Re-imagining Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Remember back to the end of Star Wars episode VIII when Rey saved everyone by removing the rocks at the back of the cave, while Luke sacrificed himself as a distraction? Kylo Ren figures it out but by then it’s too late. Rey and the resistance are gone. Imagine that Episode VIII ended on that scene, and that Episode IV starts moments later…

Kylo

Kylo Ren standing at what used to be the back wall of the cave. Rocks scattered everywhere. Rey, Leia, and the rebels are gone. Eluded him. Again.

I imagine that in this moment, the humiliation, the rage and the self-loathing would soak his whole being.

He failed to stop them. Again. He failed to convince Rey to throw all of it away — the dark, the light, Jedi, Sith, everything — and start something new with him.

He had his chance to kill his mother, and failed. A coward, he couldn’t pull the trigger.

Meanwhile, he murdered Snoke and appointed himself Supreme Leader. He murdered his father as a display of ultimate allegiance. For what? Why? To lose, yet again? He looks at this costume, his mask, and lets himself acknowledge what he’s always known but pushed out of his head: it’s pretense. It’s posturing. He’s a petulant child playing dress-up.

We established in The Force Awakes that he’s prone to childish temper tantrums, and here he has a big one.

He rips off his cape and gloves, tosses them aside. He grabs a large rock and uses it to bash his lightsaber to pieces. Kylo has murdered or alienated everyone who ever cared for him: Han, Chewbacca, Luke, Leia. He hates Snoke for manipulating him, he hates Luke for threatening him, and more than anything he hates himself for being a querulous, immature child. “Kylo Ren” is an embarrassment and Ben has no one to blame but himself.

Fuck this. Fuck. All. Of. It.

He turns and walks back through the cave where the First Order awaits at the entrance. The AT-ATs are being loaded back onto cargo ships. Smaller fighters are returning to docking bays on the Finalizer. Two First Order Troopers approach him. 

“Supreme Leader, General Hux requests—“ he Force-chokes them without breaking stride. He approaches his TIE Interceptor “The Whisper” and gets inside. Ben engages the engine and a holo of Hux appears. “Supreme Leader, the resistance fighters —.” Ben flicks it off. Closing his eyes, he cuts himself off from The Force. Like flicking a switch, it’s gone.

The Whisper flies off into space, past the Finalizer. Ben is eager to go. Anywhere. Just away. Away from all of it. Light speed, and he’s gone.

Rey

Swipe cut to Ajan Kloss. Leia, Rey and the remaining resistance fighters are gathered at a memorial for Han. Leia says some beautiful things and places the Falcon’s dice on a makeshift altar. Chewie places his bandolier. Ben’s absence is palpable, as is Luke’s. While Leia is confident and eloquent, she seems distracted. There’s a real sense of “the old guard is dying.”

After, Rey pulls Leia aside. “That was beautiful, General. I’m sorry I couldn’t—“ “Never mind ‘could have’ and ‘should have’,” Leia says. “Destiny and fate don’t care about those things. Tell me, my brother was training you, yes?”

“Yes,” Rey says. “He told me there were three lessons, but only got to two before he…”

“Lesson three, tomorrow morning,” Leia says. “But—“ Rey answers as Leia interrupts. “Tomorrow morning.”

Hux

We established in The Force Awakens that Hux loathes Kylo. They vie for Snoke’s attention. They jockey for power among The First Order. They one-up and humiliate each other and every opportunity. Most of all, Hux believes that he should be Supreme Leader, not this little boy playing make-believe.

And now he is.

He gives a vein-popping, dictatorial speech to the remaining members of The First Order. “The deserter,” he says, “murdered Snoke in cold blood. He failed to eliminate General Organa and sever the head of the Resistance. He let ‘the girl’ escape yet again and he abandoned all of us. All of _you_. With me as your Supreme Leader, we will find and destroy the traitorous dog!”

Thus, the First Order is off to find and kill Ben Solo.

Kylo

Flying through space in The Whisper, Ben is aimless. Where could he go? He’s a monster who isn’t welcome anywhere. Then it hits him. 

Mustafar. Vader’s long-abandoned castle on Mustafar. It’s an empty, ruined relic on a hostile planet. He sets a course and follows it. Yes, perfect — he’ll hole up in that awful place and wait for his body to die. It’s what he deserves.

Rey

Back on Ajan Kloss, Rey and Leia and sparring with Lightsabers. Leia is shouting out commands — stances, movements — to Rey as they “fight.” The blades sizzle and crack as Rey turns in such a way that she is able to rush Leia. The general does not move and lets Rey come. Rey’s eyes grow wide and she leaps, impetuous…with a flick of her wrist Leia counters and in an instant has her blade at Rey’s throat.

