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Things Only Adults Noticed In The Rise Of Skywalker

Star Wars is for kids. George Lucas even said as much. "Friendships, honestly, trust, doing the right thing, living on the right side and avoiding the dark side," Lucas told audiences at Star Wars Celebration 2017. Those are the lessons the series is supposed to teach its young audience. Star Wars isn't a hard-hitting sci-fi drama. It's a fairy tale, complete with gallant knights with laser swords, princesses in peril, and fearsome monsters.

But that doesn't mean that adults can't enjoy the Star Wars saga too. After all, in 2019 Star Wars turned 42 years old. It's middle-aged, and there are plenty of fans who grew up right alongside it. A good Star Wars movie appeals to all ages. A great one can even make you feel like a kid again.

Accordingly, the latest Star Wars flick, The Rise of Skywalker, is filled with little jokes, plot twists, and references that only older fans will get — as well as some disturbing ideas that only mature viewers will notice. Children will enjoy the Skywalker Saga's finale just fine, but will they pick up on these spoiler-filled plot points? We think not.

So, someone shtupped the Emperor

So, let's talk about The Rise of Skywalker's big secret. Rey is Palpatine's granddaughter. Surprise? Eh, maybe not. Abrams has been hinting that he undid The Last Jedi's "nobody" twist for a while now, and leaks about Rey's true heritage have been circulating on the internet for months.

But if Palpatine has a granddaughter, that means he has a kid. If you're old enough to know the story of the birds and the bees, you know that means that Palpatine had sex. Old, wrinkly, yellow-eyed Palpatine had sex. Okay, maybe Palpatine got busy before Order 66, when he still looked like Ian McDiarmid, but it's unlikely. Billy Howle, who played the Emperor's son, was only 29 when he filmed The Rise of Skywalker. That puts us squarely in a post-Imperial coitus timeframe.

Unfortunately, The Rise of Skywalker doesn't reveal the identity of Palpatine's lover or his children, leaving the comics and novels to explain those mysteries. That's too bad, because we'd love to meet the woman who gets hot and bothered by a set of black robes. We bet she has some interesting stories to tell.

Commander D'Acy's big smooch

It took 11 movies, but there's finally a canonically same-sex couple onscreen in a Star Wars movie. No, it's not the sequel trilogy's most dynamic couple, Finn and Poe Dameron. It's Commander D'Acy, one of the top-ranking Resistance officers, and an unnamed Resistance fighter who lock lips while the Resistance is celebrating the defeat of Palpatine and First and Final Orders.

Kids probably won't even notice the moment, which is over almost as soon as it begins, but adults will certainly realize what the inclusion of a queer couple in a Star Wars feature film means. Over the past four decades, Star Wars has been remarkably conservative when it comes to depicting relationships. Making D'Acy queer is a step in the right direction.

But most adults will also realize that it's a very small step. Simply showing two women kissing isn't real representation. D'Acy isn't a real character in the film. We don't know her hopes, dreams, motivations, or fears. Heck, we barely even know what she sounds like. Even worse, as The Mary Sue notes, playing D'Acy's sexuality like a plot twist makes her onscreen coming out feel like a pandering marketing move.

Disney's Star Wars novels have plenty of characters who are gay, lesbian, non-binary, and so on. It's time for the movies to catch up. D'Acy was a good start, but Disney and Lucasfilm still have a long way to go.

Leia lives! But how?

Even if children are aware of Carrie Fisher's passing, they're probably not going to give too much thought to how Leia returns for The Rise of Skywalker. There's too much else going on. For those of us who grew up with Princess Leia, however, it's almost impossible not to think about Fisher's death in 2016 every time her most famous creation shows up onscreen.

As such, adults are probably going to notice all the tricks that J. J. Abrams and the Rise of Skywalker crew used to give Leia the sendoff she deserves. As promised, Abrams used outtakes from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi in Leia's scenes, not a digital recreation. You can tell. Leia's lines are noticeably vague. It's up to her scene partners to deliver the specifics.

It's also clear when Abrams is using a body double instead of Fisher. Most of Leia's biggest contributions to the plot happen offscreen, left to be described by other characters. Given the situation, it actually works pretty well — Leia is the heart of this movie, and it's wonderful to get a chance to say goodbye — but the sleight of hand is something most adults will definitely notice.

The most diverse Star Wars yet

The original Star Wars movies are full of characters with blue and green and red skin, but brown and black? Not so much. The prequels were a little better in this regard, but not much. The first two trilogies are male-heavy, too. Other than Leia and Padme, the latter of whom spends Revenge of the Sith as a damsel in distress, there aren't many notable female characters.

Under the Disney regime, however, Star Wars has slowly gotten more diverse. Daisy Ridley is the face of the new series. Her co-stars, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac, are black and Latino, respectively. Over time, Disney has added characters of color like Kelly Marie Tran's Rose Tico, Riz Ahmed's Bodhi Rook, Donnie Yen's Chirrut Îmwe, and Naomi Ackie's Jannah to the mix.

While the Rebel Alliance was very white, Rise of Skywalker's Resistance is made up of fighters of every shape, size, color, and gender. Adults will notice the difference onscreen. Now we just need to get some diversity behind the camera, too. Then we'll be off and running.

Zorii Bliss puts Poe Dameron in the friendzone

C-3PO gets The Rise of Skywalker's best lines, but the movie's funniest moment doesn't have any words at all. It comes at the very end of the movie, after Rey defeats Palpatine and the Resistance sends the Final Order packing. As everyone celebrates, Poe Dameron sees a criminal named Zorii Bliss. They lock eyes. They nod. Poe gives Zorii an inviting tilt of his head. Zorii shakes him off. Poe looks disappointed, but grins anyway. The audience bursts into laughter.

