Why are we getting a third trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker tonight? I was tempted to argue that we didn’t really need one, and if we and/or you are a regular movie nerd/ Star Wars fan, this probably applies to you. If you are already chomping at the bit to buy tickets tonight, if you’re the kind of person who, whether you liked the previous two episodes or not, have their theories about how it might all turn out, if you’re someone who writes about geek media partially because you like geek media, then this trailer isn’t for you. The teaser trailer released in April, for Star Wars Celebration, and the sizzle reel offered for D23, provided you everything you needed.
If you only watched those two trailers, you know the core elements that Walt Disney is selling for the J.J. Abrams-directed threequel. First, it’s a direct sequel to The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, so it’s not some Star Wars Story spin-off. Second, it’s going to involve old trilogy characters (Lando Calrissian, Sheev Palpatine) and previously reintroduced trilogy heroes (Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa) mingling with the new characters (Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren, etc.). Third, for what it’s worth, this adventure will allow the three core heroes (Rey, Finn and Poe) to embark on an adventure together. Fourth, most importantly, The Rise of Skywalker will be the final chapter in the nine-part Skywalker/Solo narrative that stretches from The Phantom Menace to The Rise of Skywalker.
If you’re a fan, you really don’t need any other information. You don’t need to know what happened after the Resistance was decimated as a result of Poe and Finn’s botched counterintelligence operation and after Kylo Ren killed Snoke only to assume the title of Supreme Leader of the First Order at the end of The Last Jedi. You don’t need to know how unused Carrie Fisher footage from The Force Awakens (and Last Jedi?)will be included to give her character a proper send-off. You don’t need to know in what capacity the very dead Luke Skywalker is still included, nor to what extent the equally dead Sheev is still around 35 years after a melodramatic death plunge. You’re covered until December 19.
Tonight’s trailer will be aimed at general audiences, with a conventional theatrical trailer aimed at folks who watch Monday Night Football and may have only a token awareness of the new Star Wars film opening in two months. Is it possible that they’ve already seen one or both previous teasers in theaters prior to movies like Avengers: Endgame or Joker? Sure, but in our “folks go to the movies less than they used to” era, it stands to reason general audiences may have caught the teaser over the summer once or twice (maybe before Avengers: Endgame and then again with The Lion King) and maybe the D23 teaser (which only contains 30 seconds of new footage) attached to It Chapter Two or Joker.
If you’re a young kid, you probably haven’t seen the D23 sizzle reel in theaters at all, since you were too young to see Joker, It Chapter Two or even the likes of Hustlers or Ad Astra. If you’re an audience member who doesn’t obsess about big nerd movies for a year in advance and who is more likely to see a theatrical trailer in a theater or on TV as opposed to on YouTube, if you’re someone who took their kids to see The Last Jedi once or twice, liked it just fine and then rarely gave it another thought, this trailer is for you. Yes, I expect the emphasis to be identical to the previous teasers, in terms of what Disney is selling.
This theatrical trailer, presumably appropriate to play with both the R-rated Terminator: Dark Fate (which opens overseas from Fox/Disney on Wednesday) and the PG-rated Frozen II, will, along with the final leg of marketing, emphasis the same four core concepts. The Rise of Skywalker is the “last” Skywalker/Solo Star Wars movie. It’s a direct sequel to The Last Jedi. Rey, Finn and Poe get on a journey together. There will be plenty of original trilogy characters showing up for the last hurrah. We may get a little bit of “What is this movie’s actual story?” since it’s not as evident as Avengers: Endgame‘s “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes must undo the Infinity War cliffhanger!” Or it could remain as cryptic as the pre-release marketing for The Dark Knight Rises.
Since Disney opted to forgo attaching this trailer to Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, tonight’s Patriots vs. Jets football game will be the only time that Disney has a huge captive audience of (potentially) adults and kids until Frozen II in mid-November. Most of the big movies since August ( Joker, It Chapter Two, Hustlers, Ad Astra, Downton Abbey) have been R-rated or adult-skewing. Much of the pre-Christmas releases will be R-rated ( Terminator: Dark Fate, Doctor Sleep, The Good Liar) and/or adult-skewing ( Last Christmas, Ford v. Ferrari, Knives Out). Even if It’s a Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood breaks out alongside Frozen II (and isn’t rated R for pervasive profanity, bloody violence and graphic nudity, all involving Mister Rogers), tonight is it for huge captive audiences until November 21.
The third and final trailer to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is premiering tonight during an ABC football game for the same reason Disney tends to drop its family-friendly trailers during Good Morning America. The success of Lord of the Rings, The Dark Knight, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Force Awakens is explicitly linked to getting the non-fans to be almost as excited or interested as the fans. The goal will be to convince football fans and general audiences that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the one movie to see this Christmas if you only see one movie. That is of ever-increasing importance since it’s entirely possible that an increasing number of moviegoers will indeed see only one movie this holiday season.
This final Rise of Skywalker trailer will be aimed already excited or curious Star Wars fan, but at folks who will get their first real look at the ninth Star Wars episode during the halftime portion of the football game. If fans obsessively watch the game to get that trailer as soon as possible, presumably bumping up the ratings for a game airing on Disney-owned ABC, that’s a win/win. I’ll be sitting on the floor of the Universal CityWalk hoping that halftime arrives drops before my 7:30 pm screening of Terminator: Dark Fate. The trailer isn’t for me either. It’s for my brother, a former Star Wars superfan who hasn’t been to a theater in two years. I’ll be sure to ask him what he thinks tomorrow.