The latest trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, as expected, had quite a few jaw-dropping moments, including shots of the Resistance ships uniting for war against the First Order, Rey training as a Jedi and her confronting Kylo Ren.
Of course, fans were clamoring for more of Emperor Palpatine, the franchise's iconic villain who's set to return after being killed by Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi. Now, while we didn't see his face, we did get a shot of his Sith throne, which most fans would assume came from the throne room we saw when Palpatine, Luke Skywalker and Vader clashed. However, while this particular throne seen in the trailer wasn't actually in that film, it's very much tied to ROTJ and the late, great conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie.
McQuarrie created art that served as one of George Lucas' biggest inspirations for the Star Wars universe. McQuarrie worked with the visionary in the '70s to bring the space epic to life. His sketches and art evolved over time, with initial designs that were very different from the final product (such as Chewbacca fashioned as a reptilian alien and C-3PO being modeled after Maria from Metropolis).
However, his designs were the visual engine of the saga. His most famous move was to design Vader with a samurai-like robotic suit. In fact, McQuarrie, who died in 2012 at age 82, even influenced J.J. Abrams' world-building for The Force Awakens. So it comes as no surprise that Abrams is now using a throne based on an old concept McQuarrie created that wasn't used in ROTJ.
In the 1983 finale to the first trilogy, Palpatine's throne on the Death Star II was a more streamlined chair. It had a sleek, modern look to it but wasn't anything regal. When we saw him as a Senator and then as the head of the Empire in the second trilogy, he sat in similarly simple-looking seats. So clearly, Star Wars wasn't big on thrones. That changed when Abrams sat Snoke on his throne, which had a more kingly feel to it. As a result, at first glance, fans may think Palpatine's throne in the latest trailer might be a new design reflecting a more revered presence. Yet that isn't the case.
As Lucasfilm's creative art manager, Phil Szostak, reveals, this was one of the concepts McQuarrie designed for Palpatine to use aboard the Death Star II. While it clearly is not the one that was ultimately used in ROTJ, it seems Abrams loved this design, with its cavernous seat backed by rocky protrusions. And it seems that at Palpatine's mysterious home, he wants a throne with a darker edge, no pun intended. From both images, it's obvious Abrams is using the rocky spiked-throne. It's a reminder of how much McQuarrie influenced the Star Wars franchise and will continue to.
What's interesting is the throne room wasn't initially planned to be aboard the Death Star II. McQuarrie first had it below the Imperial Palace on Had Abbadon near a lava pit a la Mustafar. Other designs showed it as a modern-looking sphere with another iteration showing it as a floating seat. Well, it's safe to say this spiky version definitely has an intimidating feel to it. It reflects what Palpatine represents and is sure to help build the haunting aura around him when we see him once more in the flesh.
Directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: 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. Advance tickets are available now.