Luke Skywalker Lives! Vanity Fair Sparks New Theories for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

by Joseph Tavano

Luke Skywalker lives? And just like that, the world knows so much more about The Rise of Skywalker. Thank you Lev Grossman, Annie Leibovitz, and Vanity Fair for supplying not only new info on the upcoming film, but also for providing context on The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens.

Let’s explore all the new information revealed in the Vanity Fair cover story for The Rise of Skywalker, and see what speculation and theories may also rise as a result of it! And, let’s see if we can answer the question, does Luke Skywalker live, or is it just smoke and mirrors?

The Knights of Ren

The Knights of Ren are “elite fearsome enforcers of Kylo Ren’s dark will.” So why then, is Kylo Ren clotheslining them in the trailer? And, where were they during the events of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi (Side note: there needs to be a better name for these few days; the OT had The Battle of Yavin; how about the events of TFA and TLJ are the Starkiller Offensive. Let’s go with that.)

Now, what can be gleaned from this on-set image of the Knights of Ren? These are clearly the murderous warriors from Rey’s vision in TFA, and clearly prepared to do some serious damage in battle. One of them even has a cannon for an arm! And, the axe held by the knight with their back to the camera was last seen years before in Dryden Vos’ office. Like Kylo Ren’s ancient helmet and ancient blade design, it would seem safe to say that the Knights of Ren have their own artifacts as well, and, with their haphazard and unique gear, armor and clothing seem to prove that out as well. They use what they find, like raiders or conquerors.

The Vanity Fair cover story made mention that the Knights of Ren “add an element of chaos to the war between the Resistance and the First Order.” This would seem to say that the Knights are not on either side, but have motives of their own. Who, where and why they will conflict with the heroes (and villains) in The Rise of Skywalker may prove to be an essential piece of the puzzle that could deepen the story elements of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Are they evil? Are they good? Are they chaotic neutral, so to speak? Characters who wear masks are naturally mysterious, so it’s a safe bet to expect some surprises from these ones.

Keri Russel’s Character

Meet Zorri Bliss, a name fit for a Bond girl and a reputation as a masked scoundrel.

Purple and gold at once declare a sense of status and regalness when adorning the character, and by the pose it’s obvious this is a woman of action. If that didn’t give it away, the dual golden dueling blasters at her thighs may do it. In this shot, Zorri is in the Thieves’ Quarter of Kijimi, a “snow-dusted world,) whatever that means. Perhaps it’s a little more Boston in winter, rather than Norway?

How this character (or planet) factors into the plot is completely unknown, but it’s let’s take the time to review two important facts about preview articles and Annie Leibovitz photographs:

  1. Trailers and previews rarely show much of the film, and feel much more revealing than they actually are. For example, take the reveals of Maz Kanata’s castle in 2015, or Canto Bight in 2017. The character and image reveals amounted to mere seconds on screen, and revealed no plot at all. Zorri Bliss, despite being far more attractive than Constable Zuvio, you may wind up a rather minor character. Hopefully not.
  2. Annie Leibovitz stages her shots. These are not production stills, or even glimpses into anything that may be seen on screen. Her talent and reputation allow her to command a mini production just to create these preview images, which obviously set the world on fire. However, if you are looking for that moment Zorri steps out onto a staired street, you may not see it. Just like the group photos of aliens in previous films, or even Obi-Wan vs. Maul in the sands of Tatooine for The Phantom Menace, they look cool, but are not indicative of the plot.

Richard E. Grant’s Character

The actor with an easy smile plays a more serious Allegiant General Pryde in The Rise of Skywalker. But, what is an Allegiant General, anyway?

Given the charcter’s positioning int he photo, a viewer could deduce that Pryde is higher in the packing order than Hux these days. Has he been installed in the time since Kylo seized leadership, or has Pryde always pulled rank over Hux?

The title “Allegiant General” denotes a level of loyalty implicit with the role; it’s not just a superlative (Grand Moff to Moff, etc.), so it seems as if Pryde must sworn some oath to ascend to the title. Is he part of the First Order proper, or the leader of a military force with allegiance to the First Order? The Empire remnant, perhaps? His age matches up nicely for that. In any event, Pryde commands one’s attention, and having a seat on Kylo Ren’s destroyer does not seem like a position many get to take.

One final note about Pryde: the article posits an idea about an “anti-Kylo mutiny brewing with this new Allegiant General?” This is no throwaway idea. Variety is leading its readers down a path with questions such as these, and where there’s smoke, there is usually fire.

“Common Emblem”

The article reveals that Threepio indeed says this phrase, however the author “almost 100% guarantees it will be changed.” Whether or not that was a cheeky joke is uncertain, but it would make sense that the common emblem is the symbol of the Rebel Alliance, having evolved so many times, in as many ways dramatic as they are nuanced. Think of the evolution from the Jedi Order (wings and a tower), Sabine’s emblem (morphed into a Phoenix), the rebel emblem (abstracted into a three pronged semi-circle, the New Republic emblem (higher prongs, encased inside a yellow starburst), to the final the Resistance emblem—almost an exact replica of the Rebel Alliance). It would make sense that Threepio is musing on this. However, the emblems for the Old Republic, Republic, Confederacy of Independent Systems, Empire and First Order are quite similar, too.

