Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker appears to have yet another Death Star weapon, which could be bad news for fans, as well as for the Resistance. The original Death Star was an iconic and vital element of the first Star Wars movie in 1977 - a giant, planet-busting monstrosity taken down by a lone X-Wing to encapsulate the David and Goliath struggle between Empire and Rebel Alliance. In Return of the Jedi, Palpatine attempted to construct a second Death Star, but was once again foiled. When J. J. Abrams began the Disney trilogy of Star Wars movies, the Death Star trope was back in full force, and the same technology later appeared in the climax of Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi, with the First Order realizing that the giant laser was the only part worth bothering with.
Despite featuring heavily in previous movies, there have been several indications that some sort of Death Star weapon would be included in Star Wars 9. Firstly, the novelization of The Last Jedi and Chuck Wendig's canon Aftermath novels confirm that Emperor Palpatine sent considerable resources into the Unknown Regions before his defeat and built facilities that could ensure the First Order was well-equipped to follow in the path of the Empire. This arsenal is said to include Death Star-inspired superweapons and the use of this technology on Crait proves that the days of waiting 20 years to build a giant battle station are over - for the First Order, the power of a Death Star now comes as standard.
Furthermore, an unused subplot for The Force Awakens saw Leia involved in developing the Resistance's own superweapon, the Warhammer. This rapid spread of Death Star technology on both sides of the galaxy's moral spectrum suggests that a recurrence in Star Wars 9 was always likely to happen.
The latest footage from Star Wars 9 provides the strongest clue yet that the First Order have a brand new Death Star of some description. In the trailer, a giant red laser beam is seen piercing into the surface of a planet from above, and although the source of this blast isn't shown, there are strong visual similarities to the Starkiller base laser in The Force Awakens, albeit on a smaller scale. This is likely a continuation of the miniaturized beam introduced in The Last Jedi, perhaps now attached to a regular Star Destroyer for previously unattainable mobility.
The return of Death Star tech in Star Wars 9 could prove problematic, since the superweapons are already considered by some to be an overused element of the Star Wars franchise. The parallels between The Force Awakens and A New Hope are well documented and after the original trilogy's 1-and-a-half Death Stars, Starkiller base was the next evolution of that concept - the original Death Star on steroids. The mirroring of A New Hope's mission to destroy an unbeatable enemy battle station already earned Disney's debut effort some detractors, and the issue worsened following the release of The Last Jedi.
In Rian Johnson's film, the Death Star is not a major component of the story, but is instead used as a quick and easy way of establishing the First Order's latest big gun as a major threat. Why should the audience believe this laser can bring down the Resistance? Name check the Death Star. At this point, the idea of the Death Star had arguably been spent, the impact of these once-fearsome battle stations diminishing with each recurrence in the Star Wars story. With Return of the Jedi's incomplete Death Star already confirmed to feature in Star Wars 9, the potential inclusion of another updated superweapon risks overusing the Death Star concept more than it has been already.
Another Death Star in Star Wars 9 also doesn't make sense from a narrative perspective. The relatively simple destruction of the original Death Star was widely mocked for years before Rogue One plugged the gap, but the Empire and First Order's track record with giant superweapons remains extremely poor. Surely even the arrogant Kylo Ren would realize that the Resistance are constantly targeting the First Order's grandest projects and opt to spend the Order's resources more wisely.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019