Will Star Wars return to the prequels in The Rise of Skywalker?

An audio Easter Egg in a new Episode IX trailer has us wondering...

Star Wars Episode I - Phantom Menace
starring Ray Park as Darth Maul (LucasFilm, Sky, HF)

If it hasn’t been sufficiently drilled into you just yet, this December’s hotly-anticipated Star Wars film The Rise of Skywalker is set to be the conclusion of the Skywalker saga, wrapping up the narrative that began when Mark Hamill gazed at a dual sunset way back in 1977 and marking a definitive full stop on the story George Lucas created.

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But will that story’s conclusion also jump back to some of its most controversial chapters? That’s the question on our minds following the release of a short battle-themed teaser trailer for Episode IX that includes a familiar bit of soundtrack – John Williams’ fan-favourite piece Duel of the Fates.

The significance of this piece of music is that it was composed for and appears in the largely reviled Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the first of the franchise prequels that was released in 1999, during the climactic battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Darth Maul (Ray Park).

Beyond a reference or two to “The Sith” the most recent trilogy of Star Wars films has largely dodged the legacy of the prequels, instead referring almost solely to the cherished Episodes IV-VI (though spin-offs Rogue One and Solo have included a couple of prequel figures), which makes the inclusion of Duel of the Fates in the trailer all the more significant.

Sure, it’s a famous piece of battle music in a trailer where various figures are about to battle, but it’s also a nod from Episode IX to where this whole story (chronologically) started. So could it be that this is just the start of prequel callbacks in the final Skywalker chapter?

Just think about it. In this film JJ Abrams has to wrap up decades of movies, hundreds of characters and the pop culture impact of one of the biggest franchises in the world. And there were six movies before 2015’s The Force Awakens, not just three. Wouldn’t it be wrong to conclude the story without acknowledging that in some way, even if the films aren’t everybody’s favourites?

With that in mind, we can’t help but wonder if Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) studies into the Jedi Order will lead to the Force Ghost return of some surprise prequel figures – maybe Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn, or even Hayden Christenson’s Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader – or even the in-person comeback of a few prequel characters, locations or even storylines.

Star Wars is ending, at least in some way, and it would make sense for this final movie to look back to the franchise’s past. Even if that does just mean we finally get the Jar Jar Binks cameo we’ve all been hankering for.

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Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is in UK cinemas on the 19th December