Star Wars, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker arrives in theatres this Friday, and with it, ushers in the end of a 40 year journey.
“We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now…” is what we hear Jedi master Luke Skywalker say in the trailers for The Rise of Skywalker, the ninth and final chapter in the sprawling Star Wars saga that began in 1977 with A New Hope and focused on the powerful Skywalker family.
As the franchise looks to close the door on one of the most beloved families in pop culture, we can also look ahead to what the galactic series has to offer.
What started in 1977 as a space opera that nobody had heard of, and the stars of the film were unsure of, soon became an unstoppable force. Star Wars debuted and introduced the world to the likes of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Darth Vader. In the decades following, characters like Chewbacca, R2-D2, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ahsoka Tano, Cassian Andor and countless others are beloved in one of the largest and most passionate fanbases.
Dec. 20 will see the final piece of the puzzle release: The Rise of Skywalker. Episode IX concludes not only the sequel trilogy (comprised of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi) but also the entire saga.
In chronological order (including the spinoff films), your viewing order is:
1. The Phantom Menace
2. Attack of the Clones
3. Revenge of the Sith
4. Solo: A Star Wars Story
5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
6. A New Hope
7. The Empire Strikes Back
8. Return of the Jedi
9. The Force Awakens
10. The Last Jedi
11. The Rise of Skywalker
In recent years, however, fans have produced what’s known as ‘The Machete Cut’ which is an altered viewing order that mixes up the original and prequel trilogies in order to better tell the story of Anakin’s downfall into Darth Vader.
The Machete Cut removes The Phantom Menace entirely from the viewing order as, in the grand scheme of Anakin’s story, it’s not overly relevant. The Machete Cut order would be:
1. A New Hope
2. The Empire Strikes Back
3. Attack of the Clones
4. Revenge of the Sith
5. Return of the Jedi
6. The Force Awakens
7. The Last Jedi
8. The Rise of Skywalker
What this order now provides is the Luke/Vader conflict up until the big info bomb that Vader drops in Ep. V which delves into Anakin/Vader’s backstory immediately after and we get the explanation for everything Obi-Wan tells Luke in original movies.
Now of course, there’s always Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the animated series that fills the (substantially) large gap between Ep. II and III. In this time, Anakin helps lead the Galactic Republic against the Separatists, has a Jedi padawan (Ahsoka) and also just builds the entire galaxy as an actual warzone, one more potent than what we see at the end of Attack of the Clones.
The Clone Wars also sets up the conflict between the Jedi and the Separatist droid leader, General Grievous, as a backstory was hinted at in Ep. III yet nothing was shown.
With The Rise of Skywalker also closing out the story of the sequel trilogy, it will be interesting to see how director JJ Abrams will pick up the reigns from Rian Johnson and The Last Jedi. Ep. VIII was, without a doubt, the most polarizing Star Wars movie. It took a number of daring risks, more so than any previous Star Wars movie, yet, it also seemed to derail the story that Ep. VII was building.
It subverted expectations in a number of ways, like who Rey’s parents really were, who Supreme Leader Snoke was and how important to the story he was, who Luke had become, what the Force can actually do… and not all of these landed for everyone. Disney had to reassess their strategy for Star Wars not long after the release of The Last Jedi in order to not lose the fanbase completely.
The Rise of Skywalker aims to bring back the tone and visual style of The Force Awakens, but also return to the story Abrams was originally telling. A recent TV spot hints at the fact that the story of Rey’s parentage is not yet over, and of course now we’ll have Emperor Palpatine returning as (apparently) the true puppet master behind Snoke and The First Order.
Whether or not The Rise of Skywalker can reel the alienated fans back is yet to be seen.
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker hits theatres on Dec. 20.