Breaking Down the New Hopes and Shadowed Empires in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker's Final Trailer

By James Whitbrook on at

It’s here. After waiting months since Star Wars Celebration gave us our first look – and being dazzled by a dark vision in the meantime – the final trailer for The Rise of Skywalker has arrived. It doesn’t just bring a message of hope for the Resistance reborn, but has quite a few intriguing details and hints you may have missed.

The trailer opens with more footage of a scene we’ve already had glimpses of: Rey (Daisy Ridley), now left with little but ancient texts to show her the path of the Jedi, training herself. This jungle world seems to be a major new hub of activity for what’s left of the Resistance after the events of The Last Jedi – a new Monopoly board released as part of the film’s merch campaign has revealed that it’s called Ajan Kloss.

As Rey continues to run, Finn (John Boyega) begins to narrate, ruminating on the power of the Force. “It’s an instinct,” he says, “a feeling.” But as Rey leaps over a ravine, she finds herself making a similar jump in the ruins of a ship – much like the Star Destroyer innards she used to scavenge in Jakku’s graveyards. Given she’s still in her new Rise look, there stands a good chance this is a scene that takes place on whichever planet the waterlogged ruins of the second Death Star are on. But is this moment just a clever cut, or vision of the Force teasing Rey with what’s to come?

“The Force brought us together,” Finn concludes, as we get a shot of the man himself using some macrobinoculars. Although the colour tone would want you to believe that this is the desert world glimpsed in prior trailers – which we know is named Pasaana thanks to another merchandise tidbit, this time a Lego set – the environment is certainly less arid. The fields make it look more like the world the Resistance finds the Death Star II ruins on (just less rainswept than we’ve seen it), and match up with promo shots we’ve seen of Naomi Ackie’s mysterious new character, Jannah. More on her later!

As Finn’s moment concludes, another narrator enters the trailer: Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). “We’re not alone,” Poe tells us, as we cut to a snapshot of the Resistance’s new base, filled with plenty of pilots and operatives – there’s a bit of a gap between The Last Jedi’s end and The Rise of Skywalker’s beginning, a gap currently being filled by a swath of books and comics depicting the shattered Resistance reaching out to whatever allies they can.

Some of those allies will be familiar, in some ways more than others. In this shot we can see just why everyone’s huddled around and excited: They’re in the presence of a legend. General of the Rebel Alliance. Captain of the Millenium Falcon. Baron Administrator of Cloud City. He’s not a system, he is a man: Lando Calrissian (the returning Billy Dee Williams). He’s clearly raided his younger self’s wardrobe since his retirement.

But Lando isn’t the only potential figure with a legacy here – to his right is a Mon Calamari officer who we’ve previously seen once again, as part of the merchandise campaign, a standee, to be specific. There, the character was unnamed, but the ongoing prequel comic Star Wars: Allegiance has us wondering if this is a character that’s been appearing there: Aftab Ackbar, son of the fallen Admiral Gial Ackbar, who in Allegiance has been serving as a point of contact for Leia as she attempts to re-convince the Mon Calamari and Quarren to fight against the First Order’s assault on the galaxy.

“Good people will fight if we lead them,” Poe continues, and speaking of good people, here’s a few! Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), who according to character details has risen through Resistance ranks to become the Commander of its Engineering Corps, marches into blaster fire with Lieutenant Connix (Billie Lourd) and a newcomer Resistance soldier, played by Lost and Lord of the Rings star Dominic Monaghan. The hectic environment around them all seems to indicate that this is all taking place in the climactic battle of the film – which we’ll see a lot more of later.

After hearing Poe, we finally get to see him, flanked by Finn and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). We also get a brief glimpse of Poe’s new ride, an orange and white X-Wing to replace the destroyed Black One. As with a lot of things in this trailer so far, a new toy actually gave us our best look at it so far.

But what are Poe and friends looking at? The racing soldiers behind them and general look of concern seems to indicate that something may be going wrong on Ajan Kloss.

As does the fleeing Corellian C90 “Blockade Runner” Corvette that was part of their base of operations. The first trailer for the film gave us a glimpse of Kylo Ren leading a brutal First Order assault in a forested environment that could reasonably be Ajan Kloss. Does the First Order find the rebuilding Resistance early on in the film, leading them to take flight to find more allies and a new base?

