'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' Special Look Trailer Breakdown

We take a closer, in-depth look at the new trailer for the upcoming "Star Wars" movie, "The Rise of Skywalker."

On Monday (Aug. 26), Disney revealed the first new footage from the film, called "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," after the trailer's debut at Disney's D23 Expo, held last weekend (Aug. 23 to 25) in Anaheim, California. 

Just over half of the trailer is made up of flashbacks of the Skywalker history. It features some of the most gripping, nostalgia-inducing scenes from "A New Hope," to the prequels and the most recent films ... But the second portion of the teaser revealed all new scenes from the latest chapter. 

Related: 'The Mandalorian': Here's What We Know So Far

Although the short trailer is flashback-heavy it's generated some serious excitement about the new movie.

The first snippet from the latest sequel shows Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) having parked the Millennium Falcon and wandering over to a mysterious settlement that resembles something out of "John Carter" more than anything we've seen so far in the "Star Wars" universe. 

Our heroes have traveled in the Millennium Falcon to an alien city on a new planet called Pasaana (Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney)

The planet they're pictured on is called Pasaana, according to an article from Vanity Fair, which visited the set of the upcoming film. Apparently, it's the same planet shown in the speeder chase between Rey and a TIE fighter that may have been flown by Kylo Ren in the first trailer.

The trailer also gives us a brief glimpse of Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), who will be included in the movie through scenes originally shot for "The Force Awakens."

The skies above a mysterious alien world fill with Rebel fighters dropping out of hyperspace (Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney)

Suddenly, in the skies above an unknown alien world, a small Rebel fleet emerges from hyperspace. Like that snippet of the fleet T-70 X-wings skimming across the water in "The Force Awakens" trailer a few years ago, this clip makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. We instantly recognize more T-70 variant X-wings and the RZ-2 A-wing interceptor we saw in "The Last Jedi" plus a return of the Y-wing.  You can even spot a CR90 blockade runner there, just like the Tantive IV, from "A New Hope" and "Rogue One." Look a little more closely, and you can even make out some B-wing fighters locking their S-foils in attack positions. We haven't seen those on the big screen since "Return of the Jedi," in 1983.

And then, in probably the single most impressive shot of the whole teaser, we see, hiding in a giant ion storm, hundreds of Star Destroyers. But these are not from the First Order. No, these are Imperial Star Destroyers. More specifically, they are Imperial I-class Star Destroyers, last seen in "A New Hope" and "Rogue One" — so not even the Imperial II-class vessels that appear in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" and that litter the deserts of Jakku.

Understanding why this is so significant requires quite a lot of background knowledge, specifically within the "Star Wars" expanded universe. The last time we saw Emperor Palpatine, he was free-falling down a reactor shaft on his way to be blown to bits as the Death Star II was destroyed in "Return of the Jedi." But the idea of a revived Palpatine has been around for a while, popping up in the expanded universe and even being talked about by Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, evidently laying the groundwork for the return of a character who has been instrumental in shaping the fate of the Skywalker family from the very beginning.

Although he's apparently dead, Palpatine's presence has been felt in the "Star Wars" universe for some time, from Operation: Cinder, introduced in the Marvel Comics miniseries "Shattered Empire" and then expanded on in the campaign story for the game "Battlefront II," to the disappearance of the emperor's personal flagship superstar destroyer, the Eclipse.

Emperor Palpatine was obsessed with a sector of the galaxy called the Unknown Regions, because he believed that a great source of power emanated from the region. It was uncharted by both the Old Republic and the Empire, on the edge of mapped space in the galaxy. A few years before the Battle of Yavin, he sought to develop this region and establish bases, even going so far as to create shipbuilding yards there. 

Around the time of the Battle of Endor, it's believed that Palpatine issued orders to the Eclipse to escape to the Unknown Regions, along with what remained of the Imperial fleet. The Galactic Civil War finally ended over the skies of Jakku, which was on the edge of the Unknown Regions, and from the remains, the First Order slowly rose to power.

So, armed with this invaluable insider knowledge, we wonder — since we've heard the voice of Palpatine in both this teaser footage and the first trailer — has an Imperial armada been kept secret this whole time? 

In the novel "Dark Force Rising," Grand Admiral Thrawn commandeered a lost fleet of empty ships called the Katana Fleet, all of which were, in essence, flown by remote control. That could certainly account for the crew issues; each Imperial I-class Star Destroyer has a minimum crew complement of 5,000, and we counted over a hundred vessels in the split-second snippet in the trailer alone. 

