Breaking down the epic D23 sizzle reel for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker!

As expected, this morning on Good Morning America the sizzle reel for The Rise of Skywalker that was shown at D23 on Saturday dropped for the public, and it’s glorious.

If you haven’t seen it, here you go:

The trailer plays up the nostalgia quite a bit, taking us on a journey through all the saga films so far. With a beautiful trumpet version of Yoda’s theme playing, we begin with the binary sunset and then travel through the original trilogy. When we arrive at Return of the Jedi and see Luke Skywalker, we hear his voiceover from the first TROS teaser trailer: “We’ve passed on all we know.” Then we soon cut to the prequels, and as we do we hear Luke continue: “A thousand generations live in you now.” After that, we soon transition to the sequels, hearing Luke say, “But this is your fight.”

Soon after that, we arrive at the new material in the trailer as the music transitions to a beautiful version of Rey’s theme. Let’s break down all the thrilling new stuff we saw in this sizzle reel, but be warned – *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD ***. While we obviously don’t know what happens in this film yet, I’ll be referencing some reports that may give away some important details, so proceed at your own risk.

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The big three heroes of this sequel trilogy all together on Pasaana! We see Rey, Finn, and Poe, joined by Chewbacca (he’s behind Finn) and C-3PO. You can see the Millennium Falcon parked in the background too. As they walk together, it looks like Poe lets out a sigh – but I can’t quite tell whether it’s one of relief, frustration, or something else.

One of the big things that J.J. Abrams has focused on discussing about The Rise of Skywalker is that it’s an adventure the heroes go on together. We haven’t seen that much at all in the sequel trilogy. In fact, we’ve seen all three of them together exactly one time: the end of The Last Jedi, when the surviving Resistance members flee Crait. So I’m not knocking the films so far – they’ve had some beautiful storytelling – but I’m excited that this one will seem to bring the heroes closer and send them on an adventure together. That will be pretty awesome.

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Now we see what the heroes are looking at: some sort of festival on Pasaana. I’m guessing this is a festival put on by the Aki-Aki, a native species of Pasaana who we saw in one of the Vanity Fair images. This looks like a celebration, but I wonder how long that will last.

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Leia! It’s still so incredible that we’ll be seeing Carrie Fisher as Leia one last time this December, made possible by footage that was shot already in the sequel trilogy (and seemingly primarily for The Force Awakens). It will certainly be a test for ILM, but everything we’ve seen so far inspires quite a bit of confidence. I mean, just look at this comparison:

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I think she looks fantastic in that sizzle reel, and she looks a lot more like she did in The Last Jedi. I’ll say it again: ILM is very good at what they do.

Anyway, as for Leia, she’s on the forest planet that J.J. Abrams revealed at Celebration is near the beginning of the film. It looks to me like it could be from a scene in which she says goodbye to the heroes as she sends them off on the important mission, as it looks like the same outfit and setting as the shot in the first teaser for TROS where she hugs a tearful Rey.

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In case you needed a reminder, this film is wrapping up the Skywalker Saga. “The story of a generation comes to an end.”

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All wings, report in! X-Wings! Y-Wings! B-Wings! A-Wings! A blockade runner! We see what figures to be the Resistance fleet emerging from hyperspace amidst a sunset/sunrise, and the different classes of fighters is something many fans have been hoping to see for a while. And it’s just a really cool thing to see them all emerging out of hyperspace to confront… something (we’ll get to that in just a second). There’s also another ship there that I can’t really identify, but it doesn’t really look like something we’re familiar with.

As far as the blockade runner goes, I actually wouldn’t be surprised if this was a specific one rather than just a new one of the same model. We’ve seen this ship pictured in other stills from the film, on a jungle planet, and based on what reports and rumors are out there, it sounds like this ship will probably be pretty important. That’s why I actually think it might be the Tantive III. As far as we know, the Tantive IV was destroyed shortly after Darth Vader’s forces captured the ship, so it might be more likely to be the Tantive III, Bail Organa’s ship that he used in the Clone Wars and which was seen in Revenge of the Sith. And aside from other significant implications to the plot that it could have, I think it’d be a pretty nice touch if Leia’s Resistance wound up utilizing her adoptive father’s personal cruiser in a key final fight against the phantom menace the late Senator Organa knew personally.

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We see what the Resistance fleet is (apparently) emerging from hyperspace to face: Star Destroyers. Dozens upon dozens of them. In an incredibly ominous scene that seems to take that iconic shot from Solo and put it on steroids, lighting flashes and illuminates this massive fleet that is assembled. But here’s the thing: those are IMPERIAL-class Star Destroyers!!! These are no First Order ships; they’re Imperial. And that could have pretty massive implications.