We’re back in the waterlogged ruins of the Death Star II again. The idea of the sunken ruins of the planetkiller is one originally floated for The Force Awakens, but we’re still unsure of where exactly this world is. It certainly doesn’t look like the forest moon of Endor, which is where you may assume scraps of a fully armed and in-the-middle-of-exploding battlesations to imminently land after the Rebels struck the final blow in Return of the Jedi. Is the actual gas giant of the same name as its moon? Another planet in that system? Or is it somewhere else entirely?

After all, chunks of debris flying through the vacuum of space from an explosion that large could fly pretty damn far.

We zoom in closer on Rey, as she readies her lightsaber and enters the narration herself: “People keep telling me they know me. No one does,” she powerfully states. A rather unsubtle acknowledgement that perhaps the mystery of who Rey is, and who her parents were, is not quite as settled as The Last Jedi would’ve had us believed. Or maybe it’s just more pointed that a certain someone doesn’t know Rey...

Because amid the wash and mist, comes Mr. Darcy Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), adding a flat “But I do” to Rey’s narration. He readies his own saber, for a fight we briefly glimpsed in the footage shown at D23...but is Ren really fighting Rey, or is he simply trying to lead her somewhere?

Before we can follow up on that thought, we cut to a veritable swarm of TIEs making a path towards a massive, icy structure. We know there’s a new frozen world in The Rise of Skywalker that will have a massive part to play in several character’s plotlines: Kijimi. We briefly glimpsed its environs (including said environs being blasted apart by bombardments) in past footage, and information released about one of the film’s new characters, Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell) – a smuggler we’ll see a little more of later on – indicates that the First Order and Resistance’s war will come calling for the seemingly neutral world, forcing its inhabitants to choose a side.

But why is Kijimi so important? It would seem that it is home to what is perhaps the key to The Rise of Skywalker’s most sinister plan of all, as a dread voice enters the narration. “Long have I waited...” murmers the chilling voice of Emperor Sheev Palpatine (Ian McDairmid), as we glimpse an incredibly ornate throne in a mist that makes it seem like this could be on Kijimi.

Here’s the thing though: This throne isn’t actually new! Well, it is and it isn’t. Eagle eyed Star Wars fans will recognise this design as one seen in concept art by Ralph McQuarrie for Return of the Jedi, as also noted by Lucasfilm’s Phil Szostak:

1981 Emperor’s throne room thumbnail sketches by Ralph McQuarrie for #ReturnoftheJedi. #StarWars #TheRiseOfSkywalker pic.twitter.com/I6insw60vJ

– Phil Szostak (@PhilSzostak) October 22, 2019

In its earliest stages of conceptualisation, Return of the Jedi was going to climax not aboard the second Death Star, but on the Imperial capital world of Had Abaddon (which would eventually evolve in canon into Coruscant). There were several designs for Palpatine’s throne room, including the above. Another, which set Palpatine’s lair in an underground, lava-laden hellscape – inspired by concepts McQuarrie had done for Empire Strikes Back, which almost featured a fiery lair for Darth Vader – eventually acted as inspiration for the planet Mustafar, and Vader’s sinister castle there.

It’s not all fun and spiky thrones that Kijimi has lying under its frozen surface, though. We get seeming confirmation that this is all taking place on that icy world as a massive Imperial Star Destroyer comes bursting out of an ice shelf, surrounded by ominous lightning bolts. Yes, re-read that: Imperial. Not First Order.

We saw this shocking fleet in greater detail in the D23 footage a few months ago, but this idea of a new armada of old capital ships is one Star Wars’ reborn expanded universe of tie-in media has been building toward pretty much since Disney and Lucasfilm rebooted the canon. While he was still alive, Palpatine was fascinated by an unknown power he had detected out in the unknown regions of the galaxy – and spent much of his time not really running his Empire, but building up resources and ways to try and reach that power.

