Josh, I would be interested in checking your project out.
Although I haven’t watched it yet, I appreciate all the effort you put into this. I don’t know if a Palpatine-less edit will ever be totally convincing, but I think you have implemented a lot of clever ideas that carry the idea pretty far.
Looking at your clip of Kylo arriving at Exegol, it definitely feels like the scene could use a little more context. Kylo basically walks around, interacts with nothing, and then the fleet suddenly rises. I’m usually against using fan films in fan-edits, but for some reason I could see an editor using parts of Seize the Frame’s Kylo vs Vader fan film to create a dark side vision that tests if Kylo is worthy of the fleet.
Kylo would descend into the temple, and it somehow transition to this point in the fan film. Maybe by cutting on a lightning flash, having Kylo walk around a corner, smoke rolls in, something like that. You could totally redo the dialogue, music and sound effects to make it fit better with the rest of the film, and you could create dialogue between Vader and Kylo to fit this new context. You could play it as Kylo being back on Starkiller Base, but instead of fighting Rey again, he fights Vader. Maybe Vader could even taunt Kylo for his failure there. After Kylo kills Vader, he snaps back to Exegol and he sees the Sith throne before him. We then hear the temple “activate”, and the Star Destroyers rise from their cold graves. It might not be right for your edit unless you possibly do a version 3, but this is something that I think it would be interesting to experiment with in a future Palpatine-less edit. Your idea has definitely gotten the gears turning in my head, for sure.
Ironically, Trevorrow’s Duel of the Fates also had Kylo and Vader have a vision duel.
Not only could this be a good way to provide some context, but it could help add a little back to the runtime.
I know you were trying to piece together some Leia dialogue for when she wants to recall Poe back to the base. I wonder if you could something usable from this TFA deleted scene? She could say something like, “Find Poe.”
I did have some thoughts about the climax and ending as well. It would be a nice touch if you could somehow imply that Rey keeping Kylo from the battle is somehow beneficial to the Resistance. Maybe Kylo could tell Pryde not to leave Exegol until he returns. This could help show how one battle has an effect on the other, instead of them feeling totally irrelevant to each other.
I also think Rey talking with Luke and Ben talking to Han after the battles are over work as a good denouement. Rey has to accept that her anger and darkness don’t define her, and Ben has to forgive himself for his mistakes, and strive to right his wrongs. Then we get the celebration scene on Ajan Kloss (even though there is a continuity error with Rey being bloody, we’ll just have to live with it). Finally, I feel like it would be appropriate to end the film with Ben arriving on Tatooine with Rey, if it’s possible. I think it would just feel weird not to see Ben again after his conversation with Han. We could see Rey on Tatooine, burying the Skywalker sabers and activating hers, which could be have the same color and ignition sound as Leia’s, implying that Rey used her crystal to finish her own lightsaber. This would add some relevance to why Leia’s saber was introduced in one of the last scenes in this film. And after, we see see Ben walk up and the film ends with them, leaving us with the sense that Ben is going to try to atone for his sins, and help Rey restore peace and justice to the galaxy.
Since Kylo fights Rey while the battle of Exegol takes place, what could we possibly do with the Knights of Ren?