Though the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker sizzle reel that screened at yesterday’s D23 panel has yet to receive an official online release, the new footage showcased in the promo has already inspired a fresh wave of fan speculation.
While the image of Rey wielding a red, double-bladed lightsaber is arguably the most discussion-worthy moment of the recent sizzle reel, fans have also started debating the implications of a brief callback to the franchise’s most famous villain. We’re specifically referring to the sound of Darth Vader’s breathing, which can reportedly be heard after Emperor Palpatine delivers the ominous line, “Now your journey nears its end.”
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Seeing how J.J. Abrams’ upcoming film is set to bring some closure to the entire Skywalker Saga, perhaps it’s only fitting that the promo would find a way of referencing the original Skywalker. Still, between Yoda’s Force ghost cameo in The Last Jedi and the Emperor’s surprise return in The Rise of Skywalker, it’s easy to see why the moment has got some fans wondering if Vader might somehow make an appearance in this year’s release, be it in a flashback, a vision or in ghost form.
Either way, it feels safe to assume that the villain’s presence will be felt in the Sequel Trilogy finale. After all, we already know that Vader’s helmet will feature in the film, implying that Kylo Ren might still be feeling the pressure to live up to his grandfather’s legacy. There’s even been a persistent rumor going round that Hayden Christensen may reprise his role as Anakin, though we’re still waiting for some concrete evidence to back up this claim. In any case, we’ll find out how Abrams intends to follow through on his Vader reference when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20th.