At Star Wars Celebration, the title of Star Wars: Episode IX was finally announced: The Rise of Skywalker.
That’s a pretty exciting title, but what does it mean? Here’s the really short answer: we don’t know. There are all sorts of ideas, but we don’t know what the reality actually is – and we probably won’t until the film releases this December.
In many ways, that itself is a bit rare for Star Wars. The Empire Strikes Back was pretty self-explanatory even before the film. Same with Return of the Jedi – people might speculate about whether the Jedi were returning with Luke or whether Anakin was the Jedi returning, but you nonetheless get the main idea. The Phantom Menace is actually the one that probably could have been most mysterious before the film, as it refers to Palpatine. Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith? Yeah, those make sense too. And the titles of the sequel trilogy – The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi – made plenty of sense but became richer upon viewing the film (we realized that the Force awoke most specifically in Rey, and that Rey becomes the last Jedi by the end of the film). So my point is that I’m not sure if a Star Wars film has ever had a less clear title than this one. And I’m sure that J.J. Abrams is perfectly fine with that.
So what might The Rise of Skywalker mean? Let’s look at the options I’ve seen speculated on.
- Ben Solo rises. The main Skywalker of the sequel trilogy is Ben Solo (aka Kylo Ren), and while this remains a debated subject amongst Star Wars fans, I still fully expect to see redemption for Ben. So just like Return of the Jedi can refer to the villain, I wonder if The Rise of Skywalker could also refer to the villain. This would seem to be the most obvious of them all: the last Skywalker rises up to defeat this ultimate evil (Palpatine!) once and for all.
- Rey rises. Of course, since Rey is the protagonist of this trilogy, many have speculated that she is actually the Skywalker who rises. What most people assume when they say this is that Rey would have to be a Skywalker by blood. I’m still very skeptical that this will actually turn out to be the meaning of the title. However, I do think there’s an option in which it does still refer to Rey. As The Last Jedi taught us, the Force is not just for the Jedi (and the viewer can read further into that, that the Force isn’t just for the Skywalkers). And as the sequel trilogy has hinted at, Rey is what the descendant of Skywalker should be, even though she isn’t related by blood (in contrast to Ben Solo, who is a failed descendant of Skywalker even though he is related by blood). So it’s possible that Rey could take up the Skywalker mantle, a clear symbol that the legacy of the Skywalkers goes far deeper than bloodlines.
- Anakin Skywalker’s rise. It’s also possible that this title could refer to Anakin Skywalker. The sequel trilogy has delved into the Force a bit, and with Palpatine coming back in some way, that will likely continue. Palpatine has been strongly implied to be the one who created Anakin Skywalker, so it would be fitting for the final film of the saga to give us a clearer and fuller picture of the rise of Anakin Skywalker, the chosen one. Bringing things full circle, if you will.
- The legacy of Skywalker lives on. Similar to the idea that we discussed with Rey, I find it entirely plausible that the name “Skywalker” could live on. For example, if Rey were to create a new generation of Force users, they could be called “Skywalkers” and protect the galaxy and preserve balance. Perhaps this could be the ultimate symbolism, especially if Ben Solo were to die: the bloodline of the Skywalkers has died out, but their legacy will live on forever in these Force users who take on the “Skywalker” mantle to protect the galaxy. It’s possible that the Skywalkers rising are actually a group of people who take on the mantle to carry on the legacy of the Skywalkers. What better way to honor the legacy of Luke Skywalker? In this idea, he truly would be the last Jedi, because the next generation of Force users would be so inspired by him that they take on the name “Skywalker.” I think that would be pretty cool.
- A satisfying conclusion to the saga. Note the titles of the third act of each trilogy: Revenge of the Sith, Return of the Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker. There’s actually a lot of parallelism there: Revenge, Return, and Rise. So I actually think that this title could be helping us wrap up the entire nine film saga. In the prequels, the Skywalker legacy developed but was then destroyed by Anakin Skywalker seeking revenge against the Jedi and becoming a Sith. Then in the originals, the Skywalker legacy returned as Luke Skywalker led Anakin back from the Dark Side. So with the Skywalker name now restored, it’s time for the Skywalkers to rise to new heights in the sequels.
So what is it? I’d guess that it’s one of these, and very possibly multiple. For example, I’m pretty confident that the last one – bringing a satisfying conclusion to the saga – is for sure an aspect of this title, but that doesn’t at all preclude any of the others from being true. The one I like the best is the one that suggests Skywalker means something more than just blood, but we’ll have to wait and see what this title actually means.
I think that’s definitely my favorite way to go, and I think that would be the best way for this title to wrap up the saga. The prequels are our introduction to the Skywalkers, but Anakin Skywalker falls and enacts revenge on the Jedi. The originals, then, are about the redemption of the Skywalkers, as the Jedi return – both in Luke and in Anakin. And then the sequels would be about the legacy of the Skywalkers, as the galaxy has been so influenced by them that the Skywalkers truly rise. The family has had such an influence on the galaxy that, after Luke’s heroics in The Last Jedi, the next generation of Force users take on the Skywalker name as something more than just blood – perhaps starting with Rey. I think bringing that symbolism into the final film of the saga would be really cool, really fitting, and would make this title carry a lot of meaning. Plus, I think it’s probably among the simplest ways to explain it, too.
I’m sure that we’ll get a very clear picture of that this December and this title will take on a whole new meaning, but in the meantime, there’s not a whole lot of clarity. And that means that there will be plenty of discussion in the months to come.