My Take on the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy: The Last Jedi
Writing my take on The Rise of Skywalker was tricky because of needing to reconcile the events of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi while still providing a complete and sensible Star Wars movie. I should have much more freedom now that I can ignore Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi to sketch out my own version of it.
As before, my intention is to say what I would have done to provide a satisfying and coherent plot with sensible progression and character development while respecting what had come before. In addition, since The Last Jedi was only the second part of a planned trilogy, I will be leaving some plot threads open to be addressed in a theoretical The Rise of Skywalker following my version of The Last Jedi. While I will not flesh those out into a complete outline, I will highlight them and give some broad strokes on what might be done with them.
It is no secret that The Force Awakens drew significant inspiration, to put it mildly, from the original Star Wars trilogy and from A New Hope in particular. As such, I do intend to follow a rough framework similar to The Empire Strikes Back, though without sticking quite so close to it. I know the actual The Last Jedi also did that and more, but I will be doing it in a way that is not inane.
That said, I think I can keep some content from The Last Jedi, which was not much of an option for The Rise of Skywalker. By no means am I saying that I will stick close to what the actual movie did, but I think it would be an interesting exercise to see how much of it I can preserve while coming up with a movie that is not completely awful. I will have the full freedom to do whatever I want with the sequels when I write my take on The Force Awakens, so trying to keep some constraints on what I can do for The Last Jedi should not be too bothersome.
As before, when I speak about “canon”, I am referring only to the three movie trilogies, and I do not have perfect memories of them; if I had any oversights, misinterpretations, or other mistakes, I would like to hear about them so that I can revise this post accordingly. Likewise, I will use “Jedi” and “Sith” to also mean Light-side Force-user and Dark-side Force-user, respectively. I know there are other aspects that go into Jedi and Sith, but for the sake of brevity, I think it will be clear from context when I am using those terms for the institutions or for a source of power.
With all of that out of the way, it is time to give my take on The Last Jedi. Before getting into any plot details, here are my thoughts for what to do with the major characters and lingering issues from The Force Awakens.
THE MATTER OF DRAWING INSPIRATION FROM THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
The basic plot of The Empire Strikes Back:
Luke is doing some mission for the Rebels during which he gets overwhelmed and has to be saved by Han
The Empire attacks the Rebel base and is repelled long enough for the protagonists to flee
Luke goes to Dagobah to get training from Yoda
Han and Leia confirm their romantic relationship
Luke has a vision of being turned to the Dark side
The Millennium Falcon goes to Bespin
Luke feels his friends are in danger and goes to save them
Darth Vader springs his trap, capturing Han, but Leia and Chewbacca escape when Lando has a change of heart
Luke loses his hand, finds out the truth about his father, and is saved from certain death by Leia
Putting that in more generic terms:
The main protagonist suffers a clear defeat, surviving only thanks to their allies
The antagonist faction forces the protagonist faction to flight, during which the main protagonist goes to acquire more power
The supporting protagonists believe they have reached safety
The main protagonist is faced with difficult choices that compel them to abandon their personal quest in favor of aiding their allies
The protagonist faction has a significant loss
The main protagonist suffers a clear defeat, surviving only thanks to their allies
There are certainly other ways to structure a plot framework based on The Empire Strikes Back, but that seems like a reasonable set of points to build around (though I do intend to tweak it, such as switching main protagonists from Rey to Finn partway through the movie).
My takeaways from this:
The significant loss towards the end will be Rey accepting Snoke’s invitation to join the Dark side, due in part to frustrations over Luke’s training methods.
The main protagonist will be Finn, although he will take much of this movie to recover from the injuries sustained at the end of The Force Awakens.
The false safety in the middle will be some combination of Poe, Leia, BB-8, and/or C-3PO taking shelter on a planet that they do not realize is loyal to the First Order. Chewbacca and R2-D2 are excluded since they will spend most of the movie with Rey before reuniting with the Resistance after Rey’s defection to the Dark side.
The climax will involve Rey and Finn going separately to confront Snoke and Kylo Ren, respectively, concluding with Rey defeating Finn after he gains an advantage over Kylo Ren.
I am keeping the three-thread plot weave from the actual movie (Rey-plot, Finn-plot, and Poe-plot), though I aim to pull it off without two of them becoming entirely pointless time-fillers that occurred only because of bad writing.
