But we are not so sure about that. And the reason is because it’s J.J. Abrams making this movie. There are few filmmakers out there who have the knack for Spielberg-style sentimentality as he does. In addition, one of Abrams’ favorite tropes is to use flashbacks to highlight actions in the present. Lost was practically built around this concept. And he used the extensive Force flashback already in Episode VII for Rey. Almost as much as lens flares, flashbacks are kind of his thing.
In comments made at Star Wars Celebration, Abrams highlighted the fact that The Rise of Skywalker is not just the end of these three films, but for the entire saga of nine films. And the Star Wars movies are cyclical. We think Abrams won’t resist giving Kylo Ren the kind of redemption that Darth Vader got. It might not play out the exact same way. However, given Abrams’ penchant for nostalgia, we think Kylo goes out heroically. In fact, he may turn to the light side even earlier than anyone thought. Some believe he is not attacking Rey in The Rise of Skywalker trailer, but training with her.
And the perfect way to bring a bittersweet poignancy to any scene before Kylo Ren goes out heroically would be to flashback to who Kylo was right before. Imagine seeing a moment with a pre-teen Ben Solo saying goodbye to his parents at his Uncle Luke’s Jedi Academy. He’s scared and doesn’t want to go, but his uncle says something along the lines of “Don’t be scared, Ben. You’re going to make a great Jedi one day. I can feel it.” Luke hugs his sister and his brother-in-law goodbye, and the entire scene is hopeful for the future. Then we cut back to the present, as Ben Solo finally makes his heroic sacrifice to save the galaxy, after having done so much harm. Yes, it’s just like the end of Return of the Jedi, but we all know that Star Wars “rhymes.”
Side note: If Abrams really wants to yank the tears out of everyone’s eyes, he’d have this scene be a farewell between Threepio and Artoo as well. It may be laying it on thick, but that would also be totally in the wheelhouse.
Of course, Lucasfilm has not announced Harrison Ford’s involvement in The Rise of Skywalker in any way, to be clear. But if he were in a brief cameo like this, they would likely want to keep it a surprise. Same for any Force Ghost cameos which have not yet been announced. They would have to digitally de-age everyone, but more to like late-’90s levels, not original trilogy levels. And a lot would depend on just what kind of footage from Episodes VII and VIII they have for Carrie Fisher. But we think it could happen, and probably shot quickly and secretly. We are not saying bring your Kleenex to the theaters this December just yet…but you might want to keep them handy just in case.