Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker is an interesting movie. It’s a movie that I have a lot of love for, but also a movie that has me scratching my head more often than not. For me personally, I can’t simply hate a Star Wars movie. I’m always gonna find some enjoyment, and above all else, I’m always trying to understand what the filmmakers behind the film were intending.
After The Rise of Skywalker, I decided to take break from Star Wars films. The Mandalorian was taking the world by storm, so I had that to satiate my Star Wars appetite at the time. But overall, after I finished my first viewing of The Rise of Skywalker, I had a feeling of relief and contentment. JJ Abrams and co. landed the ship that was the sequel trilogy. They may have crash landed it (“another happy landing”), but they landed it nonetheless. So after that I decided to simply let go of the saga for a while. And with leaving behind the sequel trilogy, along with the massive expectations that came with it, I felt I was ready to just enjoy Star Wars for what it is. Not what I want it to be. In other words, no more “backseat writing.”
But now two years later, I’ve decided to revisit the saga that I love. In honor of May the 4th of this year, I watched A New Hope, a and then went on to watch The Bad Batch. And while those are great, a certain film called out to me…. It was a feeling, I guess you could say…
When I saw The Rise of Skywalker in theaters two years ago, I had a lot of thoughts. But as a mentioned, overall I was content. Instead of focusing on the things that bugged me, I decided to live in that state of contentment until I felt a need to analyze it. Two years later and that time has come. And while I still love it- flaws and all, I think I’ve finally able to breakdown what would’ve made it amazing…
5. A Manifestation of Finn’s Force Sensitivity
(And Finn’s role in general)
When you look at the sequel trilogy as a whole, whether you love it or not, it’s hard not to feel like John Boyega got the short end of the stick. From the get go, John Boyega’s character was the first character we ever saw. And for pretty much for the entirety of the marketing for The Force Awakens, he was put at the forefront; leading audiences to believe he was the protagonist. He was even given the “hero shot” in the final trailer to solidify that. But by the time the film released, it became apparent that he was merely the co star to Daisy Ridley. At the time this wasn’t a big deal. Daisy Ridley’s charisma and likability made her a welcomed lead of the franchise; but as the films unfolded, John Boyega continued to take the back seat and by the end it’s hard not to feel shortchanged for what could’ve been. And The Rise of Skywalker is a huge part of that.
For much of the film Finn is reduced to the 3rd wheel with not much to do besides yelling “REY!!!” every 10 minutes. But JJ Abrams did plant some mystery early on that was promising and begged the question, Is Finn force sensitive? And while by the end he does indeed turn out to be, it’s pretty anticlimactic. The extent of Finns force sensitivity is him simply having a “Feeling.” But I personally feel Finn could’ve been given more.
For example; I think a cool route to go down would’ve been to have Rey secretly training Finn in the ways of the force. Off screen in between films, Finn would’ve told Rey his suspicions of his force abilities and Rey would’ve taught him, using the Jedi texts she got from Luke. This not only would’ve foreshadowed the reveal of Luke training Leia, but it would’ve led to a more exciting reveal for Finn in the final battle. And I think a good way to first reveal Finn’s force sensitivity is when him and Rey encounter the serpent. Rey could’ve approached the creature and used her Jedi abilities to calm it down, and Finn could’ve came out of nowhere and healed the creatures wound. This not only would’ve been a shocking reveal, but it would’ve tied into Rey getting the idea of transferring her life force to Ben Solo later on. And then in the final battle, when things look dire and Finn is trapped by a battalion of Sith troopers, he could’ve force pushed them back, shocking his fellow Resistance fighters. And to bring it full circle, Finn could’ve given the troopers an ultimatum, continue to resist and risk dying by his blade, or join his side.
4. The Final Order Being Clones
Speaking of Sith troopers, this is one of the things I’m shocked didn’t come to fruition because I feel like they were clearly setting it up. From the moment in The Force Awakens general Hux insults Kylo Ren for not having clones, I would’ve sworn that was gonna set up their return. Especially with the return of Palpatine and his Final Order, why would he not bring back Clone troopers when they were so successful the first time around? It was such a missed opportunity. It would’ve tied into the prequels, and on top of that it would’ve led to the idea of soldiers being brainwashed. And if they would’ve gone the route of Finn recruiting clones to fight on his side, that would’ve reinforced the idea that Clones first and foremost are individuals. A lesson Yoda taught in the Clone Wars TV show that continues to be relevant in Star Wars media to this day.
3. Ben Solo Living By The End
Many things in The Rise of Skywalker made me scratching me head. But only one made me laugh… Ben Solo’s death. It was so unnecessary and done in such a weird way. I get the sentiment, it’s a way for Ben to redeem himself in the eyes of the audience. But it just feels so repetitive to Return of the Jedi. I feel like if Ben Solo lived, that would’ve actually been more interesting because it would’ve forced Ben to actually redeem himself and atone for his crimes. Also with the idea of Rey and Ben being a dyad in the force (Which is such a cool concept I might add). I think it would’ve been really cool for the film to end on Rey and Ben being completely equal in the force after Ben revived Rey. And also they could’ve put a wrinkle in the mythos and made up a rule where Ben and Rey can’t be far apart or else their force bond will die out thus killing each other. This could’ve led to them having to spend time together which would’ve led to a natural romance. And then when Rey eventually takes the Skywalker name, it would’ve made a bit more sense.
