The Rise of Skywalker: What I Would’ve Done Differently

By Michael Ros   SPOILER ALERT FOR THE RISE OF SKYWALKER. READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION. First off, let me preface this by saying that I know this film had so much stacked against it. Carrie Fisher’s tragic passing created an impossible hurdle that, if handled wrong, would really cripple the film. Fan expectations were…




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17 minutes

By Michael Ros



First off, let me preface this by saying that I know this film had so much stacked against it. Carrie Fisher’s tragic passing created an impossible hurdle that, if handled wrong, would really cripple the film. Fan expectations were through the roof. The previous entry in the Skywalker Saga, which also had a lot stacked against it, split the already fractured fandom. Two loud extremes putting their stakes into the ground, with the majority of fans caught somewhere in between. This movie would have been difficult to make under the best of circumstances, and my sympathies go out to JJ Abrams and crew for trying their best with the hand they were dealt.

However, the more I think about it the more this film leaves me feeling empty. It felt so premature in its conclusion. These new characters that I’ve grown to love over the past four years were rushed aside. Right from the start, this movie was in a hurry to end. No time for character, no emotional payoff, no tension or sense of danger. Just plot and exposition. Tell don’t show. It became clear that Abrams just wanted to do Episode 6, but bigger while also doing his own version of Episode 8 and 9 at the same time without coordinating with Rian Johnson. The result is incredibly disorienting.

But lead editor Marshall Garvey and I already fumed about this movie long enough, and the negativity is starting to get to me. I don’t like being overly negative. There’s already enough of that in this fandom. I don’t want to go out of my way to make others feel bad over a movie I didn’t enjoy. I already felt plenty of that when people told me that I wasn’t allowed to like The Last Jedi. I know there are many who did enjoy this film and if that person is you, I’m happy for you. I’m glad you got something out of it where I couldn’t. 

But as a conclusion to the story of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Ben Solo, I simply felt it was lacking. So much of the carefully crafted character development was backpedaled so we could retread some of the same ground. Whatever you thought of The Last Jedi, it happened. Like it or not, it’s canon. It had very clear character arcs with room to be expanded upon and that’s where I feel so much of The Rise of Skywalker’s wasted potential stems from. So without further ado, allow me to present…


The Rise of Skywalker: What I Would’ve Done Differently 


What did work for me: Ultimately, I’m glad that Kylo Ren/Ben Solo got his redemption. The very first time we see him talking to Snoke in The Force Awakens, he says that he won’t be seduced by the light. That should’ve been a big indicator that yes, he’s gonna turn good again. He still did some terrible things, but of the many things that Star Wars is about redemption and rebirth are certainly among them.

The scene of him standing on the Death Star wreckage, talking to his father Han Solo as a mirror of the same scene in The Force Awakens where he killed him was an excellent idea. If this movie had more meat on it’s bones I would’ve been crying my eyes out. Also, that scene of Rey handing Ben the lightsaber via the Force was pretty freaking cool.

What didn’t work for me: Why does everyone who turns back to the light side immediately have to die afterward? It’s a minor complaint, but the fact of the matter is that it’s been done before. Will we ever get a redeemed former villain who has to deal with the consequences of their actions and actively try to fix the damage they’ve caused? How about instead of dying, he decides to go into exile or something?

Also, not a fan of him putting the mask back on. He destroyed it to signify his growth beyond being a Vader wannabe, then killed Snoke to take the throne which Vader could never do. Then suddenly Palpatine comes back and promises him an army, so he decides to go back to being second fiddle to another dark side master? He already advanced beyond that and now we’re doing this same song and dance again? I don’t buy it.

Kylo Ren’s fascinating arc didn’t get quite the conclusion it merited.

What I would do differently: In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren killed his master, essentially making him the new Emperor. That should’ve been the focus. That would’ve been the logical continuation of his character arc. Him struggling to keep the First Order under his control. Snoke told him, “You’re no Vader.” This movie should’ve been Rey telling him, “You’re no Emperor.” As the First Order loses faith in him as a leader and leaves him for Palpatine, he realizes he’s all alone. Except he’s not alone…



What did work for me: Her being the key to Kylo Ren’s salvation was great. I’m totally on board with them having romantic feelings for each other. The relationship built in The Last Jedi was one of my favorite parts of that movie. Also, that line where Kylo Ren said, “You were going to take my hand.” and she responds, “I wanted to. But I wanted to take Ben’s hand.” Excellent. Perfectly building on what The Last Jedi started.

What didn’t work for me: Retreading familiar conversations, like the talk about her lineage which then makes her sad for a bit. Here it played out way too similarly, again acting as if The Last Jedi didn’t happen and we haven’t seen this done already. It didn’t have the impact that it should’ve had. I also feel like the movie didn’t do enough to further their relationship, so when he does turn back to the light it just felt too sudden.

