Fortnite fans who sat in on last week’s pre-release, in-game Star Wars event hosted by Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams couldn’t have known it at the time, but they were getting an early peek at an authentic-feeling piece of Episode IX lore that never actually made its way into the final film … at least, not directly.
The opening crawl for the final installment in the Skywalker saga includes a reference to an event that received the full dialogue treatment from a major Star Wars character in the game’s Dec. 14 worldwide crossover. For movie fans unfamiliar with Fortnite, it’s a bit of phrasing that makes enough sense on its own when the scroll passes by in theaters. But for the millions who logged in last weekend to catch the in-game Star Wars exclusive during the game, it helps round out something the movie hints at but doesn’t actually show.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker below! Venture no further until you’ve seen the movie!**
The opening crawl of Rise of Skywalker begins with an alarming new twist: “The dead speak! The galaxy has heard a mysterious broadcast, a threat of REVENGE in the sinister voice of the late EMPEROR PALPATINE.” Yet throughout the film, Palpatine never verbalizes that threat on the airwaves — it’s just presented as a fact of the movie, right at the very start, and sets the tone for the action that follows.
Delivered with all the dread of Palpatine’s tremor-inducing tones, the Fortnite footage (which is helped along by a sweeping in-engine cinematic of TIE fighters closing in on the Millennium Falcon) certainly feels like a piece of ROS lore that helps give significant context to the bigger story that the movie promises. But it’s a completely missable moment for anyone who doesn’t fit in that sweet part of the Venn diagram where Fortnite and Star Wars fandoms overlap.
We don’t know whether McDiarmid’s Fortnite lines were unused leftovers that Abrams couldn’t find a place for in The Rise of Skywalker, or whether Epic Games and Lucasfilm got together with the intention of specifically crafting Palpatine’s terrifying speech for Fortnite’s Star Wars crossover event. But either way, it complements what we see on the big screen — and it’s convincingly rife with the dark side of the Force. You can catch the long-awaited resolution to the four-decade Skywalker saga now: The Rise of Skywalker premieres today in theaters everywhere.