THE MATTER OF REY
Rey was in an awkward spot at the end of The Force Awakens. There was very little depth shown for her character, nothing much in the way of motivations other than survival and kindness, nothing that was out of her capabilities (even knowing languages that she had no apparent reason to know), and no reason for why she was the one to go looking for Luke (I know it matters to her character as he is supposed to replace her parents, but it makes no sense for the Resistance to not at least send one of their officers along with her). Her tension about her parents was resolved already in her conversation with Maz, and her tensions with the antagonists were still entirely undeveloped.
That all said, she is facing Luke alone at the end of The Force Awakens whether it makes sense or not, and she does have some connection to Finn, so there are some seeds to work with. On top of that, there is little point in challenging Rey in terms of her immediate physical well-being, because she showed in The Force Awakens that she is already a skilled combatant capable of facing down a trained and experienced Sith singlehandedly. Instead, she should be treated like most nigh-invulnerable superheroes and challenged in terms of her identity, self-worth, sense of belonging, and so forth.
Luke will turn Rey down at first, waiting for her to show patience and humility, which will frustrate her due to her successes in The Force Awakens. Once she mentions that she faced Kylo Ren, however, he changes his mind and starts training her. Rey displays raw strength in the Force, but she lacks interest in his philosophical lessons and takes criticism poorly, leading to further friction between them as Rey feels rejected by the person she had expected to be her new father-figure. Eventually, Luke feels that Leia is in danger and presents Rey with the choice of either continuing her training or leaving to help the Resistance. She chooses the latter.
After reaching the planet Leia is on, Rey is drawn to another Force presence and finds herself facing Snoke. Despite her efforts to resist, Snoke picks at her vulnerabilities until she breaks down and accepts his offer to join with him. She then goes to save Kylo Ren from Finn but is unable to kill Finn, first due to hesitating and then due to Chewbacca shooting her arm off.
As a point of clarity, I am not making Rey evil to get the woman out of the way for a black man to take the lead. I am making Rey evil because her yearning for parental acceptance/approval and her general social isolation, both present in The Force Awakens, seem likely to leave her vulnerable to manipulation by Snoke after Luke’s initial response (informed by how his own training with Yoda had gone) fails to give her the nigh-instant validation that she had gotten from Han, especially when the ending of The Force Awakens implied that Luke was also isolated from other humans (and thus there would not be a larger social support structure to help Rey when she does not impress Luke as much as she had Han). Her susceptibility to the Dark side is also compounded by the fact that Luke is watching over the first temple of the Sith, not the Jedi, which offers its own temptations. There is nothing wrong with a character falling prey to reasonable flaws from previous characterization and sensible outcomes from contextual circumstances; on the other hand, not doing so just because the character happens to be female is sexist. My notes on the guiding points for a potential The Rise of Skywalker following my alternative The Last Jedi will include bringing Rey back to the Light side because that would be expected from a Star Wars story, but that can only be satisfying if Rey actually turns to the Dark side, not if she just blows up a meaningless transport on accident and then fights a hallucination.
THE MATTER OF KYLO REN
As I said about Kylo Ren in my take on The Rise of Skywalker, despite his attempts to become the new Darth Vader, he is actually a reflection of Luke Skywalker; he is impulsive, emotional, has moments of triumph and failure alike, longs for a grand adventure based on an incomplete understanding of the Jedi in general and Anakin Skywalker (or rather Darth Vader, in Kylo Ren’s case) in particular, and has further training dangled in front of him by (presumably) much older and wiser beings to keep him obedient, but where Luke was motivated to be a hero out of his sense of goodness once his family obligations were removed, Kylo Ren has no clear motivation established in The Force Awakens other than being a brat who wants to resist the Light side. Having been the child of two Rebel generals and being strong in the Force, Ben Solo was born into a position of great power, so what caused him to develop a longing to be a Sith?
There are a couple of obvious possibilities here. In my take on The Rise of Skywalker, I went down the route of Kylo Ren wanting to be a figure unto himself, independent of his lineage and Snoke’s tutelage (and by implication also of Luke’s tutelage). Rather than repeating that interpretation here, I think it is more fruitful to consider that his idol Darth Vader was never known for standing alone, neither as Anakin Skywalker in the prequels (where he was under Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and eventually Palpatine) nor as Darth Vader in the original trilogy (where he was obviously under the Emperor as well as Grand Moff Tarkin). In a similar vein, Kylo Ren shirks responsibility early on in The Force Awakens by passing recovery of BB-8 off to Hux until the droid escapes Jakku, he prays to Darth Vader for guidance when conflicted instead of making his own choices, he rages impotently against mechanical equipment when confronted with obstacles instead of doing anything substantial to overcome them, and he even follows Han’s command to take off his mask rather meekly and then hides behind his dedication to Snoke to avoid facing his delusions before asking Han indirectly to aim the lightsaber for a mortal wound instead of acting on his own.
