So, I don’t necessarily like doing this sort of thing.
Even if I don’t like a film, I would rather respect the filmmakers/writers vision and deal with the story they’ve given me than try to change it.
I mean, there are things I don’t like in The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones: but I haven’t tried to ‘fix’ them – I just accept those films for what they are, enjoying the stuff I love and trying to tolerate the stuff I don’t. There are some ‘fan edits’ of those films out there – but I’ve never liked the idea of that, preferring on principle to deal only with the work that the creator(s) intended to produce.
With The Rise of Skywalker, in the future I’ll probably feel the same way: enjoying the stuff I enjoy and trying to tolerate the stuff I don’t enjoy as much.
But because Episode IX is still so fresh in our minds: and because I can’t stop thinking about it, I’ve decided to actually share here some of what I’ve been thinking about in terms of how I would try to ‘improve’ this story.
And I mean no disrespect to Abrams or anyone else in doing this. Being the lifelong Star Wars fan I am, I just can’t help myself.
The fact that I’m even bothering demonstrates how much I care about it – there are lots of films I have issues with and I never care enough to actually think about how I would alter them. But this is Star Wars… and so here we are.
I also acknowledge that these things are subjective: and that my ‘fixes’ might seem worse than the actual existing film to some people.
And that’s fine. But these things have been bouncing about in my head: so I just want to let it out and then move on. I have actually also been looking at the entire Sequel Trilogy in the same way: but, for now, let’s just stay focused on The Rise of Skywalker.
Firstly, I’m choosing to deal with the film on its own terms: in other words, this isn’t an attempt to imagine a completely different film or story, but instead to work with the version of The Rise of Skywalker we were given – and to insert changes or ‘tweaks’ that I think would make it work better for me as both a film and as an end to the Skywalker saga.
So it’s not really a rewrite – but a series of cosmetic alterations.
So, for example, I’m accepting that Palpatine is back. Even though I think the Darth Plagueis route would might’ve been a better story direction, I’m accepting Palpatine being the returning villain for this conclusion of the saga – because it’s what J.J and Terrio went with.
My intention here is to make the changes to the story I want to – but while preserving the overall or basic story/film that J.J and Terrio gave us as much as possible. Any other way of doing this – as in, trying to reimagine the entire story from the ground up – would be futile and would take forever. Besides, I like enough of The Rise of Skywalker that I wouldn’t want to outright dismiss it anyway: and I have a lot of respect for Abrams as a filmmaker.
I actually think that, in the broad strokes, The Rise of Skywalker is actually a potent story, albeit a flawed one: and I’m convinced that just a few changes to the story would make the difference.
The changes I’ve outlined here are not all that numerous: but I think they are transformative enough.
Because the story as it currently exists in the film is so complicated, I’ve approached these notes in a non-linear fashion: I’m not starting at the beginning and proceeding in a straight line.
Also, if there’s anything from the existing film that I don’t mention, then you can take it that those things would stay exactly the same as in the existing film. I’d say 90 percent of the existing film would remain the same.
First thing I would change is to have Palpatine’s ‘broadcast’ – referred to in the opening crawl – actually be shown in the film. Start the film off without Palpatine. Have at least twenty minutes of Palpatine-free story: focus on Rey’s training, Finn and Poe’s mission on the Falcon, etc. And THEN have Palpatine’s galaxy-wide broadcast suddenly interrupt everything – and show everyone reacting to it and trying to process its ramifications: show Leia and co at the Resistance base watching the broadcast, and Kylo and Hux and the First Order leadership, both reacting to the message and trying to process what it means.
Palpatine’s broadcast abruptly changes the context and stakes of everything: both for the First Order and for the Resistance. Now the First Order leadership argues over what to do, as does the Resistance leadership. The Resistance leadership naturally decides it needs to go stop Palpatine from carrying out his agenda: while the First Order struggles more with what to do, with some – like Hux and Pryde, maybe – saying they should form an alliance with the Emperor, while maybe Kylo is more resistant to that.
