This article contains major The Rise of Skywalker spoilers. You can read a spoiler free review here instead.
The Rise of Skywalker presents the final battle between Jedi and Sith for the soul of the Star Wars galaxy. To complete her training and restore the Jedi Order, Rey must defeat not only Kylo Ren and the First Order but Emperor Palpatine and his resurgent Sith empire. The movie is basically a fast-paced race to get to the climactic battle on Exegol, where the fates of all of our heroes and villains will be decided.
Along the way, we also learn a few things about Rey’s past as well as Kylo Ren’s future. Rey finally learns the true identity of her parents and the dark lineage she must choose to either be a part of or abandon for the light side of the Force. Kylo Ren, on the other hand, must decide his own legacy. Will he go down in history as the villain who fulfilled the destiny of Darth Vader or will even he stand against the Emperor to save the galaxy?
All of these questions are answered in the final battle when Rey, revealed to be a Palpatine, and Ben Solo, revived after the symbolic death of Kylo Ren, face off against the Dark Lord of the Sith. Together, they are strong, and the Emperor uses this to his advantage. You see, the battle isn’t just decided by a conventional lightsaber duel. Instead, Palpatine uses his powers to drain Rey and Ben of their life energy, feeding on them to restore himself to his previous form.
Now, back to the height of his power, Palpatine ascends the throne of the Sith once again and launches a final strike against the Resistance forces, zapping them out of the sky with his lightning. With Rey weakened by the Force drain, all seems lost for the forces of the light. But the movie has one last surprise up its sleeve that involves countless generations of past Jedi, including a few that you’ll recognize from the Original and Prequel Trilogies. These stunning cameos give Rey the power she needs to defeat the Emperor once and for all.
Let us explain…
Jedi Voices and Cameos
With Ben seemingly dead after the Emperor launches him into a chasm, all hope seems lost for a powerless Rey, who is left with no other choice but to watch as her friends die in the space battle raging above her. Faced with the end of everything, Rey looks past the battle and to the space beyond, and begins reciting a familiar mantra, “Be with me. Be with me.”
Earlier in the film, we see Rey floating in the air, meditating and calling out to someone: “Be with me. Be with me.” She becomes discouraged when no one answers her call. The meaning of the scene is unclear until the finale.
“A thousand generations live in you now,” Luke tells Rey on Ahch-To. We take this to mean that the legacy of the Jedi now rests on Rey’s shoulders but there’s something more literal at work here. When faced with insurmountable odds, Rey calls out to the spirits of the Jedi who have come before to give her the strength to defeat the dark side.
The voices of the Jedi answer her call just in the nick of time. You’ll definitely recognize some of the Jedi who return in this scene, including Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Yoda, Anakin Skywalker, Ezra Bridger, Kanan Jarrus, Ahsoka Tano, Aayla Secura, Luminara Unduli, and Adi Gallia. Yes, they got Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Oz, Jennifer Hale, Ashley Eckstein, Olivia D’Abo, Taylor Gray, Angelique Perrin, and…HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN. As an added bonus, Alec Guinness’ voice is also used in the scene.
Through a miraculous feat of the Force that is yet to be truly explained in Star Wars lore, Rey is able to channel the Force energy of all of these fallen Jedi to stand up to the Sith Lord and defeat him by deflecting his lightning back at him. The Emperor disintegrates as a result of this incredible use of power.
The movie ends before we ever get any real explanation about how this new power works or how its even possible for Rey to reach out to this many Jedi at once. The Jedi voices also raise some questions about how Force ghosts themselves work.
How Do Force Ghosts Work?
The Sequel Trilogy has introduced quite a few new Force abilities that we never expected to see on the big screen. There’s Luke’s Force projection, which saved the day on Crait, and Leia’s ability to survive the vacuum of space in The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson’s movie also established that Force ghosts could physically affect the realm of the living when Yoda brought down a thunderbolt from the sky to burn the ancient Force tree on Ahch-To.
In The Rise of Skywalker, we learn that Rey and Ben can heal other living things by transferring their life energy through the Force, and that Jedi from the afterlife can also use a version of this power to transfer their energy to the living. We never saw Force spirits do this in the Original and Prequel Trilogies. For the most part, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Force ghost was powerless to do much but send cryptic messages to Luke.
Until the Sequel Trilogy, there were established rules about Force ghosts that allowed them to share Jedi wisdom and pass on teachings from the afterlife without physically interfering in matters of the living. Otherwise, what stopped Obi-Wan and Yoda from channeling their powers to Luke during his confrontation with the Emperor in Return of the Jedi? It would seem that the “awakening in the Force” that’s been the major subject of this Sequel Trilogy has also bestowed greater powers on the spirits of the Jedi, which could have some major implications for future Star Wars stories involving Force ghosts.
The Rise of Skywalker isn’t the first movie to use Jedi voices, of course. We heard the voice of a dead Jedi in Attack of the Clones, which was later also mentioned in Revenge of the Sith. This rather buried plot point basically set up how all of these Jedi voices could speak to Rey in Episode IX.
Qui-Gon Jinn was the first Jedi to discover this ability although his body didn’t disappear at the time of his death, which is usually a staple of this transformation, and we never saw his actual spirit floating around in the Prequels. The Clone Wars episode “Voices” explained that Qui-Gon’s spirit could only communicate with the living as a disembodied voice because he didn’t complete the training needed to become a proper Force ghost. But he passed on what he knew to Yoda, who figured out how to fully achieve this otherworldly state.
We can assume that most of the Jedi who speak to Rey on Exegol didn’t uncover the full secrets of Force ghosts as Qui-Gon, Yoda, and Obi-Wan did (we assume Obi-Wan and Yoda’s ghosts taught Luke, who then passed on what he’d learned to Leia, who also becomes a Force ghost at the end of the movie), which may be why they can only speak from the afterlife but not physically appear. Whatever the case, this new development in the ways of the Force might mean some unexpected things for the future of the Jedi.
What Does This Mean for Future of the Jedi?
For one thing, the lines between the living and the dead have been blurred further by The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, and this might be a good thing for Rey as she rebuilds the Jedi (we assume this is what she’ll be up to in the years to come). From what we know of the time before the Sequel Trilogy, Luke had to go at it pretty much alone after Return of the Jedi, rebuilding the Jedi Order based on old Jedi texts and what he thought was the right path forward for his academy. He failed.
Rey, on the other hand, not only has these texts to study as she rebuilds but can also channel the energy of Jedi spirits to defeat threats that might present themselves in the future. We don’t know if using such immense power would kill her again — after all, much of her life energy had been drained by the Emperor when she attempted it the first time — but there’s the implication that she has more Jedi on her side than Luke ever did when he was shaping the future of the Jedi Order.