The Rise of Skywalker premiered on Disney+ as part of the ‘Star Wars Day’ celebrations on May 4, 2020. They released a new poster celebrating the availability of the complete Skywalker Saga in one place.
I don’t love it. There are not enough dark siders, and too many light siders, for this design to work for me. There are nine characters on the right side to fifteen on the left. And one of the nine is a random stormtrooper. Why not Hux? Why not Pryde? Or Snoke? Or Jango Fett? Of course there are plenty missing on the light side too. Where’s Mace Windu? Where’s Rose? Or Shmi? Or any secondary character who happens to be a woman? Jannah, Holdo, Mon Mothma, Zorri. Of the twenty four characters featured, four are women, four are droids, and sixteen are men. And again, one of the dark siders is an unnamed strormtrooper.
To achieve the illusion of balance, the dark siders are also disproportionately larger. Luke & Vader and Rey & Kylo are equivalent. But Maul is nearly as prominent as the sequel couple and the same size as Han Solo. While I (now) love Maul, it’s not because of his five minutes of screentime in The Phantom Menace. Maul, Dooku, and Boba Fett are all bigger than Lando, Finn, Poe, Obi-Wan, Padmé and Yoda. Y-I-K-E-S.
The Red Queen
But what bothers me the most is how this poster portrays Padmé. I like the idea of the Skywalker legacy lightsaber splitting the two sides, and it being pierced by the Jedi logo. But the poster is too busy for that to land. And it ends up strange that Padmé and Yoda are straddling the two sides. I can certainly make an argument that both aid the dark side! But I’m not convinced this poster means to.
My main complaint, however, is the same one I’ve had for fifteen years. I am so tired of red Queen Amidala.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the costume. I love the queen’s introduction. I love her refusal to go to war. And I love the sad tilt of her head watching the invasion. But Padmé has SIXTY-ONE costumes and this one is literally her first appearance. It’s not representative of her story or her character. Queen Amidala is a role Padmé plays, not the other way around.
That said, she looks like a chess piece. And that is representative of her role in the saga.
The queen is the most powerful piece in chess. She’s able to move an unlimited number of squares in any direction. It’s common to promote a pawn to queen, particularly in the endgame. The forfeit of a queen is such a calculated and drastic move it has its own term: the queen sacrifice. The choice to let the queen be lost in order to gain a tactical advantage. In order to win.
Padmé dies protecting her king, and her son becomes a knight to save him. Her role is sacrifice. And that is both beautiful and terrible.
Padmé is a diplomat and a mother. Both require compromise and sacrifice. She has the means to fly her silver ships across the galaxy and cart her knights along with her. Nute Gunray falls to the queen early on, but he gets promoted back into the game. She gets closer to succeeding against Palpatine than nearly anyone else. But as powerful as the queen is, the game is won by capturing the king. The emperor checks Anakin and the only way to give the light side a fighting chance is to sacrifice the queen.
Padmé’s death as queen sacrifice is a pretty metaphor. Arguably, she is “fridged” to complete Anakin’s transformation to Vader. But Anakin and Padmé were always doomed. The story had already happened. Knowing that Luke will complete Padmé’s ill-fated mission to Mustafar gives her sacrifice gravitas beyond the feelings it creates in Vader. And ultimately every Skywalker is sacrificed to promote Rey.
So maybe the red queen is appropriate in the end. But I’d prefer some version of this. Our doomed lovers together instead of Queen Amidala alone. If the above image was transplanted in her place Anakin would be surrounded by the dark with Padmé pulling him to the light. That would line up visually and thematically with Luke & Vader and Rey & Kylo, too. Even Yoda would be repositioned appropriately in this revision of the poster. And can I just say if Boba Fett and Jango Fett were placed beside each other I would legitimately cry.
For me — and this is really why I can’t get behind this poster or most of the Star Wars promotional materials — these movies aren’t about the fight between good and evil or balancing light and dark. They’re about all the beautiful and terrible choices these characters make, individually and together, and how they ripple throughout time and space.