We have a brief scene where Kylo talks to the Knights of Ren – either in person or via hologram. He tells them he won’t tolerate any challenge to his position as Supreme Leader – not even from Palpatine. He asks the Knights to reaffirm their loyalty to him.
They do so, but there is a hint or sense of doubt.
We establish that Hux and some others are unhappy with Kylo Ren as Supreme Leader – he acts too much out of recknlessness and emotion and can’t be trusted to rule the First Order wisely. It is implied that Hux is going to find some way to betray Kylo. General Pryde, meanwhile, is shown secretly communicating with Palpatine and Snoke on Exegol (yes, I said Snoke – I’ll come back to that), promising to bring the First Order’s forces over to Palpatine.
You could THEN show Kylo going off on his own to investigate what’s going on with the Emperor: you can actually show Kylo on Mustafar and actually INSIDE Vader’s Castle, where he finds the Wayfinder. This way, we really get that connection between Kylo and Vader reinforced. We could get at least one shot or backdrop of the lava fields – just to connect us visually with the prequels and Revenge of the Sith.
In this scene in Vader’s castle, Kylo’s sense of connection to Vader should feel intense: maybe we even hear Vader-like breathing in the background somehow. This would also be the scene where Hayden Christensen first returns as Anakin Skywalker – Anakin’s ghost appears to Kylo very faintly (like Obi-Wan’s ghost was very faint at the beginning of Empire Strikes Back): and he tells his grandson to turn back from the dark path.
Kylo is shaken.
The rest of the plot can then unfold more or less as it does in the film too: Rey, Finn and Poe are off on their mission, looking for the Wayfinder and the way to Exegol, etc.
On Exegol, Kylo finds not Palpatine – but Snoke.
Snoke laughs at Kylo for thinking he’d actually killed him in the previous film. Snoke reveals that he is extremely old and long-lived because he keeps cloning himself: whenever one of his clones is killed, there is another to take his place.
This explains why Snoke says in TLJ (just before Kylo kills him) “I cannot be betrayed, I cannot be beaten…”.
Kylo asks if Snoke faked Palpatine’s broadcast for some reason. Snoke says no, he didn’t. He says he wants to show Kylo something. He proceeds to take Kylo into the chamber where Palpatine is.
Snoke reveals that he has brought Palpatine back to life, using a combination of ancient Sith secrets and Kaminoan cloning technology. He tells Kylo how Sith worshippers/loyalists managed to save Palpatine’s dead body from the Death Star and they took the body to the Unknown Regions (this isn’t a great explanation – but I can’t come up with a good explanation for how Palpatine survived the second Death Star).
Snoke discovered the Sith temple on Exegol years ago and took control of the entire operation. He spent years using his ancient Sith knowledge to try to restore Palpatine to life, working from the journals of Darth Plagueis.
In the end – and by learning over many years how to commune with the consciousness of dead Sith – he was able to restore Palpatine’s Force Consciousness or essence to the broken, damaged corpse of the dead Emperor – but Palpatine still needs to be kept alive by a life-support machine/system; until a more complete solution can be found through the Force to restore the Emperor to full life. Snoke believes that Rey is the key to this – and Palpatine tells Kylo to bring Rey to Exegol; and promises to make Kylo Ren the Supreme Emperor in the Final Order of the planned new ‘Sith Empire’.
Snoke explains to Kylo that the First Order was just designed to lay the groundwork and pave the way for the Sith Empire.
The rest of the plot plays out largely the same – with Kylo Force-skyping with Rey and trying to convince her to come to Exegol with him.
However, Kylo doesn’t intend to deliver Rey to Snoke and Palpatine – but to join with Rey to destroy them both (and maybe he tells Rey again, “I meant what I said before… it’s time to let old things die”). He knows he can’t destroy them on his own.
So… both Palpatine and Snoke are on Exegol. But the implication is that Snoke sees Palpatine as his puppet: he sees Palpatine as useful to spread fear across the galaxy and make any struggle against the Dark Side seem futile. But at the same time, he benefits from Palpatine’s resurrection being only partial – and Palpatine being in a weak, crippled state.
