One of the biggest criticisms that has been levelled at Disney’s handling of the Star Wars franchise in the wake of The Rise of Skywalker is that the studio didn’t plan out the entire trilogy in full, resulting in a story lacking in cohesion. My answer to that has always been that NO Star Wars trilogy has ever been planned out in full (George Lucas famously made things up as he went along which is why Luke’s crush suddenly turns out to be his sister and his biggest enemy is suddenly his dad) but now I have another: They kinda did plan this out.
We know for a fact that Rian Johnson had already penned the script for The Last Jedi before JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens even completed filming. As such, saying that Johnson had deviated from the plan and done his own thing, tossing away Abrams’ ideas, is demonstrably false. They worked together, after a fashion, as each filmmaker was aware of what the other was doing. And it would appear that this also applies to Colin Trevorrow.
The Jurassic World filmmaker was originally supposed to write/direct the closing chapter in the trilogy, but he unceremoniously exited the production due to those old “creative differences” with Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy. JJ Abrams was asked to come back to replace Trevorrow and promptly tried to “fix” The Last Jedi’s more controversial elements and that’s how we ended up with The Rise of Skywalker.
But that was never Trevorrow’s plan. Not only was he going to carry on from The Last Jedi in a cohesive arc, but I’ll be damned if what he had planned actually sounds pretty cool. And we now know those details thanks to a massive leak from filmmaker, DVD producer, and YouTuber Robert Meyer Burnett (via Reddit), delving into the script that Trevorrow wrote with frequent collaborator Derek Connolly.
Now firstly, we see claims of Star Wars leaks all the time on Reddit, 99% of which is pure fiction. In this case, though, both IndieWire and AVClub, two pretty respectable and reliable news publications, have stepped forward to verify that this leak lines up almost perfectly with everything they’ve uncovered in their own separate investigations. So while not officially confirmed, I think it’s safe to assume it as such for now. I also have to point out that just last month MakingStarWars, another reputable scooper, claimed to have had access to Trevorrow’s leaked script, only to have the filmmaker himself completely shoot it down. As IndieWire reports, it appears that MakingStarWars did have a legit Episode IX script, but it was a different, unused draft penned by Jack Thorn after Trevorrow’s departure.
As for Trevorrow’s own script though, it was titled Star Wars: Duel of the Fates and that’s already won me over as that’s also the title of arguably the greatest piece of Star Wars music ever written by the legendary John Williams. As for the rest of the script, you can watch Burnett’s video analysis below but I’ve also posted the very lengthy transcript of the script breakdown with some thoughts following that.
WARNING: There are some The Rise of Skywalker SPOILERS included!!!
The iron grip of the FIRST ORDER has spread to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Only a few scattered planets remain unoccupied. Traitorous acts are punishable by death.
Determined to suffocate a growing unrest, Supreme Leader KYLO REN has silenced all communication between neighboring systems.
Led by GENERAL LEIA ORGANA, the Resistance has planned a secret mission to prevent their annihilation and forge a path to freedom…
– Opens at the Kuat Shipyards (man on a mission-style)
– BB-8 and Rose Tico (allegedly a key character in script) are infiltrating Kuat Moon where First Order build their ships (workers are oppressed). There is an orbital ring and moon below it. Finn and Poe are there. No R2/3PO. Rey arrives.
– The plan: Send explosive into the power shaft that delivers raw ore into the ring.
– Plan goes wrong. (RBM loves dialogue at this moment.) First Order is able to contain blast. Admiral Vaughn says Resistance tactics are “pitful.”
– Rey disguised as a Tusken Raider is revealed to have created her own weapon (a double-blade lightsaber hybrid of her staff and Luke’s cracked saber).
– They battle and Poe, Finn, Rose, Rey, and BB-8 STEAL A STAR DESTROYER (Eclipse-class) and escape.
– The Knife 9 a ship containing the Knights of Ren arrives a Kuat. Ataska (?) Ren kills Admiral Vaughn for his failure.
– CUT TO: CORUSCANT. No longer a vibrant city. “The new structures are built atop the art deco structure of the old republic.” Occupied by the First Order now (they have a citadel/palace there). Citizens are scavengers now. Hux is now CHANCELLOR HUX and is addressing Bisc Kova (traitor who helped Resist. steal Star Destroyer.) Kova is executed with a light blade guillotine.
– Hux and Commander Selleck have a meeting with several alien war lords (ode to ANH imperial council scene). First Order has allies. They are aware of Rey being the last Jedi. Council wants to know WHERE IS KYLO REN? He is missing. Hux only knows he has gone searching for something of great power.
– CUT TO: MUSTAFAR. Kylo Ren is alone, except for a Darth Maul-esque droid. He has stubble indicating search has been for a long time. Ren is being HAUNTED by Luke’s force ghost.
– Luke: “This is where the dark path leads; an empty tomb.” Kylo (retort): “Where did your path lead?”
– Luke is trying to convince him to go back to Leia. Kylo: “I’m going to be more powerful than any Jedi…even you.”