Also, and this isn’t so much a problem with this movie specifically as it is a problem with how fans in general view Rey. Abrams as well as the fans became way too obsessed with who she’s related to, so much so that we forgot to take in the details of who she is. Rian Johnson tried to correct this course by making that the central part of her character arc. Your lineage doesn’t matter. What matters is you. But now we’re back to obsessing over her lineage because surprise! She’s the granddaughter of the big bad Palpatine.

The tug-of-war between different directors’ vision of Rey needlessly stunted her arc’s potential.

At first I was okay with her being a Palpatine, because whatever bloodline she came from doesn’t change who she is. She raised herself, and she became a strong, caring, and capable person as a result. But the more I think about it, the more the obsession with bloodlines kind of ruins the mysticism of The Force. In the original trilogy, Luke was more or less the audience surrogate. The Force was this mystical power that surrounded everyone. He was strong with it, therefore you could be strong with it too. 

Then we learn in the prequels that the Skywalker bloodline is naturally gifted, so I guess nevermind. No Force for you. But then we meet Rey and she is strong with The Force, therefore you can be strong with it too. But now that Rey is a Palpatine, it feels firmly without a doubt that The Force is once again about who has the superior genes. That’s just not right, and that’s a horrible message to instill in kids’ heads. The Force should not be about bloodlines.

What I would’ve done differently: Mostly just give her and Kylo Ren more scenes to talk and flesh out their relationship. In general this movie needed more time to breathe. Expand upon previous conversations they’ve already had instead of simply recycling them. Kylo Ren had his turn trying to use Rey’s insecurities to lure her to him, now the roles should be reversed. Rey would say, “The First Order won’t stand with you. They’ll give up on you. But I won’t, just like your mother.” Build up to that emotional payoff so that when Ben does return to the light and they make out, it’s earned.



What did work for me: For what it’s worth, I think they did the best they could given what little footage and dialogue they had to work with. I can also agree that a CG Leia would’ve been in bad taste.

What didn’t work for me: However, if I’m being brutally honest, reusing footage that wasn’t good enough for The Force Awakens did not work at all. It was so obvious that she wasn’t actually there, and not just in a physical sense. She just didn’t feel present, and having to write the other characters’ dialogue around previously recorded lines originally meant for a completely different context made their conversations feel so unnatural.

Seriously…let us give thanks for virtual Peter Cushing.

What I would’ve done differently: Have the movie begin with her funeral. I know that sounds like a copout given that this was supposed to be her movie, but hear me out. Having her die that soon doesn’t have to strip it of its meaning. Her death would be hanging over the main characters throughout the whole movie. They can talk about how she inspired them, the legacy she left behind.

Not to mention how it would affect Kylo Ren, feeling regret that he never got to talk to her again and reinforcing his loneliness. And we too would feel his loneliness because we as the audience also didn’t get the chance to say goodbye. But then we learn Leia’s dying wish to Rey was to deliver a message from her, giving them the closure they need.



What did work for me: Most of the banter was entertaining, like at the start where he returns with the Millennium Falcon and Rey starts arguing about how he needs to treat the ship better. In fact, I’m surprised it took this long for the trilogy to give us scenes of all three leads together. Their chemistry is marvelous, even if the scenes they’re given lack real substantive character growth.

What didn’t work for me: Poe had a very clear and distinct arc in The Last Jedi. At the end of the movie, he learned the importance of being a responsible leader and not just rushing into battles guns blazing. We come back to him in The Rise of Skywalker, and he’s more or less reverted back to his former self. The lessons that he learned prior don’t come up in any meaningful way, and he’s back to being a reckless adventurer flying by the seat of his pants.

Poe had the chance for real character growth. Instead, the movie chose to reduce him to a relatively simple gun-slinger.

What I would’ve done differently: In this hypothetical alternate version of Episode 9 with the death of one of the greatest rebel leaders of all time hanging over his head, he should feel the pressure to live up to Leia’s legacy. He has to be the one to lead the resistance and restore peace to the galaxy. Have him struggle with his new position as leader and the burden that comes with it. With how few resistance fighters are left, he needs some serious help from his friends. Have him come to terms with the fact that he doesn’t have to carry Leia’s legacy on his own.



What did work for me: Like I said, the banter between Finn, Poe, and Rey together are great. That’s pretty much it.

What didn’t work for me: I feel so bad because John Boyega is great and there was so much potential. In The Last Jedi, he realizes the importance of the fight and finally picks a side instead of only caring about himself. But in this movie he doesn’t get to do anything important. He meets a fellow First Order deserter, but they don’t expand upon that in any way that matters. Like, how many more are out there who could be convinced to change sides? Enough to even the odds in the war maybe?

What I would’ve done differently: As a former Stormtrooper who is now fully on the side of the resistance, his mission should’ve been to convert more to their cause. Because if he can change, who’s to say that others can’t? Transmit a message to all of the First Order troops. Appeal to their humanity and convince them that the First Order doesn’t have their best interests at heart. At this point the First Order slowly begins to fracture. Some stay out of fear, others are too far gone. Too brainwashed. But enough people do switch sides to give the resistance a fighting chance.

