An alleged early draft of The Rise of Skywalker screenplay has leaked online, fanning the flames of conspiracy theories about narrative problems in the final film. The screenplay is credited toStar Wars IXs original writers, Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, and went viral thanks to the popular /r/StarWarsLeaks subreddit and a YouTuber called Robert Meyer Burnett, who posted a two-hour review of the script.
Neither Disney nor the two former Star Wars screenwriters have confirmed the screenplay is genuine (after all, there are a lot of fake leaks out there, including one that Trevorrow publicly debunked on Twitter), but A.V. Clubwas able to independently confirm that its the real deal. Its also total catnip for disgruntled Star Wars fans, because its full of intriguing ideas that dont appear in the final draft by J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio. Trevorrow and Connolly only retained a story by credit on The Rise of Skywalker, while the screenplay was fully credited to Abrams and Terrio. Trevorrow, who now directs the Jurassic World franchise, announced last year that hed donate hisStar Wars residuals to a childrens hospice charity.
The Trevorrow/Connolly screenplay features more screentime for Rose Tico, continuing her partnership with Finn while Poe and Rey go on a separate mission. Palpatine only has a minimal, non-resurrected role, and the main plot involves Kylo Ren searching for a new master in the form of Palpatines ancient mentor, who is tantalizingly described as Lovecraftian. And in this version of the story, Reys parents were indeed nobodieswho Kylo Ren has already killed. The title was Duel of the Fates, a callback to one of the most iconic elements ofThe Phantom Menace, the music accompanying the lightsaber battle between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Qui-Gon Jinn.
This screenplay sounds like a more organic continuation from the previous two movies, with Rey and Kylo Ren each seeking out their own paths as Force-users rather than being shoved in a new direction by a confusingly-resurrected Palpatine. Both characters struggle with whether to continue the Jedi/Sith traditions and Rey keeps trying to win Kylo Ren back to the side of light, with Leia doubting that its possible.
Its tempting to imagine what Duel of the Fates might have looked like. Its also surprising to realize that it mightve been less controversial than The Rise of Skywalker, because when Connolly and Trevorrow left the project in 2017, the general feeling was one of relief. Initially rising to prominence for directing the indie sci-fi movie Safety Not Guaranteed (written by Connolly), Trevorrow went on to direct the blandly underwhelming Jurassic World. He also madeThe Book of Henry, an indie drama that earned infamously appalling reviews in 2017. Trevorrow didnt exactly have a reliable track record, and his treatment of female characters was far from reassuring. When J.J. Abrams returned to co-write and direct the final Star Wars film, it felt like the franchise was back in safe hands.
While parts of this draft may sound preferable to the final product, its a mistake to compareThe Rise of Skywalker with a movie that doesnt actually exist. For one thing, most people are making judgements based on snapshots they read online, rather than reading the full script. For another, we have no way of knowing what a completed Trevorrow/Connolly film would actually look like. This screenplay could never be filmed in its current form, because it was drafted in December 2016, shortly before Carrie Fishers death. Star Wars IX had to be radically rewritten after she passed away, and it seems like Disney and Lucasfilm werent happy with whatever Trevorrow and Connolly came up with. In the end, J.J. Abrams returned to direct and co-write with Chris Terrio, and together they came up with The Rise of Skywalker, a film whose structure suffers thanks to its repeated attempts to include archival clips of General Leia.
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The Rise of Skywalker was disappointing to many fans, for a multitude of reasons. However, its probably not a good idea to dwell on leaked early drafts. People are latching onto this screenplay for the same reason they got invested in the #ReleaseTheJJCut conspiracy theory: we want there to be some secret better version of the movie out there, waiting to be recovered. Fans want to be able to blame The Rise of Skywalkers problems on one specific entity (J.J. Abrams, or Kathleen Kennedy, or the specter of studio interference), but if anything, the films creative trajectory highlights how many moving parts were involved. Regardless of whether you love or hate The Last Jedi, youll probably agree it was shaped by the vision of one man, Rian Johnson. By contrast, The Rise of Skywalker feels like the messy result of multiple conflicting influences.
Its still wild to consider that the sequel trilogy didnt follow a pre-planned outline from the start. Rian Johnson wrote The Last Jedi in response toThe Force Awakens.Trevorrow and Connolly drafted Star Wars IXin response toThe Last Jedi, and then Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) was hired to deliver rewrites that never saw the light of day. Abrams and Terrio wound up rewriting the whole thing after Carrie Fishers death, clearly influenced by the online backlash against The Last Jedi. Remember, this Trevorrow/Connolly draft was allegedly written a full year before The Last Jedi came out. We dont know which narrative choices in The Rise of Skywalker came directly from Abrams and Terrio, and which were a collective decision from studio executives. Or, indeed, which of these people was more concerned about appeasing the online mob of Last Jedi haterssomething that clearly influenced certain decisions, like the blatant sidelining of Rose Tico. Considering the film we ended up seeing, its hard to imagine a scenario where Trevorrow and Connollys screenplay survived 2018 in any recognizable form.