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Breaking down Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s first teaser trailer

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Gasp by gasp

Daisy Ridley as Rey, holding a lightsaber in the desert
Daisy Ridley as Rey in the trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Today, there was only one bright center of the universe, and it was in Chicago, as Lucasfilm debuted the first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (as Episode IX is now officially titled), giving us our first look at the last numbered Star Wars movie for what might be quite some time.

When we last left our heroes — Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose, and the rest of the Rebels — they were outmatched, outnumbered, and nearly without hope. Here’s the biggest moments from our first look at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and everything we can glean about the epic finish to the Skywalker Saga.


A shot of Rey wielding onto Luke’s lightsaber as enemies approach.
A shot of Rey wielding onto Luke’s lightsaber as enemies approach.
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Luke’s lightsaber returns

In one of the more unusually firm statements from the tight-lipped cast during the hour-long Episode IX panel, Daisy Ridley confirmed that Luke’s lightsaber — Anakin Skywalker’s weapon, passed down to him by Obi-Wan — “lived.” Now we know why she was able to be so emphatic about it: It’s one of the first things we see in the trailer.

Kylo Ren’s helmet.
Kylo Ren’s helmet.
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Kylo’s helmet reformed

Star Wars: The Last Jedi put the volatile Kylo Ren through a destructive crisis of identity, including a tantrum in which he slammed his helmet — one of the most iconic images of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens and a symbol of Ren’s devotion to his grandfather, Darth Vader — against a wall until it shattered.

In the teaser we see that helmet repaired and reformed, with a vivid red material highlighting those cracks, an even stronger metaphor for Kylo Ren’s fragile control of himself.

BB-8 and D-O just hangin’ out.
BB-8 and D-O just hangin’ out.
Lucasfilm Ltd.

D-O, our new droid friend

During the panel, we met a frankly adorable new droid D-O, who rolled on its single wheel across the stage. Here’s our first look at them on film, playing comedic partner to BB-8. May this new buddy sell many, many toys.

Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, piloting the Millennium Falcon.
Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, piloting the Millennium Falcon.
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Lando is back

We’ve known for months that Billy Dee Williams would return to the role of Lando Calrissian for Episode IX, and the panel showed us our first still of him in a familiar yellow and black shirt. In the trailer we see the veteran actor in motion, back in in the pilot seat of the Millennium Falcon, even.

A shot of an old medal.
A shot of an old medal.
Lucasfilm Ltd.

The Medal of Bravery from Yavin IV

Remember those shiny medals that Luke, Han, and apparently Chewbacca (off screen) received at the end of A New Hope? It’s okay if you didn’t, it’s been a while. Here we see someone holding a very well-maintained version. Whose hands are those?

Leia (Carrie Fisher) hugs Rey (Ridley).
Leia (Carrie Fisher) hugs Rey (Ridley).
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Carrie Fisher’s performance is back, too

J.J. Abrams confirmed that Princess Leia would have a presence in Episode IX without the use of CGI last year. He expanded on that in the panel today, saying that the production had decided to write around footage from Star Wars: The Force Awakens that had been left on the cutting room floor. As we can see from the teaser, that footage appears to include a scene between Leia and Rey, presumably shot as part of a scene on the Resistance base on the planet D’Qar.

Rey (Ridley), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and Finn (John Boyega) survey the land.
The gang’s all here!
Lucasfilm Ltd.

The trilogy leads are finally united

“This is an adventure that the group goes on together,” Abrams told the audience before the screening of the teaser, adding that he was most excited for fans to see Finn, Poe, Rey, and Rose all in the same place, as they have rarely been so far in the trilogy. Well, here they are. But what are they all looking at?

The Death Star.
The Death Star.
Lucasfilm Ltd.

A shipwrecked Death Star

They all appear to be gazing a starship ruin, one big enough to make a gutted Star Destroyer (like the one that so dominated the first teaser for Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens) look like a toy in a landfill. Those characteristic curves and telltale trench can only mean one thing: A fallen Death Star, either the one from Star Wars: A New Hope or Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

But believe it or not, that was not the biggest gasp of the teaser.

Palpatine is back???

That came a moment later, when the clip closed with a peal of cackling laughter — very familiar cackling laughter.

Ian McDiarmid appeared at the very end of the panel in confirmation. The actor, who first took up the role of Emperor Palpatine in 1983’s Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (and would later return for the Star Wars prequel trilogy as Senator Sheev Palpatine), has returned to portray the Sith lord once again.

Although whether Palpatine managed to bodily survive being thrown down a pit in a Death Star that later exploded in the vacuum of space — or if he’s just here as a force ghost, a vision, a recording or what ... well, we’ll have to wait for more information.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on Dec. 20, 2019.