DISCLAIMER: I am not a fan-editor. I have no video or audio editing skills whatsoever, and this edit concept is NOT in any level of production. Still, I wanted to lay out my own understanding of this trilogy’s issues and a theoretical vision for correcting them, just in case any of these ideas inspire or are useful to anyone else.
BACKGROUND: I loved both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. I had definite concerns and disappointments—chief among them that they skipped over way too much critical backstory and that Resistance vs. First Order was far too similar a conflict to Rebellion vs. Empire—and it soon became clear the Sequel Trilogy wouldn’t be telling the story I really wanted (Luke rebuilding the Jedi Order). But the characters, heart, and fun factor won me over, such that I was more than content to buy into what we got instead and see where it was leading us.
Then The Rise of Skywalker happened, and I came home vastly more disappointed in a Star Wars movie than ever before. I had fun and liked a lot of its individual parts, but its logical shortcuts and storytelling gaps were too much to ignore, and more importantly it seemed to be the point where the lack of a single trilogy-wide plan finally came crashing down on the whole project. It was neither a narratively- nor thematically-cohesive capstone to the Skywalker Saga, nor did it justify the need for a third trilogy in the first place. The fact that TROS ends with the galaxy and the Jedi in pretty much the same state they were in by the end of ROTJ is just…ugh.
However, while I don’t think any form of the ST will ever be my personal definitive version of what “really” happened after the Battle of Endor, I do think there’s a fairly clear path to editing it into something much more cohesive on its own terms, and much more satisfying as an Infinities project—an exercise in answering the hypothetical “what might happen IF Palpatine survived or was resurrected.” The following list is by no means comprehensive—it doesn’t include any of the smaller changes I would like to see in the individual movies, many of which have already been fixed by other edits—but I think it works as a general plan to tie this trilogy together and make it a decent (if not authoritative) companion to the previous trilogies.
Potentially re-number the trilogy as Episodes X, XI, & XII, just because it skips over damn near a full trilogy’s worth of important developments, and there’s always the possibility that Dave Filoni will do a proper New Republic animated series someday that could be repurposed into VII, VIII, & IX. (Admittedly this change is kind of petty, and I’m not sure whether I would actually go through with it, but I just wanted to toss it out there.)
Since we’re stuck with Palpatine being alive again, it’s best to just make peace with that as part of the price of admission, and work him into the entire trilogy. A lot of people have rightfully started talking about moving one of his scenes to TLJ, which is good but thinking too small—I say we establish him as the true leader of the First Order as soon as TFA.
To further distinguish the ST’s conflict from the OT’s, rewritten opening crawls would reveal that while Starkiller Base was devastating, destroying the Senate did not completely destroy the New Republic (which wasn’t stupid enough to keep all of its fleet in a single system), nor has the First Order taken over more than a handful of worlds. NR and FO forces are engaged in combat all over the galaxy (offscreen, sadly, unless additional footage sources can be found & used creatively), and the films simply follow the conflict with Leia’s unit because it’s been identified as a unique threat (since it’s searching for Luke & has picked up another potential Jedi in Rey). This also means that when the war is over at the end of the trilogy, the free government the OT heroes fought to build is still standing.
Snoke’s character and dialogue would be largely rewritten by dubbing his audio in an alien language, accompanied by new subtitles. Reframe him from the outset as an intermediary for Sidious, a straightforward dark-side disciple who did not train Ren, & whose origins and abilities are not important (it’s easy enough to imagine he played a role similar to the purple-robed advisers we see in ROTJ). His new dialogue would also be a tool for enforcing some of the other changes to the story.
The Knights of Ren are never developed in the films themselves, and there’s no point in trying to make the dark-siders into some new or different faction from the Sith in a story where Sidious is still calling the shots. So let’s streamline things by cutting the word “Kylo” from dialogue—which, along with new crawls and new Snoke subtitles, will establish that Ben Solo’s dark-side identity is simply Darth Ren, Sidious’ latest apprentice. When the Knights of Ren appear in IX, they can easily be interpreted as simple mercenaries.