Based solely on The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren does not want to be a leader, he does not want the burden of responsibility, he wants to be a powerful tool for someone else to direct because there is clear evidence that he makes awful decisions when put in control (e.g. leaving Jakku to torture Poe on the star destroyer despite having no reason to believe the map had left Jakku, kidnapping Rey without also taking BB-8 on Takodana, and exposing himself to Rey while trying to probe her mind for the map to Luke). He wants to be as he thinks Darth Vader was, a scary guard dog on a leash held by someone wiser. The differences are that (a) Anakin was manipulated into his dependent relationship with Palpatine, whereas Kylo Ren is implied to have rejected Luke’s earnest attempts at training him in favor of serving Snoke; (b) Darth Vader was an effective leader at a middle command position (e.g. thinking to put a tracker on the Millennium Falcon to find the Rebel base in A New Hope, planning to capture Luke in carbonite and testing the machinery to do so on an expendable subject in The Empire Strikes Back, letting the Rebels land on Endor’s moon to draw Luke to him in Return of the Jedi), whereas Kylo Ren is little more than a powerful soldier who lacks any greater vision or desire to acquire it; and (c) Darth Vader’s mask was a necessity to survive, while Kylo Ren’s mask is a way of hiding his insecurity and lack of actual capability behind an imposing façade.
That all said, while I can see the case for Kylo Ren’s counterpart being Rey (the independent self-made person who wants to be recognized and valued by a parental figure), I think the above interpretation works better if his counterpart is Finn (the former child soldier who broke free of the rigid structure determining his position to find fulfillment through intrinsically-motivated self-sacrifice as an expression of agency). Of course, it need not be an explicit designation; letting Kylo Ren contrast with both of them can enrich all three characters. It is merely a case of seeing value in having Finn and Kylo Ren face each other directly in combat while Rey and Kylo Ren will not, at least not in this movie.
Early on, Kylo Ren will be part of a First Order team in pursuit of Leia, acting on Snoke’s orders to flush out Rey and bring her to him (unaware that Rey has left D’Qar already on the Millennium Falcon). In a mirror of The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren faces off against Finn and comes out on top, only for Finn to be rescued by Poe. It is revealed that his failures in the previous movie caused Snoke to elevate Hux over him (a reversal from Darth Vader being elevated above any other Imperial officers in The Empire Strikes Back after being under Tarkin in A New Hope). In the next assault on the Resistance, Kylo Ren will reach Leia, only for her to escape while he is distracted by her calling out his flawed idolizing of Darth Vader.
As he did throughout The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren will pitch a fit when faced with the realization of his failure, but this time the other Knights of Ren will intervene, saying that they are still sworn to follow him and awaiting his commands. He sends them to start a campaign of terrorism against ineffective leaders on planets loyal to the First Order as a False Flag Operation to raise support by fueling propaganda about both the Resistance’s barbarism and the strength of the leaders who are not targeted.
Snoke requests Kylo Ren provide a direct report on the False Flag Operation at the same time that Rey is arriving on the planet. However, before Kylo Ren can reach Snoke, he will confront Finn again. This time, Finn will win their fight, only for Rey to save Kylo Ren.
THE MATTER OF FINN
Finn is a reflection of the general lack of coherent direction in The Force Awakens: he is introduced as a storm trooper who falters upon witnessing the merciless slaughter perpetrated by the First Order, only to turn around and start slaughtering storm troopers without hesitation, only to try eliciting empathy by saying that all storm troopers started as children who were taken from their families and indoctrinated, only to show excitement at the prospect of throwing his former captain into a trash compactor, all while everything after his initial defection was motivated by guilt over having been a part of the First Order and by fear of invoking the First Order’s wrath. He is all over the place, contradicting previous moments as often as not, and has all the actual plot impact of a wet fart aside from helping Poe get into a TIE fighter and giving the details of Starkiller Base to the Resistance (which means that he could have been written out entirely if Poe had just transmitted the base’s design plans to BB-8 as part of his own escape, but maybe that would have been too close to A New Hope for even The Force Awakens).