Finn (John Boyega) and Jannah (Naomi Ackie) seem nervous about something. Perhaps they've discovered the hidden fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers. (Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney)

Next, we see Finn and newcomer Jannah (Naomi Ackie) in the cockpit of some sort of spacecraft, which is certainly not the Millennium Falcon. It seems they might have stumbled upon the secret Imperial fleet. The trailer cuts to the next shot and shows what appears to be an evil version of C-3PO, evil with menacing red eyes. 'Cause that would happen.

But before we can begin to wonder what's become of the poor protocol droid, we see a mountain being blasted by a massive beam of energy coming from the kind of primary weapon on the Starkiller Base in "The Force Awakens." One Starkiller Base was bad enough, so please, in the name of the Force, don"t let there be another one. 

Rey (Daisy Ridley) works on her lightsaber skills (Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney)

The trailer then cuts to Rey, who appears to be venting some frustration as she hurls her lightsaber (the lightsaber that once belonged to Anakin and Luke Skywalker, presumably repaired after it was torn apart in "The Last Jedi") at a training remote and takes out a tree or two in the process, before doing that cool, Force-catch thing.

A split-second later, Kylo Ren emerges, activating his unique broadsword-style lightsaber and scraping it aggressively along the icy ground. This isn't the Silencer from "The Last Jedi," but something more like a First Order version of the Imperial TIE Interceptor, first seen in "Return of the Jedi." This is probably the same TIE we saw Rey backflipping over in the first teaser

Next comes the first voiceover in the trailer. It's the voice of Palpatine himself (Ian McDiarmid), saying, in only the way Palpatine can, "Your journey nears its end."

Rey and Ren are shown next, dueling with their lightsabers on the crashed wreckage of a Death Star. Remember that scene from the first trailer when the enormous, derelict remains of the ion cannon was on the horizon, sitting in the ocean? We suspect this might be the same one — look out for the turbo laser turret on the far left as the waves crash over the wreckage. Exactly which Death Star this is, however, is unclear. We saw little of either Yavin IV or Endor beyond one particular region, even though both worlds seemed to feature lush forests, so it's not entirely impossible that either could have hosted an ocean. 

At this point, the screen goes black, and we hear the distinct sound of Vader breathing. This could be something, but it could also be nothing. Let's not forget the time that J.J. Abrams added the background sound effect of an Imperial Probe Droid to the first trailer of "The Force Awakens," which had fans speculating for months about what that could mean. As we all know now, it meant nothing at all. 

Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rey duel on what looks like wreckage from the Death Star II (Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney)

But then, what looks like perhaps a cyborg version of Rey inblack robes neatly activates and flips open a double-bladed lightsaber, with the same uneven, fiery-red blades as Ren's broadsword-style lightsaber.

This isn't the first time we've seen a folding, double-bladed lightsaber. Jedi General-turned-agent-of-evil Pong Krell, from Season 4 of "The Clone Wars," wielded a pair of these deadly dual-energy swords in his four arms. Plus, of course, Darth Maul fought with one in "The Phantom Menace," though it didn't fold, and the saber staff wielded by the Jedi Temple Guards and their leader, the Grand Inquisitor, from "Star Wars Rebels," also could fold.

All of this suggests some interesting potential with the upcoming film. But the question remains: how has Emperor Palpatine returned? How this complex issue is handled could make or break this final chapter. Is he just a Force ghost, or is there a much more convoluted answer? 

The "Star Wars Rebels" animated TV series introduced the concept of… Force-assisted time travel. In the episode, "A World Between Worlds," a nexus point in-between space and time was discovered by the Empire in the Jedi Temple on Lothal. I you are strong enough with the Force, this point can be manipulated to save people from their predestined fate. Only the purest of the Jedi could access the World Between Worlds and Palpatine tried but failed. Ultimately, the portal on Lothal was destroyed. However, within the Expanded Universe, we've learnt there are other ways to access it — or at least something very similar — and it is definitely not just reserved for the good side of the Force.

It's a lot to take in, isn't it?

From the very beginning, George Lucas envisaged a series of nine movies that would tell the Skywalker story. And while many fans are more excited about "The Mandalorian," we hope the conclusion of this saga is a fulfilling one.

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Scott Snowden

When Scott's application to the NASA astronaut training program was turned down, he was naturally upset...as any 6-year-old boy would be. He chose instead to write as much as he possibly could about science, technology and space exploration. He graduated from The University of Coventry and received his training on Fleet Street in London. He still hopes to be the first journalist in space.