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What's The Deal With That Leaked Star Wars: Episode IX Poster?

The buzz surrounding the forthcoming, as yet-untitled Star Wars: Episode IX just got weird.

A leaked image purported to be the first official poster for the flick surfaced online today, and the internet responded with utter bafflement — not the response one might have expected. Why, you ask? We're here to break it down.

First, let's set the scene: everybody was going about their morning business, poking around Twitter trying to figure out if Marvel had released an Avengers: Endgame character poster for Korg yet. (They hadn't.) The entire internet had just finished printing out an image of Idris Elba wielding a big-ass flamethrower to pin to its wall, and was getting ready to brew that all-important second cup of coffee. Then, this happened:

Well, that's... certainly an image, we can say that much. An image which looks to be composed of many other disparate images which don't quite fit together, to be more specific. Sure, we have Rey, Poe, Finn, and Chewbacca looking ready for action; front and center is Kylo Ren, sporting the helmet that he smashed to bits during the events of Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (although, to be fair, it looks like it's undergone a bit of a patch job). But, we also have a mysterious group of never-before-seen, vaguely Ren-themed figures (speculated by some to be a depiction of the Knights of Ren, teased in the first two films), BB-8 sporting some kind of a sidecar way in the back and on the right, and an alien that looks like the unholy union of Jar Jar Binks and Miek from Thor: Ragnarok.

Also: does Finn look a little bit off to you? Perhaps it's just the angle at which his body is turned, but he has the distinct look of an action figure that has been carelessly left by a hot stove. There's also a phalanx of candy-apple red stormtroopers (never seen those before), a female figure standing behind Poe who looks for all the world to be wearing a Power Rangers mask, and a Star Wars logo at the bottom of it all that appears to have been carelessly pasted on in Photoshop. Oh, and C-3PO — a famously conflict-averse protocol droid — is wielding a bowcaster.

You know, we're just going to brazen it out: the image looks super-fake, and you'll forgive us for being skeptical that it represents the actual first teaser poster for the concluding chapter of the third trilogy of one of the most popular film series of all time. It's not like fans have been shy about posting their own unofficial mockup posters in the past, but this image was given the air of legitimacy by way of the hordes of media outlets which immediately jumped on it. No less an authority than MakingStarWars.net's Editor in Chief Jason Ward was just as confused as the rest of us, taking to Twitter in an effort to head off the mobs of fans who were threatening to inadvertently crash his website.

So, what is the deal with this image? (If you heard Jerry Seinfeld's voice in your head when reading that last sentence, rest assured that this was our intention.) The short answer: we're still not exactly sure. The longer answer: it's highly unlikely that this is an official poster, or even an early rough draft of one. However, it appears to have actually originated from Disney, and it's probably intended to be used for marketing — just not by way of your local multiplex.

As Britt Hayes of A.V. Club pointed out (and as you may be aware), a large part of marketing for ginormous tentpole films such as Star Wars: Any of Them consists of slapping images onto various products: Thermoses, lunch boxes, bed sheets, shower curtains, toilet seat covers, you get the idea. Sure, it's not outside the realm of possibility that this image could be the fruits of an all-night effort to slap together something resembling a viable one-sheet by an overly caffeinated marketing team, but it's a safer bet that you'll see it — or something that looks a heck of a lot like it — adorning Star Wars-themed scented candles or what have you at Target sometime in the near future. 

The idea that the image did indeed originate from Disney is lent credence by the fact that, as reported by JediInsider.com, the House of Mouse has apparently asked several of the media outlets that have reported on it to remove it. So, for better and worse, it looks like we have gotten our first, highly questionable look at Episode IX. It sure does raise some questions: did C-3PO receive an "Ass Kicking" update patch? Is BB-8 capable of producing offspring somehow? Will Finn get a Winter Soldier-style robotic limb to replace his obviously mangled right arm? And, are the Knights of Ren not so much a murderous cult as a choir ensemble? We're dying for the answers, but we'll just have to keep speculating and making terrible jokes until this winter. Star Wars: Episode IX hits screens on December 20.