For the record, although I would prefer that Snoke be revealed as ‘Darth Plagueis’, since the writers themselves chose not to do that, I’m honouring that here – and so, no, Snoke is just Snoke.
In terms of ‘fixing’ or improving the story of Ben’s redemption or his return to the light, all we need is for the Han Solo moment in the film not to feel so sudden. Instead, as I suggested in my initial review of the film, this is accomplished by having multiple characters trying to reach out to Ben at different points in the story: beginning with Luke, then Anakin, and then finally Leia using the Force to trigger Ben’s ‘memory’/vision of Han Solo.
At some point, either before or just after Kylo is on Exegol, he receives a visit from the Force-Ghost of Luke Skywalker. Luke, we learn, has been trolling Kylo – fulfilling his promise from TLJ (“See you around, kid…”). Luke tries to turn Kylo away from the Dark Side, urging him to return to the light and to go back to his mother and help both her and the Resistance.
Luke also tells him that Rey needs him and that he needs Rey. Kylo refuses.
Some time later, Kylo is visited again by the Force Ghost of Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen): this time Anakin’s ghost appears a lot clearer and more fully. Like Luke, Anakin is trying to convince Kylo to return to the light. Anakin tells him that he has already walked the path that Kylo is now on – and that Luke turned him back to the light.
He tells his grandson that this Dark Side path creates only pain and suffering – and offers no reward. He tells Kylo that Kylo has been deceived by Palpatine just as he, Anakin, once was. He reminds Kylo that he is now the last Skywalker – and that the destiny of the last Skywalker is not in the Dark Side.
We can tell that Kylo is more shaken by Anakin’s visit than by Luke’s: he is still not turned at this stage, but we can see there is conflict in him.
And then, as in the film, when Kylo is finally confronting Rey on the Death Star wreckage, Kylo has the vision of his father, Han Solo – the last piece of the puzzle. That scene would play out the same it does in the existing movie: he knows it’s only a memory of his father and that his mother has reached out to him through the Force.
But this final connection with his parents – combined with the interventions from both Luke and Anakin, have finally overwhelmed Kylo. So he throws his lightsaber in to the sea – and Ben Solo is back.
The one change I would make to this scene as it currently exists in the film is that I would NOT have Rey fatally stab Kylo the way she does. Instead, we show that Kylo has beaten Rey (which the film already does)… but, just as he looms over to strike the final blow, he hesitates and cannot bring himself to kill her.
And that’s when he hears or senses Leia reaching out to him. Silently, he spares Rey. Rey, shaken and confused, flees.
This way, we can show that Kylo/Ben simply cannot bring himself to kill Rey (even before the Leia/Han intervention), either because he has feelings for her or because he knows he needs her: and that Rey SEES that Kylo is unwilling to kill her too.
But by having, first Luke, then Anakin and then finally Han/Leia reach out to Ben, we’re seeing that the entire family is trying to reach Ben Solo one last time – and it’s the combined power of each of their interventions that turns Ben back to the light.
In the scene before this, where Leia goes to lay down and she reaches out to her son through the Force, we could have Maz Kanata explain not just the Leia is reaching out to her son one last time, but that she has been meditating on what her brother Luke did on Crait – and that Luke showed her the way.
When we then soon see Rey on Ach-To, putting herself into exile like Luke did, we stretch this part out for longer. In the existing film, it’s just one scene that is very rushed – Rey is on Ach-To and Luke comes and catches the saber and pep-talks her into immediately going back out into the fight. What I would have instead is Luke not appearing that quickly. Instead, we see Rey on Ach-To, burning the Tie Fighter; and then we see her settling down in Luke’s old home. We pan out to wide shots of the familiar island, with some of the familiar music/score from The Last Jedi kicking in.