2. Rey Being A Clone
This was a big one. As you can see from my pictures below, I had a lot of thoughts on who Rey was. I posted those Instagram stories shortly after the release of the first trailer for The Rise of Skywalker. After years of speculation with The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, I was convinced she was a clone. Especially since we knew Palpatine was gonna be involved in Episode 9 one way or another. But instead she ended up being the granddaughter to Palpatine. Which honestly, sounds like fan fiction. And this isn’t to diss on fan fiction. I’ve dabbled into it myself. But the way The Rise of Skywalker went about it was very uninventive. And the unfortunate part is, they could’ve had it all.
The vision featured in The Last Jedi with Rey seeing a bunch of mirrored versions of herself perfectly set up the idea of her being a clone and a nobody. And as I’ve mentioned before, Clones are a huge part of Star Wars, they speak to the idea of what makes a person an individual. And Rey’s journey throughout the trilogy has always been about identity. So I saw no better opportunity for Rey to confront her identity than with coming to the realization that she is simply a clone imbued with the powers of darkside force users. This would’ve explained her natural connection to the force and her inclination to dip into the darkside. Plus it still would’ve allowed for the involvement of Palpatine, except without the silly idea of her being related to him by blood. In the end, I’m content with her lineage. I think the idea of a found identity is powerful and honestly something Star Wars has always been about. But I would’ve done it a bit differently.
1. Luke Uniting The Galaxy Against The Final Order
Ok, I take back what I said about the last one. THIS is the big one! And quite possibly the most mindboggling one. Whether you like The Last Jedi or not, you can’t disagree with the fact that Luke’s sacrifice at the end of the film was the perfect catalyst to unite the galaxy against the First Order. And when it became apparent that that was what The Rise of Skywalker was gonna be about, I was extremely excited. But then as I watched the film unfold, I started to realize they were pretty much ignoring the entirety of Luke’s arc in The Last Jedi. I mean, besides that one scene with him and Rey where he admits he was wrong, they don’t really talk about what he did in that film, which is a shame because it was really powerful. Instead they have Lando and Chewie fly around (off screen) to the core systems to ask for help. And while it’s cool that Leia’s death serves as an inspiration for the Resistance, there was a huge missed opportunity for not utilizing Luke’s sacrifice to do the same. Here’s how I would’ve done it.
By the end of the Last Jedi the Resistance is pretty much on their own. Leia puts out a call and no one comes. The only one who does come is Luke Skywalker. And what they should’ve done is made up a reason as to why no one answered the call. Since JJ had the benefit of hindsight, that reason could’ve been Palpatine secretly jamming transmission and communications. So while it would seem like the Resistance were alone, in reality no one would have even known. And then by the time The Rise of Skywalker roles around, they would not only only have discovered Palptines involvement, but they would also find out that he was indeed cutting off their communications. This would be after Leia’s death. So the movie would proceed as it usually does, except it would be Lando and Chewie taking a message to the core systems that would tell the events of the battle of Crait. As they fly around each system a message would appear on the holonet of Luke Skywalker walking out to face the First Order with a voiceover of Leia’s message. This would not only reveal the message that Leia gave in the Last Jedi, but it would also echo Leia’s call for help in A New Hope. And in the end, Poe would take over the voiceover and reveal that Leia died fighting this war and that the galaxy needs their help.
This would’ve honored the heroes that came before and would’ve connected the sequel trilogy together making it feel more cohesive. And while Abrams and Chris Terrio claim to be on the same page as Rian Johnson, the way they treat his narrative decisions in the film seem very tongue and cheek and disingenuous. If they utilized Luke’s death in this way, it would’ve made all the difference…
These are the 5 biggest changes I would make to Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker to make it amazing. I still enjoy the heck out of it, but I think there were some missed opportunities. But overall, every change I put forth was with the intention of keeping with what I think the filmmakers were intending and with what I think Star Wars is about. I’ve always felt that JJ Abrams and Chris Terrio had an impossible task to close out the Star Wars saga, especially during a time of divisiveness within the fandom. But I think they did their best. And I’m confident that if they had more time, the final product would’ve been a bit more polished and maybe some of these ideas would’ve made it into the script. And in a perfect world, Abrams and Johnson would’ve collaborated a bit more. Because I think they both brought something unique to Star Wars. But in the end, it’s over, and we cant reverse back time (not unless we have access to the world between worlds). But it’s fun to analyze and look back at what could’ve been….
To quote Yoda:
“…we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters…”
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