‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Writer Reveals How They Should Have Handled the Story Differently
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker isn’t just another story in the “galaxy far, far away.” The film is the final installment of the nine-part Skywalker saga. And as such, the movie carried the burden of tying together everything that preceded it.
From the beloved original trilogy to the polarizing The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker needs to reckon with it all. Director J.J. Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio had to touch on every story thread fans had been waiting to see pay off. The result is a film overwhelmed with obligation and a divisive one at that.
‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ divided fans
Lucasfilm likely hoped Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker would unite the Star Wars fandom, Baby Yoda style. Unfortunately, the film has only deepened the divide in the saga’s fan base. Some fans just want the saga to serve a healthy helping of hot piping nostalgia. But others hope Star Wars can evolve and make daring steps forward.
To that end, the litmus test for The Rise of Skywalker has often boiled down to The Last Jedi. Fans who balked at Rian Johnson’s 2017 film have embraced Abrams’ as a return to form. But the saga’s conclusion underwhelmed those who respected and even admired Johnson’s take.
Granted, The Rise of Skywalker faced the challenges of having to round out the saga, resolve the late Carrie Fisher’s Leia storyline, and pick up the narrative where The Last Jedi left off. More than ever, fans can tell the sequel trilogy never had a plan in place. The team at Lucasfilm, arguably, did the best they could under the circumstances. Or did they?
The film’s co-writer felt the pressure
With so much ground to cover, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker would have benefited from screen time. Series like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight all split single stories into two films. So Awards Daily recently asked Terrio if the team ever discussed a similar approach for The Rise of Skywalker.
I wish we could have [split it in half]. There is a lot of plot in the movie, and as a writer, you always want scenes to let the plot breathe more. If there were a way of doing it, splitting it would have been my dream. We could have written these characters forever. There was so much backstory that had to be left by the wayside.
The reason not to make The Rise of Skywalker two separate films ultimately boiled down to the saga’s tradition adhering to the trilogy format. As Terrio said, creator George Lucas always envisioned a trilogy of trilogies for the Skywalker saga.
I wish that we could have that, but George always said it was nine movies. That was the natural size of the saga, and so, other than a few initial discussions, we never really advanced that conversation. Of course, as a writer, it breaks your heart to leave stuff on the table that you think would have given the story more depth and nuance and to give the characters more to do. Speaking for myself and not on the part of the studio, I do wish there could have been a Part 1 and a Part 2.
Of course, Lucasfilm quickly cast aside Lucas’ unrealized plans for the sequel trilogy. So it feels a bit disingenuous if the studio’s reason for cramming so much story into one film is to suddenly honor his wishes. Still, fans can at least respect Terrio’s unfulfilled desire to make two films.
Should the ‘Star Wars’ finale have been split in half?
Many popular sci-fi and fantasy sagas have chosen to split their final entries into two films. Granted, examples like Harry Potter are based on book series, with their stories already set in stone. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is fortunate then in that it has no such source material to follow.
That being said, the unique circumstances of creating a worthy conclusion to a 42-year saga should have been enough for Lucasfilm to greenlight a 10th and final entry. Fans would have likely accepted it if the sequel trilogy extended to a quadrilogy — thanks to the Alien franchise for that — if it meant a smoother cinematic experience. It worked for the Avengers.
As it stands, The Rise of Skywalker is the most scatter-brained entry in the entire saga. So many plotlines and characters factor into it, including the sudden re-emergence of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Breaking that all into a two-part epic would have likely resulted in an overall better finale.
Star Wars may have popularized the concept of a cinematic trilogy. But The Rise of Skywalker makes a compelling case why the series should put that storytelling format to bed.