We’d cut away to some other scene or scenes elsewhere – either with the First Order or with the Resistance, etc – and then we’d come back to Ach-To AT NIGHT. This allows us to see that some time has passed. And now Luke’s Force Ghosts appears – again, at NIGHT so that the Force-Ghost looks better on-screen and not as clunky as it does in the existing film.
Instead of appearing as he does in the existing film, Luke would appear as the younger, shorter-haired version of himself that he projected to Crait.
Luke can then give her a similar talk that he does in the existing film, telling her that she has to fulfil her destiny and that the galaxy needs her.
He raises his X-Wing from the water, tells her it needs to be fixed up a little – but she’s a good mechanic, after all. In this version, while Rey is working on repairing the X-Wing, Luke tells her about Leia’s training, Leia’s vision of the future (as shown in the existing film), and why Leia didn’t tell her about Palpatine being her grandfather.
Luke tells her it’s her destiny to confront her ancestor, just as it was once his destiny to confront his father. He warns her, however, to “not underestimate the powers of the Emperor…”
We later see Rey leaving Ach-To in Luke’s X-Wing: we see Luke’s ghost standing and watching her leave – in an exact replication of the visual/scene from The Last Jedi in which Luke had watched Rey leave in the Millennium Falcon.
While we’re looking at Luke’s Ghost standing there, we suddenly see Yoda’s ghost also appear beside Luke. “That girl is our last hope,” Luke says. “No,” Yoda says, “there is another…”
The other Yoda is referring to is Ben.
On Exegol, Rey encounters Snoke and Palpatine.
As in the existing film, Rey fights and defeats the Crimson-Empire-style Royal Guards and tries to get at the Emperor – only for Snoke to stop her.
Ben arrives to join Rey. The shot of Ben arriving should closely echo/mimic the scene of Anakin arriving to interrupt Palpatine and Mace Windu in Revenge of the Sith: i.e, he arrives in his ship, sets down, and then jogs into the structure to find them.
Palpatine now reveals his true plan – he wanted Ben and Rey to come to him together. The reason he told Kylo to bring Rey was precisely so that they would BOTH be here – he’d lied to him about making him Emperor. He explains how Rey and Kylo are a ‘dyad’ in the Force, created by the Force itself. And he intends to consume their power/energy into himself.
The Sith ritual begins; with all the Sith worshippers and spirits chanting. Rey looks around in the darkness and can’t tell if these are ghosts or real people. Palpatine begins to suck power from the two of them: Snoke is also using the Force to channel Kylo and Rey’s energies into Palpatine.
As in the existing film, Palpatine is replenished by this and made whole.
A reborn Palpatine kills Snoke, telling Rey and Ben that he will tolerate no rivals to his power – and that Snoke has served his purpose. He explains that Snoke thought he could make Palpatine his puppet – but Snoke was the true puppet and Palpatine is the true master.
As in the existing film, Palpatine then throws Kylo into the abyss, saying that this is the end of the Skywalker story.
The ritual is then completed: Palpatine declares that all of the Sith now live in him. Rey, depleted by the siphoning of her energies, collapses.
We see a delirious, semi-conscious Rey now having visions, just like in TFA. She sees vague images of Jakku, the Ach-To island, the swamps of Dagobah, the Dune Sea on Tatooine, and the council chamber of the old Jedi Temple on Coruscant: and begins hearing faint whispers of voices, just like in TFA: she hears her own voice (the “come back!” scream from TFA), then Luke’s voice (Ach-To), then Yoda’s (Dagobah), then Obi-Wan’s (Tatooine), and then Anakin’s (the Jedi Temple).
As in the film, we see Rey’s consciousness awaken and her saying “Be with me”. As in the film, we rise up to the stars and start to hear the voices of past Jedi urging her to get up. At the climaxe of this we actually see the Force Ghosts of both Luke and Anakin appear to both Rey and Palpatine, gesturing her back onto her feet.
Including Leia’s force ghost in this would be perfect too – but I acknowledge that this might’ve been difficult, due to the absence of Carrie in real life.
