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What Does Star Wars: Episode IX's Title Really Mean?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is an eyebrow-raising title for the conclusion of Lucasfilm's saga, given that we saw Luke die in The Last Jedi. It's also significant as the first time a person's name has been used in a Star Wars title. So, what on Tatooine could it mean?

The most obvious titular candidate is Luke who, yes, died while Force-projecting himself halfway across the galaxy to put his nephew in his place. Just as Kylo Ren realized he was being tricked, Luke's image faded, leaving behind nothing but a promise: "See ya 'round, kid." Clearly, a Force ghost Luke -- like Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin -- is going to be on the cards for Episode IX.

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The Rise of Skywalker would seem to corroborate that with its use of Mark Hamill's voiceover, although it's difficult to see how Luke can "rise," even as a spirit. (Force ghosts don't exactly float and fly around.) Perhaps, his "rise" would be the spread of a Skywalker ideology instead, replacing the Jedi teachings that he came to disregard with his own, more neutral dogma, and continue to offer mentorship to Rey as Obi-Wan continued to do for him.

Luke isn't the last Skywalker, however. Although Kylo Ren bears his father's surname as Ben Solo, he's done everything he can to distance himself from that side of his family -- even going so far as to murder Han in The Force Awakens in order to complete his Dark Side transformation. Instead, he favors his Skywalker lineage, as evidenced by the helmet, black cloaks, the keepsake of his Darth Vader's crumbling mask. Kylo's Skywalker heritage was also what drew Snoke, his former Master, to him.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The Last Jedi put a lot of work into pulling Kylo, not into the light, but toward the gray area between the two, paralleling his Light Side rival's own internal conflict. From his psychic alone time with Rey to violently severing his ties with Snoke, director Rian Johnson opened up a fork in the road of the new Supreme Leader's destiny. Could Episode IX's title indicate in which direction J.J. Abrams has decided to lead the character? Will we see Kylo Ren "rising" out of the darkness and into the light?

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And then there's the bantha in the room: the persistent question of Rey's parentage. After all, she's the primary protagonist -- the current "new hope" -- of this trilogy. While The Last Jedi appeared to knock in the head all of the wild theorizing about her origins, a large contingent of Star Wars fandom remains convinced that Kylo, ever the romantic, was lying when he told Rey she was "nothing." In the Rise of Skywalker teaser, Rey joyfully continues to be anything but nothing. Not just anyone can back-flip over a speeding ship while aiming a lightsaber in just the right spot. If anything, Rey is ostensibly something in the galaxy, and with Luke gone, she's the something.

It's completely possible that Rey could be the titular "Skywalker," and still not be a blood relative of Luke's. She was the last person to be trained by him; she's the current holder of the Sacred Texts he was guarding; she seems to have styled her new white robes on his old look; and, according to Daisy Ridley at the Star Wars Celebration panel, Luke's lightsaber "lives," presumably in her hands. Even if they share no DNA, Rey is effectively Luke's heir.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

There is another candidate that is too easily forgotten, and that's Leia. She is the closest thing we have to Luke left and, as her Mary Poppins moment in Episode VIII proved, she has plenty of Force tricks up her sleeves. The last we saw of Leia, she was sat right next to Rey, examining the remains of the Skywalker family's shattered lightsaber. Now, even if Carrie Fisher hadn't passed away, Episode IX would still be the character's swan song. So while it's unlikely she'll play a pivotal role, it is probable she will take over some mentoring duties in Luke's stead. Plus, she still has a Resistance to run.

Aside from the whole hand-touching thing with Rey, Leia is also the last meaningful connection Kylo has to his old life. Of all of his fumbles in the previous two films, he never hesitated over anything the way he wavered over opening fire on his own mother. Her significance shouldn't be underestimated.

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But, perhaps we're being too narrow in our definition of "Skywalker" in the singular sense. To return to an earlier point, it's unprecedented for a Star Wars movie to be named after a person or family. "Sith," "Jedi" and "Clone" are collective terms. Could "Skywalker" be used in the same way? It's the one thing that unites our two key players, Kylo Ren and Rey -- both former pupils of Luke -- as well as the last remaining Legacy Player, General Leia Organa.

Over the course of nine movies, Star Wars has been, once you remove the spaceships, laser swords and Jim Henson puppets, a story about one particular family. The title is specific in its wording: Not any one Skywalker, just "Skywalker." Balancing the Force also requires equal parts light and dark. To quote Snoke, "Darkness rises, and Light to meet it." We can't be sure of anything that'll happen in Episode IX, but it seems that the Skywalker legacy can only be capped cooperatively.

Directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Billie Lourd, Keri Russell, Matt Smith, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher, with Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant. The film arrives December 20.

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