I’m opposed to fanedits which set up Palpatine in TFA and TLJ mostly because I don’t like what’s done with Palpatine and his return in TRoS and don’t want to taint TFA and TLJ with it. But if you want to have Palpatine return, you kind of have to.
I’m kind of preaching to the choir here, and also preaching to the wall behind the choir, but the reason the Luke’s father twist works, and similar twists like Bruce Willis being dead the whole time, is not because they come out of nowhere like TestingOutTheTest says. It’s because they don’t come out of nowhere. Because you could have seen them coming, and honestly, I think part of the enjoyment comes from knowing that you should have seen it coming.
A good twist works when there’s lots of clues, or ideas that reinforce the twist before the twist actually happens. Nothing too blatant to spoil it, but enough that when it’s revealed you look back and think “Oh, shit, that’s why XYZ was doing ABC!” That’s why Bruce Willis never talks to anybody. That’s why Obi-Wan and Yoda act kinda goofy when talking about Luke’s dad. That’s why Dae-Su was being held prisoner. Although many movie twists are less straightforward than that.
Even when previous media was made without the twist in mind, good twists can be based in the facts of the previous media. You can just say “Oh they were lying” when a twist retcons something someone said, but it’s incredibly easy to read the Vader twist into Alec Guinness’s acting in the Ben’s Hut scene.
This is all the long way to say that twists only work in the story if they’re well rooted in the entire story.
The Palpatine twist comes out of nowhere, and it completely redirects the plot. None of the plot of TRoS is really a continuation of TLJ at all, save for a few almost irrelevant references that feel pasted in just to specifically deflect this criticism (Hux being a spy is the best example). Fanedits that retroactively put Palpatine back into TFA and TLJ make it less jarring by at least putting some connections to TRoS in them.
Lucasfilm themselves couldn’t do that because the idea of Palpatine even being there wasn’t decided until 10 months before TRoS was completed, let alone while TFA or TLJ were even being worked on. But they should have at least rooted Palpatine’s return better in TFA or TLJ. Or if they figured they couldn’t (and this is probably the case because these people are pretty experienced film makers), the concept probably should have been put in the “Cool idea, doesn’t work” bin.
If Palpatine wasn’t in the trailers and we first heard of him in the opening crawl, it may have been more shocking. But shock isn’t a very long-lasting emotion for a movie to portray. It would just worsen the problem. You’d get an admittedly cool moment of shock for one second, and then it would feel a lot more out of nowhere without the 8-month leadup knowing Palpatine was going to be in this movie.
Maybe this is a weird thing to say after wasting 524 words about how Palpatine’s return functions as a twist, but Palpatine’s return really isn’t a twist, I feel like it’s more of a premise. That’s why it feels like TRoS is an Episode 10 without an Episode 9. It feels like this is another story with Rey and Finn and the crew after their main story has been finished. Except their main story hasn’t been finished and never will be.
Hell, I wonder if a fanedit could make it an actual Episode 10, and just say that Episode 9 doesn’t exist. Like how for a while Episodes 1-3 didn’t exist. They skipped 9. It’s like the story ends in medias res, which, sure, is ridiculously unsatisfying and not as cool as starting a story in medias res, but whatever. Maybe it would sell TLJ better as a soft ending.
Anakin Starkiller said:
He finds the wreckage of the Second Death Star, and finds Palpatine desperately clinging to life with dark side magic, and maybe a little help from life support maintained by freak show cultists.
I do really like your idea Sparky, but not quite enough for me to look past Palpatine’s importance to the Saga. If it were any other Sith lord, this would be a perfect end, but not him. He’s our big bad.
That’s kind of why I like the idea. He’s our big bad, and look what he’s been reduced to. Don’t do dark side, kids.
To praise TRoS for a moment, that’s actually why I also really like his character design in TRoS. He’s a corpse who’s spent more time hanging from a life support system than ruling the galaxy. He’s spent about the same amount of time hanging around as he spent in power, there are 35 years between TPM and RotJ, and 31 years between RotJ and TRoS.
Although I think it’s self-explanatory that the storytelling does not at all match up with this. I may think it’s self-explanatory, but for obvious reasons I might have to explain myself anyway: In this movie, Palpatine is actually the villain, who is capable of destroying planets and is hours away from galactic domination. He’s so powerful that he makes the First Order entirely irrelevant overnight. He’s not really weak or pathetic in this movie, which is what I dug in his character design.