A laughing Palpatine sees Rey get back up and also see the spirits of Luke and Anakin. He says, “All the Sith live in me…” And Rey replies, “All the Jedi live in me…”
As in the existing film, Palpatine attacks her with lightning: Rey uses both Luke’s and Leia’s lightsabers to block it… and she pushes closer and closer towards him, blocking the lightning all the while, with some of the lightning burning and blistering her face, until she is right next to Palpatine, deflecting the energy back at him at close-range.
Possibly – we could even show Anakin and Luke gesturing intently with their hands: implying that they are somehow using the Force to aid Rey.
Palpatine is overwhelmed, and the Sith spirits begin to disappear from the chamber: and, as in the existing film, Palpatine is destroyed. Rey collapses.
The entire Exegol structure is now shaking and starting to collapse.
We cut to an unconscious Ben Solo elsewhere. He is struggling to get back up. The Force Ghost of either Anakin or Leia appears to Ben, holding out their hand for him to take and getting him back to his feet.
Ben arrives at where Rey is. As in the film, he cradles her and he uses his own life-force to heal her. The burns vanish from Rey’s face and she regains consciousness. “You came back for me,” she says (echoing her line and surprise at Finn coming back for her in TFA). Ben is weak from using his energies to save her.
She gets him up to his feet. And they begin to make their way back out of the temple.
But it isn’t over. This is when the Knights of Ren attack (it would’ve been established earlier in the film that the Knights of Ren switched their loyalty from Kylo to Palpatine the moment Palpatine’s broadcast went out). Ben and Rey are both too weak from their ordeal to stage a fight, but they try – using Luke and Leia’s sabers. But they are losing.
Ben tells Rey to go – and that he can hold off the Knights of Ren on his own. Rey refuses to leave him; but Ben insists that she must escape because she is the last jedi. He Force-pushes the Knights out of the way for a moment, to clear Rey a path to flee.
Rey flees, but looks back: and sees Ben still fighting the Knights of Ren.
This is the last we see of Ben: we don’t know if he lives or dies. We only know that Exegol is falling apart – and Ben is still there, fighting his former allies.
Rey escapes in Luke’s X-Wing.
As in the existing film, a victory celebration is now going on at the Resistance base. Back at the victory celebration, Finn and Poe don’t know where Rey is. The assumption is that she has died.
But the X-Wing shows up and Rey returns to celebrate with her friends.
The film, in its existing form, expands the celebration only a little – to show Endor, Bespin and Jakku. As it is, showing Jakku seems a little pointless. In my head-version, this is more like the end of Return of the Jedi: we would see Bespin and Endor (have to have that Wicket/Ewoks cameo, after all), but also show celebrations on Passana, Coruscant and maybe one or two other familiar locations.
In my head-version, we see Rey visit the body of Leia to have one last moment with her. Maz Kanata tells Rey that she thinks Leia is ‘waiting for her son’ before becoming one of the Force. Maz then leaves. Rey says some poignant last words towards Leia. And then she sees Leia’s body fade away, becoming one with the Force – implying to her that Ben Solo must now be dead too, which is why Leia has faded.
We see Rey emotionally process this. Artoo, who has been with Leia the whole time, sadly beeps.
Outside in the celebration, Rey prepares to leave. While everyone else is partying, Rey quietly slips away to Luke’s X-Wing. BB8 follows her and no one notices. As Rey powers up the X-Wing and prepares to take off, Finn finally notices. Panicking, he rushes towards the X-Wing, wanting to stop her and calling her name – an almost precise replication of the Takodanna scene in TFA when Finn saw Kylo Ren kidnap her and he ran to catch her.
Rey looks down, smiles at him sweetly, and then takes off. Finn watches her go. Poe comes up behind Finn, asking where she’s going. Finn says he doesn’t know: but that he doesn’t think she’s coming back. “And I never got to tell her…” he says, and trails off.
Poe asks what it was that Finn was waiting all this time to tell her. But we don’t get an answer.
