The Jedi and Sith have fallen, and now it’s the rise of Skywalkers. At Star Wars Celebration 2019 in Chicago, Lucasfilm unveiled the trailer for Episode IX, officially titled Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
But the title doesn’t mean Luke Skywalker comes back to chop up bad guys with a lightsaber, or that Rey is actually related to Luke. (God, please no.) True to the saga’s themes of renewal, the title, The Rise of Skywalker, could suggest the ancient Jedi and Sith binary vanishes to give way to a harmonious or tumultuous union, one that will be called “Skywalker.”
In other words, one no longer becomes Jedi or Sith. In the future of Star Wars, Force wielders can become “Skywalker.”
On Friday, Lucasfilm revealed the trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final installment of the new trilogy (and the ninth film in the core series). The trailer shows much of the series’ cast reprising their roles, including Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, his first appearance since Return of the Jedi in 1983. One surprise reveal was actor Ian McDiarmid returning as Palpatine, who can be heard cackling offscreen as the title is revealed.
The title The Rise of Skywalker has that same awkward tinge that plagues all new Star Wars titles. It wasn’t long ago when fans thought The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi sounded dumb. In fact, earlier this year, an old clip of Ewan McGregor laughing at Attack of the Clones went viral, proving even people involved with Star Wars can’t make heads or tails of the titles.
But like all Star Wars titles, The Rise of Skywalker actually suggests a big idea. As it follows The Last Jedi (downward of the old), The Rise of Skywalker (upward of the new) hints the Jedi and Sith are gone forever, if they aren’t already, to allow a new generation of Force-sensitive beings who reconcile the Light and Dark sides of the Force.
And these people, from Rey to Kylo Ren, to that little stable boy with the broom at the end of The Last Jedi, will not be Jedi or Sith. They will be Skywalkers.
I don’t think I need to recap how the Skywalker family has had a history of struggling between both sides of the Force. From Anakin’s arc as the “fallen Chosen One” to literally everything about Luke in the original trilogy (especially Return of the Jedi), to now the new trilogy’s themes of letting the past go, these characters who are central to the “Skywalker Saga” have historically been about the balance and imbalance of good and evil.
Adding to this crackpot theory of mine, Luke was confirmed by Rian Johnson to be the so-called “Last Jedi.” Even though Luke literally said in the film, “I will not be the last Jedi” to Kylo Ren, he probably meant it in a more abstract way. Remember: It was Yoda himself who reminded Luke of the virtues of letting go.
Recall Luke and Yoda’s exchange in The Last Jedi:
Luke: “So, it is time … for the Jedi Order to end?”
Yoda: “Time, it is … hmm, for you to look past a pile of old books, hmm?”
And (emphasis mine):
Yoda: “Heeded my words not, did you? ‘Pass on what you have learned.’ Strength, mastery, hmm … but weakness, folly, failure, also. Yes, failure, most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”
Ironically, if this is true, naming a new generation of Force users “Skywalkers” sort of violates the idea of moving forward rather than looking back. But even as things change and the past is let go in favor of the future, there’s still room for homage. After all: Whose lightsaber was it that Luke and then Rey inherited?
As panel host Stephen Colbert said on stage, Star Wars is all about imagining oneself embarking on an adventure. Allowing fans to imagine themselves as “Skywalkers” is one hell of a way to reconcile a legacy and still forge something new.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be released on December 20.