star wars the rise of skywalker palpatine

A lot goes unexplained in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, so much that director J.J. Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio have gone on an explanation press tour of sorts, clarifying plot reveals and twists. But earlier versions of the final film in the Skywalker Saga may have given a better picture of some of the most baffling twists. According to Abrams longtime editor Maryann Brandon, who edited the film alongside Stefan Grube, an earlier cut of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker explained the return of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) after his apparent death in Return of the Jedi.

Spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker follow.

When Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker begins, the opening crawl says, quite dramatically, “THE DEAD SPEAK!” It’s a striking way to introduce the return of Emperor Palpatine, the pure force of evil who acted as the antagonist of the previous two Star Wars trilogies. But there is one problem that the film never bothers to address: Palpatine’s death in Return of the Jedi.

So how did he return in The Rise of Skywalker? “Unnatural abilities” or something so vague has been referred to by Abrams and Terrio, with general handwaving toward Sith/Dark Side powers. His reason for coming back is just as confusing — it’s so he can tempt his granddaughter Rey (Daisy Ridley) to kill him so that he can live forever? But Brandon told The Huffington Post that much of that was explained in an earlier cut of The Rise of Skywalker. Brandon explained the team went “back and forth” on how much Palpatine backstory they wanted to include in the film, but ultimately cut most of it:

“It was kind of a delicate balance and went back and forth a lot about how much we wanted to reveal. Some scenes changed quite a bit, the way that we wanted to present it to the audience. In the end, we ended up showing a lot less of it than we started with.”

Brandon added that there was originally “a little more information about it, what was keeping [Palpatine] alive [but] it seemed to go off topic. There was so much information in the film and so many characters that we wanted to have an audience concentrate on. I think we felt we didn’t want to clutter the film up with things you didn’t need to know.”

It’s true that too much exposition would have weighed down an already cluttered film. But it was frustrating that an entire storyline had to take place offscreen and be explained entirely by an opening crawl. Perhaps those deleted scenes will come to light in the Blu-ray release and give a fuller picture of Episode 9.

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