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We’re a little less than a year away from the release of Star Wars: Episode IX, the final installment of the sequel trilogy. Although it may be a little too early for some, the most hard-core fans are counting down the weeks until the Dec. 20 release, and it’s certainly permissible to start expecting some news from the halls of Lucasfilm, not least of all the title of Episode IX. The official title for The Last Jedi was announced on Jan. 23, 2017, so expecting a similar marketing trajectory we should have our title in just a few short weeks. Typical of both Star Wars films and director J.J. Abrams, the next chapter in the saga of Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren is shrouded in mystery. The title will give us our first indication of what’s in store for our characters, though as we learned from The Last Jedi, it may not go the way we expect.
While the titles for the George Lucas-directed and -scripted Star Wars films were lovingly pulpy, the sequel trilogy has opted for more direct titles that home in on a central issue. The Force Awakens was pulled directly from Snoke’s line within the film — “There has been an awakening; have you felt it?” — while The Last Jedi is taken from The Force Awakens‘ opening crawl. With that in mind, it seems safe to assume that the title for Episode IX won’t come out of left field, a la Attack of the Clones, and instead be taken from the opening crawl of the two prior films, or a line of dialogue. After mining The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi for clues, these are the titles we think the force is strong with.
The Knights of Ren
One of the biggest hanging question marks over the sequel trilogy is the identity of the mysterious Knights of Ren. When Kylo Ren is sent after his father, Han Solo, in The Force Awakens, Supreme Leader Snoke says, “Even the Knights of Ren have never faced such a test.” We see flashes of figures who may be the Knights of Ren in Rey’s first force vision, in which she sees Kylo among similarly dressed figures. Based on the context, it seems likely the Knights are a group of dark side warriors working for Snoke, but what happened to them? Is it possible that Snoke broke the Sith tradition of master and apprentice and employed several apprentices other than Kylo Ren? And if so, where have they been all this time? It’s clear that Ben Solo’s new name, Kylo Ren, suggests his membership among the Knights. But who is Ren, and is it just a coincidence that it’s one letter off from Rey? Abrams has shown a penchant for hiding mysteries right under our noses. Perhaps it’s possible that Snoke, who we’ll hopefully learn more about despite his demise, was Ren at one time. Furthermore, the term knights draws an immediate association with Jedi Knights. Perhaps Snoke’s Knights of Ren are a new breed of dark side users that are able to stand against the Jedi better than the Sith ever could.
The Ashes of the Empire
The opening crawl for the Force Awakens says “the sinister First Order has risen from the ashes of the Empire.” Perhaps this idea of ashes of the old giving way to something new yet similar is happening on a more thematic level as well. The Force Awakens received criticism for following too closely to A New Hope, but arguably this was intentional. The Star Wars saga is built upon parallel stories of death and rebirth. Kylo Ren’s identity is founded on ashes, and we see a very literal take on that as he keeps Darth Vader’s helmet in ashes that may very well be the remains of Anakin Skywalker. Similarly, Rey’s transformation into a Jedi begins with her acquiring the lightsaber left behind from Empire Strikes Back, and we could see this debris as another form of ash. And on a broader scale, the war that we’ve seen in the sequel trilogy is a result of the destruction of the Empire and a lack of foresight in the fact that the remains, the ashes, could re-form into something equally powerful. For as much as the idea that the sequel trilogy is trying to escape the original trilogy is bandied about, every decision is based in the events of the previous war, just as our own World War II followed the results of and alliances of World War I.
The Rising Tyranny
Taken from The Last Jedi‘s opening crawl, “Only General Leia Organa’s band of Resistance fighters stand against the rising tyranny,” The Rising Tyranny could also be the title of this season of American politics. That’s only a joke to the smallest degree, because for all of the lightsaber fights and space battles, Star Wars is a deeply political franchise, one that often comments on real-world issues. For whatever faults the prequel trilogy has, Lucas really zeroed in on how political policies stemming from fear tactics lead to the collapse of democracy. So while this title, which recalls Empire Strikes Back with a darker edge, may seem like one that would have worked better for the second installment, it does create a sense of building tension that would make audiences question who, if anyone, is going to make it out of this film unscathed. Rey may have triumphed at the end of The Last Jedi, but she’s yet to be tested as a true Jedi, and perhaps there’s no better way for her to fully emerge as a protector of the peace and forge her own legacy than to face off against the First Order, led by unstable dictator Kylo Ren, who is more tyrannical than ever. Perhaps there’s no greater task a Star Wars film could achieve than to further the spark of rebellion against the rising tyranny in our own world.
A Spark of Hope
Turning from our darkest title suggestion toward our lightest, A Spark of Hope also has its roots in the opening crawl of The Last Jedi — “Master Luke Skywalker will return and restore a spark of hope to the fight.” Taken from the same sentence that included “the rising tyranny,” this title has the same political hold as the former, though perhaps speaks better to Rose’s line about winning by fighting for what we love rather than against what we hate. While the end result may be the same, the perspective in how we get there is the defining aspect of these star wars. Luke Skywalker may be gone, at least in his physical form, but he did indeed create a spark of hope for Rey, the Resistance, and other force-sensitive individuals. And once again going back to Star Wars being a saga of parallels, there’s perhaps no more fitting a conclusion to this section of the story than to end with a title that recalls that of the first Star Wars film, A New Hope. While Episode IX is certain to not be the final film within this series of Episodes, it feels fitting to say that the story in its current form began and ended on a note of hope.
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