Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now, and like every new Star Wars film, it’s stirring a lot of chatter online. The wide breadth of critical reactions has created a lot of interesting conversations (and conspiracies) on social media. Is this the perfect ending to the Skywalker saga? Or was the film a rush job that resulted in a lot of last-minute changes to its own detriment?
One theory going around is that The Rise of Skywalker originally had a very different ending. One that spared a major character and would mean very different things for the future of Star Wars. Fans on Twitter have compiled “evidence” of this potential change, and we have to say… it’s pretty convincing. Join us in full crackpot theorizing mode until the cut.
Major spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker below.
The final moments of The Rise of Skywalker are probably the most controversial in the film. For some, the death of Ben Solo—a freshly redeemed Kylo Ren—was a fitting end for the character. For others, his death felt like a strange coda, not just for the character himself but for the Skywalker legacy. Han, Luke, and Leia all die to service Ben’s arc, so it feels a little strange that he dies moments after resurrecting Rey. His one good act is met not only with death, but with his total erasure from the rest of the film. He’s not a Force ghost with Luke and Leia in the end, and he’s never really grieved or given closure. He just sort of poofs and vanishes.
But was that always the plan for Ben Solo? Interviews with screenwriter Chris Terrio and behind-the-scenes reports point to a messy production for The Rise of Skywalker. A New York Times profile that came out just before the release of the film spoke of on-set rewrites and constant narrative rejiggering. On a recent episode of the podcast The Rough Cut, the movie’s editor Maryann Brandon said the film was still being edited and the plot reworked up until Thanksgiving, just a few weeks before release. That means character fates might have changed at some point. Was that the case with Ben?
Let’s look at the potential evidence. A number of Twitter threads have popped up since the film’s release that point toward some interesting editing choices. For instance, the moment where Ben falls to his death after kissing Rey appears to be shot in reverse. The way his hair falls and Daisy Ridley’s arm positioning makes it look like she’s hoisting him up instead of letting him fall. This could merely be an editing trick used to prevent an Adam Driver head injury, but it could also speak to a change in the order of that sequence.
why ben solo clearly wasn’t meant to die until LATE in the editing
process // a thread ?
— everyone deserved better. (@xoxoreyloxoxo) December 21, 2019
There’s also the whole matter of body fading. When Rey dies (temporarily) after striking down Palpatine, her body never disappears. We know from other films that disappearing usually means one is willingly becoming “one with the Force.” So why does Ben look like his life is drained and he falls in pain before his own Force-joining moment? It’s especially jarring that he isn’t a Force ghost at the end with his mother, since their bodies faded at the same time.
Again, I’ll eat my foot if this Rumi poem on Vic Mahoney’s Episode IX inspiration wall was in reference to Rey and BB-8 lol.
Out beyond right
Out beyond wrong
There is a place
I’ll meet you
— Someone’s Granddaughter (@MarienneMaid) December 26, 2019
Another popular theory before the film’s release was based on a photo of second unit director Vic Mahoney’s office. Written on the wall is a line from a poem by 13th century Persian poet Rumi: “Out beyond right / Out beyond wrong / There is a place/ I’ll meet you there.” Many fans speculated this meant a happily-ever-after for Ben and Rey, and that they would end The Rise of Skywalker together, beyond right and wrong. Were they originally meant to be together on Tatooine?
Whatever the case, it’s clear Rey’s final moment on Tatooine was cobbled together. Daisy Ridley’s hair changes throughout the scene, as do the character’s emotions. And, as some have noticed on Twitter, the very final shot of the film—of Rey and BB-8 looking out at the twin suns—is actually reused footage from a previous scene on Pasaana.
RELEASE THE REY NOBODY CUT https://t.co/vtETrVKtAx
— Jenny Nicholson (don’t talk to me about star wars) (@JennyENicholson) December 30, 2019
Thematically speaking, it would make sense if Ben Solo were meant to be in that final scene. Rey inherits the Skywalker name, which is a lovely character moment, but Ben is a Skywalker, too. Tatooine is where his family started. Until this point, one of the sequel trilogy’s themes was, “Nobody is ever really gone.” But Ben is gone from the whole finale—he isn’t even shown with his family as a Force ghost. If he was originally with Rey, meant to live on Tatooine in a life of atonement, that could send a powerful message. Two Force users whose families were afflicted by the Dark Side, and who rebuilt a legacy together.
Another “clue” that Ben possibly lived in an earlier cut: The score. John Williams is an iconic part of Star Wars, and his music for the final scene is beautiful. But it’s titled “A New Home.” In interviews, Terrio said the moment was never meant to imply that Rey was moving into the Lars homestead on Tatooine and he doesn’t know why Williams chose that as the title. It does seem like an odd choice. Maybe Williams was referring to the lightsabers Rey buries in the sand, or maybe, if the conspiracy theory checks out, Ben was originally the one staying there.
This is all conspiracy for now, and all in good fun. It’s just as likely that Ben’s death was always part of the plan. But it’s interesting to think about the alternative. Maybe Disney thought twice about letting the villain live and went for an ending more in tandem with Return of the Jedi. We’re ready for the tell-all book.
Featured Image: Lucasfilm