“Again, what is lesson three?” Leia asks.

“Patience,” Rey says, her eyes downcast. Both women extinguish their lightsabers.

“Let’s try it again,” Rey says.

“No,” says Leia. “It’s…that’s enough for today.”

Rey clips her lightsaber onto her hip. “I can bring him home. I know I can. There…”

“….is still good in him?” Leia asks. “Now you sound like my brother.”

“Is that so bad?”

Leia says, “Luke rushed to confront our father, certain he could save him. Save us, save everything. And what happened?”

“The Emperor was destroyed,” Rey says.

“As was Anakin,” says Leia, “and Obi-Wan and countless others, both Rebel and Empire, all because of a rash decision. Then Luke failed in his training of Ben; yet another impetuous decision which created Kylo Ren and The First Order.”

“He’s your son,” Rey says.

“Was,” says Leia.

Later, Rey tries to establish her little “Force Skype” connection with Kylo and fails.

Kylo

Kylo arrives at Mustafar and puts The Whisper down outside Vader’s long-abandoned castle. Lava flows far below.

He finds the once proud palace dilapidated and crumbling. Wandering around he comes across a meditation chamber, much like the one we saw in Empire. He hesitates, then sits inside. The chamber closes as the upper half descends, completing the sphere. Ben examines the stark white interior as a holo buzzes to life before him. It’s Palpatine.

“Lord Vader, you will travel to Exegol and seek out Darth So-And-So [reader, we’ll call him “Darth SoS”]. Only then will you become a true Sith.” A star map appears above the holo. “Do not fail me.” The holo disappears.

A dark spark flickers to life inside Ben. “Yes,” he thinks. “Kylo Ren was make-believe. This is the real deal.” He exits the chamber and climbs into The Whisper, enters the coordinates and takes off.

Hux

The Finalizer and its compliment of First Order ships travel through space. Hux is ransacking Kylo’s old quarters, looking for anything. He rejects this and that, until he finds Vader’s ruined helmet tucked away. Of course he knew of Ren’s devotion to his lunatic grandfather as well as the legend of Darth Vader.

A First Order officer enters the room. “Sir, we’ve found a signal.”

“What is it?” Hux says.

“Its one of ours, sir. But we can’t be certain it belongs to—“

“Follow it.”

“Sir.” The offer turns on his heels.

Hux tosses the mask on the floor.

Kylo

Ben arrives on Exegol. It’s dark, dreary, scary, all that Sith-y stuff you’d expect. A massive granite wall — the landscape’s only feature — seems to rise to the sky. [I really liked this in RoS so let’s keep it].

Kylo’s mind is invaded by a grasping, violating power. He stumbles.

“You wish to join the order of the Sith.”

Ben feels all of his memories being examined, as well as his fears, his hopes and the things he loves. He’s helpless to stop it. It’s an aggressive violation. He doesn’t notice that he’s hovering a foot above the ground, nor the hooded figure, bent and impossibly old, moving toward him.

“You had much to love,” it says, “and soooo much to hate.” Darth SoS’s voice is lusty and vulgar. “You hate…yourself. Oh yesss.”

“You’ve cut yourself off from The Force,” Darth SoS says, reaching a decayed, withered hand towards Ben. He touches Ben’s face. “Let’s fix that.”

Rey

Rey is talking with Leia when she is suddenly ripped from that reality and now sees Kylo hanging in the air, Darth SoS before him. Her eyes widen with fear.

“Wh- where are you?”

“It’s too late, Rey” he says.

“I see you Ben,” Rey says. “I…know where you are! I’M COMING—“

Darth SoS Force-pushes Rey 30 feet into the air. She slams into the ground on Ajan Kloss. Leia is kneeling beside her, concerned.

“I found him,” Rey says, out of breath. “I know where Ben is.”

Hux

The First Order comes out of light speed in orbit of Exegol. “Prepare my ship and a hundred men.”

“Sir this planet isn’t on any charts. Are you sure—“

Hux pulls out a blaster and shoots the officer. “Who else has a question about my orders?” Silence fills the bridge. Hux process to the launch bay where troopers are filing into a First Order shuttle. Hux enters and orders the pilot to land next to The Whisper’s last known signal. They depart.

Rey

Rey is loading supplies onto the Falcon. What have that scene of “You aren’t going anywhere without me” featuring Finn and Poe. Rey eventually relents.

Finn and Poe take X-Wings. R2 is in Finn’s ship. BB-8 in Poe’s. 3PO enters the Falcon to find Chewbacca in the pilot’s seat. Rey sits co-pilot.

