C-3PO's Star Wars 9: The Rise of Skywalker story looks set to continue a gag that has been present in the franchise since the original trilogy. Played so memorably by Anthony Daniels, C-3PO is the resident paranoid android of the Star Wars universe - both a source of comic relief and the voice of constant peril. The more vocal (but significantly less lovable) of the original trilogy's droid pairing, C-3PO has been a mainstay of Star Wars through almost all of its cinematic adventures.
Although he's been little more than an accompanying character in the sequel trilogy thus far, sitting in the background making smart remarks rather than getting his hands oily, C-3PO's role in The Rise of Skywalker has been a key point of discussion in the build-up to the film's release. Most significantly, The Rise of Skywalker's trailer shows C-3PO with striking red eyes. This is a new look for the droid and some have speculated that it could be tied in to Rey's potential turn to the dark side teased in the very same trailer. More recently, official images from The Rise of Skywalker emerged that appeared to show a new character, Zori Bliss, taking a piece from what looks very much like C-3PO's head. While the context of both scenes is currently unknown, the droid's prospects in the upcoming episode look grim and it's impossible not to get a bad feeling about this.
Far more than just teasing a potential tragedy for everyone's second (probably third now - thanks BB-8!) favorite droid, the apparent dismantling C-3PO will experience in The Rise of Skywalker is the continuation, and perhaps the culmination, of a running joke that has been present since the days of the original trilogy - that C-3PO hardly ever stays in one piece.
In fact, C-3PO has come apart in more Star Wars movies than he's managed to stay whole. The gag began in 1980's The Empire Strikes Back, in which C-3PO is blasted into pieces off-screen during the betrayal at Cloud City. From then on, Chewbacca is forced to carry the still-talking droid around on his back, providing a comic touch to a largely darker sequel. In Return of the Jedi, a rebuilt C-3PO has his eye forcibly removed by Jabba's pet, Salacious Crumb, during the battle at the Hutt's palace. Returning for the Star Wars prequels, The Phantom Menace sees Threepio completely "naked" having only been half-built by Anakin Skywalker - a point of distinct shame for the protocol droid (being naked, that is, not having Darth Vader as a maker).
Things go from bad to worse in Attack of the Clones. In the climactic fight sequence, C-3PO's head is accidentally removed and finds its way onto the body of a Battle Droid, leading to much hilarity as the normally action-shy character begins aimlessly swinging a blaster around the battlefield. In The Force Awakens, J. J. Abrams continues the gag in more self-aware fashion. Upon his reintroduction, C-3PO has a distinctive red replacement arm from an injury that occurred off-screen and the droid spends most of his scenes excusing the new look, even though everyone around him clearly has more important things to worry about.
Other droids, even the likes of R2 and BB-8, have suffered damage over the course of the Star Wars movies, but none more so than C-3PO and this is perhaps because the golden expert in cyber relations has the vocal capacity to express his displeasure at being taken apart and mistreated. Unlike his companions, Threepio also has a strong desire to stay away from danger, making his misfortunes that much funnier.
In Star Wars 9: The Rise of Skywalker, it seems clear that C-3PO will once again have his circuits tampered with, but the prominence of these scenes in the film's marketing campaign perhaps implies that his woes won't simply be played for laughs on this occasion. Much like the boy who cried wolf, C-3PO might find himself in pieces once again - but could these modifications actually prove to be a genuine threat to the Resistance in the Skywalker Saga's final offering, rather than just the punchline of a joke?
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019