Based on this information, I believe this is probably Palpatine’s secret fleet, which has remained hidden in the Unknown Regions as part of his Contingency plan. And now with Palpatine back, perhaps the fleet has amassed and is ready to go. If you look super, super closely (and you might have to brighten the image to see it), you can see that there are red markings on the side of the Destroyer. You can just barely make it out at the lower edge of this Destroyer:

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What do those red markings mean? I have no idea. But we do know that there are Sith Troopers in TROS, wearing all-red armor. From the moment these troopers were announced I thought they were probably ultimately loyal to Palpatine, and with the red markings on these ships (plus some apparent advanced weaponry, which we’ll get to in a second), I’m guessing that this is probably the Sith fleet, hidden away in the Unknown Regions by Palpatine as part of his contingency until the time is right. And if that’s the case, then our heroes will be up against a massively sinister and dangerous threat in this film.

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Here’s another shot of the fleet of Star Destroyers assembled against the dark sky, illuminated only by lighting. If I had to guess, this could be the Unknown Regions we’re seeing, as we know that it’s a pretty unstable place. But here we see rows and rows of Destroyers, and that’s a pretty terrifying fight if they’re all actually ready for battle. But one thing worth discussing here is something that is really hard to see from this image. Thankfully, however, a user on Reddit posted a brightened version of it. Note the bottom of the Destroyer – there appear to be special modifications that have been made.

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Ok, so here’s where we begin getting into possible spoiler territory. According to a report from Making Star Wars, the Sith Troopers and Sith fleet have indeed been hanging out in the Unknown Regions, dodging gravity wells and waiting to complete their mission. But additionally, MSW says that these Destroyers that are part of the Sith fleet are equipped with “planet destroying weapons like the one on the Death Star itself.” Based on a shot we see a bit later in this sizzle reel, I’m guessing that these special modifications seen on the bottom of these Destroyers are actually that Death Star tech that equips these Star Destroyers with the ability to partially mimic the Death Star’s superlaser.

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Finn and Jannah are in the cockpit of a ship looking solemnly at something. The way this teaser is spliced together, we’re led to believe they’re looking out at this fleet of Star Destroyers, and I actually think that’s very possible. Their reaction fits what we’d expect of people arriving to see that massive fleet, and we see a Resistance pilot in the background. So this is a Resistance ship (though we don’t know what model), and looking outside the cockpit we see what looks like a B-Wing fly by briefly, and the setting looks like it could be the same too. So for now, I’m going to assume that they actually are looking out at this assembled fleet.

But regardless, it’s pretty cool to see our first true look at Jannah on-screen. All we had seen before were a couple of still photos, so it’s great to see her in a teaser, if only briefly. And she’s hanging out with Finn again, as it continues to appear that they’ll be working closely together in this movie.

Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 6.15.07 PM You might not have recognized him because of the red eyes, but here’s C-3PO! He’s in some sort of chamber, and he has glowing red eyes! This is reminiscent of Triple-Zero, Doctor Aphra’s assassin protocol droid. But what is actually going on here? Well, Making Star Wars for a while has been reporting that C-3PO is pretty important to the plot of the film as it pertains to finding the “Macguffin”, and they reported that while on the snow planet (Kijimi) the heroes visit a droid factory and C-3PO has his memory uploaded to R2-D2. According to them, this then explains the “Rambo” 3PO seen with Chewbacca’s bowcaster in the leaked poster. The setting here certainly looks like it could be a droid factory, so I wonder if 3PO’s red eyes are a result of this process of uploading/downloading his memory for an important reason that helps to kick-start the pursuit of this “Macguffin”.

Or J.J. Abrams just likes red on C-3PO. That too.

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This looks like Kijimi, and we see a red laser blasting into the planet and sending debris flying – and then another laser blast right behind it. Remember what I said earlier about the Star Destroyers? I wonder if this is a blast from one of them. Their Death Star tech certainly wouldn’t be capable of destroying a planet, only devastating the surface, so this would fit. And while the Death Star superlaser was green, the Death Star tech seen in The Last Jedi was red, so it’s not a stretch to think that this could be too.

And if this is Kijimi, then it’s possible that the enemy has caught up to our heroes, which is why they need Zorri’s help to escape?

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On a jungle planet, Rey trains with her lightsaber. I’m not sure what planet this is, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to find out it’s either Yavin IV or Endor, two significant planets that could have easy ties to this film. But on whatever planet this is, Rey is training with her lightsaber, and she looks frustrated and throws it at a tree, slicing through it. Note also a training droid hovering (which is how we know she’s training here), and the droid easily moves higher to avoid Rey’s saber throw. I wonder if Luke or Leia is training Rey here?