Other notes about Threepio: he is back to being FULLY golden, once again, and his torso wiring looks decent—always a de-facto indicator of his status. Anthony Daniels mentions that the character does something that surprises everyone, so it will be exciting to see the master-of-etiquette-turned-master-of-droid-spies do something truly new. Will he remember his past, finally? Will he go murder-droid like his evil doppelganger 0-0-0? Early rumors point to Goldenrod wielding some heavy guns, something he hasn’t done since Geonosis.

Lando Calrissian

The article doesn’t say much out the old smoothie, but Grossman’s word choice seems prophetic.

“At 82, Williams has lost none of his roguish charm, but now it comes wrapped in a kind of magisterial dignity. “

Does this refer more to Williams or to Lando? It feels like both. Has Lando set him self up as planetary governor in the decades since Endor? It would make sense; a nice evolution of the character from Gas Mine administrator to General to…something else. The Aftermath series provided a glimpse into Lando as a rogue in the years following Endor, but merely a snapshot. If capes don’t lie, Calrissian has done well for himself. Again.

The Sith?

But the sequel trilogy has had no Sith in it. Until the Emperor cackles. Snoke was a dark side user, but no Sith. Kylo Ren was a Jedi turned dark-sider, who looks down upon the past while revering it. So when “sources close to the movie say that Skywalker will at long last bring to a climax the millennia-long conflict between the Jedi Order and its dark shadow, the Sith,” it’s safe to assume that the Emperor is going to have more than a passing presence over the film, providing context on the origins of Snoke, the First Order and more. RetroZap’s prediction? [Pain…] Get ready for revelations.

Kylo Ren

While some have said this may be an overturned Millennium Falcon, it is more likely a climactic battle upon the sunken remnant of the Death Star II, seen in the teaser trailer. So, Kylo is indeed the leader of the First Order, and the Force connection with Rey runs much deeper than previously revealed. Has it grown since Snoke connected their minds, or, did it start with Rey’s interrogation in The Force Awakens? Or, is it something older, deeper, and more shocking? Notions of romance aside, there are no new theories here. This is a “wait-and-see” aspect of The Rise of Skywalker, and one of the most crucial elements of the trilogy.

One last thing about Kylo: the article calls out the question: what is it that Kylo Ren fears? Is it the fact that Luke Skywalker lives (possibly)? Between the Knights of Ren, Snoke’s tutelage, Darth Vader’s mask speaking to him, his own reforged mask, and the Emperor, there is more to Kylo Ren that needs to be resolved on screen.

Finn, the Apostate Stormtrooper

The Rise of Skywalker presents a fully realized character in Finn, whose internal conflicts seem to have been resolved with his full commitment to the Resistance cause. All that remains to be seen is who he’s hooking up with. Here are the primary candidates:

  • Rey: While he seems to be in the friend zone since The Fore Awakens, it’s not out of the question. Their bond runs deep, but will their paths align to make it a reality?
  • Poe: Are Finn and Poe gay? There’s ample evidence, and with Oscar Issac saying “particularly Finn is his family,” it sounds like a phrase one would say about a spouse. But then there’s that scene with Poe and Rey sizing each other up, so Poe may be playing the field a bit.
  • Rose: She kissed him on the battlefield. But was that kiss requited?
  • Jannah: Who? She’s a fearsome warrior he is riding in the battle with on the plains of Pasaana, on top of horse-like orbacks. At this point, anyone could be the apple of Finn’s eye, so why not?

Final note: the image caption says, “the mechanized forces of the First Order.” It’s such a vague term, that could range from anything from AT-ATs to droid armies. Maybe Star Wars will finally embrace mech suits!

It’s not Jakku, Tatooine, or Jedha

With Jordanian locals play the Aki-Aki, natives of the planet Pasaana, on the edge of the Galaxy, it’s now clear that this planet will play a significant part in the story.

What is interesting is that Pasaana seems to diverge fromt he usual Star-Wars-monoclimate planet, having confirmed grassy plains with orbaks and dry deserts where the Aki-Aki live.

It stands to reason that these plains also abut the ocean seen in the teaser trailer, so this place seems as biodiverse as it is mysterious.

Luke Skywalker Lives?

Is this the resurrection of Luke Skywalker, as predicted on Brews and Blasters and translated in international titles? There is ample evidence to says so, as Luke is not standing here in a blue glow, and a gloved hand providing further mystery on what lies underneath: reformed flesh or mechanical skeleton? He looks very much alive, so at first blush it would stand to reason that Luke Skywalker lives, indeed.

Is Luke pulling a Gandalf, a resurrected wizard who is sent back to finish a job? It actually wouldn’t be the first time Star Wars has used this trope. And, resurrection would be the natural evolution of the Force Ghost ability, which has moved from a disembdied vouce, to a blue image, to a manifestation that can interact with the tangible world, to a being that can use the Force, to…this.

After all, if a being can willfully transmute into the Force, why couldn’t that being, if they are strong enough in the Force, willfully transmute back into the living world?

However, remember that Leibovitz stages photos, so this could all be sound and fury signifying nothing. Or, it could be EVERYTHING. With a film name like The Rise of Skywalker, you should expect that Luke will go down as the greatest of the Jedi, whether or not Luke Skywalkers lives, or if he just lives on in a vision or memory.

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