Thoughts on the Episode IX trailer

Nobody asked for yet another breakdown of the Episode IX trailer, but I have thoughts, and a platform, so here we go. And just because I can, I’m going to toss in some wild speculation for free. There will be no one to stop me this time.

First, it’s interesting that the teaser gives almost no indication of the plot. Anybody who’s breaking down this trailer and applying too much meaning to any of the very brief shots is filling in a lot of blanks with their own desires for what they want out of this movie. That’s why I’m being very clear that anything I try to read in to this trailer is completely insane speculation that I really don’t expect to be true.

J.J. Abrams played it pretty safe in The Force Awakens while Rian Johnson shook things up in The Last Jedi. From appearances, Abrams set up a lot of pins that Johnson didn’t just fail to knock down, but he decided to play a different game altogether. I think this film will tie these things together. In The Force Awakens, Rey thinks she’s somebody. In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren tells her she’s not. Putting aside the fact that it seems pretty unlikely that he’d have any idea who her parents are, things in Star Wars have a way of being true, from a certain point of view. The point here is that while the directors and writers are given wide creative latitude, there is a plan. I expect to see some resolution on things that were set up in The Force Awakens, but I don’t expect them to happen in ways that just ignores major plot points from The Last Jedi. Keep reading and I’ll come back to this thought in a bit.

Let’s dig in

The first full minute of the trailer pretty easy to digest because literally only one thing happens. Rey is in the desert and Kylo Ren is trying to run her down with his TIE Silencer. Unorthodox move, but I can respect it. Thinking outside the box is how you move up the ranks when you’re on Team Dark Side. That, and killing your master, and he’s already checked that box…

Rey in the desert

It seems like Rey has clearly been expecting this moment. Based on the fact that this is in the very first trailer, I doubt this is anywhere near the climax of the film. It’s interesting that they’d be having a confrontation like this at any other time because the heroes usually don’t directly confront the big bad in a Star Wars movie before the third act. Want some wild speculation? Try this on: this is early in the film, and Kylo Ren is not the big bad… somebody else is.

I have to imagine Rey disables the TIE fighter with that lightsaber move, which would lead to a head-to-head fight. I have some questions: What planet is this? It could be one of the desert planets we’ve seen before: Tatooine, Jakku, or possibly Jedha. I’d say it’s pretty likely to just be someplace completely new. Most planets are lifeless deserts, after all.

If you’re keeping track, J.J. Abrams is now two-for-two of opening his Star Wars teaser trailers with a person breathing heavily in the desert.

Moving on…

A-wing ship

A ship approaches a city nestled in a rocky, mountainous landscape at night. The ship looks like an A-wing to me, but the planet is more interesting. It would be extremely synergistic for this to be Batuu, home of Black Spire Outpost. Disney is putting big money into building the new Star Wars attractions, and it just makes sense that they’d want to tie the park setting to the movies. Also, it looks a lot like the concept art, so there’s that too. It may or may not be, but I wouldn’t confirm or disconfirm it based on the fact that it’s not an exact match. Remember, the wider landscape images of Batuu are all just concept art. Anybody who tells you it’s definitely not Batuu is filling in too many blanks. In all likelihood, it’s probably just another new planet.

Kylo Ren in battle

Here’s Goth Vader himself, Kylo Ren! He seems to be taking the long way when it comes to chopping dudes in half with a lightsaber. I’ve seen people speculating that this is one of the Knights of Ren, and now he’s fighting them for some reason. First, no. Second, another creature who looks just like this one enters the frame at the end of the shot. My biggest question: What kind of weapon is this guy using? It looks like an adze, which, as weapons go, is pretty primitive. My crazy speculation: The Resistance is hiding on a not-so-advanced planet and the First Order has tracked them down. They are the native inhabitants. Yeah, that’s actually not so crazy.