EPISODE VII: A SHATTERED BALANCE (I’m not fully happy with this title, but it’s more plot-related and less abstract than “The Force Awakens.” Feel free to suggest alternatives!)
CRAWL (rough draft):
Luke Skywalker has vanished. In his absence, an Imperial remnant calling itself the FIRST ORDER has emerged from the Unknown Regions, having spent decades planning a brutal campaign to retake the galaxy.
Grimly recalling the horrors of the Empire, the New Republic has granted Leia Organa command of a special military unit, code-named THE RESISTANCE, to combat the threat. But hope shines dimly without the galaxy’s only Jedi Master.
Desperate to find her brother, Leia has sent her most daring pilot on a secret mission to the deserts of Jakku, where an old friend has discovered a clue to Luke’s whereabouts…
- The destruction of Hosnian Prime would be followed by Sidious’ broadcast to the galaxy, establishing his return early in the trilogy and intensifying the intimidation factor—imagine the terror of the capital getting blown up, accompanied by the reveal that someone who’s supposed to be dead was behind it. Also incorporate (modified) TROS dialogue speculating as to how he’s alive, look for more footage to serve as reaction shots from citizens across the galaxy.
REVISED SNOKE SCENE 1 (before Sidious reveal, but lays the groundwork that there’s somebody above Snoke):
- SNOKE: The droid will soon be delivered to the rebels, enabling them to recover Skywalker. This our Master cannot tolerate.
- HUX: I take full responsibility for the-
- SNOKE: Enough! He wants solutions, not excuses.
- HUX: The weapon. It is ready. I believe the time has come to use it.
- SNOKE: We agree. Oversee preparations.
- HUX: Yes.
- SNOKE: And as for you, Lord Ren…We have learned that the droid we seek is aboard the Millennium Falcon, in the hands of your father, Han Solo.
- REN: He means nothing to me.
- SNOKE: You know what the way of the Sith demands next.
- REN: Yes. By the grace of his training, I will not be seduced.
- SNOKE: We shall see.
REVISED SNOKE SCENE 2 (after Sidious reveal):
- SNOKE: The scavenger resisted you?!
- REN: She is strong with the Force! Untrained, but stronger than she knows.
- SNOKE: And the droid?
- HUX: Ren believed it was no longer valuable to us, that the girl was all we needed. As a result, the droid has most likely been returned to the hands of the enemy. They may have the map already.
- SNOKE: Then Organa’s forces must be finished now, before they get to Skywalker.
- HUX: We have their location. We tracked their reconnaissance ship to the Ileenium system.
- SNOKE: Good. Then we will crush them once and for all. Prepare the weapon.
- REN: I can get the map from the girl.
- SNOKE: If what you say about this girl is true, bring her before Lord Sidious.
REVISED SNOKE SCENE 3:
- HUX: The fuel cells have ruptured. The collapse of the planet has begun.
- SNOKE: Leave the base at once and come to me with Darth Ren. This weapon has already served the Master’s purpose.
EPISODE VIII: THE LEGEND OF SKYWALKER (the Skywalker myth/bloodline was a much bigger narrative element of TLJ than of TROS, and I don’t like the idea of titles using any of the key words—“Jedi, Return, Sith, Hope, etc.”—more than once. I like this one.)
CRAWL (rough draft):
The specter of DARTH SIDIOUS has plunged the galaxy into terror. But despite the devastation unleashed by Starkiller Base, New Republic forces have regrouped and engaged the First Order across the galaxy.
General Leia Organa’s brave soldiers press on, struggling to survive until young Rey returns with Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, and together they turn the tide against the resurgent Sith.
