Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker had a presence at the 2019 D23 Expo, where some new information about the film was revealed. Since being acquired by Disney, Lucasfilm has specialized in running top-secret marketing campaigns that do not reveal much about the plot. The studio took things to another level for Star Wars 9, which ends the entire Skywalker saga. It wasn't until the teaser trailer at Celebration Chicago when the title was revealed, and since then much has been kept under wraps. Even an extensive cover story in Vanity Fair didn't yield much, outside of some out-of-context images (some of which may not be from the film itself) for viewers to dissect.
The 2019 D23 Expo, taking place this weekend, was used as a showcase for Disney's upcoming projects, including The Rise of Skywalker. The next Star Wars film was featured during the Walt Disney Studios panel, though it had to share space wit a litany of other companies, including Marvel, Pixar, and Disney's in-house productions. As such, there wasn't a ton of time to dedicate to Star Wars, but fans still learned some new details. Here's we run down all the major reveals.
First Look At Palpatine (On A Poster)
The Star Wars 9 trailer didn't need to show Palpatine in the flesh; just his iconic laugh was enough to let people know the Emperor was returning. Unsurprisingly, Lucasfilm is keeping the villain very close to the chest at this stage in the marketing campaign, but they felt it was time for fans to get a proper look at him. Palpatine was seen looming over Rey and Kylo Ren on the new Star Wars 9 poster. The character appeared a little more cartoony than usual, but still strongly resembled the classic look audiences are accustomed to. Those glowing eyes peering through the dark hood let everyone know this is unmistakably Palpatine.
Zorri Bliss and Poe Have History
One of the many newcomers to the Skywalker saga in The Rise of Skywalker is Zorri Bliss, played by J.J. Abrams' frequent collaborator Keri Russell. Of course, there's no shortage of rumors about Zorri, but it has now been confirmed she's someone with a criminal past and has connections to Poe Dameron. Apparently, Zorri and the Resistance pilot were friends back in the day, a connection that's most likely how Bliss gets involved in the main plot. The Resistance needs all the help they can get, even if it comes from morally ambiguous characters. Zorri seems like she's Star Wars' latest scoundrel, so hopefully she has a heart of gold.
The ultimate reveal in the Star Wars sizzle reel from D23 was the image of Rey, decked in all-black robes, wielding a new double-bladed red lightsaber (which apparently can fold in half to transform into a single blade). This was quite shocking, especially since the young scavenger seemed to have chosen her path at the end of The Last Jedi. There was voiceover from Palpatine during this part (more on that later), raising questions about Rey's arc. At first glance, it seems like she's turned, but it may not be that simple. This could easily be from a dream sequence or something else entirely. The only thing fans can say for sure is "Darth Rey" got people talking, and it'll be curious to learn the actual context.
Star Destroyer Ambush
A long-running staple of the Star Wars franchise is the heroes are usually a ragtag group of freedom fighters trying to overcome a well-resourced, powerful enemy. The opening shot of the original film emphasized this, and the series has only run with it over the past four decades. The sizzle reel provided the latest example of this with a shot of what seemed to be dozens of First Order star destroyers flying through space. There have been rumors stating Palpatine has a secret fleet hiding in the Unknown Regions, so this could be connected to that. Either way, the Resistance certainly has its work cut out for it as they try to defeat the First Order once and for all. Y-wings, A-wings, and the Millennium Falcon may not be enough to take on a giant fleet.
C-3PO's Red Eyes
A key supporting character in the original and prequel trilogies, C-3PO has seen his role be diminished to a glorified cameo in the sequels. While BB-8 gets the spotlight, C-3PO and R2-D2 have largely been afterthoughts. That might change in The Rise of Skywalker, as it's said Threepio has a larger role when compared to the previous two films. Footage in the teaser trailer showed the fussy protocol droid in the middle of a speeder chase on the desert planet Pasaana, implying he joins the heroes on whatever mission they're going on. Apparently, Threepio gets into some trouble himself, as one shot in the sizzle reel showed him with glowing red eyes. Again, context is tricky to determine here, but hopefully the results are better than his foray into the Battle of Geonosis in Attack of the Clones.
Unlike the sizzle reels for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, this most recent one shown at D23 encompassed the Skywalker saga as a whole, underlining that this is the end of the story. Dialogue from the Emperor, which played over the shot of Rey, further hammered this home. It was difficult to make out through the crowd reaction, but the villain said, "Now your journey nears its end" and the sound of Darth Vader's breathing played. There are a couple ways to interpret this. One is Palpatine is speaking to Rey, telling the young scavenger she's about to fulfill her destiny. There's also the meta component since it relates to the Skywalker saga. With this movie, the story that's been ongoing for 42 years reaches its conclusion and this wild journey that began way back in 1977 is ending for viewers.
With under four months to go until The Rise of Skywalker premieres, there's still plenty of time for the incoming marketing monsoon. There was no need to unveil a plethora of details at D23, especially since Star Wars wasn't the lone focus of the panel. Lucasfilm did their job here, giving fans some more to chew on as they count down the days until the movie comes out.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019