We Know How 'The Rise of Skywalker' Begins as JJ Abrams Ends the Saga
The past is strong with this one.
SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you want to go into Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker cold. Seriously, turn around now.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens re-booted the franchise by leaning heavily on the things that made Star Wars work the first few times around. That tradition will continue with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
We're going to talk about specific confirmed information we have regarding the first scene of what will be the final movie in the Skywalker Saga. We're also talking about it because it's a truly unique filmmaking decision, with fascinating implications.
According to our sources at Lucasfilm, the rumors from Reddit and some fan sites are true: The Rise of Skywalker will begin to wrap up the saga that launched a thousand toy starships by reaching waaaaaaay back to the last time that saga seemed to conclude -- back to 1983's Return of the Jedi.
After the traditional opening crawl, the story will flashback to two figures engaged in lightsaber training. Those figures are revealed to be Luke and Leia. This scene takes place on Endor (or another moon of Endor; remember Admiral Akbar implies there are a few) soon after the defeat of the Emperor at the end of the movie. This scene is one that has been sitting in the archives (maybe next to the arc of the covenant?) since it was shot.
And this will not be a de-aged Leia and Luke, nor a CGI recreation of them. The scene was, according to our sources, shot for Jedi and was cut from the final film. (That isn't to say that the scene will not have some alterations done in post to accommodate the Rise of Skywalker narrative.)
We see Leia and Luke sparring with lightsabers and, after showing signs of fatigue and an exceptional prowess with the Force, Leia reveals to Luke that she is pregnant with future patricide-committer Kylo Ren. From here, the scene transitions to one we saw in the first trailer -- Rey, in a forest somewhere, engaged in Force and lightsaber training as Leia oversees her.
(Our sources shared that, at one point, there was a discussion about opening the movie with this flashback -- a first for the series -- and then roll the crawl.)
While the new trilogy seems determined to further mine the original one for story elements, and fans' complaints about those choices are abundant, it's still exciting to see how someone else's work can be used and re-shaped into another project that exists in the same universe, just 36 years apart. The elasticity of the process, especially in a tentpole franchise like this, further proves that "killing your babies" in your scripts doesn't necessarily mean they stay dead.
Things "on the cutting room floor" have the ability to be resuscitated, energized with new life, or imbued with new meaning.
There are other reasons that this scene proves interesting: J.J Abrams has never finished or closed a project -- let alone a four-decade-old franchise -- like this before. He's known for opening his Mystery Boxes, but not staying long to close them.
Fan culture is hard to please, Star Wars fans were certainly split over both The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Disney's Bob Iger recently revealed that George Lucas was disappointed in the way his ideas for the new trilogy were handled, and of Abrams' work in The Force Awakens. There were also recent reshoots for The Rise of Skywalker.
Moreover, Abrams has never finished or closed a project -- let alone a four-decade-old franchise -- like this before. To tackle this project, as both a passionate fan and even more passionate storyteller, to go back to an informative film for him and re-use one of its scenes -- a scene few even knew existed -- is both a blessing and a curse. Especially in light of rising toxicity levels within Star Wars fandom. The choice to include this scene is, to a degree, an inspiring one. If you've ever struggled with making a movie or writing a script and feel like you've wasted time shaping something that would end up excised and deleted, we get that. That's not a fun feeling. At the same time, the challenge there is to turn our minds to seeing it as not a waste of time. We had to go that route, shoot or write that scene that didn't make the final cut, to get to a place of knowing what that cut should be. What is the best presentation of all our intentions and emotional beats to connect this movie with audiences.
Will it work?
From yet another perspective the whole thing is fascinating. Imagine discovering the footage and deciding to find a way to build it into the story. Seems almost perfect, no?
Imagine what else could be buried in the Lucasfilm archives. Unfinished scenes. Unused takes. Imagine how those pieces could perhaps one day be used to add to future Star Wars projects.
Whatever the future of Star Wars holds, story and character are the one constant that will keep fans invested. The original Star Wars movies have stood the test of time because of that; audiences are very curious to see how the latest and final entry in the Skywalker Saga will wrap up, and it the storytelling and filmmaking will rise to the levels of the best entries, or fall to those of the lesser ones.
Either way, get ready to redo your Star Wars movie rankings when The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters December 20.
What do you think of the movie opening with a scene cut from a past film? Does that make you more or less excited to see what Abrams has up his Mystery Box-lined sleeve for Rey's story? Sound off in the comments below.