Finn had the arc with perhaps the most potential. Instead, he’s relegated to the background to wrap things up.



What did work for me: Ian McDiarmid. He’s the best. Nuff’ said. I also enjoyed finally seeing more Sith iconography on the big screen. Their creepier version of a Jedi Temple, and the dark magic cult imagery which had been alluded to in Revenge of the Sith and shown occasionally in The Clone Wars series and Star Wars: Rebels.

What didn’t work for me: His presence does bring up a lot of questions, but I can set that aside. This is Star Wars, after all. If fans have questions, writers will create entire stories dedicated to answering them (see Rogue One).

What I would’ve done differently: Honestly, I’m not sure that I would change anything. His mere presence does seem like jumping the shark, but if you’re committed to it I say go further. Stick a pin in that, cause we’ll come back to it later.



What did work for me: The cameos. With this supposedly being the culmination of The Skywalker Saga, it was awesome to hear the voices of the previous Jedi including Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Anakin, Luke, Mace Windu, Yoda, and even characters from the animated TV series like Ahsoka Tano and Kanan Jarrus as they encourage Rey to get back up. Also, the joy on Marshall’s face when Wedge Antilles appeared was a treat. The way his face lit up, that’s what Star Wars is about. Pure, visceral joy that makes us feel like a kid again.

What didn’t work for me: One of the strengths of The Last Jedi was that the final battle showed how the characters had changed. Poe had finally become a responsible leader. Finn was now willing to fight and die for the resistance. Kylo Ren, despite having seized control of the First Order, was not as willing to let go of the past as he had claimed. In this battle there’s plenty of big action, but no culmination of any character growth.

What I would’ve done differently: As Poe and the meager resistance fighters are overwhelmed, he watches his friends as they’re shot out of the sky. He thinks to himself, “I’m sorry, Leia. I let you down.” Meanwhile Palpatine has Rey and Ben beaten, surrounded by swarms of Sith disciples.

Then, when Lando comes in with the massive fleet of resistance ships, call back to The Last Jedi and have one of them say, “We heard Leia’s message, and we’re here to fight.” Then comes Finn with his force of converted former Stormtroopers. As they all charge into battle they all shout, “For Leia!” It sounds corny, but I think it would’ve worked.

Now, remember what I said about jumping the shark? I ask that you bear with me for a moment, because I’m about to strap jetpacks onto an army of sharks and ride them into the sun. It’s going to get really fanfiction-y.

When the spirits of past Jedi talk to Rey, have them actually appear. Rey turns around and sees the spirit of Anakin standing behind her. Then the spirit of Obi-Wan appears, then Qui-Gon, Mace Windu, Yoda, and more. This could’ve been our chance to see live action versions of beloved characters from beyond the films like Bastilla Shan from Knights of the Old Republic, Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger from Star Wars: Rebels, and Ahsoka Tano from The Clone Wars

If you’re going to have all the Jedis’ voices…go all out. Bring them back visually, from Qui Gon to Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger.

If Ahsoka had shown up, I actually would’ve jumped out of my seat and started crying tears of joy. One by one, each of them ignites their lightsaber. Then Luke appears and says, “The Force will be with you, always.” Together, with Rey and Ben Solo leading the charge, the army of Jedi ghosts battle against Palpatine and his Sith disciples. It’s established that Force Ghosts can interact with physical objects when ghost Luke catches his lightsaber, so why not?

I know it sounds absolutely absurd, but if this is truly the end then I say go big or go home. Make this to Star Wars what Endgame was to the MCU. This way, every generation would get a chance to see their heroes on the big screen one last time (or in some cases, the very first time). The OG fans, the fans who grew up with the prequels like myself, and even younger kids who watched the TV shows in 2008 onward. I know it sounds like pure fan service, but they brought back Palpatine for crying out loud. We’re well past jumping the shark. Can’t we all agree that the final climax to the greatest film saga in the history of cinema deserves a sendoff that we’ll be talking about for years to come?



Which is why I’m actually going to backpedal on the insane fanfic-y idea because let’s get real for a moment. This is Disney. They spent four billion dollars to acquire this franchise. There is no way they’re going to let it end this soon. It may take five or ten years, but they will try again. They will make another trilogy. I can already imagine Episode X coming out in 2029.

But as I said before, I had hoped for so much more from these characters. The original trilogy told a concise tale, detailing the journey of Luke, Han, and Leia. The prequel trilogy focuses on Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Padme, and centers around Anakin’s fear of loss driving his need for power. This trilogy was meant to be Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren’s search for identity.

I was fully invested in them and I was ready to see them grow even more, but I never would’ve expected their journey to fall this short. The Rise of Skywalker left its core cast behind and as a result left a massive, glaring stain on the sequel trilogy.