Furry helmet repairman hands

Next up: Furry helmet repairman hands. Kylo Ren smashed his helmet after Supreme Leader Snoke berated him for being a second-rate Vader wannabe. It was pretty easy to smash, so I can’t imagine what kind of protection it might have provided, but it was a good look. I don’t want to overthink the furry hands, but they are worth pointing out. Then again, have we ever seen Kylo Ren gloveless?

We are now entering the danger zone. J.J. Abrams put Kylo Ren in a Vader-esque mask. Rian Johnson had him smash it. We were meant to think he angrily threw out his homage to Darth Vader, and he was intent on blazing his own trail through the Dark Side. But what if — and bear with me here — he was just… angry. Kylo Ren threw a few temper tantrums in The Force Awakens. This is what I’m talking about with Abrams not necessarily discarding Johnson’s decisions. Sometimes smashing a helmet is just smashing a helmet. It doesn’t have to be a metaphor, or an overt shot at another film’s creative choices.

Poe and Finn hangin out on some rocks in the desert

Here we have a one-second shot of Poe and Finn hangin out on some rocks in the desert. Is it the same desert planet that Rey is on? Probably! Finn is holding Rey’s staff, which will never stop looking like a lightsaber to me. Personally, I really hope it never gets actual lightsabers attached to the ends of it. Lightsabers are cool. Other things with lightsabers attached to them are not. Finn has apparently found a quality barbershop, so we can tell that some time has passed since we last saw him.

BB-8 and his sidekick

Oh, you thought BB-8 was cute? Well, now cute little BB-8 has a sidekick, D-0. I assume D-0 will play some key part, but since he is literally just a wheel with an eye and two antennae, I’m having trouble imagining what what he can do, other than roll around and be cute.

Lando Calrissian piloting the Millennium Falcon

You old scoundrel! Look who’s back in the pilot’s seat of the Millennium Falcon. It’s none other than the smoothest Sabacc player in the galaxy, Lando Calrissian. A close inspection reveals that’s not the exact same shirt Donald Glover wore in Solo, but it’s damn close. When a style works, it works. And 40 years really isn’t all that long a time in galactic terms anyway.

Jetpack-wearing stormtroopers chasing a speeder across a desert landscape

Here we have what looks like jetpack-wearing stormtroopers chasing a speeder across a desert landscape. It’s all pretty blurry, but look to the sides: I’d put Republic Credits on those being moisture vaporators. Maybe this is Tatooine after all. Then again, moisture farming is probably pretty common on desert planets.

Speeder piloted by Poe and Finn, with C-3PO

In the next shot, we see that the speeder is being piloted by Poe and Finn, with C-3PO along for the ride. Stay safe, guys.

An A-Wing crashes next to a Star Destroyer

Now here’s an interesting shot. An A-Wing crashes as it passes… an Imperial-class Star Destroyer? Watch for the shield generators (you know, the ball things). It’s hard to capture in one frame, but you can’t miss it if you step through the video. Notice though, that the front of this capital ship has a reddish stripe, just like the Venator-class Star Destoyers of the Clone Wars era. My wild speculation: This is a surviving New Republic ship, possibly something captured from the Empire, and given a new paint job.

Han Solo's medal

You may recognize this as the award given to anyone who can destroy a Death Star who is not a Wookiee. I’m guessing these non-furry hands belong to Leia and the award belonged to Han Solo. I’m also guessing that while the hands belong to Leia, they do not belong to the late Carrie Fisher. It’s anyone’s guess how much unused material was able to be salvaged, but I hope that most of her scenes do not consist entirely of faceless over-the-shoulder shots.

Leia embraces Rey

Well, I guess we do get to see her at least once. Let’s just be glad that we get at least a little bit of Carrie Fisher in this movie. This trilogy really belongs to the new generation, but Episode IX was supposed to be Leia’s time to shine.