As relayed in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath series, when the Empire fell in the years immediately after Return of the Jedi, a remnant of Imperial forces fled from the New Republic at Jakku. Lead by Admiral Rae Sloane and a council of various Moffs, Admirals, and former confidantes of the Emperor, they took what remained of their fleets and headed towards the co-ordinates Palpatine had calculated as the source of this unknown presence, slowly building up their armies to eventually form the military branch of what would be the First Order – after hooking up with a bunch of secessionist worlds from the New Republic Senate as part of a drama sparked by the public revelation of Leia as Darth Vader’s daughter, that is.

While the First Order re-emerged into the known regions of the Star Wars galaxy with new takes on familiar tech, it would seem the Imperial Remnant left their vast fleets hidden away, should their Emperor ever return...and it seems that between these ships and Kylo Ren’s mysterious new Sith Troopers, the time has come for the Empire to strike back.

It’s a good job that the Resistance did indeed find some allies then, as we cut to this incredible shot of the Falcon (you can juuuust about make out that it’s Chewie and Lando in the cockpit) ahead of a massive fleet of ships. Very familiar ships.

This shot was released ahead of last night’s trailer in a brief TV teaser, and we’ve already gone through a breakdown of some of the ships we can see in the background of this massive gathering which is essentially a greatest hits of Star Wars heroic ship design. Here’s a glorious high-res still of it that you’ll want to make your desktop wallpaper (click to enlarge):

There’s MC75 Mon Calamari cruisers, Nebulon-B Frigates, Sphyrna-Class corvettes from Rogue One (and before that, Knights of the Old Republic, when they were called Hammerhead Crusiers), YT-2400s, Lancer-classes, a Baleen heavy freighter in the vein of the ship Han and Chewie captained in The Force Awakens, the Eravana, what even looks like an Old Republic-era Defender-Class Corvette, Pelta-Class frigates, and so many more. Yes, even a ship that looks awfully lot like Star Wars Rebels’ Ghost. And even the oft-forgotten Brahatok! Head on over the link below to read more of our speculation.

Meanwhile, in a shot that is not from the above battle, a new crew forms on the Falcon: Rey, Chewie, Poe, Finn, and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels). Over it, another sinister comment from Palpatine: “And now you’re coming together,” he cackles. You’re made to think by this narration that it’s the Resistance regrouping all of its allies in one last effort that is the subject of Palpatine’s mockery – echoing his mockery of Luke’s faith in his friends being his undoing in Return of the Jedi.

But what if it’s another coming together entirely? Maybe it’s Rey and Kylo Ren, the avatars of Light and Dark in this era of an awakened Force. What if it’s the Resistance and the First Order, two entities Palpatine could potentially care less for in his own grand design? He has his own troopers. He has a fleet. He might have a way to cheat death. What does he need another galactic civil war for?

After another brief glimpse of Rey and Kylo Ren’s watery duel, we get this incredibly brief but incredibly interesting shot. You can barely make it out against the dark of space and the violent explosion, but you can see the light of its engines and the ports on its hull. It’s an Imperial Star Destroyer, blowing up something huge. It doesn’t look like a rival ship exploding. It looks like a planet, or a planetoid. Maybe it’s even Kijimi, the results of those bombardments we’d already seen, after the fleet is freed from ice.

Whatever it is, it’s gone, and whatever tech got upgraded into these capital ships since they fled known space all those years ago is pretty damn serious.

Back on the watery world of the Death Star II ruins, we also get this brief shot of a speeder skimming across the waves towards those aforementioned scrapheaps. You can just about make out that at least Rey and Jannah are inside it, so this might be whatever world Jannah herself is from.

A sudden cut takes us to a new (but sorta familiar) face at this point: C-3PO’s having his systems looked at by an adorable new alien tinkerer, as BB-8 and the equally adorable newcomer droid D-O – who apparently takes a shine to BB-8 when they meet – look on. We first met this little fella as an action figure before getting to really learn something (such is the way of Star Wars): His name is Babu Frik, and he’s an Anzellan droid smith who works with Zorii’s Spice Runners on Kijimi.

As Rey, Finn, and Poe look on, Poe asks 3PO what exactly he’s staring at. And, out of nowhere, Anthony Daniels delivers the sharpest, most sudden knife to our collective innards.

