Star Wars: ‘The Phantom Menace’ Foreshadows Palpatine’s Return in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’

“THE DEAD SPEAK” exclaimed the opening crawl of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker – and how much a person believes that the Emperor could have survived shows how much more likely they are to embrace the final chapter of the Star Wars saga.

Long before the movie actually came out, fans knew the emperor played some kind of role, because his unmistakable cackle appeared in the trailers, and we saw actor Ian McDiarmid at fan events. However, Palpatine’s resurrection in the film struck many people as implausible, although some say the prequels foretold it 

How did people react to ‘The Rise of Skywalker?’ 

Ian McDiarmid
Ian McDiarmid | Samir Hussein/WireImage

If the box office was any indication, per The Numbers, audiences were not as impressed with Rise as they were the other movies in the sequel trilogy. The Force Awakens made $936 million in this country alone, which is even more than Avengers: Endgame. The Last Jedi made $620 million, which some fans saw as proof that the controversial movie was a “failure.” 

So what does that make a $515 million gross for The Rise of Skywalker? The numbers seem to suggest that it was a movie that didn’t get as many repeat viewings as the others. The audience poll Cinemascores for the movies, according to Screen Crush, tell a similar story.

Force Awakens and Last Jedi both got As. But Rise of Skywalker got a B+, and that’s even less than Solo’s A-, and that was considered a box office failure. 

So now, after some time has passed, a movement has begun to redeem The Rise of Skywalker and say it really wasn’t that bad after all. Ironically, some fans are pointed to another reviled piece of the Star Wars universe, the prequel trilogy, as an indicator that Palpatine’s resurrection actually fit. 

How did ‘Phantom Menace’ pave the way for ‘TROS’? 

RELATED: ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ Would Have Had a Controversial Ending No Matter What

People who didn’t like Rise of Skywalker complain that the reappearance of Emperor Palpatine made no sense. However, another contingent of fans on Reddit argues that The Phantom Menace, arguably the least-liked Star Wars movie,  foreshadowed it, particularly with Qui-Gonn’s quote, “There’s always a bigger fish.”  That fan wrote: 

“The entire prequel trilogy foreshadows Palpatine’s return. Palpatine’s return in TROS is something that only makes sense when you remember his characterization and powers in the prequels, seeing as he had almost none in the original trilogy. In the prequels, he engineered fall of the Republic while working closely with the best Jedi masters for years without them noticing anything, and in the end he cleared out an entire room of them. He was just that good.

Not everyone bought this line of logic, however, with another fan responding, “That is the biggest cop out and a lazy excuse to connect back to the prequel trilogy, something that wasn’t done purposefully by the other two Sequels, because they are SEQUELS to the ORIGINAL trilogy, not sequels to the Prequels, I’ve never understood why fans don’t understand this fundamental concept.”

The prequel trilogy has seen redemption, but will ‘Episode IX?’

It would not have seemed possible in the mid-2000s, but the prequel trilogy has undergone something of a re-evaluation. Fans loathed Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones and were mostly OK with Revenge of the Sith. But after all the complaints about Jar-Jar, young Anakin and awful dialogue (“I don’t like sand”) fans have begun to acknowledge the good qualities of those movies. 

Ironically, one of the prequel trilogy redeemers was none other than Rian Johnson, who took no small amount of grief for The Last Jedi. When someone on Twitter asked fans to say something nice about the prequels, Johnson posted on Twitter: “Lucas made a gorgeous 7 hour long movie for children about how entitlement and fear of loss turns good people into fascists, and did it while spearheading nearly every technical sea change in modern filmmaking of the past 30 years.” 

Whether Rise of Skywalker’s redemption sticks remains to be seen. The Last Jedi said to “let the past die,” but as long as Reddit is around, that will never happen.