[First off: I’m not a native speaker, so I hope all this makes sense (well, at least language-wise)]
After vowing to myself never to watch a version of TROS where Rey is a Palpatine again, the release and instant praise of HALs “Ascendant” eventually made me weak. It’s still incredibly impressive what this community has accomplished - what an improvement! The film is suddenly somehow enjoyable. And yet I’m still missing two things to finally can grow happy with it: first, Rey has to remain a Nobody; second, I still miss the sense, the necessity of the Disney trilogy.
While the Rey-Nobody-cut of Ascendant is apparently in the making, the second point (after solely lurking and consuming here for two years) made me decide to make my own head-canon-friendly cut of TROS. The following idea lingers through my head ever since watching TLJ (which I really love) for the first time.
The short version:
Apply minimalistic (but somehow radical) changes to create a version of “The Rise Of Skywalker” that – by picking up strings introduced in “The Last Jedi” – is centered around the theme of “BALANCE” to bring it more in line with the previous trilogy and thus bring a meaningful and dignified conclusion to the Skywalker-Saga
More specific motives and goals:
- The main theme of the trilogy is “Balance”. Balance in this case means the absence of extreme positions/philosophies/moral imperatives. TROS thereby delivers the final moral lection and ends the ST and the Skywalker saga in a senseful way (PT -> The Rise of Evil; OT -> The Return of Good; ST -> balance, equalization, compromise, peace)
- Rey and Kylo represent balance: Both are naïve idealists, unthinkingly devoted to their cause. Both begin to have doubts, both struggle with an identity crisis. Both are and feel connected to each other in this respect, they become a dyad along their way.
- The Jedi end, along with the Sith. With this the dogmatic black-and-white system of previous generations ends and Rey ushers in a new epoch, the epoch of balance, the “Skywalker” (those who walk along the horizon)
- Rey is a Nobody -> Anybody. Her parents were drinking scamps who abandoned her alone on Jakku. She is highly Force sensitive, like many others, thereby representing “anybody”
The long version (skip if you are not interested in my personal background/motives):
I’ve been a Star Wars fan since the 90’s and grew up with the PT. For me (like for many others here as well) Star Wars is more than a film series: it is not just a hobby, but also an identity-forming part of my life. So I always read a lot out of George Lucas’ story (and I’m sure I interpreted a lot into it, too). Then Disney happened…
Viewing the three trilogies as three parts of the same saga (that, to me, actually and satisfactorily ended with ROTJ), each with its own mood, the PT could stand for the dark, the OT for the light, and the ST for the grey: the fall of Anakin Skywalker and the victory of the dark side; the purification of Anakin Skywalker by his son and the victory of the light side; the shadow of the legend of Anakin Skywalker and the beginning of something new, less dogmatic.
If the ST should have any philosophical raison d’être, then please not that of a hiccup of the OT, in which the caricatured “good” (the light side -> Jedi) wins again, but rather that of a meaningful morality, according to which the classification into good or evil is a subjective process and critical but tolerant thinking and acting and a general softening of extreme, fundamental attitudes should be a maxim.
To me, the main theme of the whole ST should be Balance. While I honestly thought after viewing TROS for the first time that the sequels are telling a story not worth telling, the lone justification for them (at least in my grown-up-with-the-prequels-eyes) might be that the “balance” of the force (between light and dark, good and evil, etc.) was not restored when Luke (a jedi) “killed” Palpatine (a sith), because that way the balance would be outweighed by the jedi again.
That is, of course, because “That Force does not belong to the Jedi”: Both Jedi and Sith are nothing but religions, with all their dogmatic rules and prophecies and you name it, while the force is something bigger (and I’m not saying midichlorians! After all, Star Wars is a mythological space-opera, which is why a metaphysical force-power is perfectly ok).
Now, the tandem of Rey and Kylo are kind of mirroring each other in their search for purpose as well as all the doubts that come along with that. Both of them are somehow bound to an illusion of good/evil, almost caricatured trying to fit in those predetermined jedi-/sith-roles (i.e. Kylos fixation towards his grandfather, Reys naiv definition of the force in TLJ). Then again, they’re having feelings that are just not fitting in (or accidentally (not-)killing Chewie with darkside-forcepowers).
