When Disney dropped the first trailer for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” on April 12, fans were shocked the first-look footage ended with the sinister laugh of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). After all, the character should be dead considering the latest “Star Wars” trilogy takes place after “Return of the Jedi.” Palpatine is seemingly killed in the 1983 movie after he is thrown into the Death Star’s reactor by Darth Vader. Turns out, Palpatine somehow lives on and is a major part of “The Rise of Skywalker.”
The next “Star Wars” movie doesn’t open until Christmastime, but the decision to bring Palpatine back is already stirring up controversy among fans. Does “Star Wars” really need to relive the past yet again? Will director J.J. Abrams rely too heavily on nostalgia (a claim often lobbed at his “The Force Awakens”)? As far as Abrams is concerned, the director said in a recent interview with Uproxx that to not include Palpatine in the Skywalker saga’s final movie would be a stranger move from a storytelling perspective.
“Well, when you look at this as nine chapters of a story, perhaps the weirder thing would be if Palpatine didn’t return,” Abrams said. “You just look at what he talks about, who he is, how important he is, what the story is — strangely, his absence entirely from the third trilogy would be conspicuous. It would be very weird.”
Abrams says that he did not know Palpatine would return when he was directing “The Force Awakens.” The decision came later, but that doesn’t mean Abrams thought it was unfounded. For Abrams, Palpatine’s return is in keeping with how the latest “Star Wars” trilogy got its start.
“When Larry Kasdan and I worked on ‘The Force Awakens,’ we didn’t do it in a vacuum,” Abrams said. “We very purposely looked at what came before. We chose to tell a story that touches upon specific things and themes and ideas that we’ve seen before, to begin a new story. But we examined all that came before to ask where does this feel like it’s going?”
Abrams maintains that nothing Rian Johnson came up with for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” got in the way of what he wanted to do in terms of bringing the new “Star Wars” trilogy to an end. Just how Palpatine factors into the film will be revealed when “Rise of Skywalker” opens nationwide December 20. Head over to Uproxx’s website to read more from Abrams’ interview.