In less than seven months, Star Wars will reveal what happens to Rey after she leaps into the air in front of an oncoming TIE Fighter. The image of the last Jedi jumping in the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker is arresting for a lot of reasons, mostly because it’s awesome. But it’s also a weird metaphor for how we think about the Star Wars Skywalker saga in general. Like a crazy gymnast, Star Wars has made a huge leap in the past four years and contorted itself in all sorts of ways. Now, the question remains, can the franchise stick the landing?
To put the challenges of The Rise of Skywalker into context, it’s important to remember how bizarrely unique the movie is relative to a series of films that are also bizarrely unique. Here are three reasons why Rise of Skywalker is different than any Star Wars film before, and what those differences might mean for the film as a whole.
No Star Wars spoilers ahead. Unless you count behind-the-scenes gossip as spoilers.
3. It’s Being Partially Edited on the Set
As reported by Slashfilm and other outlets, various scenes for The Rise of Skywalker were actually being edited on set while the cameras were rolling. Though it’s been reported that director J.J. Abrams initially objected to this process because of the time constraints required for the December 2019 release of the film, it seems like there wasn’t another choice. According to Express, film editor Maryann Brandon said:
“When we did The Force Awakens, we started in May and we finished shooting in October, and we were out [the following] Christmas. For this film, we didn’t start until August, so we weren’t done until February shooting — so we have four months less time, and it’s a very big film. So I convinced J.J. to let me cut on the set. He was like, ‘No, we never do that.’”
But Abrams was convinced to change his mind because of the quick turnaround time required to finish the movie. Essentially, this means an aspect of post-production has been blended with actual filming. With most Star Wars films, the post-production time was often longer than the filming time. Famously, the original Star Wars had a December 1976 release date, which had to be pushed back because of post-production problems mostly connected to special effects. With The Rise of Skywalker, the reverse is true. Post-production editing is (partially) being sped up to meet a looming deadline.
2. The Story and Script for This Film Have Changed Hands at Least Twice
For those who have followed Star Wars news closely since before the dawn of the Empire, this may be old news, but it’s very relevant. The notion for the original script for Episode IX is basically something a non-insider will never actually know, and that’s because at least three totally different approaches to the story have probably existed at different times since 2015. Initially, a script was being developed by Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow. Then, in 2017, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child writer Jack Thorne was reportedly writing (or rewriting) the Episode IX script. Eventually, when Trevorrow and Lucasfilm parted ways, all of this resulted in those efforts being replaced by a script penned by J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio.
Does Abrams and Terrio’s script retain anything from Trevorrow’s or Thorne’s? It’s not entirely clear. It’s also impossible to actually gauge the impact of the death of Carrie Fisher on the story regardless of who was writing it. Relative to other Star Wars movies, this is actually pretty weird.
The closest example is The Empire Strikes Back, which had a script originally penned by one person — Leigh Brackett — who passed away before finishing the job. This resulted in a script written by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas, which, of course, became a classic film, and perhaps the best Star Wars film of all time. Now, it’s no secret that all the Star Wars movies have had weird behind-the-scenes stuff (Rogue One and Solo both had extensive reshoots.) But in terms of what was on the page before the cameras started rolling, The Rise of Skywalker has likely gone through more changes than even Lucas’ first draft for “The Star Wars” in the early ‘70s.
1. The Pressure on Episode IX Is Greater Than Any Other Star Wars Movie
Back in 2005, most fans and pundits believed that George Lucas needed to drop a Hail Mary with Revenge of the Sith. The critical reception to The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones was decidedly mixed, and Hayden Christensen had his work cut out for him in terms of making audiences happy about Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side. For the most part, all of this stuff worked, and Revenge of the Sith was, at the time, considered to be a comeback for Star Wars. But, the pressure on the story itself was almost nothing compared to The Rise of Skywalker. With Episode III, all that really had to happen was to have certain Darth Vader and baby Skywalker dots be connected in very clear ways.
The Rise of Skywalker has to connect dots to vague notions that aren’t even clear and also make it seem like that was the plan all along. In essence the script for The Rise of Skywalker has to pull a Jedi mind trick on millions of moviegoers, causing them to suspend their disbelief that this hastily constructed story was, in fact, where the saga was always headed when everyone knows there’s no way that was ever true. For this reason, it seems possible the people who will love The Rise of Skywalker the most are fans who have no knowledge of how the movies are made. Which, in 2019, is nearly impossible.
So, with that in mind, it seems like the people who will love and appreciate The Rise of Skywalker the most are possibly tiny children who will claim the movie as a piece of pure genius in 20 years’ time. For the rest of us, if we love The Rise of Skywalker it will be because we can’t believe they pulled it off. Luckily, a love of Star Wars has, historically, inspired a ton of optimism. That hope, springing eternally into the air — like Luke or Rey — is why we keep coming back to this galaxy in the first place.
The Rise of Skywalker is out everywhere on December 20, 2019.