I’ve been kicking around some ideas for this movie basically since it came out. As some of you know, I did do a light revision to HAL9000’s stellar edit of this movie that more fit my tastes and pacing. I don’t advertise it as so much of the work is originally HAL’s, but I think I’m going to take another, very different crack at it.
I’m also breaking my rule of not editing movies I really dislike, because I really dislike this movie. However, there’s possibly enough elements in there to make it work, and I can’t get it out of my head.
It’s easy to say that bringing back Palpatine is a mistake, but I’ve softened on that a bit. I’m actually a little more Ok with Palpatine as the big bad of the entire series. That’s not actually the problem.
The big problem, to me, is a lack of focus. The movie is all over the place, trying to cram in too many plots, subplots, and character arcs. Nothing is given enough time to breathe, so nothing ever feels satisfying. I can tell you what TFA and especially TLJ are about. I have no idea what Rise of Skywalker is about. I have no idea what it has to say.
So, how do we fix this? My core ideas:
Leia needs to not be involved in the plot. Her sloppily worked in deleted scenes from TFA don’t fit, have no purpose, and completely take over the story of Rey and Kylo. I love Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia, but they should’ve just let her rest.
Rey cannot be a Palpatine. TFA and TLJ set up a completely different arc for her. In those movies, it’s about her being a nobody with tremendous power that doesn’t belong in this story. She’s figuring out what her place is. In TROS, the plot is almost completely based around her lineage. I know a lot of people don’t like that she’s just nobody, but the solution is not to eliminate two movies worth of character and plot development to change it to something completely different.
Rey cannot, at every turn, be assisted by other Star Wars characters. She defeats Kylo because Leia intervened. She defeats Palpatine because the spirits of the past Jedi intervened. She’s the hero. She needs to do it herself.
How does that create focus? Well, because the movie is now about Kylo being pulled to the light, and Rey being pulled to the dark. They’re both on the brink of their respective breakthroughs. Kylo feels remorse for killing Han, and he feels the loss of his mother. He definitely feels something for Rey. The light is trying to grab him more than ever, and he’s fighting as hard as he ever has.
Meanwhile, Rey is filled with anger toward Kylo Ren, and it pushes her to lean more and more toward the dark. And now, Palpatine sees her as his heir, as someone who can take the Sith throne. She doesn’t want it, but she’s dangerously close to it.
The duel on top of the wreckage of the old Death Star, and in a way the wreckage of the original trilogy, is the breaking point for both. Originally, Kylo is about to kill Rey but stops when he hears Leia’s call. Then, Rey strikes him down out of hatred and anger, but is instantly distracted by Leia’s death. This muddies the scene exponentially.
So instead of Leia being involved, what if it went something like this?
It’s a rough proof of concept, but I think you can see what I’m going for. Both characters made their own decision. Both have agency. And the ramifications of those decisions are what lead them to fighting together in the end. Kylo comes to the light, and Rey is able to defeat Palpatine with this power she doesn’t fully understand, the power Palpatine wanted her to use as his heir. Story arcs complete!
At the end, no past Jedi come to help Rey. She’s alone, and she defeats Palpatine on her own.
Here’s a work in progress draft of Leia’s new death scene, moved to near the beginning of the film. Still needs sound work, but it’s a good proof of concept: