The Star Wars sequel trilogy (specifically, The Force Awakens) has leaned heavily into nostalgia for the four-decades-old franchise, and the saga-ending The Rise of Skywalker appears to be doubling down on that with its final trailer.
While the first two teasers for Episode IX possessed a darker tone and threw major curves at fans -- the return of Palpatine in the first and "Dark Rey" in the second -- the third delivers the warm fuzzies. Well, if you set aside Threepio bracing himself for death. In scene after scene, the trailer evokes settings from Star Wars' storied history. This nostalgia-baiting is especially obvious with the franchise's continuing fixation on one climate per planet (desert planet, ice planet, water planet, jungle planet, mystical cloud planet...). It's hardly an accident that we're effectively getting a tour of key locations in the final trailer for the Skywalker saga's final chapter.
JUNGLE PLANETS & THE REBIRTH OF THE RESISTANCE
Ajan Kloss, the jungle planet in the trailer, evokes Yavin IV, the Rebel base in A New Hope, as well as the Ewok-inhabited Moon of Endor in Return of the Jedi; the Resistance base of D'Qar as well as Maz Kanata's Takodana from The Force Awakens. There's also a subtle reference to the Rebel base of Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back as the resistance seems to be riding a very Tauntaun-esque animal.
The Resistance and the Rebels are constantly associated with lush, green planets -- or at least planets that contain some life -- while "dying" or sterile planets are usually a sign of the influence of the Empire and the Dark Side. As if to drive this reference home, the only moment where Leia appears in the final trailer is in Ajan Kloss is when she's hugging a seemingly heartbroken Rey.
Ajan Kloss is also home to some very interesting ships, but one of them outshines the rest: the Tantive IV that belonged to Bail Organa -- Leia's adoptive father -- a vessel that has so far appeared in the three trilogies: it's where Padmé delivered Luke and Leia, where she was captured by the Empire and, apparently, one of the vessels that will carry the Resistance to their final fight against the First Order, rising from the jungle like a Mayan ruin forgotten by time.
But that's not the only ship rising from the dead. One bone-chilling shot shows an Imperial Star Destroyer emerging from the ice like a resurrected Titanic of mass-destruction. Just in case fans were still expecting some throwback subtlety, there's that shot of every single Resistance (Hello, Colossus!) and Rebels (Hi there, Ghost!) ship that has ever appeared in the canon gathering for a final showdown. J.J. Abrams is not kidding around.
CLOUD CITY (BUT MAKE IT ICE)
Let's go back to the zombie Star Destroyer for a moment: in a previous article, we argued that the highly-promoted and, as of yet, unseen Sith Troopers could have been simply stored in carbonite, and in the trailer, we get both a frozen Imperial ship and a Spaceberg homing in a TIE-fighter swarm.
That Spaceberg looks a lot like Bespin's Cloud City in winter, which was, as even casual fans will remember, was the place where Han Solo got frozen in carbonite.
VENGEANCE FOR HAN & LEIA
While we are on Cloud City, the room where Kylo Ren and Rey destroy what's highly likely to be Darth Vader's mask is as blindingly white and impollute as Cloud City was in The Empire Strikes Back. The possible callback is, again, not so subtle. It was in Cloud City that Darth Vader separated burgeoning lovers Han and Leia, so it makes sense that the sequel trilogy's core couple would destroy his bust in the same place, marking their freedom, it seems, from Vader's actions.
FROZEN PLANETS AND DROID NIGHTMARES
Another clever reference is the frosty and peaky planet of Kijimi, filling in for Hoth's chilliness with a dash of Cloud City scoundrels.
Kijimi also holds the headquarters of droidsmith Babu Frik, which gives the planet the secondary mission of reminding fans of the many times that poor C-3PO has been disassembled, manipulated or menaced with droid torture (Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back, but also Jabba's terrifying workshop; his first chronological appearance as Anakin's "naked" creation in The Phantom Menace and his two makeovers in Attack of The Clones: one courtesy of Padmé, who gives Threepio a face, and one at Geonosis as the clumsiest Separatist battle droid ever created.
Eagle-eyed viewers have also caught the deactivated battle droid from Episode II in Babu Frik's workshop.
NOW THIS IS PODRACING
The trailer showed us more of yet another desert planet that practices a podracing variation, a sport that was wildly popular in Tatooine. In the trailer, it looks like Rey's sand-skimmer is on the lead, drawing another parallel between her abilities as a pilot and Anakin's.
However, Pasaana's culture seems much more festive and feistier than Tatooine's: the teaser trailer showed the heroes arriving at a galactic mix of Burning Man and a Holi Festival complete with colorful powder explosions.
RAGING WATER PLANETS
Another state of water is ice, and that's the place that we're visiting next: the Water Moon of Kef Bir, home to the wreckage of the Death Star II, and two windmills away from a typhoon. This is the place where Kylo Ren and Rey duel while the waves rise and crest around them, and the obvious Star Wars reference brings us to Kamino in Attack of the Clones, which also had a pretty crazy ocean climate worthy of Interstellar.