The whole gang staring at something

Everybody seems a little bit taken aback by whatever is right in front of them. I wonder what it could …

Death Star wreckage in the ocean

… be. Oh. That’s a Death Star. That’s definitely a Death Star. But which Death Star? Let’s put aside the possibility that there were more than two. This planet must be Yavin 4, Endor, or some other planet in the Yavin or Endor systems. The second Death Star was much closer to Endor than the first one was to Yavin 4, making Endor a much likelier location for this shot. There’s long been a fan theory about the Endor Holocaust. Could it be real? This scene, in a grassy field near an ocean, doesn’t really look like a planet where all life was obliterated at some point in the last 30 years, but it’s not exactly teeming with Ewoks singing yub-nub, either. For what it’s worth, Ewoks are not extinct in the new canon, though that doesn’t mean their planet wasn’t rendered uninhabitable by the Rebel Alliance.

No one’s ever really gone

No need to speculate here, it’s been confirmed that that is Darth Sidious you heard. Ian McDiarmid came out on stage during the panel at the Star Wars Celebration. But I have questions — and more wild, but semi-informed, speculation.

The last we saw ol’ Sheev Palpatine, he was hurtling down a reactor core shaft, put there by the freshly-redeemed Anakin Skywalker. Then a big explosion happened, and energy blasted from the shaft. Then, the Death Star blew up. It was spectacular. At some point, we now know, it crashed into the planet. We didn’t see a body, but he was dead. Good and dead. So now what? Could he be a Force ghost? Recent Star Wars canon indicates that this is not possible. As a Sith, he was obsessed with the material, as well as everlasting life. This prevents him from becoming one with The Force, which is part of being able to manifest one’s self as a Force ghost.

To cheat death is a power only one has achieved

That doesn’t mean that Dark Side users are completely out of luck. The Dark Side is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural. There are at least two recent examples where followers of the Dark Side were able to have some limited form of life after death. The first is Enchantress, a Force-sensitive woman strong in the Dark Side, whose spirit inhabited a Salacc-like creature. Her spirit was bound to this place and she could not leave.

The other example is Momin, a Sith Lord whose spirit inhabited his mask after he was killed. The mask was eventually taken by Darth Sidious from the Jedi temple after the fall of the Republic, and given to Darth Vader as a gift. Momin, through his mask, was able to possess various imperials and native Mustafarians, and helped Vader design and construct his fortress on Mustafar. Momin was eventually able to resurrect himself, using the fortress itself to channel the Dark Side and restore his body. Momin challenged Vader, but Vader being Vader, he crushed Momin with a rock, killing him.

So what’s that mean anyway? Well, it established a few ground rules for life-after-death among Dark Side users, as well as a path to resurrection. In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine claimed that his master, Darth Plagueis the Wise, had discovered how to cheat death. Was he just manipulating Anakin with tempting lies, or did his master really discover this power? Did he uncover it himself sometime in the ensuing years of the Empire?

Palpatine is back, but we don’t know in what form. Star Wars canon has established that a Dark Side user can return from the dead, and that while Dark Side users can’t become one with the Force, their spirits can inhabit a place or an object. It’s possible that his spirit is inhabiting the wreckage of the Death Star, but he may also appear in the flesh. We just can’t know for sure, but we do have a few hints.

This is the end

The Last Jedi was polarizing, to say the least. But I do think the vast majority of the negative reactions were calculated political statements by extremely online manbabies who were more upset with the idea of strong female protagonists than with any aspect of the actual filmmaking. That said, both the manbabies and the people who recognize the manbabies as basement-dwelling wannabe-fascist shitheads, will be looking for validation in the latest installment of the series. The manbabies want The Last Jedi to be an aberration. The anti-manbabies want a continuation of The Last Jedi’s shakeup.

If there’s a pattern here, it’s that there is no pattern. We have no idea what to expect. With the Sidious reveal, we were given one big spoiler in the trailer, and it’s one that I don’t think anybody was counting on. The sequel trilogy has kept us guessing, and it’s not about to let up now.

It’s going to be a long wait until December.