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After years of speculation, Star Wars: The Last Jedi revealed that Rey (Daisy Ridley), the main character of the new trilogy, is not the child of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). In fact, she’s the child of “nobody” — per Rey’s own words. However, the subtitle for J.J. Abram’s Episode IX, revealed along with the new trailer at Star Wars Celebration on Friday, may prompt speculation again: The Rise of Skywalker.
Some fans who appreciated the anti-chosen one choice made by The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson expressed concern that this new film might backtrack on it. Even Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, took to Twitter to comment on the speculation of the title’s meaning, including asking “Is REY a Skywalker?”
But title surely doesn’t have to be literal. There are a few characters in The Rise of Skywalker with Skywalker blood — Kylo Ren/Ben Solo (Adam Driver), Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and, assumedly, force ghost Luke — and this film could be about the redemption of Ben. But the subtitle could apply to no one in particular, as, especially after Johnson’s film, the name “Skywalker” has become a symbol.
The Rise of Skywalker recalls a similar title for a film that focuses on heroic symbols and how legends live on: 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. The title for Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film applies to a number of moments, but one of the most striking is the very last shot in which John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) steps onto the platform in the Batcave, which then rises and fills the screen before cutting to the title card. A new dark knight rises, not a Wayne, but an orphan who knew the same struggles.
“The idea was to be a symbol,” Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) tells Blake. “Batman could be anybody.” More recently, the idea was echoed in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. “Anyone can wear the mask,” Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) says. “You can wear the mask.”
In that essence, anyone can be a Skywalker — and Rey can represent what the characters of Blake and Morales do.
The entire Skywalker saga had focused on the significance of that one family’s bloodline — until The Last Jedi. The Force Awakens sets up Luke as a mythic figure who had gone to find a legendary temple, and The Last Jedi subverts that, revealing him to be a hermit, fearful of the Force to a point that he shuts himself off from it, not wanting to cause any more harm after his mistakes with his nephew Ben. “Now that they’re extinct, the Jedi are romanticized, deified,” Luke says. “But if you strip away the myth and look at their deeds, the legacy of the Jedi is failure. Hypocrisy. Hubris.”
Through a little help from old friend Yoda (Frank Oz), Luke realizes that, while the structures of the Jedi can become shackles, it is their failure — and the wisdom that comes from failure — that speaks to the true power of the Jedi. And through a last act of nonviolent sacrifice that ends in his death, Luke embodies another idea spoken outwardly in The Dark Knight trilogy: “As a man, I’m flesh and blood. I can be ignored. I can be destroyed. But as a symbol, as a symbol, I can be incorruptible. I can be everlasting.”
Luke says that he “will not be the last Jedi,” which can be read as both materially wrong and symbolically correct. With Luke gone, the Jedi Order is, too. But the Jedi themselves have become something more. “Luke, we are what they grow beyond,” Yoda says in The Last Jedi.
“We’ve passed on all we know” Luke says in the first trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which opens on Rey in a desert, facing down a TIE fighter likely piloted by Kylo Ren. “A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight.”
No longer is Star Wars about deifying the man of Luke Skywalker, who is flawed and makes mistakes, but rather, it’s about embodying what Skywalker can represent, especially through his flaws and his mistakes. The final scene of The Last Jedi opens on kids in the race stalls of Canto Bight, playing with dolls to re-enact Luke’s sacrifice, before they’re chased out by a creature. The infamous Broom Kid, named Temiri Blagg (Temirlan Blaev), force pulls his broom to sweep up hay, and then looks up to the stars in hope.
“To me, it shows that the act Luke Skywalker did, of deciding to take on this mantle of ‘the legend,’ after he had decided the galaxy was better off without him, had farther reaching consequences than saving 20 people in a cave,” Rian Johnson told Entertainment Weekly about that final scene.“I couldn’t think of a more evocative image of hope than a kid who is playing with his Luke Skywalker action figure and being inspired by that to grow up and have an adventure and fight the good fight.”
The subtitle The Rise of Skywalker will likely apply to many moments in the final film of the Skywalker saga, including to those that involve literal Skywalkers. But it could very well further develop what The Last Jedi ended on and embrace the name “Skywalker” as a symbol. Temiri Blagg looks up at the stars, not wishing to be a Jedi, but wishing to be Luke Skywalker. Rey stands in a desert alone to face the TIE fighter, much like Luke stood on Crait alone to face the First Order. While she may have been able to use the force to cause the TIE fighter to crash or cut off a wing with her lightsaber, she doesn’t fight, not because that’s what Skywalkers do, but because that’s what Skywalkers can inspire.
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