Last weekend, those attending Disney’s fan celebration D23 were treated to an exclusive first look at new footage of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. On Monday, Disney released the sizzle reel online for the force faithful to dissect, and the latest look at the film seems to support earlier story leaks about a pivotal battle between Rey and Kylo Ren.
Possible spoilers ahead for The Rise of Skywalker, so consider yourself warned. Still curious? Buckle up. The D23 footage opens with a montage of moments from all eight previous mainline films in the Star Wars saga. On the surface, there’s nothing extraordinary about this; it’s a quick refresher on all that’s happened, and an easy way to spark some nostalgia for beloved, fan-favorite characters.
However, if you’ve been following the Rise of Skywalker rumor mill over the past few months, this montage bears far greater narrative significance. Multiple outlets, including Making Star Wars, have reported a centerpiece duel between Rey and Kylo Ren will see the pair “force flash” between key settings in the Star Wars universe. Citing unnamed sources back in April, MSW stated, “Rey and Kylo clash and as they battle the backgrounds change into places throughout Star Wars’ vast locations from the nine-part Skywalker saga. To protect sources, I cannot touch on what backgrounds popup and even if I did there’s no indications as to which are in the movie for sure.”
It’s not entirely clear yet how this battle will play out on-screen, whether these settings will simply appear for a moment in the background, or whether the characters will interact with those environments and incorporate elements of the unique terrain of each into their fighting. We know Kylo and Rey initially face off atop a sea-swept mechanical ruin, which appears to be a segment of of one of the fallen Death Stars from either A New Hope or *Return of the Jedi.” She’s using the blue Skywalker saber here, as opposed to the eye-popping double-sided red one she’s seen with elsewhere in the D23 footage. For more on Dark Rey, head here.
If the rumors are accurate, this “force flash” battle would also hearken back to Rey’s vision from Maz’s castle in The Force Awakens. During that much-dissected scene, we see brief flashes of familiar settings and hear the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi, who addresses Rey by name and tells her, “these are your first steps.”
The concept for this supernatural, setting-shifting duel between Kylo and Rey also makes sense in the context of the ambiguous intimacy between them. Throughout The Last Jedi, the two commune with one another privately while Rey trains with Luke on Ahch-To. During these exchanges, each is able to know the other’s thoughts and memories almost as if they were their own: this is how Rey is able to see Kylo’s version of the night Luke’s Jedi temple was destroyed. As the legions of Reylo shippers out there can attest, they grow closer each time they talk, becoming steadily more aware of the common ground between them.
After one heated conversation, which ends with Rey gazing out at the turbulent waves on Ahch-To, Kylo notices he has seawater on his glove, despite never having left his Star Destroyer. The series of conversations between them culminates with the two touching hands across the vast reaches of space, to the extent that Luke is able to see Kylo sitting across from her inside a hut in Ahch-To. Both Rey and Kylo manage to be effectively in two places at once, and there’s a distinct physicality to their bond. Looking ahead to The Rise of Skywalker, this suggests the environments Rey and Kylo move through over the course of their epic duel won’t be mere backgrounds; instead, they will have a tangible impact on the fight.
Will both make it out of this clash alive? We’ll find out when The Rise of Skywalker comes to theaters December 20.