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What Unused STAR WARS Art Could Tell Us About EPISODE IX
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There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes mystery when it comes to Star Wars, especially in the Disney era. The famously secretive company rarely pulls back the curtain, letting their movies exist in a creative vacuum where the final product is the main focus. But that won’t stop us from theorizing, and if there’s any upcoming movie that’s got our wheels spinning, it’s the latest episodic Star Wars film, The Rise of Skywalker.

We know the film underwent some behind-the-scenes shake-ups in the early days of pre-production. Colin Trevorrow was originally set to direct, but was replaced by J.J. Abrams after the passing of Carrie Fisher. Trevorrow was also meant to co-write the script, but Abrams wrote the final version with Oscar-winner Chris Terrio. Earlier this year, Abrams told the audience at Star Wars Celebration that he would incorporate unused footage of Fisher into the new film, using deleted scenes from The Force Awakens, with Abrams also wrote and directed. Fans were also treated to the first trailer for The Rise of Skywalker, which showed footage of the Death Star remnants emerged in water–footage that, to many, look vaguely familiar.

That’s because the underwater Death Star was originally meant to appear in The Force Awakens, or so one can assume if you peruse the book The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The coffee table book is loaded with concept art from the film, including images of divers swimming through Palpatine’s throne room in the Death Star wreckage. Now that Abrams is back, this imagery is included in the new movie, and old Leia scenes are being reworked, we have to wonder if there’s anything else in this art book that could make its way to the big screen this December.

Here are five pieces of concept art from The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens that could make it into The Rise of Skywalker.

The sunken Death Star

Image Credit: The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens/Ryan Church

This one is a cheat, since we know the Death Star wreckage is in the film. But we don’t know how it will be incorporated and if our heroes will actually make it inside. A still from June’s issue of Vanity Fair showing Rey and Kylo engaged in a lightsaber battle and surrounded by water certainly looks like it could be taking place inside the sunken Death Star remnants. It also looks like they could be standing atop the Millennium Falcon. The idea of the Falcon traveling underwater is actually teased in the The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “Part of the journey of the story is that they take the Falcon, go underwater, and find the Emperor’s tower,” said Doug Chiang, vice president and executive art director of Lucasfilm, in a caption. “The Falcon is watertight, because it’s airtight, so it can go underwater, right?”

Does this mean we’ll see our heroes searching the wreckage of the second Death Star in the Falcon? That sounds pretty likely. And who better to help them on that mission than Lando Calrissian, who will be back in The Rise of Skywalker? He led the attack on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi, so he’s familiar with the planet-annihilating spacecraft. But why would they need to travel to the Death Star? It’s possible Palpatine–who will also return in Episode IX–left something behind. Or maybe he has other nefarious plans into which the the crew have to throw a wrench. Like raising the Death Star, perhaps?

The rising Death Star

Image Credit: The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens/Doug Chiang

If that sounds ridiculous, it can’t be too far off the mark, considering this bit of Chiang art that appears in the Force Awakens art book. It shows the pieces of the Death Star coming together and rising out of a desert planet. Why would this happen, you ask? Surely there are better ways for Palpatine to destroy worlds. (Starkiller Base could blow up whole star systems, after all.) Maybe he wants to resurrect the Death Star as a symbol for the Empire apologists who still exist throughout the galaxy. Maybe the First Order was always a smokescreen for the Empire to return. Will Kylo Ren catch wind of this information and rebel? If the rising Death Star does indeed show up in The Rise of Skywalker, there are a lot of possibilities for what it could imply.

“Exotic City”

Image Credit: The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens/Yanick Dusseault

Throughout The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there are images of a giant city called “Exotic City” (probably just a stand-in name for the visual artists), where Han, Rey, Finn, and BB-8 were first meant to find Maz Kanata. Her location was eventually changed to a castle, but there was so much intricate planning that went into Exotic City, that we have to wonder if Abrams will reuse some of it in The Rise of Skywalker. The book describes the location as a “contrast” to Jakku, one described as having Middle Eastern influences and a “Casablanca” vibe. It was based on original and unused artwork by famed concept artist Ralph McQuarrie, who worked on the original trilogy.

We know a new planet called Kijimi will appear in The Rise of Skywalker, possibly home to Keri Russell’s scoundrel character Zorri Bliss. Maybe some of the concept art for Exotic City will appear in this new, mysterious location.

Leia’s fortress

Image Credit: The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens/Colin Fix

In the original draft of The Force Awakens, the heroes met up with Leia much sooner in the movie, and at her home–described in the art book as either a castle, fortress, or base. This went through many designs, and eventually morphed into Maz Kanata’s castle. But it originally existed on “a lush green planet” that also had wreckage from previous wars, just like Jakku.

Though the idea was scrapped, it was nice to see Leia with a home base. In The Force Awakens, she asks Han to bring Kylo home, but it’s unclear where, exactly, home is for a planet-less princess and her renegade husband. It’s possible Leia’s home could be reworked into The Rise of Skywalker. Maybe that “lush green” fortress will even make an appearance. We do, after all, see Rey and Leia embrace in the film’s trailer in a spot that fits that description. Maybe Leia will stay behind at her home while the others go out and fight, and that scene is her parting ways with Rey.

Vader’s castle

Image Credit: The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens/Brett Northcutt

This one might be a stretch, but we would love to see it. Vader’s castle was originally designed by McQuarrie and was meant to appear in The Empire Strikes Back. The idea was scrapped, but the castle finally made its way to the big screen in Rogue One. That was a welcome surprise, and it’d be even more welcome to see the castle–and a familiar planet like Mustafar–in The Rise of Skywalker. It seems like just the place for Vader’s grandson, Kylo Ren, to retreat. There are also some subtle hints that we might, indeed, see it.

In the cover art for The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker–which comes out after the movie is released this December–we see Rey on what looks like a fiery planet. Does she travel to Mustafar looking for Kylo? Or does she appear in one of his Force visions? It’s too early to say, but we’d love to see this famous and foreboding castle in the final film.

Header Image Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm