'Star Wars: Episode 9' Spoilers: That Huge "Skywalker" Theory May Be Wrong
Despite the stunning footage of Rey’s backflip and the cackle of Emperor Palpatine in the trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the one thing people can’t stop talking about is the word “Skywalker.” Sure, it’s the last name of the most famous family in Star Wars, but why is it in the subtitle? Which Skywalker is rising? How? When? Why?
Overwhelmingly, one fan theory has emerged as to what “Skywalker” really means. But, if this theory turns out to be wrong, will the fans be able to accept alternative explanations for the title? And, more crucially, do the titles of the last two big Star Wars movies make any sense either?
Speculative spoilers ahead for Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker
Let’s get real. The subtitle for Star Wars: Episode IX is confusing. Calling a movie The Rise Of Skywalker is perhaps the most bizarre choice for a Star Wars subtitle ever if only because there’s not anyone named Skywalker running around in these movies right now who isn’t either a ghost, a distant memory, or, going by another name.
None of this makes The Rise Of Skywalker a bad title. It’s awesome! I love it! It just means that unlike The Empire Strikes Back or Attack of the Clones there’s a lack of literalism.
This fact has given rise to the very popular fan theory, that, as outlined in both smart essays and pithy tweets, the film will reveal that “Skywalker” becomes a new kind of Force-user and that the ideas of the binary Jedi and Sith will go away.
The “Skywalker” that is rising then, isn’t a person, but an idea, or, perhaps an ideal. To be clear, I like this theory, but at this point, it’s a theory. Does the notion of “Skywalker” becoming a kind of fancy sobriquet have a precedent in any real Star Wars stuff?
The answer is kind of. In George Lucas’s earliest drafts of Star Wars (which you can see parts of in the book Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays) there’s a character named General Skywalker, who is an early version of Obi-Wan. In the bizarre canceled 1994 Robert Sawyer book series Alien Exodus, a character named Cosmo Hender would have gained the nickname “The Skywalker” because of his levitation powers. This book series was never completed, though the author published the outlines, some of which, fascinatingly include the idea of the humans of the Star Wars galaxy actually having originated on Earth. The point here? Yes, the name “Skywalker” has been used in different contexts in versions of Star Wars which never saw the light of day, which, actually makes a strong case for the theory that the named could change meaning in the new film, too. (Abrams borrowed the term “Starkiller” from an early draft of the original Star Wars too, when Luke was known as “Luke Starkiller.”)
But then again, just because a fan theory happens to fit a notion of what could happen, that doesn’t mean that’s what will happen. Or to put it another way, theories about new Star Wars movies can exist in limbo as either not entirely wrong, but not outright confirmed onscreen either. And that’s because, in terms of speculation about the meaning of titles of Star Wars movies, we’ve been down this path before. Very recently I might add!
Relevantly, this isn’t the first of the new Star Wars films missing some literalism in its subtitle. What did the The Force Awakens mean? Was the Force asleep? Taking a nap? Snoke says “there’s been an awakening” but what did that refer to? Kylo Ren’s powers expanding? Rey becoming a badass? Both? Neither? The movie never answers these questions outright, meaning any of your fan theories about the meaning of the title are both 100 percent wrong, and 100 percent right, depending on how you look at it.
Ditto for The Last Jedi. Prior to the movie coming out, we all theorized endlessly if the title was plural or singular, and if “the last Jedi” referred to Rey or Luke Skywalker. In the film, Luke says “I will not be the last Jedi,” making the conversations about plural Jedi versus singular Jedi in the title, and Rey versus Luke all balanced and equal, just like the way Qui-Gon Jinn wants the Force. Was The Last Jedi Luke or Rey? The answer, was yes! Both!
Star Wars is a weird fictional film franchise insofar as there’s a huge amount stuff that is never actually mentioned on screen, which nonetheless is fodder for a variety of “well-actually” arguments. Here’s a brief and totally incomplete list of things never mentioned in Star Wars movies that you somehow are just supposed to know anyway.
- Boba Fett is not a Mandalorian, but he wears their armor. Really!
- The Ewoks are called Ewoks even though no one says the word “Ewok” in Return of the Jedi.
- The alphabet of the Star Wars universe is called aurebesh, but nobody says that in any of the movies. Ever.
- Emperor Palpatine’s first name is Sheev though we didn’t even know his last name was “Palpatine” until the prequels. We got “Palpatine” from the books.
- Wedge’s last name is Antilles, Biggs’s last name is Darklighter, but again, no one says, “hey what’s up “Wedge Antilles” in a Star Wars movie. These names came from books and comics, and finally, on screen in Rebels.
- The word “Sith” was never said — not once — in the classic trilogy. All of that Dark Lord of the Sith stuff came from books.
I think you get the point — pretending like we know everything about Star Wars is a fool’s errand because even after movies get released, there’s a ton of phantom information that somehow informs the plot, which, if you’ve only just watched the movie, you’d never know. (Hey, apparently Ben Solo had a calligraphy set when he trained under Luke Skywalker, but the fact that I know that is slightly insane.)
Why mention any of this? Because, though there’s a very clear line between fan theories and actual “canon,” often times the details don’t end up in the actual movies, meaning, we search for explanations elsewhere. This leads us to back to the newest fan theory about The Rise of Skywalker; that it actually will be revealed to be a new title Force-users adopt in place of the old-and-busted term “Jedi.” The movie might come out, and this theory might end up being…still a theory. Depending on the writing, J.J. Abrams and company might not need to explain the title outright. And if the last two trilogy films are any evidence, there’s not a great track record for the titles getting explained on screen in a way that makes a whole lot of sense anyway.
So, sure. The Rise of Skywalker might refer to Rey becoming a new kind of Jedi, or the broom kid learning to be like Luke, instead of learning to be like a “Jedi.” That’s fine. But, it’s also possible the film won’t be super explicit about it.
It’s also possible that we’re all totally wrong and that the “Skywalker” in the title is like the “Skyfall” in the James Bond movie, Skyfall. Remember when that turned out to be a place rather than a codeword for a secret mission? Yeah, that was a hellva twist. I’m not saying “The Rise of Skywalker” is going to refer to a city called “Skywalker” or that there’s a new super-weapon called “Skywalker,” but this early in the game, it’s probably smart to not get too attached to any one explanation.
If the history of Star Wars fandom has taught us anything, it’s that managing your expectations about things making sense is the only path to true sanity. If you’re going to have a good time talking about The Rise of Skywalker, you may have to accept a wider vision of the Force, one that doesn’t include a world in which everything is explained.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is out everywhere on December 20, 2019.