Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker marketing has been purposefully more revealing to welcome speculation by fans, says producer and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. The first trailer, premiered at Star Wars Celebration in April, ended with both a title reveal and the infamous cackling of the vanquished Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), and new footage debuted at D23 Expo in August revealed “Dark Side Rey,” a hooded and red lightsaber-wielding Rey (Daisy Ridley). Also going against type is returning writer-director J.J. Abrams, whose projects are famously shrouded in mystery — most of all on franchise relaunch The Force Awakens. According to Kennedy, saying Rise of Skywalker has been more revealing is a “fair assessment.”
“Because we’re bringing this to a conclusion, many of the characters that are playing a significant role in the story, the fans know. They don’t know how this story is going to unfold, but they know who they are. It’s not like Baby Yoda,” Kennedy told io9, referring to the viral Internet sensation who wasn't revealed until the closing minutes of the premiere episode of The Mandalorian. “We’re not revealing something significant like that. And I think that that is important to this story.”
She continued, “We’re not trying to be coy and unnecessarily clever. And we had a lot of conversation about that.”
“We certainly tease Palpatine, but we arrived at a decision pretty early on, right around Celebration, that we were like, ‘Wait a minute. The fans are going to want that. We need to be somewhat more open than we would normally be because there isn’t something to hide here. There’s actually something to tantalize everybody with. To let speculation be a part of the conversation,’” Kennedy said. “And that’s always been such a great thing about Star Wars, is that the fans get so engaged in that. And we felt that with this story that should be allowed to happen.”
Abrams echoed these sentiments in an earlier interview with Uproxx, where he explained the lessened secrecy on Rise of Skywalker:
“None of that is strategic. But I do feel about this movie, because it is the end of something everyone knows — I don’t want to be coy. I feel very confident about what the movie is,” Abrams said. “And I feel like we’ve found a way to do something that doesn’t need — and I don’t feel the need — to do smoke and mirrors at all on this.”
Beyond the Palpatine reveal, Abrams says he wanted openness surrounding the involvement of the late Carrie Fisher, whose Resistance leader Leia appears through the use of re-purposed footage captured by Abrams on The Force Awakens.
“I feel we have a story that’s pretty huge in scope. While I don’t want to tell the whole movie to people and ruin it and I don’t want to spoil things, I feel like we need to be able to have a conversation about how, yes, Carrie Fisher appears in this movie,” he said. “And I’m happy to talk about how we did it, in so much as, people know, it’s really her. We didn’t do a digital Carrie.”
Abrams continued, “Yes, Palpatine is in this movie. I don’t want to talk about what that is and how. So I’m not unguarded, because I want to make sure people enjoy the experience when they go. But I feel, about this movie, a little more open, I guess, than I have before.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.