'Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker' Co-Writer Explains The Opening Crawl's Heavy Lifting

Star Wars has begun every chapter of the Skywalker saga with an opening crawl accompanied by the iconic theme by composer John Williams. The crawl acts as a serial set-up to explain what has happened in the time between movies and where we find our heroes and villains. And in the case of The Rise of Skywalker, the crawl has to do some serious heavy lifting in order to catch audiences up on what's been going on since The Last Jedi, and that includes a big plot detail about the return of Emperor Palpatine. So why did writers J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio decide to relegate that to The Rise of Skywalker opening crawl instead of revealing it in the actual narrative?

Speaking to IndieWire, Chris Terrio discussed the process of determining what needed to be said in The Rise of Skywalker opening crawl. The co-writer explained:

"We debated and debated what the crawl would say, and we wanted to have the word 'revenge' in the crawl, a message of revenge in the voice of the late Galactic Emperor Palpatine. We also wanted that line, 'The dead speak.' ... You might be able to say 'kill the past,' and that might be genuinely what Kylo Ren is trying to do in 'Episode 8' and even at the beginning of 'Episode 9,' but the past isn't done with him yet. The character might be mentally ready to be done with it, [but] there's the voice of the past, literally, the emperor saying, 'Not so fast, my boy. History has its eye on you.' History remembers what happened, and the Sith should not go quietly into the night."

The issue that some fans have expressed with the opening crawl is that it glosses over what should be something that has a little more explanation. Otherwise, it feels like we're being thrown into the middle of another Star Wars movie instead of picking up at a logical story point to begin with.

However, that's actually what convinced Abrams and Terrio to structure the crawl this way. Initially, there was a much different version of the crawl, which may have revealed more about Emperor Palpatine's comeback (and versions that revealed less too), but then the opening crawl for Star Wars: A New Hope inspired them to go in a different direction. Terrio elaborated:

"We went back to the crawl of Episode IV [A New Hope] and realized that it's a fairly complex situation you're being thrown into. It very much feels like a Saturday morning serial, because they've just stolen the plans to a battle station called the Death Star, and that's all brand new information in 1977. We decided that we were going to just go for it and begin with an inciting event, which is that this broadcast has been heard."

The best reason to include that information in the opening crawl is to make sense of what Kylo Ren is doing at the beginning of the movie. But putting that information in the opening crawl kind of undercuts what would have been a reveal within the movie when Poe Dameron and Finn return with a message from the recently revealed First Order mole. That reveal would have been much more dramatic if it wasn't explained in the opening crawl, especially since the Emperor's phantom message was relegated to being revealed in Fortnite.

But as it stands, we're barely given any time to let that information settle, let alone accept the brief explanation from Dominic Monaghan's character Beaumont Kin about how it's possible through "dark science, cloning, secrets only the Sith knew." Perhaps that's for the best since too much explanation can often lead to even more dissatisfaction. But it would be nice to maybe know a little more about what Palpatine has been doing this whole time and how exactly he survived (or was resurrected after) his fall in Return of the Jedi.