star wars episode ix

But What Does the Title Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Mean?

Photo: Lucasfilms

First Disney dropped a trailer, then it used Star Wars Celebration day to introduce a cute new droid (and assure us that Greg Grunberg still has a job). But the most important, and probably vaguest, announcement ahead of the franchise’s next film release came from J.J. Abrams and his team in April: the official title of Star Wars: Episode IX — are you ready? — is The Rise of Skywalker. It’s a weird choice, considering The Last Jedi seemed liked the last we’d see of Luke Skywalker (you know, the last Jedi), his sister Leia can’t have that pivotal of a role given that the series is working with material filmed before Carrie Fisher’s death, and her son Kylo Ren has disavowed the family business of being good by being very evil. How, exactly, could a Skywalker rise from that? What does this mean for Rey? Is J.J. over-promising on some big mystery box again? We’re not entirely sure, but now that Disney has released its final trailer for the Dec. 20 movie, we are here to speculate. Behold, some theories that could explain the title:

Rey is a Skywalker
We’d say “Oh, come on, they’d never do something this obvious after all the energy they spent telling us this wasn’t the case,” but we’re talking about J.J. Abrams, co-creator of Lost, a show whose stewards kept telling us there was no way the big reveal would be that the characters were in purgatory, then proceeded to do exactly that in the finale. (Jesus, we really need to get over that.) So it’s not impossible to imagine sneaky ol’ J.J. completely obliterating The Last Jedi auteur Rian Johnson’s whole “Rey’s parents are a nonentity” thing and revealing that Luke was her father or her uncle or some goddamn thing. But, again, that would be a ridiculously cheap and dishonest twist, so maybe the powers that be aren’t complete idiots and won’t make us watch that.

Rey is a Skywalker … ish
Hey, remember clones? Dudes with Kiwi accents, looked real good in block colors? Well, what if … what if … Rey turns out to have been created with the same kind of whiz-bang person-replicating technology? We could see a big reveal that, like, the Emperor somehow had Luke or Leia cloned and the result was Jakku’s finest, now ripe for an attempt at dark-side seduction. In the erstwhile canonical Star Wars Expanded Universe, clones’ names were the same as their originals’, except with an extra vowel: Luke’s clone was “Luuke,” for example, and no, we’re not making that up; go yell at Timothy Zahn if it makes you upset. Our point is, maybe she’ll start going by Reyy? Y’know, like Fonzie! “Reyyyyyy!

Kylo Ren is getting a redemption arc
If we take the Occam’s razor approach to this: Kylo Ren, formerly Ben Solo, is the primary Skywalker at the center of the narrative at this point in the whole space saga. In The Last Jedi, Rey spent a lot of time trying to turn him back from the Dark Side, which seemed like it might work, up until the point where he sliced straight through Supreme Leader Snoke and suggested he and Rey should just rule the galaxy together. That’s not exactly good guy behavior, but Star Wars is ever-forgiving, like someone who can’t give up on an ex, and could still try to redeem Kylo Ren with yet another flip back to good — perhaps after a tear-jerking memory of Leia — in a mirror of Anakin’s arc from dweeb Padawan to Darth Vader to redemption. On the other hand, “rise” is a morally neutral term. Perhaps the rise of Skywalker describes Kylo Ren’s version of the First Order’s increasing rise to power since he reduced the Resistance to a handful of people in the Millennium Falcon and one kid with a broom by the end of The Last Jedi. This Skywalker, potential for a change of heart or no, has indeed gotten very, very powerful.

“Skywalker” is the new Jedi
The “Skywalker Saga,” a.k.a the primary set of Star Wars films, follows the story of one, extended family, but what could be a more democratic, hopeful ending for the series to have the idea of a “Skywalker” transform from an aristocratic lineage to something new? If the Jedi, an old-fashioned order too concerned with tradition to fight the rising tide of Palpatine’s fascism, ended with The Last Jedi, could Rey and company found something new based on Luke’s hopes for the future? “Skywalker” could well be plural — though, grammatically, it’d be nice if there were a “the” in front of “Skywalker”* to make this work. Rey is, spiritually, a Skywalker, and so too are whichever pupils she teaches. We’re looking at you, broom boy!

J.J. Abrams is just riffing at this point
J.J., gotta love him, likes to end things with a bang, whether or not it makes sense. Remember how Alias got incomprehensibly tangled in its own mythology? Remember how Felicity incorporated time travel? (It was great.) Odds are, whatever’s coming for Star Wars will probably come out of left field and involve some combination of time weirdness, giant red balls, and call-backs to other things he’s enjoyed. Is there a universe in which Star Wars ends with Rey being catapulted into a heaven that resembles 1990s New York, where she gets a job at Dean & Deluca and has to decide between two men with nice hair? Probably not, but maybe. Maybe yes.

This is the long-awaited film adaptation of Star Wars: Alien Exodus
So back in the mid-1990s, when Star Wars was a significantly more niche interest than it is now or it had been 10 years prior, a sci-fi writer by the name of Robert J. Sawyer was tasked with pitching a publisher on a novel set in George Lucas’s mythos. What he came up with was called Star Wars: Alien Exodus — and it was completely bonkers. Indeed, he envisioned a unified George Lucas Extended Universe where the descendants of Richard Dreyfuss’s character from American Graffiti live in the dystopian Earth of THX-1138. Some of them and their friends flee earth in a spaceship, go through a “cosmic whirlpool,” and end up a long, long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It turns out to be the prehistoric Star Wars galaxy, where they become enslaved, discover the Force, and lead an uprising where one of them becomes the first Jedi. That guy (spoiler alert) dies and is posthumously referred to as “the Skywalker” because he was able to levitate. The book proposal eventually mutated into a non-Star Wars novel series by a different author, but Sawyer released his pitch and some sample chapters a few years ago. Now that we’ve reached this point of the story, we’re realizing that there’s no way to tie it into the title of Episode IX. Dammit, now we’ll never get that check from Disney.

*This post has been updated to clarify which “the” would be necessary in the title to make a certain theory seem more plausible.

What Does the Title Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Mean?