Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams went deep into the Star Wars archives when it came to bringing back Emperor Palpatine, as the final trailer revealed a throne based on unused concept art for Return of the Jedi. The arch-villain of the two previous trilogies is returning from the grave for The Rise of Skywalker, and the trailer showed him looming over Rey in the flesh - not just as a Force ghost.
Sheev Palpatine is also known by his Sith title, Darth Sidious, and has been orchestrating evil in the Star Wars universe for a long time. Starting out as a Galactic Senator from the planet Naboo, he maneuvered his way into the role of Supreme Chancellor and from there set about transforming the Republic into the Galactic Empire. Along the way, he corrupted a powerful young Jedi called Anakin Skywalker, who went on to become the Sith Lord Darth Vader.
The Emperor was supposedly killed by Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi, when he was thrown into the reactor of the second Death Star. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will see young heroine Rey journey to the ruins of that Death Star, where she will battle the troubled villain Kylo Ren - and, apparently, have to contend with Emperor Palpatine as well. The final trailer for The Rise of Skywalker showed a fearsome throne surrounded by black, clawed spikes, which Lucasfilm's creative art manager Phil Szostak revealed is based on sketches for Return of the Jedi, created in 1981 by legendary Star Wars concept artist Ralph McQuarrie. Check out a comparison of McQuarrie's original design and The Rise of Skywalker's interpretation below.
The imperial throne room that actually appeared in Return of the Jedi was significantly different to McQuarrie's thumbnail sketch above. It set the stage for the final conflict between Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and the Emperor, and crashed down to Endor along with the rest of the Death Star. This new throne looks like it's made out of stone, so it's possible that it was constructed amid the ruins of the Death Star using the Force, if the Emperor survived in some way and has been plotting his comeback ever since.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the closing chapter of the Skywalker saga, marking the end of the story that began 42 years ago in Star Wars: A New Hope. Disney's sequel trilogy has been divisive among Star Wars fans, with many angered by Star Wars: The Last Jedi's subversive take on the franchise, and hoping that J.J. Abrams will close the story with more reverence for the original trilogy. For those fans, the fact that The Rise of Skywalker is dipping back into the designs for Star Wars' first trilogy-closing movie will surely be a positive sign.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019