As an aside, the fact that Finn does even less of value in the actual versions of The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker underscores that he was always just a token character cast largely as a corporate excuse to claim diversity and representation. Had J.J. Abrams actually wanted him to be a significant Force-user as The Force Awakens had hinted at, he would have made that happen in The Rise of Skywalker. Had J.J. Abrams actually wanted him to have a romantic relationship with Poe as Oscar Isaac had suggested might be the case, he would have made that happen in The Rise of Skywalker. To cut a rant short, had J.J. Abrams wanted him to be anything other than forgettable comic relief, he would have made that happen in The Rise of Skywalker. Instead, Finn continued to do exactly what he had done through the previous two movies: shout other people’s names and be useless while waffling about vaguely so that people could laugh at his bumbling and maybe swoon over how much potential he has because many audience members cannot distinguish the movie presented from the one in their heads. But I digress.
Finn suffered a severe back injury in his fight with Kylo Ren at the end of The Force Awakens, so he will start this movie with a mechanical armature on his back to supplement his musculoskeletal and nervous systems while they heal. An early confrontation with Kylo Ren will result in said armature being damaged, disabling him and requiring Poe to save him. Feeling guilty about being a burden on his friend, Finn (together with BB-8) will separate from the rest of the Resistance to act as a distraction for the First Order. Finn’s vehicle will be captured, but his familiarity with the First Order’s protocols will help him evade detection until he can escape to Canto Bight.
Finn will hide among the slaves there, helping out however he can as his injuries heal while conversations with the slaves challenge his belief that either the First Order or the Resistance/Republic make any difference in their lives (if this seems to take some inspiration from Gundam once again, that was not intended but might be accurate, since I have no qualms admitting that I think Gundam is the best work of science-fiction art I have ever experienced, with only Dune coming close). As he works, there will be hints about Finn developing Force powers, such as working longer hours than someone in his physical condition should, predicting counterpoints in conversations and rebutting them preemptively, and finally getting a normally-strict taskmaster to let something slide, which will let Finn board a shipping vessel making a delivery for the Resistance.
Upon reaching the destination, Finn will realize that it is one of the First Order’s recruitment worlds. Despite his injuries not having healed completely, he ambushes a storm trooper patrol in order to arm himself with a riot control baton and confronts Kylo Ren. Finn gains the upper hand and is about to defeat Kylo Ren when Rey interferes. She overpowers Finn, but Poe saves him, ending the movie with the intention of bringing Finn to Luke.
THE MATTER OF HUX
Since this exercise imagines an alternate timeline where Rian Johnson did not ruin Hux’s character, he can continue being a competent and threatening commander who makes occasional errors out of arrogance. With Kylo Ren and Snoke being around as the primary antagonists, and Rey joining them towards the end, there is not much need for Hux to get further development, so he can take a less prominent role compared to how I had featured him as the main antagonist for my alternate The Rise of Skywalker. After how The Force Awakens went, Phasma needs more development while Hux can coast by for this movie.
Hux will be the main face of the First Order’s leadership, directing subordinates in a guerrilla war against the remains of the Resistance while holding congress on occasion with Snoke. Kylo Ren will be absent from their meetings, reflecting that Hux has been elevated above him in the chain of command.
THE MATTER OF POE DAMERON
In The Force Awakens, Poe was a hot-shot pilot with a sense of initiative, an upbeat personality, and a nigh-unflappable attitude. He was not a character in need of an arc then, and I see no pressing reason for him to need an arc now, particularly since the movie will need someone lighthearted to release the audience’s tension now that Finn is going to be a more serious character (as befitting his actual background, but I digress).
Similar to the actual The Last Jedi, Poe will spend most of this movie in Leia’s company, aside from the start and end showcasing his chemistry with Finn. However, rather than using Leia to beat Poe down into being more submissive to authority, their interactions will be used to provide context for what the Resistance and the Republic actually are, where the First Order came from, and what the present stakes of the conflict mean for galaxy as a whole. They will also keep tabs on the general state of things and be the main source for reflecting the passage of time. It may not be a glorious role to basically provide the exposition that the audience needs to understand the rest of the movie, but given how sorely lacking that was in The Force Awakens, it is a necessary role.
Of course, it will be mixed in with some action as the Resistance’s leadership fends off attacks by First Order operatives once or twice in the course of this movie. Having Poe deal with some difficulty in transferring his piloting skill into infantry tactics/combat will reinforce that Finn’s ability to do the reverse skillfully was a sign of his Force-sensitivity and will lay groundwork for Poe to have some growth on the way to becoming a commanding officer in The Rise of Skywalker.