Even the spray and the mist that shrouds, in one case, Obi-Wan's arrival, and in the other Kylo Ren's looks similar. The main difference is that whereas Kamino's laboratories were shiny, well-kept temples of technology, there are only technological ruins on Kef Bir's Moon, and not a single stable platform in sight.
RUINS OF THE EMPIRE
The ravages of time and the unstable nature of military power are one of the leitmotifs of the sequel trilogy. Not only does Rey appear for the first time scavenging the carcass of a Star Destroyer in The Force Awakens, but her risky exploration of another ruined Imperial facility appears within the first 15 seconds of the final trailer.
There are also the ruins of the Death Star II in Kef Bir, and even the decay of the Resistance base, which is not only claustrophobic but also being slowly eaten by the jungle.
THE DEATH STAR II'S THRONE ROOM
Let's talk about the eeriest ruin of them all: that throne room shot that shows Rey standing in front of the Emperor's throne and Kylo Ren where Luke Skywalker, his uncle, defied Palpatine in The Return of the Jedi. Although we don't yet know the context of the scene within the movie, the Force is strong with this one: this will be the third time that a male member of the Skywalker bloodline stands in the room. Darth Vader served Darth Sidious when he fell to the Dark Side; Luke Skywalker defied Emperor Palpatine with the Light, and it looks as if Kylo and Rey are getting to deal with the aftermath of these decisions, trying to strike a balance.
In any case, the shot of the charred throne room with the circular window behind the heroes looks simultaneously like a ying-yang and like a cathedral's semi-destroyed rosette. Given the real-world inspirations for the Force, draw your own conclusions.
NATURE VS. TECHNOLOGY
Jannah, a new character created for The Rise of Skywalker portrayed by Naomi Ackie, is a fierce freedom fighter (like the Ewoks were) and a resident of the above-mentioned water moon of Kef Bir (like the Ewoks lived in the forest moon of Endor under the menace of the Death Star II). She and her tribe ride Orbacks and shoot arrows (again, like the Ewoks) on top of an Imperial or First Order Star Destroyer, while under fire on all flanks from other battleships and TIE fighters -- a tricky charge of a light brigade that's as fragile-looking and brave as the Ewoks were when they defeated the stormtroopers with "primitive" technology.
The way the Orbacks manoeuver among terrifying machines is also a nice callback to Obi-Wan's Varactyl, Boga, his faithful space lizard that fearlessly manoeuvered between droids and machinery in Utapau.
Everything that anyone wears in The Rise of Skywalker is an homage to a previous installment: Finn's outfit is heavily inspired by Han, complete with the Corellian red stripe. Lieutenant Connix, played by Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher's daughter, wears the same Endor poncho and hairstyle that Leia donned in Return of the Jedi. Rey's outfit mixes the crossed cloth and hood of the Jedi with the sparkling white of Padmé's Geonosis costume and the kneepads of Leia's Hoth snowsuit.
Lando is back with a bang and with a cape that reverses the blue and yellow of his first appearance in Episode V. New character, Zorii Bliss' costume is the best remix of the old and new: her helmet looks just like Jango and Boba Fett's ship in profile; the aubergine pays homage to Zam Wessel, the shapeshifter assassin that led failed a coup against Padmé in Episode II, and the gold accents at the neck, ribs, waist and arms are a demure callback to Leia's infamous gold bikini.
It might seem obvious, but The Rise of Skywalker's final trailer takes the theme of the Force (or "Binary Sunset") and puts it on steroids to create an intense emotional reaction in the viewer. Jaime Altozano, a Spanish music analyst, describes this specific arrangement as a modernization of John Williams' original composition that replaces the more traditional harmonies of the 1977 theme with contemporary chords, "Hans Zimmer-izing" it.
But not that's not all: the trailer sneaks the "heroic jump" right at the start to reassure the viewers that yes, this will be pure, unfiltered Star Wars that will bring together all the elements that fans adore for an epic conclusion.
CAREFULLY CHOSEN WORDS
The lines chosen for the final trailer are a stroke of genius. Not only are each of the main characters outlining their arc for the last movie (purpose for Finn, leadership for Poe, mastery and belonging for Rey and Kylo Ren) but they are also addressing the audience at the same time.
When C-3PO says, "Taking one last look at my friends," he might as well be talking to the generations that grew up with the Skywalker saga and are seeing it now come to an end. Then Luke immediately adds, "Confronting fear is the destiny of the Jedi. Your destiny," encouraging not only Rey (and possibly Kylo) but also the fans that are facing the end of Star Wars as they know it. The final touch is Luke and Leia repeating the Jedi mantra: "the Force will be with you, always."
Directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker stars Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, with Ian McDiarmid and Billy Dee Williams. The film arrives on Dec. 20.