JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy have debuted the first concept art from, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The art for Episode IX first shown off during the film’s official panel at Star Wars Celebration 2019.
Throughout the panel, the guests, which included Abrams himself and some of the main cast, kept mostly quiet about the plot of the movie. But Abrams did reveal a single piece of concept art from early on in the film, and teased that The Rise of Skywalker would be a movie about the whole resistance crew getting together to go on some kind of mission.
The concept art itself shows off most of the movie’s main cast with Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewbacca, and BB-8 standing outside the Millennium Falcon as they appear to be greeted by C-3PO. While not spoiling too much of the plot, the art seems to evoke Return of the Jedi. The dense forests just behind C-3PO can’t help but mirror the forest moon of Endor on which Episode VI ends. This doesn’t necessarily confirm anything, but by drawing an early parallel between the two movies could be a hint at what’s to come.
These suspicions seemed to be confirmed at the end of the panel when the trailer for Rise of Skywalker was debuted. The trailer doesn’t give many specifics, but it does end on the image of what appears to be a fallen Death Star, along with Luke saying, “no one’s ever really gone,” followed by a laugh that sounds suspiciously like Emperor Palpatine.
The identity of the mysterious laugher was all but confirmed when Ian McDiarmid, the actor who has played Palpatine in every Star Wars movie he’s appeared in, stepped on stage and commanded that the trailer be shown again. With the trailer ending like this, it seems Episode IX will indeed go back and explore what exactly happened at the end of Return of the Jedi.
JJ Abrams, the director of Episode IX, also directed Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens which had a plot that was extremely reminiscent of Star Wars: Episode IV. With IX already drawing on images that seem right out of Return of the Jedi, it’s possible that Abrams could once again be drawing from the original trilogy for inspiration.