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SYFY WIRE Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker

The Rise of Skywalker co-writer responds to critics who think the film undoes The Last Jedi

By Matthew Jackson
Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has spent a couple of weekends atop the worldwide box office now, which means lots of fans have had the chance to see and reflect on the final installment in the Skywalker Saga. Ever since the first reactions to the film started to arrive, ROS has seen a considerable amount of criticism from both reviewers and fans alike. Viewers have pointed out everything from the film's rushed pacing to the sidelining of certain characters as problems within the narrative, but perhaps the most contentious aspect of The Rise of Skywalker is its relationship to certain key developments in its predecessor, The Last Jedi. Now The Rise of Skywalker's co-writer, Chris Terrio, is addressing those concerns directly, and thinks fans are "missing the point."

Rian Johnson's eighth installment in The Skywalker Saga also drew a divided response among Star Wars fans, and the way The Rise of Skywalker chose to build on Johnson's film led many to see it as an attempt to retcon or flat-out ignore key moments. While The Last Jedi introduced Rose Tico as a key player in the Resistance, The Rise of Skywalker reduces her screen time dramatically and keeps her largely on the sidelines. While The Last Jedi had Kylo Ren destroying his helmet and moving past his place as Snoke's enforcer, The Rise of Skywalker shows him reforging that helmet and working on behalf of Palpatine, ostensibly so he can get what he wants in the end. According to Terrio, who co-wrote The Rise of Skywalker with J.J. Abrams, all of that was intended as a new form of growth beyond The Last Jedi, not a rebuke of it.

“I think they’re missing the point, which is that they’re in dialogue with Episode VIII,” Terrio told The Wrap. “It’s not that it’s a meta-story or a rivalry between Rian and J.J. Rather, it’s about taking the ideas that came from VIII and trying to complicate them and develop them and to have some new surprises.”

One of the key aspects of this "dialogue" was the revelation that The Last Jedi's conclusions about who Rey's parents were rang only partially true. The Rise of Skywalker twists the reveal in Johnson's film — that Rey's parents were apparently "nobodies" who sold her off for drinking money — to instead claim that Rey's parents were nobodies because they chose to be. They sold her to protect her, because she's the granddaughter of Emperor Sheev Palpatine, and therefore the heir to the throne of the Sith.

For many fans, this revelation wasn't rooted in any real foreshadowing from either of the previous films, and therefore only existed to create a sense of surprise and mystery. It also retconned the idea that Rey's power came not from a famous Force bloodline, but from within herself. That made a lot of fans angry, but for Terrio the idea behind the decision was not to undermine Johnson's conclusions, but top them with something even more challenging for Rey to overcome. 

"We thought that was a more dramatically interesting predicament for Episode IX, not only that everything is resolved and that Rey is at peace with her past, but that she has even worse information than Episode VIII," Terrio said. "So I think it’s a development of dramatic ideas, and it’s not a rejection. And I think that when critics try to act as though our film is some sort of spat between two directors, they’re not understanding how writers think.”

Whether you like the developments of The Rise of Skywalker or not, Terrio and Abrams definitely achieved one key goal: to create a Star Wars film that fans would be picking apart and discussing for weeks, months, and years to come. We are nowhere near the end of breaking down the film's many twists and resolutions, and that's part of the fun of Star Wars