What Do New 'Star Wars' Photos Reveal About 'Rise of Skywalker'?

<p><em>Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker</em></p>   |   Courtesy of Disney
From the Knights of Ren to Richard E. Grant's rank, there are clues for the final movie in the Skywalker Saga.

It’s that time again, when fans across the galaxy get a chance to see the characters from the next Star Wars movie via photos from the legendary Annie Leibovitz. The new information revealed is already unleashing all manner of speculation about just what everything will actually mean when the movie hits theaters. This time around, one detail in particular stands out as worthy of consideration. Or, rather, one group.

Among the many things confirmed by Leibovitz’s Vanity Fair photo shoot is that the Knights of Ren appear in The Rise of Skywalker; they’re seen in a shot with director J.J. Abrams, with a caption that describes them as “elite fearsome enforcers of Kylo Ren’s dark will.”

That may be true, but it’s not the entire story; according to previous official Star Wars releases — but all ancillary material, which may be canonical but is surely also open to being overwritten by the movies if needs be — the Knights of Ren are less Kylo Ren’s private police force, and actually part of an organization loyal to Supreme Leader Snoke and is strong in the Dark Side of the Force… which is to say, they’re the new Sith. As can be surmised from the available information, they not only provided Ben Solo with his new name, but apparently his look, judging by the costuming of the characters in the new photo.

While audiences have seen the Knights of Ren before, it was only the briefest glimpse. They show up in Rey’s vision in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in a scene that would later be revealed to be a flashback (or, at least, a visionary reference) to the destruction of Luke Skywalker’s attempt to rebuild the Jedi Order, as seen, again in flashback, in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This might explain the appearance of Mark Hamill in the Vanity Fair photos — perhaps he appears in the movie in an extended flashback to that moment in the story, providing context we’ve previously not seen. Though there's an argument against that: Luke's beard is grey, not dark brown, as it was in the flashback from The Last Jedi.

That the Knights of Ren are going to seemingly have a more concrete presence in The Rise of Skywalker is something that could mean nothing — Kylo is the boss now, and he wants to bring in his old gang, while Lucasfilm happily adds some new toyetic characters to the franchise — or could end up being particularly important to the plot of the movie. After all, if the Knights of Ren were loyal to Snoke, and Kylo killed Snoke, that could cause some complications for the First Order at some point if the truth ever came out, couldn’t it …?

(Pure speculation here, building upon that earlier speculation: I wouldn’t be surprised if Matt Smith, whose participation in the movie appears to be a Schrodinger’s Cat situation at this point, is under the mask of one of the Knights of Ren, and he ends up challenging Kylo for control of the First Order at some point in the movie. I am prepared to be very wrong on that point when the movie comes out.)

As to the other photos Liebovitz shot, they may be less obvious in terms of plot speculation, but there are glimpses of new and returning characters that provoke the following thoughts:

— Keri Russell’s Zorri Bliss continues two Star Wars traditions: Names that sound like nonsense phrases in English (“Sorry Bliss”?), and disguising much-anticipated female characters in head-to-toe armor. Well, if Captain Phasma isn’t going to be in this one, we have a cool Rocketeer look-alike, instead.

— Richard E. Grant’s Allegiant General Pryde looks like the Star Wars villain we’ve been waiting years for, but what does “Allegiant General” mean? Is it a particular rank, or is he simply the general of the Allegiant? Because longtime Star Wars fans might recognize the idea of a ship called the Allegiant from Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars: The Last Command novel back in 1983 … (But that one belonged to the good guys.)

— Why is Poe on the Millennium Falcon with Lando? Is this just for the shot, or is the pairing something we’ll see in the movie, too — and if so, why?

— And, finally, how effortlessly cool does Jannah (Naomi Ackie) look in her shot with Finn? Let’s just give her her own spinoff movie now, please.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens Dec. 20.