– In Vader’s Temple, Kylo finds a Sith Holocron which reveals a hologram of Palpatine. Recording is for Vader. Palpatine has a contingency for Vader if Luke kills him. Vader is to take Luke to the Remnicore (?) System to see TOR VALUM, Master of Sith/Palpatine’s Teacher.
– After scanning Kylo, the Holocron explodes and releases red lighting which burns Kylo, who screams.
– CUT TO: RESISTANCE BASE on KOR-ALAF (?). Leia is introduced as she feels what’s happening to Ben. Chewbacca and Lt. Connix tell Leia that the Kuat team is back. They’re shocked to see a Star Destroyer (which is landed onto the planet). Funny moment w/ Rey using Mind Trick on First Order officers who were still on the ship.
– Rey confides in Finn that she doesn’t feel like she has what it takes to be a Jedi and can’t live up to everyone’s expectations. Finn asks her if she still senses Kylo. Rey confesses she’s been having nightmares. Finn asks if it’s Kylo. Rey says she can’t explain their connection.
– Finn: “You have to shut him out. He can’t change. It’s too late.” Rey: “It’s never to late to change. You taught me that Finn.”
– Resistance realizes that the Star Destroyer stills has most of it’s weapons (tanks, TIEs, etc). Only missing piece is an army to use it.
– Rey researching the Jedi texts from Anch-To discovers that under Coruscant Jedi Temple there is a communication system (called a FORCE BEACON) from the Old Republic that can send a signal to 50 planets. They plan on using it to get allies. First Order can’t stop it, since it predates Imperial tech. Rey: “Hope is all we have left.”
– Force Ghost Luke appears as Rey trains. Luke is pushing Rey to get stronger in the Force, while he is pushing Kylo to let Ben out.
– Kylo makes it back to Coruscant. Face is damaged. Mandalorian armor is smelted and is been applied to his face. Confronts Hux and belittles him, saying he doesn’t need titles.
– Rey to Luke as they train: “Balance? The dark suffocates the light, light extinguishes the dark. Over and over and over again. How is that balance in the force?”
Luke: “I know that anger. My father had it too.’
– Rey: “So says my master and his master before him. A thousand masters so eager to tell us how to live.”
– Rest of exchange between Rey and Luke is basically Rey trying to back away from being a Jedi (she admits she is NO ONE) and Luke trying to convince her (he says the Force is speaking to her).
– Back to Kylo. He and Hux continue to snipe at each other. Kylo says he’s leaving again, but not before telling Hux the power he discovered will make destroying planets insignificant. Kylo’s last order to Hux: “Find the Resistance, wipe them out, leave the girl to me.”
– TEAM A (Rose, Finn, R2, 3PO): Going to Coruscant to light the beacon.
– TEAM B (Rey, Poe, Chewbacca): Going to a planet to find someone to help Rey figure out what she needs to do. (side: Yes, his descrp. is that vague)
– Kylo is going to a Sith Planet/Remnicore. EDIT: Before he leaves Coruscant, he takes Vader’s mask and says he understands Vader now. Kylo: “You allowed love to cloud your judgement” and he throws Vader’s mask off of a balcony and it shatters.
– Leia stays at the base overseeing the Resistance.
– Before Rey leaves, she and Leia have an exchange were Rey says she believes there’s still good in Kylo. Leia is skeptical, but Rey believes in her Jedi Training. Leia: “You’re not like my father or my brother. You’re new. Whatever happens, remember the force choose you Rey. You’re story isn’t written by anyone else.”
RMB starts summarizing now:
– First Order tracks down stolen Star Destroyer to Kor-Alaf. Resistance escapes.
– TEAM A successfully infiltrates the Jedi Temple and turn on the beacon. Cut to different places around the galaxy receiving the signal (Bossk cameo). It is then cut off by the First Order. TEAM A then flee into the underbelly of Coruscant.
– TEAM B are being pursued by the Knife 9 (Knights of Ren ship) and eventually reach the planet Bonadan.
– Kylo reaches Remincore and confronts Tor Valum (7000 yrs old, alien of unknown origin, spindly, intense sinewy muscle — very Lovecraftian). Kylo begins training with Valum. Ode to ESB Cave scene: Kylo fights Vader. Fight is brutal and Kylo loses.
– Bonadan: Poe takes Rey to a Seer who can pull information out of memories. The Seer pulls a star chart out of Rey’s mind from her visions w/ Kylo. Knights of Ren show up and fight Rey in a lightsaber battle. She defeats them and TEAM B escapes.
– Both Rey and Kylo eventually get to MORTIS.
– Leia asks Lando if he will organize the smugglers and fight the First Order.
– Rose is captured and tortured by the First Order, but is able to escape.
– Finn/R2/3PO start a citizens uprising on Coruscant around the First Order’s Citadel/Palace.
– Leia brings her forces to Coruscant to battle the FO. Massive space battle, ground battle (ROTJ-style you know the works lol). Chewie flies an X-Wing.