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Rey also seems to be using a stick as part of her training, as we see her using it and then calling the lightsaber back to her hand. This is a pretty awesome move, as it looks like she executes a true lightsaber throw, bringing it back still ignited. I’m really hoping we see her do that in the film. We also see that Rey is wearing some sort of red ribbon on her wrist/hand. I really don’t know what this is. Is it a bandage of sorts? Your guess is as good as mine.

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Kylo Ren! We see him for the first and only time in this new footage, but it’s pretty epic. We see Ren’s ship in the background, and it’s the same one he is flying in the first teaser (the one Rey jumped over), so it’s not his TIE Silencer (I’m guessing it’s just an updated model of it). That is in the background and Kylo is walking away from it, strutting along as lightning strikes in the background. He then ignites his lightsaber as he continues on.

I’m not sure what planet this is on, and due to the Force Flash Fight that has been reported by Making Star Wars, it’s possible that this setting isn’t actually revealing where he’s at. But that’s assuming that he’s facing Rey here – it’s possible that he’s not and that this is another scene entirely.

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This scene, however, is certain: Kylo Ren is fighting Rey. Ren walks toward her and the two clash lightsabers in a scene that looks absolutely epic. They’re standing on a platform as waves crash all around them, and it sure looks like they’re standing on the ruins of the Death Star (you can see a turret off to the left of the screen). So I’m guessing that these are the ruins of the Second Death Star. If that’s the case, then it’s possible they are actually there, since it seems they visit the place, but it’s also entirely possible that this is one of the locations for the flash fight.

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The screen cuts to black as we hear Palpatine say, “Your journey… nears it’s end.” This is brand new dialogue from Ian McDiarmid, and it’s awesome to think that we’re getting new Palpatine lines. It fits perfectly, too, as it’s an ominous threat but also since this is the final film of the saga. After Palpatine’s line, we hear Darth Vader’s breathing, and some sounds that remind me a lot of the sounds Rey hears as she is called to and approaches the tree on Ahch-To. And then…

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This is the money shot that has had everyone talking since it debuted at D23 on Saturday. Here’s Rey, wearing black robes and a hood and wielding a double-bladed red lightsaber. She twirls the fold-up handle to extend the blade into one long one. This is a very cool design for a lightsaber, but it’s not the first time we’ve seen it: Pong Krell in The Clone Wars and the Temple Guard in Rebels both have a lightsaber that folds up like this one does.

As for Rey’s design, both lightsaber-wise and costume-wise, there are a couple of interesting things to note. First, the outfit she is wearing looks an awful lot like Kylo Ren’s outfit. Second, the lightsaber is the same unstable model as Kylo Ren’s, suggesting a cracked crystal as well. And third, she is wearing a ring on her left hand – is it Leia’s? Snoke’s? Is it important?

The biggest question, though, is what is going on in this sequence. That is what has everyone talking, and there have been several suggestions. Here are the most common ones I’ve seen:

  • Rey turns to the dark side.
  • This is a vision.
  • Rey is possessed by Palpatine.
  • This is a clone of Rey, possessed by Palpatine (maybe named Reey?).
  • Rey is a clone, and this is another one possessed by Palpatine.

I don’t think that Rey actually turns to the dark side, as there’s no way they would reveal that in a teaser if it’s actually that significant. So I am confident that there is something else going on here. The option I find most likely is that this is a vision of sorts, whether to Rey or to Kylo, that serves as a warning or something similar. Here’s a random guess of how it could work: Rey could see a vision of how, given different circumstances, she could have fallen to the dark side just like Ben Solo – giving her a more empathetic view toward him. I think that would be pretty cool, and it would explain why her costume and lightsaber blade so resemble Kylo’s. But another common suggestion as to how this could work is that perhaps Rey experiences another mirror/cave-like sequence (the background of this shot could support this) and she has to confront a dark version of herself, much like Luke did in the cave in The Empire Strikes Back. That could be cool too. The one thing that interests me when interpreting this as a vision is Rey’s demeanor, as she looks so stiff and lifeless… almost like she’s possessed. And given what we know of Palpatine’s role in TROS, I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that it’s something more along those lines instead.

Regardless, this is the perfect shot to end this sizzle reel on, because I’m sure it’s not as integral to the plot as it might initially seem, yet it generates so much discussion and interest and excitement – in part because it’s just such a cool-looking shot.

And as the sizzle reel ends and the title card flashes, we then hear a few notes of Rey’s theme as it ends. In other words, it is unmistakable that in this new footage, Rey is the clear focus – from the music to the content. She’s the focal point.

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