“Taking one last look sir,” 3PO tells us. “...At my friends.”

Not even the briefest glimpse of a Trade Federation Battle Droid hanging on the wall behind C-3PO on the right can distract my heart from shattering. My god.

The D23 footage already hinted that something was going to be up with 3PO’s programming at some point in the movie – we saw him rise up with rather sinister red eyes there, and there’s been promotional images (and, once again, even an action figure!) of the protocol droid taking up arms with none other than Chewie’s own goddamn bowcaster. But now we apparently know the cost: to turn C-3PO into a warrior, it must apparently come through erasing his memories.

It’s not the first time it’s happened to the poor droid, of course – his memory banks were wiped by Bail Organa and Captain Antilles at the end of Revenge of the Sith, so he could very conveniently not be able to tell Luke that he worked with his dad before all the youngling-murder. But it still hurts, dammit!

But why!? Well, it seems whatever this process does for 3PO, other than teach him how to use heavy Wookiee weaponry, is part of the reason why Rey and her friends head to Kijimi in the first place. Poe has history with Zorii Bliss according to prior details released about her character, but a recent image from Entertainment Weekly saw Zorii holding up a strange disc to Poe – as disc that looks not just like part of a droid, but looks a lot like it could slot into the back part of 3PO’s head. It looks pretty similar to the circular port he has back there. Maybe that’s what Babu is installing? It doesn’t explain how or why we have to lose our golden friend!

You know what, this shot of Chewie has nothing to do with anything here, probably, but I’m going to take it as him lamenting the apparent loss of everything 3PO was as a droid. Same, my furry friend. Same.

Meanwhile, as the trailer crescendos with a triumphant, melancholic rendition of the Star Wars theme, the major battle we got glimpses of early really starts getting underway. We see Finn, Poe, and Chewie just rolling through a First Order installation (whether it’s a base or a ship remains to be seen), mowing down Stormtroopers...

As if Threepio wasn’t enough, we get another gut punch of seeing Rey embrace Leia (the forever-missed Carrie Fisher, who in a just world would’ve turned 63 on the day this trailer released) again. Yup, just gonna break down in tears and move on, again.

But the waterworks aren’t done yet, because another familiar voice begins to narrate shots of the speeder chase on Pasaana glimpsed in the first trailer, as BB-8 works with Finn, Poe, and C-3PO to send a barrel of yellowish dust hurtling into the sky (presumably to the chagrin of those swanky new First Order Jet Troopers, who we’ve once again seen more of as toys than we have in footage).

It is, of course, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), whose spirit seems to be talking to Rey, at peace with his end on Crait. “Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi,” he tells her.

“Your destiny,” Luke continues, as we see the raddest Y-Wing since Gold Squadron perform one hell of a manoeuvre as it races (well, races as quickly as a Y-Wing can race) toward an Imperial Star Destroyer, guns blazing. Interestingly, once again the toys might give us a hint of who this daring pilot is: The Lego Resistance Y-Wing set released on Triple Force Friday appears to be based on this specific Y-Wing – you can just about make out the turquoise-tinged R5 Astromech Unit co-piloting the ship here that’s in that set. Considering that Y-Wing came with Zorii Bliss and Poe Dameron minifigures, odds are either one of them could be behind the controls. Given Poe has his orange X-Wing, it would seem that the dab hand is Zorii’s.

That’s not all that’s going on in this shot, however: Look at the hangar bay of that Star Destroyer. That ginormous cannon is not something we’ve ever seen on one of these Imperial-era ships. Is this how an ISD could take out an entire planet?

All that madness is going on in the skies, and among it is our first real look at Jannah in action, as she, Finn, and BB-8 lead a charge of similarly-outfitted (and similarly riding alien horses) warriors...atop the hull of one of the many Star Destroyer’s we’d seen the Resistance just engaging. Imagine if the Battle of Endor took place in atmosphere and also literally on top of the spaceships.

We then get a stunningly beautiful shot of what appears to be the climax of Rey and Kylo Ren’s duel...and a very important place the fallen Supreme Leader was taking her to: the ruins of Palpatine’s throne room itself. But why would Kylo lead her there specifically? Is there some relic to find, is he wallowing in the past that he can, whatever he says, never really let die?