Rey shouts down the hall, “Tell her we’re ready!” Camera cuts to Leia climbing through the roof hatch, where Rose is making a repair. “That’s got to be good enough, I’m afraid,” Leia says. “Let’s hope ‘good enough’ is enough” Rose says, and the two women enter the ship and it takes off.

Kylo

Darth SoS is tormenting Ben with all of the memories he’d rather forget: Luke’s decision to kill him. Han’s death. His multiple failures. Anything to break him, to foster the misery and hatred inside him. Ben wails, as hatred and regret fill him in equal measure.

Above the planet, the Falcon and X-Wings exit light speed. Rey says, “We got company!” because, you know, Star Wars. A fight between Resistance and First Order breaks out. Rey is pulled into another Force Skype call and sees Ben struggling to resist Darth SoS’s indoctrination. He reaches out a hand, and Rey reaches to touch it. As she does she moves from the Falcon’s co-pilot seat and is now physically with Ben and Darth SoS.

Chewie freaks out. “What do you mean, ‘gone?’” Poe says, reading the translation on his dashboard. Chewie continues shouting, and flying. Leia and Rose are in the cockpit. Leia closes her eyes. “Ben,” she says.

Chewbacca yells at Rose. “Oh, no” she says. The Falcon is jolted by a blast and Rose relents. “OK, fine! Fine!” She sits in the co-pilot seat and says, “I got a bad feeling about this” because, you know, Star Wars.

Down on the planet, Darth SoS turns his attention to Rey and uses Force Lighting to subdue her. He zaps her again and turns to Ben. “Finish her. Embrace your hate and your transformation is complete.”

Ben walks over to Rey. He turns to Darth SoS. “Never,” he says. “This ends now. No more Sith. No more Jedi. It’s over.” Rey stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Ben. “You would need an army,” she says.

“Indeed,” Darth SoS says just as Hux and his garrison of troopers enter the room. Hux is expressionless, staring blankly ahead. “Kill them,” he says. Rey ignites her lightsaber and Ben assumes a defensive pose.

Above the planet, the battle rages. Chewbacca barks orders at Rose who replies. “I.. I don’t understand you!” What she does understand is the Falcon. As it takes damage and systems malfunction (they always do), she fixes each one. Poe and Finn are picking off TIE fighters. Without Hux or Kylo, the First Order is in disarray. The rebels have the upper hand and are seemingly winning the battle.

On the planet the battle begins and Ben Force-pulls a trooper’s blaster to himself. Rey is picking off troopers left and right. Ben is blasting. The two get separated. Rey takes on several troopers as Ben faces Hux. Ben is grievously wounded and falls to the floor. He reaches out a hand and says “Mom,” pulling Leia into the scene. 

She and Ben make eye contact. “Hello, my son,” she says just as Ben dies.

Rey finishes off the last of the troopers as Leia ignites her lightsaber. She and Rey face Darth SoS. He turns to Leia, his eyes wide. “The last Skywalker,” he says, throwing Force lighting her way. She defects it with her lightsaber and a three-way battle between Leia, Rey and Darth SoS begins.

Darth SoS is getting the upper hand on Rey and Leia recognizes this. She positions herself in a way that sacrifices her life to save Rey. Rey cries out, flies at Darth SoS and slays him. The room falls silent and the camera pans to show Rey, alone, among the carnage.

Above the planet Poe & Co. win because, whatever. The story isn’t about them anyway. They fly down to get Rey.

They go to Tattooine to bury Leia and Ben at the old Lars Homestead (Aalderaan is gone so yeah, this seems like the next best thing). Rey sees Luke’s Force ghost, as well as Leia’s, Obi-Wan’s, and Yoda’s, plus apparitions of Mace Windu, Qui-Gon, Plo Kloon, Shaak Ti and so on. “A thousand Jedi live in you now,” Luke says. Rey smiles, pulls a bag over her shoulder and she and BB-8 walk off into the sunsets.

Yep, this is terrible. It’s half-baked and there are enormous problems:

  1. Finn, Poe, Rose et. al. have nothing to do for, like, the entire movie.
  2. It doesn’t address Rey’s parentage (that was by design but I know it will bother some of you).
  3. There’s still no explanation of who/why the Sith are.
  4. Other stuff.

However, I’ve been trapped in this damn house for almost a month and this little project kept me entertained for a few hours. Plus I love Star Wars so much, that this is my little love letter to the characters and stories that have given me so much joy since 1977.

