WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS.
Rise of Skywalker felt like a cross between fanfiction and a Jackson Pollack painting. Which like, was exhilarating in its way? But I still feel like it could have used a bit more focus, and I have 4 simple script suggestions that I think would have helped:
1. I felt like the primary theme of the movie was…or maybe I should say, “should have been”…growing up, in a way. Learning to sit with your childhood hurt and not let it derail you. Learning to live without the guidance of your parents. Learning to accept that the past isn’t going to change.
At least, that was what I took from Rey’s arc, especially the part about how a Jedi’s destiny is to face their fear–their fear of what lies inside, and their fear of the power that external things have to hurt them.
I think it would have been really easy to tighten the arcs of the other characters to parallel this:
(A) Poe. Cut the plot about his smuggling background. Instead focus on how he’s been comfortable for his whole adult life in his role of wisecracking flyboy, ostensibly bucking Leia’s authority but really relying on her to give him direction.
Now that Leia is dead, he has to step up and take responsibility (I mean in all honesty I’m not sure I buy that he’s second in line for command? But if we’re doing that, I guess) and he’s afraid of letting everyone down. He has to learn to face that and be a leader.
The moment with Lando saying that nobody’s ever ready was already so powerful and it would have tied into this really beautifully.
(B) Finn. In TFA Finn was the most afraid of the First Order–he almost runs. He lived under their thumb for years. And they could easily have focused on his fear that in the end, they’re bigger and stronger than he is, and he’s powerless against them.
Since it’s implied that he’s Force-sensitive and that his connection to the Force is part of what enabled him to resist the First Order, there’s also some really great stuff to be done here with him learning to trust himself and his instincts despite having been brainwashed and gaslighted his whole life. (This was already sort of there but I wanted more!)
(C) I don’t care about Kylo Ren, sorry, but I mean, he’s obsessed with how Luke tried to kill him and is trying to connect to a made-up idea of his evil grandpa so I feel like this writes itself.
(D) Rey. Like I said, her arc with this was the strongest but I would have liked to see more about her ambivalence about connection? Like they never quite resolved the tension between “Rey is a being of boundless love” and “Rey is terrified of her own potential for destruction” and I feel like it could have been so great!! And undid some of the damage from the prequels about how loving your family makes you weak or whatever bullshit.
For example, what if she fought her connection to Kylo Ren for the whole movie but then realized it was the key to defeating Palpatine and that she could allow herself to feel it without being subsumed in Kylo Ren’s will? If they were clearer about her resisting her connection to Finn because she was afraid of hurting him or of losing him or whatever, that would have explained why she kept running off alone at the most inconvenient times throughout the movie, and opened up space for an awesome moment for them in the final battle.
(It’s bullshit that Finn didn’t get to be there for defeating Palpatine. BULLSHIT. Even if just by like…sharing Force energy with Rey or something.)
2. Tying into the above: cut the idea that Luke and Leia knew that Rey was a Palpatine. Honestly I hated the whole “Rey is a Palpatine” thing anyway bc I’m just so tired of bloodlines and lost princes and blah blah blah but WHATEVER HERE WE ARE. This was really really a terrible call for 3 reasons:
(A) Luke would fucking never I will fight you. After what Obi Wan did to him?
(B) It made no sense with anything that happened in the other movies.
(C) It would have been SUCH a wonderful “Luke and Leia were also fallible humans doing the best they could” thing if Luke and Leia COULDN’T prepare Rey for this. Instead it’s just like, why not tell her?
3. This movie was burdened with some truly painful power inflation. I would have much preferred, if they were going to go this weird pasted-on “Rey and Kylo are a dyad in the Force” route, that they emphasize that as a source of an unusual level of power instead of just having EVERYONE be able to like….raise ships from beyond the grave and send their souls across the galaxy and all this shit that just started to feel like it was a superpower and not a deep connection to the Force in and around all living things that binds the galaxy together.
I also felt like the healing thing would have been more powerful if they’d at least partially connected it to specific relationships or people instead of maybe a general Jedi power? Like if Ben could specifically heal Rey because they had a bond, OR if it was a power only Rey had, but Ben could give BACK the life that she gave him in their fight earlier, or something.
I know this is a lot of stuff to fit into an already long movie, but a ton of this movie could have been cut. I actually had a really elegant solution for how I was going to pare down the entire middle “find the Wayfinder” section by combining the different settings–since the Wayfinder was basically a MacGuffin anyway, the big desert festival and the stuff with Poe’s hacker friend and the Death Star ruins planet with Finn’s new ex-Stormtrooper friend could have all been one planet with a little tweaking. But I forgot the details by the end of the movie because nothing about that plot stuck in my mind because see above re: Jackson Pollack painting.
That said: the hug was everything, and the OT3 was strong with this one, and that’s what I cared about most because I’m space trash. Finn/Rey/Poe FOREVER.
What do you think? How would you improve the Rise of Skywalker script?
I began this series to celebrate my book doctoring and research assistance freelance business, Rose Does the Research.
I promise if you hire me, I will give you much gentler feedback than this!