The subtext should go right over kids' heads, but every adult in the theater will realize that Poe was asking Zorii if she wanted to get busy. They'll also know that Zorii completely shut him down. Oh well. There's no harm in trying. Look, Poe just defeated an entire fleet of Star Destroyers. He won the war. Emotions are riding high. Who can blame him for calling up an ex to blow off some steam?

A party 42 years in the making

Rey, Finn, and Poe's quest to discover the location of Exegol, an old Sith stronghold and Palpatine's current hideout, takes them to the planet Pasaana, where a festival is taking place. The party, C-3PO explains, is thrown by the Pasaana's natives, the Aki-Aki, and is held once every 42 years.

If you're one of the lucky young'uns who grew up in an age when new Star Wars movies have always been a thing, that number won't mean anything to you. If you've been following the Skywalker Saga since the very beginning, you should know immediately how Abrams and his co-writer, Chris Terrio, landed on 42. Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope came out in 1977. Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker came out in 2019. That's 42 years apart. The party is even known as the "Festival of Ancestors" — you know, like all the previous Star Wars films.

Maybe that's a clue for the future, too. Disney says that its next Star Wars film will debut in 2022, so you might as well go ahead and set aside some time in 2064 now. You'll certainly want to see how the next saga ends.

RIP Stormpilot

The Rise of Skywalker is the horniest Star Wars movie of all time. You have the simmering tension between Zorii and Poe. You have Finn's big secret, which sure seems like an unspoken declaration of love for Rey. Ben Solo and Rey kiss on the floor of the Sith temple. While nothing really comes of it, Janna and Finn have unmistakable chemistry.

All of this, however, comes at the expense of the sequel trilogy's best couple: Finn and Poe. In The Force Awakens, when the duo first meet on the First Order's Star Destroyer, their easy camaraderie seems destined to turn into something more. By the time Poe gifts Finn his jacket, noting how good the former stormtrooper looks, it's clear. Finn and Poe are meant to be together.

At least, that's what the 'shippers think — and hey, both Boyega and Isaac seemed up for it, too. Unfortunately, The Rise of Skywalker goes out of its way to give both characters other (straight) love interests. The movie doesn't just avoid addressing the Stormpilot ship. It actively denies it. The small children, who hopefully aren't browsing Tumblr, won't notice, but adults who are invested in that relationship are bound to be disappointed.

All of those old fogey cameos

Even if you're young and new to Star Wars, you know who Leia, Luke, and Han are. They're cultural icons. If you didn't catch The Empire Strikes Back when it debuted, you still know Lando from Donald Glover's scene-stealing turn as the stylish, smooth smuggler in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

All that being said, most children aren't going to recognize 72-year-old Denis Lawson when he returns as Wedge Antilles, even if they have seen the original trilogy a bunch of times. They're not going to care that it's John Williams tending bar at the cantina on Kijimi. While they will know what an Ewok is — kids love those things — the name Warwick Davis, who's back inside his Wicket suit for The Rise of Skywalker — won't mean much.

That's okay. Those Easter eggs aren't for them. They're for the fans who have stuck with Star Wars through thick and thin for the past 42 years. The Rise of Skywalker is an epitaph for the Skywalker family's legacy, but it's also a tribute to all of the actors and crew members who helped bring the epic saga to life, including those who were involved at the very beginning.

The Extended Universe, reborn

It's crazy to think about now, but there was a time when Star Wars wasn't everywhere. In the early '90s, Return of the Jedi was almost a decade old. The two animated spinoffs, Droids and Ewoks, had flopped. Other than a few video games and West End Games' tabletop RPG, new Star Wars material was impossible to find.

Enter publisher Random House, which bought the rights to Star Wars and began publishing prose sequels to the original trilogy, starting with Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire. Despite low expectations, the new books were massive hits, and the so-called "Expanded Universe" was reborn. Throughout the '90s and '00s, hundreds of novels and comic books pushed the Star Wars universe in new, intriguing, and sometimes very silly directions.

Those fans are grown up now and the EU is gone, declared non-canon by Disney in 2014. And yet The Rise of Skywalker has many, many similarities to those old stories. The Emperor's resurrection is right out of the Dark Horse comic series Dark Empire. A fleet of old, super-powerful battleships falling under the control of former Imperial forces is a key plot point in Zahn's Thrawn trilogy. In the EU, Han and Leia's son falls to the dark side and redeems himself with his death. 

That's just the beginning. A whole generation grew up on these books, and they'll find plenty of parallels in the new film, even if their kids won't.

Poe Dameron, drug kingpin

As The Rise of Skywalker reveals, before he joined the Resistance, Poe Dameron used to run spice. The way the other characters react, it's not a good thing, but it doesn't sound so bad. Who doesn't like adding a pinch of cumin, paprika, basil, or thyme to their dishes while they cook?

Except that's not the kind of spice we're talking about. Just from the language used (as well as the precedent set by Frank Herbert's very adult sci-fi novel Dune), mature members of the audience who don't already know will quickly figure out that in Star Wars "spice" is basically slang for drugs. Poe Dameron wasn't helping people season their meals. He was profiting off of other peoples' addictions.

In the Star Wars universe, the drug trade is just as vicious and exploitative as it is in real life. It's not a good thing for someone like Poe to be involved in. Of course, in his prime, the renowned scoundrel Han Solo was known to smuggle spice, too. No wonder Leia likes him.