Losing hope for The Force Awakens

starAs an unapologetic Star Wars fanboy, I’ve been anticipating the forthcoming movie, The Force Awakens. The first teaser trailer was exciting, and got me enthused for the film. The second teaser was so compelling I went all in, abandoned my hesitation and succumbed to the prospect of this being the Star Wars movie I’ve wanted since 1983.

Today, all of that changed.

Note: the official poster appears after the break. I also discuss the “bad guy.” If you don’t want to see it, don’t click. You have been warned. 

Continue reading →

Han Solo movie reportedly in development

laser_cantina_470-95354508

Following Disney’s confirmation that stand-alone Star Wars character movies are in development, Entertainment Weekly suggests that Han Solo will be among those to get his own film (along with Boba Fett and Yoda):

“The Han Solo story would take place in the time period between Revenge of the Sith and the first Star Wars”

How many times did I say this would work on The Sci-Fi Cast? Countless! There’s so much story there: Han’s adventures as an illegal space smugger, Han meets Chewie, Han wins the Flacon from Lando in a bet, Han is forced from Cloud City, Han runs afoul of the gangster Jabba the Hutt and is on the run from bounty hunters…on and on. The movie ends with Chewie and Han wandering into the Mos Eisley cantina…

Boy, I hope this happens. It could be fantastic.

Lucasfilm already rushing out 3D Star Wars re-releases

George Lucas plans to speed up the Star Wars 3D re-releases by sending the revamped “Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones” and “Episode III Revenge of the Sith” to theaters in consecutive months in 2013. The studio announced the change at the Star Wars Celebration VI fan gathering in Orlando, Fla. this week.

Lucasfilm intended to release one 3D film per year for six years, starting with “The Phantom Menace” (TMP) in 2012. At the time, I wondered if the public’s interest in 3D movies would last that long. Of course, Lucasfilm didn’t give a reason for the accelerated schedule, and TPM did well in its 3D release, grossing $43,456,382 domestically. Still, you can’t ignore the fact that these huge releases will happen only weeks apart.

Something is afoot. I can sense it.

Lightsaber Academy

This is an epic story about a Star Wars “Lightsaber Academy” in San Francisco.

“I’m standing next to Gary, talking to him about the huge aftermarket industry for Star Wars when someone hands me a lightsaber. I have never felt cooler in my entire life. Panda’s now wearing fingerless gloves and doing air punching, which I somehow ignore just long enough to turn my saber on (it’s blue!) and swing it for the first time.

Alain, now standing in the center of the room, gets everyone’s attention, shouting (like only a lightsaber instructor can), ‘Follow me!'”

You really need to read the whole thing.

Mini book review: Star Wars: Darth Plagueis

Author James Luceno must be strong in The Force, as he accomplished something incredible with Star Wars: Darth Plagueis. He made sense of The Phantom Menace.

Luceno has written several novels set in the Star Wars universe, and his latest tracks the rise of Darth Sidious, known to most as Senator Palpatine of Naboo and ultimately The Emperor. Young Palpatine is discovered as it were by Sith Lord Darth Plagueis, known publicly as Hego Damask of the galactic banking clan. Born to well-off parents with powerful political ties, young Palpatine (who denounces his given name and goes by his surname only) rebels by opposing his father’s politics. Damask recognizes him as an especially “Force-full” being and fosters the resentment he feels towards his parents. As their relationship grows, Damask uses Palpatine to fulfill his own personal and political agendas, eventually introducing him to the dark side of The Force.

At first, Luceno seems hung up on the politics of pre-empire Naboo, having his characters discuss elections, taxation, trade routes and all manner of back-handed political maneuvering at length. Initially I found it off-putting and feared that Star Wars: Darth Plagueis would succumb to the same mind-numbing political drivel that made The Phantom Menace such a bore. However, as the story progressed, I saw the ingenious trick Luceno had pulled.

The events in his story are set within a few decades of those depicted in The Phantom Menace. In fact, the final act of the book overlaps much of the first prequel. Luceno provides believable backstory and fills the huge gaps in the The Phantom Menace’s screenplay so well that I wish Lucas’ movie contained several scenes from Luceno’s book. For example, Amidala‘s unlikely ascension to the throne as a teenager, Darth Maul‘s motivation and reason for existing, Count Dooku‘s questionable allegiance and Nute Gunray‘s insignificance all make sense after reading Luceno’s book. Heck, he even explains away Amidala’s deadpan speech and vacant eyes.

Of course, Star Wars: Darth Plagueis does more than repair The Phantom Menace. It offers an entertaining, lively and likely backstory for one of science fiction’s greatest villains, The Emperor. It’s ultimately a short, fun title that Star Wars fans will enjoy, with enough “Oh, cool!” moments to make up for Jar Jar.

Well, almost.