Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will end the Skywalker Saga, but what does the film need to do in order to achieve this? Since Disney’s takeover of Lucasfilm, the term “Skywalker Saga” has come to encompass the original trilogy of Star Wars movies, the oft-derided prequels and the current trio of films kicked off by J. J. Abrams. Future endeavors by The Last Jedi‘s Rian Johnson and Game of Thrones‘ David Benioff and D. B. Weiss will be set in the same universe, but tell an entirely different tale within the Star Wars canon.
Rounding off a series of 9 films, and arguably cinema’s most famous franchise at that, is no mean feat and Star Wars 9 faces the daunting task of not only bringing the current trilogy to a respectable conclusion, but ending the Skywalker story in a way that makes sense in the context of all 9 episodes. And all while crafting a film that works as a standalone blockbuster adventure.
Star Wars 9 has the unenviable task of tying up loose plot threads from across all three trilogies, answering any lingering mysteries and bringing together three very distinct trilogies, some installments of which proved incredibly divisive, into a cohesive saga. But what does the end of the Skywalker Saga actually look like? Star Wars 9 might be the final chapter for this dysfunctional family of Force-sensitives but how much ground needs to be covered before the book is actually closed, and a new story can begin? Here’s what Star Wars 9 must do in order to truly end the Skywalker Saga.
First introduced in 1999’s The Phantom Menace, an ancient Jedi prophecy foretells the coming of a chosen individual who will destroy the Sith once and for all, finally bringing balance to the Force. George Lucas himself confirmed that Anakin Skywalker is the fabled Jedi of legend. First identified as the potential figure of prophecy by Qui-Gon Jinn, young Annie turns to the Dark Side as an angst-ridden youth, but ultimately finds redemption by killing Emperor Palpatine, defeating the Sith and bringing balance to the Force. But that was before Disney came along with a truckload of cash and designs for a third trilogy.
In Star Wars 9, the Emperor’s back, and the prophecy Anakin was supposed to fulfill is consequently rendered incomplete. This is perhaps the primary plot point The Rise of Skywalker must address. Is Anakin somehow still the chosen one? Was Luke Skywalker the Jedi who destined to bring balance to the galaxy? Or does the task fall to Rey – a character many suspect still might harbor Skywalker connections?
In broader terms, Star Wars 9 also has the opportunity to address what bringing “balance to the Force” actually means. The modern sequel trilogy has firmly established that the mystical power known as the Force is balanced by two opposing sides, Light and Dark, and therefore killing off the Sith surely leaves the galaxy in a state of unbalance. Does true harmony come only when the Jedi and the Sith die out? This theme was heavily explored in The Last Jedi and would provide a justification for why the Jedi prophecy remains unfulfilled 3 movies after Anakin’s heroic sacrifice.
The Skywalker clan are far more than just a dusty old prophecy, and the family’s personal arc must also draw to a close in Star Wars 9. In The Last Jedi, Luke sacrifices himself in order to allow his sister and the dwindling Resistance one final chance at toppling the First Order and although it seems highly likely that the good guys will eventually succeed, Star Wars 9 must also address Luke’s ongoing influence throughout the galaxy. The divisive closing scene of Rian Johnson’s (equally as divisive) The Last Jedi showed a Force-sensitive stable boy looking up at the sky, inspired by tales of the Resistance and the Rebel Alliance.
Luke is already a figure of legend in the Star Wars universe, but how will his efforts ripple outwards among the galaxy’s citizens? Fans are eager to discover whether Luke and Leia will inspire a new generation of freedom-fighting Jedi, with statues built in the duo’s honor, or whether the true contributions of both Skywalker siblings will remain known only to a select few who were present to watch it all unfold. Furthermore, does the Skywalker bloodline end with Luke and Leia? While Rey’s parentage is still the subject of much debate, Kylo Ren carries the Skywalker DNA, if not the name, and his fate could define the future of the family’s legacy.
Aside from reopening the Jedi prophecy, the return of Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars 9 unties the end of Anakin’s personal story thread. The sand-averse former Jedi looked to have redeemed himself in Return of the Jedi‘s epic conclusion, but more recent episodes have revealed that not only is the Emperor still alive, but Vader is also acting as a major source of inspiration for Kylo Ren, and a new wave of terror across the galaxy. As a result, Anakin’s redemption arc needs strengthening, and with the character still existing as a Force Ghost in the Star Wars world, there’s room for his story to continue. Whether that will involve a second crack at the Emperor or giving Kylo Ren a well-deserved Force-spanking remains to be seen.
In the original Star Wars trilogy, Force Ghosts are a deeper power exclusive to the Light Side – the more peaceful equivalent to the Dark Side’s finger lightning – and are also the reason Obi-Wan allows himself to be defeated by Darth Vader on the Death Star. Traditionally, the Jedi have used this ability to pass on knowledge and teachings to their successors, influencing the progression of the Order from beyond the grave.
From a narrative perspective, the phenomenon of Force Ghosts might be little more than a plot device to allow dead characters a route back into the story but, in terms of ending the Skywalker Saga for good, these friendly ghosts surely have a more meaningful role to play. Considering their selfless teachings and strict moral code, it always seemed strange that a Jedi’s ultimate ability would be to gain life after death. Perhaps this is intended as a slice of irony – the Dark Side spend eons searching for a way to cheat death, and the Jedi achieve it just by being morally sound. Or perhaps there’s a deeper purpose to the Jedi’s Christmas Carol antics that holds some connection to balancing the Force and defeating the Sith.
Mark Hamill is reprising his role as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars 9, likely as a Force Ghost, and there’s surely more to his return than cheering on Rey as she completes her training. Rey now holds the entire legacy of the Jedi on her shoulders, and it’s time that the ghosts of her predecessors made their presence known in a meaningful way, perhaps amassing their collective power in one final push against the Dark Side.
Fans can head into Star Wars 9 reasonably confident that the Resistance will somehow defy the odds to overcome the First Order and restore peace to the galaxy, but that was Return of the Jedi‘s ending. J. J. Abrams has already taken criticism for beginning his sequel trilogy in almost identical fashion to George Lucas’ original, so the ending needs to take a more unique approach. More specifically, Star Wars 9 needs to answer why this epic, nine-episode saga had to revolve around the Skywalker family. What impact will they have not only on saving the galaxy, but on changing the entire Star Wars universe in a permanent way?
With the First Order rising out of the ashes of the Empire, a straightforward victory for the Resistance in Star Wars 9 will leave a lingering fear within the audience that the same story will repeat itself in another generation (enter Benioff and Weiss?). If the ending of Star Wars 9 leads directly into a new chapter of the story, this risks invalidating the past 9 films. Why does Anakin’s death, or Luke’s sacrifice, or balancing the Force matter if peace in the galaxy is only going to last another 20 years? Star Wars 9‘s biggest challenge is to ensure that every step of this 40+ year journey feels worthwhile.
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