Recognizing Skywalker as the greatest threat to his revenge, Sidious has tasked the troubled DARTH REN with finding his uncle and preventing the Jedi Order’s revival…
- Replace Ren’s introductory scene in Snoke’s throne room with TROS scene of Kylo meeting with Sidious. Edit dialogue to cut antagonism, cut references to Rey’s origin, & suggest that murdering Han was Ben’s Sith sacrifice, through which he proved himself ready to take over command from Snoke.
REVISED THRONE ROOM CONFRONTATION (with Snoke’s display of Force abilities significantly toned down):
- SNOKE: Well done, Lord Ren. The Master will be pleased. Young Rey, welcome.
- SNOKE: Come closer, child. So much strength. Tell us where Skywalker is, and perhaps we can find a use for your talents in our new regime.
- REY: You underestimate Skywalker…and Ben Solo…and me. It will be your downfall.
- SNOKE: Oh, so you think you can turn Lord Ren, like his grandfather? Is that why you came? Young fool. It was Lord Sidious who bridged your minds, and I who stoked Ren’s conflicted soul. Our master knew Ren was not strong enough to hide it from you, and you would not be wise enough to resist the bait.
- SNOKE: Such spunk. Look here, now. Look at Organa’s transports. The same is happening to Republic vermin across the galaxy. Soon there will be nothing left for Skywalker to save anyway.
- SNOKE: Oh, still that fiery spit of hope. You have the spirit of a true Jedi! And because of that…you must die. Lord Ren, deliver to this child the destiny of all Jedi.
- REN: I know what I have to do.
- REY: Ben.
- [Ren kills Snoke]
EPISODE IX: POWER OF THE FORCE (open to suggestions again, but for now I like the grand, cosmic feel of this one. In any event, the title has to change if for no other reason than that virtually everyone put more thought into what “Rise of Skywalker” might mean than the writers themselves did.)
CRAWL (rough draft):
Darkness rises. Darth Ren, now commanding the First Order’s full military might, hunts his enemies across the galaxy, closer than ever to realizing his grandfather’s monstrous legacy.
Yet light remains. Galvanized by Luke Skywalker’s heroic last stand, New Republic forces continue to resist the First Order’s advances, while Rey devotes herself to learning the ways of the Jedi.
Her training may be too late, however. While conventional warfare rages on, Darth Sidious prepares for an apocalyptic strike against countless worlds, an act of FINAL REVENGE decades in the making…
Cut Rey being Palpatine’s granddaughter; tweak dialogue so Palpatine is simply interested in Rey’s Force potential.
Eliminate any suggestion that the Final Order/Sith Eternal fleet is a separate entity from the First Order.
Rey Destroying Sidious: add visual representation of the Jedi spirits, change color & effect of reflected lightning to imply that Sidious is actually destroyed by some sort of light side energy generated by all the Jedi spirits joining Rey. It’s still vague and kind of silly, but I would argue it’s less silly than simply reflecting his own lightning back at him.
Ending: change final scene to make Lars homestead a meeting place for a new class of Jedi students, by filming new footage of a handful of students igniting lightsabers around Rey. Add spirits of Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Qui-Gon, & Ben beside Luke & Leia (or put the Masters behind Rey), to suggest that she’ll be aided & guided by a “Force Jedi Council” of her own (even with a time skip Daisy Ridley is pretty obviously too young to be the sole headmaster of a New Jedi Order, and Luke needs to be involved in the NJO in some capacity anyway).
Why is this meeting taking place at the Lars homestead? Because that’s the footage we’ve got to work with. 😉 Seriously, though, maybe they traveled to Luke’s old home as a Jedi history field trip, maybe this is where a new training temple will be rebuilt, or maybe the backgrounds could be changed so they aren’t on Tatooine after all (the desert ground definitely limits the options, but perhaps having the New Jedi Order start on Jedha would be cool).
NOTE: Rey adopting the Skywalker name is actually one of the things I liked (even if the execution here was a little ham-fisted). But it’ll probably have to go for this edit, simply because it wouldn’t fit naturally with this reimagined ending.