Instead we cut to Tatooine and the Lars homestead. And the ending unfolds pretty much the same as in the existing film. Rey buries the sabers. The old woman approaches and asks her who she is and she says “Rey Skywalker”. She sees the Force Ghosts of Luke, Leia, Anakin… and BEN.
We cut to Rey and BB8 and the binary sunset. And the film ends.
In this version, Finn – like in the existing film – has been trying to tell Rey something the whole time, but never gets to. In my mind, this secret is that he is in love with her. This retroactively makes TFA an even stronger film.
One additional change I would make to this scene is that Rey would still be wearing Luke’s X-wing helmet: because this is such a sweet echo/throwback to the first time we met Rey on Jakku in TFA and we saw her put on the X-wing helmet.
Another change I thought about was having Threepio come to Tatooine with her instead of BB8: because Threepio was born on Tatooine and Threepio has the connection to Tatooine via Anakin (who built him) and with the Lars homestead (where he lived in both Attack of the Clones and A New Hope). But I’m not sure that would work, because Rey doesn’t really have a relationship with Threepio – whereas she does with BB8. And the BB8 connection circles us back to TFA – so that’s fine.
I also think that when Threepio gets his memory wiped, it shouldn’t then get fixed again later. This is the last film anyway: Threepio should get to make the sacrifice – and he has to get to know Artoo all over again.
A few additional, minor changes. Dominic Monaughan’s character is ditched entirely – all of his lines are spoken by Rose.
I also like the idea that, instead of merely hinting at it through Jannah, we can say that there are small Stormtrooper rebellions going on in various places – all inspired by the story of Finn and what he did in TFA. This would really give Finn a full and proper story arc from TFA to TROS.
As far as the climactic battle around Exegol goes, with the fleet battle and Lando returning with all the reinforcements: I don’t like it as it exists in the current film – but I also can’t think of another way to do it. The way the existing story is constructed, you pretty much have to have that battle unfold the way it does.
The one addition I think I would make is to show Palpatine’s ‘Sith Fleet’ destroying more than just Kijimi – have it that a dozen planets have been wiped out: and that the Sith Empire is doing this as a warning to all planets and systems not to resist Palpatine’s new rule.
It’s all these planets being wiped out that convinces the Resistance that they have to gather their forces and attack Exegol immediately. This is also what causes all those hundreds of ships to accompany Lando at the end – they’ve seen what happened to all those planets.
And that’s really about it. In terms of preserving the basic/existing film, those are all the changes I would make – just to make TROS work a little better for me as a fan.
Of course, with all the rumours of a different ‘J.J cut’ out there or even of a Lucas/Abrams draft, there are probably multiple versions of this story in existence anyway. Who knows what the ultimate ‘best’ version is.
The ‘best’ vesion might even be the one we’ve got.
Anyway, these notes/’fixes’ are no disrespect to Abrams or the film we got. Just some things I would change for the sake of my own happiness. It doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t accept The Rise of Skywalker in its existing form.
I could look at ANY Star Wars films – even my favorite ones – and note a few things I would modify or insert to make them work even better for me. Like everything else I write when it comes to Star Wars, it’s done out of love – not hate.
I like these tweaks, especially the whole family joining in the effort to redeem Ben and the Force Ghosts appearing during Rey’s confrontation with Palpatine. It would also be nice to see Palpatine’s broadcast the way you described. On the other hand, I think I prefer the way Ben’s death plays out in the actual movie, although I would also like to see his Force Ghost at the end. Having C-3PO go to Tatooine with Rey is a great idea too, but it would probably require some additional explanation I can’t think of at the moment.
On Threepio, I’m thinking bit would’ve been better if he didn’t get his memory restored: and then he maybe goes back to Tatooine with Rey, but has no memory of already having lived in that house before. This way, it’s an echo of A New Hope, where he becomes a resident in that house when Luke buys him, but doesn’t remember having already lived there (as seen in Episode II). So it would be like Threepio is stuck in a repeating loop, but doesn’t even know 🙂 It’s like poetry, it rhymes 🙂