We still don't know a whole lot about what happens in Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, and the new "special look" footage from the D23 Expo that was released online yesterday only raised more questions. Like "Is Leia training Rey?" or "Why doesn't someone get C-3PO some damn Visine?" Most confusingly, Rey shows up in a dark hood wielding a red double-bladed lightsaber, suggesting she's gone over to the Dark Side. Naturally, the internet reacted as though 40 years of Star Wars movies were all leading up to this one GIF:
The end of the footage features not just the voice of Emperor Palpatine, but also what we're pretty sure is either the heavy breathing of Darth Vader or Chewbacca making an obscene phone call. In any case, it makes us wonder how such characters are going to be reintroduced. Well, ever since it was first revealed that Emperor Palpatine (better known as "Sheev" to his friends) was going to be in the movie, fans have been theorizing how exactly that might go down. It didn't take long before people honed in on time travel.
Part of the reason why folks gravitated toward that particular prediction is that the show Star Wars: Rebels introduced the concept of time travel into the Star Wars-verse during its final season. In the episode "The World Between Worlds," the character Ezra travels through "a mystical plane of existence between space and time" to save a comrade's life. And who does he encounter when he's poking around this temporal expanse? Friggin' Palpatine. And that representation of Sheev looks suspiciously similar to the one on the Episode IX poster released over the weekend.
One clue we may be overlooking is who Lucasfilm hired to direct the movies in the Sequel Trilogy: J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, and (before he was fired and replaced with Abrams) Colin Trevorrow. What do all three of these guys have in common? Yes, they're all straight white men, but that's really more of a systemic Hollywood problem. They also all have time travel on their resumes.
When he was hired for The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson's most recent feature was Looper, a time travel thriller starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt cosplaying as '80s Bruce Willis. Trevorrow may have had a huge hit with Jurassic World, but his first feature was Safety Not Guaranteed, which is about a dude who wants to travel into the past to save his girlfriend's life. Then there's J.J. Obviously, this guy loves time travel as much as he loves metaphorical boxes you're not allowed to open (holidays at the Abrams house must be hell). He produced Lost, which had a lot of loopy time stuff, and his Star Trek reboot series used time travel to carve out an entirely new continuity (and alter at least one character's sexual orientation).
But most relevant to this discussion is Felicity. If you'd be surprised to see time travel pop up in a Star Wars movie, imagine being a network television viewer in the early 2000s. Abrams' WB drama about a fresh-faced college student played it straight for more than three years, before its final season dove headfirst into sci-fi wackiness. A late fourth-season episode inexplicably jumps into a near-future where Felicity's life has turned to crap; her friend is dead, her boyfriend cheated on her, and her show is about to be cancelled. So after a few glasses of wine, Felicity and her roommate look up a magic spell to send her back in time, and it totally works.
The final episodes are mostly spent dealing with the repercussions of meddling in the past. Which is nuts, considering the most shocking thing that had happened in the show up to this point was Felicity getting a haircut.
Sure, this hiring trend might be a coincidence. But it's not impossible that this was something they were planning on from the beginning. When Disney purchased Lucasfilm, they bought a whole bunch of iconic characters who were, sadly, dead. Other than endlessly producing prequels, introducing time travel would be the only way to resurrect such lucrative characters.
Then there's The Rise Of Skywalker's co-writer, Chris Terrio, who penned Argo and also Batman v. Superman (hopefully Rey's mother isn't named Martha). He also co-wrote Justice League, which director Zack Snyder has revealed was originally supposed to be about, you guessed it, time travel. Terrio's first version of the story began in a post-apocalyptic future in which Batman is attempting to travel back in time in order to stop Superman from turning evil.
So maybe Rey will similarly attempt to travel to the past in order to fix the future, perhaps by intervening in Kylo Ren's turn to the Dark Side? That would allow for a redemption arc for poor Ben Solo without us having to overlook all that pesky mass murder he's participated in. It would also clear up another weird wrinkle in the Star Wars publicity machine. Mark Hamill has been surprisingly cagey about whether or not Luke is returning as a Force Ghost. Even the wording of his "confirmation" was somewhat ambiguous. And in a recent Vanity Fair spread, we got new photos of Rey and Finn and Kylo Ren ... but the image of Luke appeared to be a photoshopped version of an image from their Last Jedi photo shoot.
Why would they do that? Well, it could be that Luke is in the movie, but not as a ghost, but rather in the past. For his appearance in the magazine, they wouldn't want to gussy him up with blue shimmering ghostliness, since that would be outright lying. But they also wouldn't want to show him as he is in the movie, since his younger appearance would blow the twist. Rejiggering a shot from The Last Jedi solves that problem. This theory may even explain the internet's new favorite meme, Dark Rey. Perhaps Rey doesn't actually turn evil, and that shot is just from some grim alternate future in which Unkar Plutt stole a sports almanac or something.
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