makes way for Jimmy Smits to return as Bail Organa, again. (He already did in Rogue One, so why not here?) The point is, if Episode IX is truly going to wrap up the whole saga, it’s not enough to mention the prequels; we need to see some actors from the prequels.
The Balance of the Force
In the very first scene of The Force Awakens, when Poe Dameron gets a piece of the map to Luke Skywalker from Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow), they talk about how the Force is out of whack without the Jedi.
“This will begin to make things right,” Lor San Tekka says. But what does he mean? Presumably, because Anakin destroyed the Sith in Return of the Jedi, the balance of the Force should have been restored. But, clearly, that didn’t happen.
In Episode I, a lot is made of “the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the Force.” Various different Star Wars characters think this “chosen one” is a different person. Qui-Gon thought it was Anakin. Obi-Wan believed it was Luke.
In a short story in From a Certain Point of View, we learn that Yoda kind of thought Leia could be the “chosen one.” For the most part, the Lucasfilm Story Group says the “chosen one” is Anakin, and that these various characters were just wrong.
But what if that changes? J.J. Abrams has promised to “unite the trilogies” with Episode IX, which means he’ll have to address the central conflict setup in Episode I: The Phantom Menace: Who will bring balance to the Force and how? Just because everyone assumes the “chosen one” is Anakin, it doesn’t mean Star Wars canon can’t be rewritten.
Let’s just say that it turns out Rey is the “chosen one,” or maybe Kylo Ren. If written well, this all could work. Star Wars retconned the balance of the Force before. It can again.
Anakin Skywalker Returns
What if J.J. Abrams decides not to mess with existing George Lucas canon? It’s actually possible he’ll just hew really close to what has already been established and stick with Anakin being the “chosen one,” which sort of means Anakin Skywalker needs to be in the movie. Obviously, the rumor of Hayden Christensen returning to Star Wars has been floating around since before The Force Awakens came out.
But now, with the conclusion of the saga, it feels possible that it may actually happen. I’m not saying this would be a Darth Vader cameo, per se, but an actual honest-to-goodness Anakin Skywalker Force ghost.
We saw Yoda chilling with Anakin’s ghost in Return of the Jedi. We saw Yoda’s ghost in The Last Jedi. In terms of chronology, there’s only one movie between those two ghost sightings: The Force Awakens. And in that movie, Kylo Ren says he’s been talking to the ghost of his grandfather. Kylo’s grandfather is Anakin Skywalker, the guy who pretty much started this whole Skywalker story.
If we’re going to see the end of the Skywalker story, it seems like an overwhelmingly safe bet that we’ll see Anakin Skywalker, and thus restore balance between the prequels and the rest of Star Wars, forever.
Star Wars: Episode IX hits theaters on December 20, 2019.