– Rey and Kylo battle on Mortis, using force energy that can pull from each other. At some point is revealed Kylo killed Rey’s parents at the behest of Snoke. Towards the end, Luke/Obi Wan/Yoda appear as Force Ghosts to save Ben, but are unsuccessful. Ben is “extinguished.”
– RMB seems to be at the end, so just for house keeping sake – Resistance won, First Order loses.
– One final deet: Han Solo did appear in the script and does confront Kylo at some point.
Soooooo… firstly, this script draft was allegedly dated just a week before Carrie Fisher’s untimely death which leads to questions about Abrams and Kennedy saying that Episode IX had always been intended to be Leia’s movie. She’s barely in this. IndieWire claims that Burnett may have got the date wrong though and this was actually from after Fisher’s death, which makes a lot more sense.
Secondly, I see zero explanation from Trevorrow as to why Rey is so powerful in the Force, which would certainly have reignited those irksome “Mary Sue” cries. There’s also barely a mention of Palpatine, which again flies in the face of Abrams’ claim that the Emperor’s return in The Rise of Skywalker had been planned from the start. Maybe that was the case though and Trevorrow baulked against it which is what led to him getting axed in the first place? We don’t know.
What we do know is that Trevorrow definitely picked up and carried on threads from The Last Jedi with no weird retcons. The one that stands out for me is Rey using the two broken pieces of Anakin’s lightsaber – which she and Kylo shattered in their fight in Snoke’s throne room – to create her own dual-bladed staff-like lightsaber. That makes so much sense, both from a character point of view and in terms of continuity, that it’s insane that Disney ditched it. Instead, we had to get a hand-wavey explanation for Rey’s miraculous repair of Anakin’s lightsaber buried in the movie’s ancillary materials and a plot twist appearance of Leia’s lightsaber.
Another very notable holdover from The Last Jedi is the relationship and arc of Finn and Rose. In The Rise of Skywalker, Finn found himself just retreading the same arc as before and then having a weird “maybe I love Rey/maybe I secretly have access to the Force” angle thrown in as well. Meanwhile, Rose got so sidelined so heavily that she had fewer lines than uncredited characters, prompting some fan backlash about how Disney handled the first woman of colour lead character in the entire franchise’s history.
IndieWire shared some further details on Finn/Rose’s planned arc in Trevorrow’s script:
One of the main beats of the story told to us was given agency and a full arc to Finn and Rose Tico, the latter totally sidelined in “Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker.” Finn’s story, in particular, came full circle in his original arc of a Stormtrooper who finds his moral compass, cannot fulfill his duties and defects to the side of the Resistance as seen in ‘The Force Awakens.’ In ‘Duel Of The Fates,’ Rose and Finn went on a side mission to enemy-occupied Coruscant to light and activate an ancient beacon in the old Jedi Temple to call the galaxy to war.
Finn’s arc is further sparked before this. In the opening sequence of the movie, which is very men-on-a-mission, the Resistance—Finn, Rose, and BB8— steals a Star Destroyer full of old Imperial weapons and vehicles, and during this heist, Finn sees a fallen Stormtrooper without his helmet on, and recognizes him. This crucial story beat was meant to re-ignite his internal conflict when it comes to killing his former brothers and sisters in arms (side note, Burnett in his YouTube video says I’d been more or less told as well. “I hope Kelly Marie Tran never reads this script ever. Because Rose Tico is front and center throughout this whole movie and her character is great as written.”)
From there, all the details match. Finn and Rose are captured, sent to a POW camp, Rose is interrogated by Hux. Eventually, when Finn escapes prison, he has connected with other dubious Stormtroopers, and recruits his own defecting Stormtrooper army to fight back, and this becomes his new army. It becomes a kind of citizen’s uprising.
Along with giving Finn and Rose their due, Trevorrow also even brought back another character from The Last Jedi: The broom boy.
The last beat of the film connected to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” with Finn and Rose taking all the Force-sensitive youth to a remote planet so Rey can train the next generation of Jedi. The Broom Boy, from Rian Johnson’s film, is among the children here. If anyone felt Rose, and to a lesser degree, Finn were shortchanged in the movie, ‘Duel Of The Fates,’ certainly gave them as much to do as any significant character.
Trevorrow has never really won me over as a great director (Jurassic World was essentially a Steven Spielberg ripoff, and the less said about The Book of Henry the better) so who knows what the final product of this film would have been, but I have to admit that there’s a lot in this script that I like waaaaay more than what we got in The Rise of Skywalker. The biggest thing, which I keep harping on about, is coherence. Irrespective of whether you agree with the direction in which Johnson took some of the characters in The Last Jedi, at least there would have been a direction. The Rise of Skywalker breaks its own back by zigging and zagging all over the place as it tries to be two movies crammed into one due to it trying to undo Johnson’s story while also telling Abrams’ story. And that’s when it’s not just outright ignoring the existence of previous character beats and plot points.
I don’t expect Lucasfilm or Trevorrow to publicly confirm all the details in this script – at least not for a long time – but it irks me to think of what could have been. I enjoyed a bunch in The Rise of Skywalker, but it could have – and should have – been more.
Last Updated: January 15, 2020