The balance lies in between all of that, with both characters representing the opposite side of an imaginary scale during most of the trilogy, going back and forth and then ultimately meet each other in the middle, in balance: Palpatine gets destroyed, bringing an definite end to the sith-order, while Rey, understanding in that very moment that the way of extremes, of differencing solely between good and evil, can not be the solution. The sith end. The jedi end. The force outlives both of them, as it always was there and always will be there. It belongs to no one and lives in every one.
Then, Kylo (redeemed from the dark, but tainted) brings his final sacrifice by saving Rey, who gets reborn as something new, the personification of balance (in that point, I really like her new yellow lightsaber, as it is something new, never seen before (outside the old EU).
Another theme of the saga that gains weight, especially in the ST, is that of family and origin. The saga manages more or less well to empathize with the protagonists and their emotional world (depending on the trilogy). The unmistakable and morally universal message of the ST up to and including Episode VIII is that everyone defines themselves by their actions and not by their origin, blood or ancestry. Therefore, Rey must be a Nobody.
This is how the acts fit together according to the classical definition of a three-act-play:
- An insignificant scavenger, abandoned by her insignificant and absolutely uninteresting parents for drinking-money on a (somehow not so insignificant) planet, unexpectedly gets pulled into an adventure (-> beginning of the classical hero’s journey as we know it from Star Wars). Up to that point, she has neither a family, community, belonging nor purpose, but all of a sudden she is in the middle of a galactic-wide conflict. She gets introduced to this world she has only heard of in stories (or learned from through stuffed puppets of rebellion pilots) and connects with it (namely with the “good guys” that is the Resistance). End of the first act (the so called “exposition”)/Ep7.
- She then begins to struggle with her role as she gets confronted with the reality of her new world. Her somewhat naïve views of the force, Jedi and Sith, good and evil getting put to a test: Luke Skywalker himself teaches her, that there is a third way, a compromise.
Eventually, Reys personal second act (“Complication”; Ep8) is perfectly concluded with this scene (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=co3QrHKcV9c): Rey introduces herself to Poe, who answers that he already knows her. She at last is somebody, part of something, finally has a “family”. Something to fight for as well as something to fight against. Now the only thing remains open (and leads to the final act) is the way to lead this fight.
- Then the third act (Ep9) happens, which is supposed to be the climax, dénouement and ultimately the resolution. The structural tendency of TROS to sort of contradict TLJ in the above mentioned major points (Rey’s ancestry and the nature of the force), is what needs to be addressed: make it clear that Rey is fighting for what she accomplished in the previous movies, and that is an identity of her own that is solely based on her role in this adventure of hers (as sort of an unwritten page) and not on blood and cloned sithlord-sons and not even on parents she can’t even remember, because what cause should she have to stand up in their names? And especially: give the whole story a purpose, let there be a lection learned: the world is not divided in just “good” and “bad”, as there are more than one definition of what that might be. The world (regardless of how far far away the galaxy it exists in is) is much more complex. Moral is a part of ones very own identity and a process, not a state. To find balance within and without is ones destiny.
