I’ve never made any secret of the fact that The Rise of Skywalker was a massive disappointment for me. Well back in early 2020, original director Colin Trevorrow’s script for Episode IX—dubbed Duel of the Fates—leaked online. I remember hearing some details and thinking it sounded like an improvement on JJ Abrams’ movie, but I never looked into things further as I was still at a point of being severely disappointed and wanting to make peace with what we were given.
In time, knowledge of the leaked script disappeared into the far recesses of my mind… until a few weeks ago when Kristian Harloff’s Sith Council show discussed a fan-made comic adaptation of the script. The comic was created by Andrew Winegarner and can be found in full on his website here. Having now read the comic in its entirety, I wanted to give my thoughts on what might have been had we got this movie as the culmination to the Skywalker Saga. Obviously, be aware that this will contain spoilers for this story if you have not yet read the comics and script.
First off, it’s hard to say from a comic and a script just how good the movie will be, as the directing needs to be up to par. But with a group of talented actors, I feel that this script could be pulled off. But what a story it was! As a culmination to the Skywalker Saga, The Rise of Skywalker very rarely felt like a culmination of a story that began in 1977, but this did to such a great degree. As well as following on from both of the previous movies in the Sequel Trilogy, it also brought back some familiar ideas and locations, such as Coruscant, with one of the main storylines heavily focused here and feeling much more connected than a newly-created planet like Exegol, which felt like the writers had never heard of Moraband. But Duel of the Fates went even deeper, with Mortis playing a key role in the story, creating a great connection to The Clone Wars and Rebels. But they did it in a way that allowed those who only watched the movies to know what they needed to with just a few sentences of exposition. And similarly the opening of the this story, featuring the Kuat Drive yards, a location never mentioned in the movies but known to so many fans of the larger universe. The balance of locations we knew and new locations helped to keep the story connected to the wider saga, while also giving us something new, much better in my opinion than The Rise of Skywalker chucking in a few token shots of Bespin and the forest moon of Endor and then ending the story at the Lars farmhouse on Tatooine for cheap nostalgia.
As for the characters, Rey and Kylo again have a great story, which feels so much better without the poorly-handled romance. But more than that, Rey feels like a part of the Resistance, while her name and past is revealed, sticking with Rian Johnson’s idea that Rey was not descended from anyone of note rather than JJ’s painful retcon to make her a Palpatine. Meanwhile, without the Emperor having “somehow” returned, Kylo is allowed to develop in himself, going much deeper into the dark side. He still gets a redemption at the end, which feels a little rushed (the whole climax of Rey and Kylo’s story feels a little rushed in the comic, but potentially seeing it play out on screen rather in still images may have helped) but this script also give him the chance to be a true villain. Poe takes on a more Han Solo-esque role in the group, while he gets to be the romance for Rey, something I felt as hinted at right back in the novelisation of The Force Awakens. The big winners here though are Finn and Rose. Rose is an integral character rather than being shoved to the side, while Finn actually has a story that ties in everything that he has gone through. In Episode VII he escaped the First Order and cared only for keeping himself and Rey safe. In Episode VIII he learned to care not just about the safety of him and Rey, but realised that he belonged in the Resistance. Now with this, rather than just running around shouting after Rey, he is completing his arc by leading a resistance on Coruscant and leading a number of stormtroopers to defecting, with a lovely visual of those defecting troopers marking their armour with a homage to the bloody marks left on Finn’s armour in The Force Awakens. But the last person who really needs a mention here is Leia. As had been suggested, much how Episode VII was Han’s movie and Episode VIII Luke’s movie, this was very much going to be Leia’s movie. So with the sad death of Carrie Fisher, this may have needed to be amended somehow, or required a recast/CG Leia as we saw from Tarkin in Rogue One. As a quick aside, while reading this, I had a 10-hour YouTube video of Star Wars music playing, and as I reached the first panel with Leia, “Leia’s Theme” began to play on the video; the timing was so perfect that I’ll admit there were tears!
It was very clear from this comic just how many moments JJ tried to keep from this script, but so many of them played better. The arrival of a fleet to support the Resistance was set up so much better and made more sense, R2 getting blasted so needing to be repaired and have his memory brought back led to some emotional moments, and the use of Rey feeling all those she loved in her moment of doubt felt much more understandable than hearing a number of Jedi who should not have known how to communicate through the Force.
Was it perfect? No. Like I said, the end of Rey and Kylo’s storyline felt a little rushed and confusing, though I feel that it could have played better in a movie/novel than in still images. But on the whole, it felt like much better paced story that connected better with not just the previous 2 movies, but also the larger franchise.
What do you think of this version?
Thanks for reading. May the Force be with you…