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How The Rise Of Skywalker Trailers Lied To Us

Contains spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker

The art of the trailer is a fraught one in this day and age. Marketing demands the existence of trailers to build hype, but a spoiler-soaked culture and the need for constant vigilance against internal leaks makes cutting a trailer incredibly difficult. Once upon a time, trailers were supposed to summarize films — not so now. In this day and age, trailers more often than not present series of contextless peaks of excitement with unrelated voiceovers to communicate a film's concepts rather than its direct plot, so as to avoid permitting the audience to accurately guess what they're going to see on opening night.

Fans of any stripe are prone to picking apart and analyzing any trailer they see, and that has never been more true than it is in the case of the Star Wars fandom. Now that we're finally on the other side of The Rise of Skywalker's release date, let's take a look at how the film's trailers bent the truth to keep the plot on lockdown.

Warning: Spoilers are ahead.

The Rise of Skywalker trailers tricked us about Dark Rey

The special footage of The Rise of Skywalker shown at D23 Expo in the summer of 2019 made major waves in the Star Wars fandom, as the footage featured a quick shot of fledgling Jedi Rey (Daisy Ridley) wearing a dark hooded cape and holding a hinged, double-sided lightsaber — seemingly ready to go on the attack. Such a turn begged for speculation, and fans did that in abundance. Theories about Dark Rey began popping up left and right: some thought "Dark Rey" was simply a vision the real Rey was having, that she was Rey's evil twin who had been training to become a Sith and take her sister out when the time came, or that she was a clone (of potentially many clones) of the "good" Rey, sent to defeat her and the Resistance for the First Order.

The way the D23 Rise of Skywalker trailer was cut cleverly disguised the big facts of the scene as it actually plays out: the real Rey is indeed in the sequence, and Dark Rey is just a vision, as we suspected it might be. 

Still, there's no way anyone could have anticipated the fuller truth of the dark apparition. When Rey arrives at the rusting husk of the second Death Star to acquire the Sith Wayfinder, the manifestation of Dark Rey doesn't appear simply as a warning — like Dark Luke appeared to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back – or even as a visual temptation to fall to the dark side. Instead, Dark Rey materializes to push Rey to embrace her true bloodline as a Palpatine, which is one of the biggest plot twists (amongst a bunch of others) in The Rise of Skywalker. The shock of presenting Dark Rey in footage as a contextless fact is the kind of obfuscation that works best: offer the audience a "gimme," but make it so it's only one facet of a much larger truth.

The finality surrounding C-3PO was different in theatrical cut of The Rise of Skywalker

The D23 footage and the final theatrical trailer for The Rise of Skywalker both feature the protocol droid C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) giving his friends a long gaze as he talks about seeing them for the last time. That small monologue was also coupled with shots of C-3PO with unexpectedly red eyes, implying something terrible would happen to the droid to make him a casualty of the final struggle between the Resistance and the First Order in The Rise of Skywalker

Of course, red-eyed C-3PO and the choice pieces of dialogue he speaks in this footage were meant to ratchet up the finality of the Skywalker saga, and were simply part of the trailer's task of summarizing and marketing the grand ending of one of the biggest franchise on Earth. Still, it really did make one wonder if C-3PO was going to live or die. When things end, all bets are off as to who will see everything through to the other side — just take a look at all the characters who died in Avengers: Endgame, the closing chapter of Marvel's Infinity Saga. 

Thankfully for the droid, in The Rise of Skywalker C-3PO not only makes it, but also gets himself a little system memory restore thanks to his robo-bestie R2-D2 right before the ending climax — because after nine movies and 42 years, R2-D2 can do literally anything and we'll believe it.

Rey and Kylo's wave-swept lightsaber battle in The Rise of Skywalker

Every trailer and TV spot for The Rise of Skywalker featured some footage of Rey and Kylo Ren's (Adam Driver) incredible lightsaber battle atop the ocean wreck of the Death Star. It's natural trailer bait, of course: the primary protagonist and primary antagonist are having it out on a stage of massive dramatic scale. This is the end, right? It's the great, sweeping face-off that the past has all lead up to, and the stakes are for the galaxy itself — and on the ruins of an original Star Wars trilogy battlefield, no less. What a final climax that will be!

Nope. Rey and Kylo duking it out happens in the middle of The Rise of Skywalker. The battle is just as climactic and impactful as the trailer suggests it will be, but it sure isn't the end of Ren and Kylo's whole deal at all. The scene's major purpose is to serve the final shift in Kylo Ren's character and bring him back around to being Ben Solo — the son of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher) — in anticipation of his arrival at Exegol to help Rey. It even gave him a convenient ocean to symbolically fling his Sith lightsaber into. 

Choosing to cut the Rise of Skywalker trailers to skirt around the Kylo-versus-Rey fight scene in this way is smart, because there was no way on Earth to feature much of the actual final battle with Emperor Palpatine that didn't destroy the element of surprise.

The Rise of Skywalker trailers gave us a different idea about the destruction of the Darth Vader mask pillar

This one falls into the "deliberate obfuscation" column. The final trailer for The Rise of Skywalker showed Rey and Kylo Ren using their lightsabers to destroy the pillar upon which the crushed mask of Darth Vader (Kylo Ren's dear ol' granddad) rests. By the looks of things, it appeared to be a big symbolic moment about Rey and Kylo's respective lives struggling with the dark side of the Force (though people cared a lot more about the the Sith Dagger Rey was holding in that scene at the time). 

That theme does hold up in the film and incorporating it in the trailer is a perfectly valid thing to do, but for this specific scene, the destruction of the pillar actually occurs as an accident during a Force-connected lightsaber fight between Rey and Kylo. Both express frustration with the other as they speak — Rey wants Kylo to reject his villainous identity and become Ben Solo again, and Kylo wants Rey to accept her legacy as Palpatine's granddaughter. They may be mutually sympathetic to each other, but they are still very much enemies at this point in The Rise of Skywalker

There's no doubt that the two of them accidentally destroying the pedestal holding Darth Vader's mask was intended to be foreshadowing for the actual payout of Kylo Ren's character development and return to the light side, but insofar as the literal outcome of the scene, this Rise of Skywalker trailer very much lied about where they were (they weren't even physically in the same room!) and why it was occurring.