Changes in mind (intentions in italics, optional/still undecided changes in [ ])
- Use HALs „TROS – Ascendant – Rey Nobody version“ as a basis (as soon as it exists and with his permission)
- Ajan Kloss:
o [Optional: [Somehow] Cut/trim/change the dialogue between Rey and Leia: „I’m starting to think it isn’t possible…“ „Nothing is impossible“] (Leia is already aware of what needs to happen at the end. In a way, alongside Luke, she is a driving force in Rey’s development towards overcoming the old dualistic order (see also Luke on Leia: “Leia told me that she had sensed the death of her son at the end of her Jedi path. She surrendered her saber to me and said that one day… it would be picked up again… by someone who would finish her journey.” This “journey” could be the journey to a more progressive path. In my opinion Leia was always the “cooler” and more open-minded one (and according to Yoda also “the other one”). Leia would therefore not train Rey to make contact with the Jedis who came before. But maybe there is a better solution here)
o Cut Luke saying „A Jedi’s weapon deserves more respect“. The first thing he’s saying is „what are you doing?!“ after Rey says „Master Skywalker!“ (The lightsaber is no longer just the weapon of the Jedi/Sith. Luke has already figured that out, he’s guiding Rey to transcend the “Jedi-Sith” dogma)
o [somehow] change Lukes „Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi. Your destiny“, maybe to „Confronting (your) fear is your destiny“ (Facing her fear is Rey’s destiny. She has to confront it, get to know it instead of being guided by it. Only that will bring her salvation)
o [somehow] change Lukes „If you don’t face Palpatine… it will mean the end of the Jedi. And the war will be lost“, maybe to „If you (do) face Palpatine… it will mean the end of the Jedi. And the war will be over.“ (Luke is subtly, almost tongue-in-cheek, pointing out to Rey that the confrontation with Palpatine will bring ane end to the war, but also an end to the Jedi. She understands this, accepts it and starts the journey to Exegol)
o Cut Lukes „A thousand generations live in you now“ (and make it go from „[…] by someone who would finish her journey” to “But this is your fight“) (It’s Rey’s story now. The previous generations don’t matter anymore, their story ends in the final battle.)
o Cut/Silence Rey saying „Yes“ after Palpatine asks her „As a Jedi?“ (Rey is silent to Palpatine’s obviously snide rhetorical question. She does not just not reveal her plans to him, but also doesn’t feel the need to play Palpatine’s game)
o [No-Dyad-Cut: Cut/Silence Palpatine saying „Unseen for generations“ while speaking of extract the lifeforce of Rey and Ben] (The “Dyad” – in my head-canon – isn’t something mythological, it’s just used here to describe the special bond between Rey and Ben. Palpatine is just improvising here, draining their life and empowering himself with it)
o Reinsert the original Rey-Palpatine-forcelightning-fightscene (as cool as jonhs version is…) (It’s Rey’s fight and story now. The previous generations no longer matter)
o Silence all voices during Reys reach-out and replace them with lines from Ben/Rey/Luke (in this order, after Reys „be with me“): 1. “You’re not alone“ (Ben, TLJ); 2. „It’s time to let old things die“ (Ben, TLJ); 3. „It’s time for the jedi to end“ (Luke, TLJ); 4. “Balance“ (Rey, TLJ) [additional options: „I need someone to show me my place in all this“ (Rey, TLJ)/“Don’t be afraid of who you are“ (Ben, TROS)] (this makes it finally clear what is happening now and what must happen. Rey understands at last. Also, Rey and Ben finally come together and form a unit: They meet in the middle – balance)
o Change Palpatines line „A scavenger girl is no match for the power in me“ to „A jedi is no match for the power in me“ (That’s the way to set you up for the next one (…and creating an effect similar to the corresponding scene with Éowyn in LOTR:ROTK))
o Change Reys line „I’m all the jedi“ to „I’m no(t) (a) jedi“ (Rey finally breaks the dogma, she ignores and thereby negates Palpatine’s backward thinking; she lets the Jedi die (as she was the last to date) as she denies being one. Instead, she acts as a free individual who thinks freely of any dogma (and thus ultimately uses the force in a more sober and thus more efficient way to defeat him))
o [Optional: Remove the force-ghosts of the Skywalkers. Rey just looks ahead, into the future] (The saga ends with the beginning of Rey’s story, that is, the future. The past is complete. On the other hand, this scene can also remain: Nothing speaks against the fact that the Skywalkers have become one with the Force (especially since all three contribute their role to the end of the Jedi and the future). Rey also calls herself Skywalker, which is now more of a title than a name: “those who walk among the horizon”)
Now these are probably rather simple changes; mostly only dialogue has to be cut/muted/changed. But since I’ve never edited a film before and therefore have no idea how to even start, it’s going to be quite a challenge. That said, I’m grateful for any kind of help, how-tos and input along the way!