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J.J. Abrams defends "provocative" new Star Wars title

Screenshot: Star Wars: Episode IX

Quicker than a lightsabers’ liquid whoosh, Star Wars fans took to Twitter on Friday to lament and subsequently dissect the title of the franchise’s ninth outing. The Rise Of Skywalker, after all, conjures up more than a few queries, namely as to whether this new film will aim to appease Rian Johnson’s shrill legion of haters by retconning some of the controversial choices he made in The Last Jedi. In a new interview with ET Online, director J.J. Abrams defends the title, saying that, while it’s “provocative and asks a bunch of questions,” it’s nevertheless “the right title for this movie.”

“In the flow of titles, this movie had a very weird responsibility,” he continued. “It had to be the end of not just three movies, but nine movies, and the idea of having to incorporate the stories that have come before strangely is the story of the movie. Which is to say it’s the characters in the film inheriting everything that’s come before in previous generations, whether it’s sins of the father, whether it’s the wisdom that they’ve acquired. And the question is this new generation, are they up to the task, can they stand up to what they have to? And so in a way, I feel like we coming into this movie have inherited a lot, and the question is can we do it? And that question we ask ourselves every day.”

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His talk of new generations and inheritance gives a lot of credence to one popular theory, which is that the film won’t resurrect Luke Skywalker but that his name will become a new shorthand for the next crop of Jedis.

Jedi or Skywalker, the trailer teases that our heroes will square off against a very familiar villain in Emperor Palpatine, whose cackle rings serves to close out the new footage. Resurrecting a long-dead character could resonate as a cynical course correction for some fans, but producer Kathleen Kennedy tells Yahoo that bringing back Palpatine was always the plan. It makes more sense if you look at it through Abrams’ lens—as he tells IGN, The Rise Of Skywalker has franchise obligations. “This movie had a very, very specific challenge, which was to take eight films and give an ending to three trilogies, and so we had to look at, what is the bigger story?” Abrams said. “We had conversations amongst ourselves, we met with George Lucas before writing the script.”

Lucas, you say? That’s either very good news or very bad news depending on your view of the franchise, which will, like it or not, close a chapter on December 20.  

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Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.