Speaking of pasts dying, we cut to another beautiful and intriguing shot: Rey and Kylo Ren fighting again, this time in a stark white facility. It looks almost reminiscent of Kaminoan design than any of the First Order or Imperial architecture we’ve seen, although there are hallmarks of such, from the wall lights to even the serrated panelling in the background that looks highly evocative of Vader’s meditation chamber from Empire Strikes Back. Which, god, if there is a Kaminoan influence here, are the Sith Troopers Kylo’s made for himself clones?

It is definitely a space of Kylo Ren’s, however, as the plinth being smashed is very clearly the one he used to hold – and is still holding, until it crumbles – the melted helmet of his grandfather. Is he intentionally doing so, though? It’s hard to say. The move almost looks like Rey deflects his lightsaber into the plinth, and hers along with it, rather than the two intentionally coming together to go after Anakin Skywalker’s misunderstood legacy.

Also, interesting to note that Rey is actually dual-wielding in this scene – she’s not just carrying her saber, but she has some kind of dagger in her left hand. Perhaps that is the relic recovered from the Death Star II’s ruins? Or is it another part of Kylo Ren’s collection of Sith artifacts? If the former or something similar to it ends up being the case, why would Kylo Ren seemingly be leading her to it?

Poe and Finn investigate something while Threepio shines a light. Judging by the rocky structures in the background, this takes place on Pasaana, and is part of the speeder chase sequence we saw glimpses of earlier.

Meanwhile, we’re back on top of a goddamn Star Destroyer for another shot of Jannah and Finn’s charge, as fighters both Resistance (including a B-Wing!) and First Order (two of the new, triangular-winged TIE Daggers) soar above them. This is very clearly the grand battle of this film, and it’s quite unlike any other set piece we’ve seen in Star Wars.

We can also see transport ships racing down towards Jannah and Finn’s charge – are they the ships Rose and Connix were seen nearby earlier, coming to pick their friends up, or are they First Order or Sith forces landing to try and stop them?

Kylo Ren is unmasked, and surrounded by sinister mechanical apparatus. The lightning effects here would seem to imply that wherever this grand battle is taking place with Palpatine’s fleet, it’s happening above and around Kylo during this scene. But where’s he walking off to? And why is he unmasked again after going through all that effort to rebuild his destroyed helmet?

Maybe it’s because he’s among new allies. Or new masters...

Because we cut right to this shot of Rey backing away from what very much looks like Palpatine’s renewed form. And it’s moving toward her. Once again, the lightning and frozen floor hint that this is happening in the same environment as the previous shot. Is the mechanical frame Kylo is standing in front of in the last shot part of whatever kind of machinery that has resurrected Palpatine? Does he have some kind of mechanised, mobile throne to sustain him? Is he, like his prior apprentice, more machine than man now?

Maybe we’re just meant to think that this is Palpatine’s form. But we have seen another dark-hooded figure in past footage that Rey could be terrified to confront: herself, fallen to the Dark Side, and wielding a dual-bladed crimson lightsaber. What if it’s perhaps even both, and the Emperor’s return is a spirit using the avatar of a fallen warrior of the Light?

We’re left to contemplate that particular horror as the trailer ends with a message of hope: Rey, her saber draw, looks at first concerned, as the voice of Luke Skywalker comes forth once more to repeat a familiar turn of phrase: “The Force will be with you...”

But there is another. Luke’s voice gives way to, at long last, his sister, as Leia whispers “always.” Regardless of whatever struggle Rey is facing, she knows that she is not alone. A thousand generations live in her now. And she goes into that struggle with the smallest glimmer of a smile. A new hope.


As dense as this trailer is – not just in terms of new things we see but also just the sheer amount of things going on – it still doesn’t really tell us all that much about what The Rise of Skywalker is really about, beyond the inevitable: Palpatine is back, and our heroes must unite an alliance that can bring him down once again. Who lives? Who dies? Who is redeemed, and can they be? Are the Jedi returned, and if they are, have the mistakes of their past been learned from?

Not long till we find out the answers. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits cinemas December 20, 2019.