THE MATTER OF LEIA
Honestly, I do not understand what it is about Leia that people connect to. Perhaps it is because I had other options like Laurie Strode, Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor , Nancy Thompson, and Clarice Starling as strong, competent female characters in my formative years, but Leia never clicked with me. That is not to say that I think Leia was a bad character, just that I am not the right person to do justice to her character, so I would have leaned heavily on input from Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher (at the very least) to help in fleshing out the details for Leia’s part.
Fortunately, fleshing out those details is beyond the scope of this post. For my purposes here, it is enough to say that Leia will be in a miniature Bottle Episode with Poe, C-3PO, Ackbar, and Holdo, acting to provide context and weight to everything else going on.
Since Carrie Fisher died after the release of The Last Jedi, I would suggest the theoretical sequel to my alternative The Last Jedi begins with a funeral for Leia, as I did in my take on The Rise of Skywalker.
THE MATTER OF LUKE SKYWALKER
After all the build-up of the Resistance and the First Order racing to find Luke in order to swing the course of their conflict, The Last Jedi needed compelling reasons for him to have withdrawn from the galaxy at large, to have avoided returning to participate in the resulting conflict, and to be critical to the success of whichever faction could find him first. I found the reasons that were given in the actual The Last Jedi less than satisfying, to put it mildly, and I did not think Jake Skywalker was interesting enough to justify replacing Luke Skywalker. Frankly, the whole idea that Luke Skywalker could singlehandedly decide the outcome of an interstellar war seemed bad to me from the outset, but since it is what The Force Awakens established, I have to work with it here.
Following the implications in The Force Awakens, Luke did indeed train Ben Solo, along with other students, and did indeed disappear after Ben’s defection to the Sith (along with a number of other students). However, rather than it being because Luke decided their defection signaled a need to end the Jedi order, it will have been because he sensed the influence of Snoke turning them to the Dark side and realized he was too late to break that influence in the moment. Thus, he went to seek out the first temple of the Sith, aiming to stop any other Sith from rising while he trusted the Republic/Resistance to be able to deal with the First Order in Leia’s capable hands. Since the Dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities that some consider to be unnatural, the temple is imbued with some power that prevents him from destroying it outright, and so Luke left some hints about where to find him in case the conflict spun out of control and needed his intervention before he could finish with the temple.
Upon meeting Rey, Luke does not jump at training her immediately, waiting instead for her to show patience and humility. Not only is this a callback to how Yoda had treated him initially, but it is also his attempt at checking if she has the capacity to resist the temptations of the Dark side to avoid providing Snoke with yet another apprentice to poach, something that he had skipped doing with Ben due to their family bonds. However, once he learns that she faced Kylo Ren, he will realize that she must be powerful enough to be on Snoke’s radar already and thus takes the risk of training her in hopes that he can equip her to fend off Snoke’s advances. As mentioned earlier, Rey struggles with picking up his philosophical points and listening to his criticisms, causing friction between them.
When Leia arrives on the First Order’s recruitment world, Luke will feel the shadow of the Dark side falling over her, but he cannot go himself because his presence on Ahch-To is necessary to keep the Sith temple hidden from Snoke ever since he broke its warding while trying to destroy it (on an unrelated side note, I am not fond of inanimate objects being imbued with some essence of the Force, but The Force Awakens set that precedent, and it does provide a reasonable explanation for Luke’s actions). He will give Rey the choice of either continuing her training or leaving to help the Resistance, and after she chooses the latter, he wishes her luck with a lighthearted reminder to come back and finish her training before he dies.
After Rey turns to the Dark side, there can be a cut to Luke feeling her change and lamenting the loss of hope only to have Yoda’s Force ghost appear to tell him that there is another. That is the sort of thing that would need to be seen in action to test if it fits or if it feels too much like pandering for nostalgia, but I will include it in the script outline while being prepared for it to be one of the first scenes cut by the editors (if this was going to be an actual movie).
THE MATTER OF SNOKE
There are two obvious paths to go with Snoke: he can be a completely original character, or he can be Darth Plagueis the Wise, having surviving Palaptine’s assassination attempt. Either option could work, but I think the latter requires more finesse to pull off without undermining Palpatine’s competence, and since a reasonable writer working on The Last Jedi would have recognized that the fan backlash about The Force Awakens damaging the legacies of the original trilogy characters was a legitimate complaint, I will go with making Snoke an original character.
Given both his aged appearance and his implied power with the Force in The Force Awakens, to say nothing of being the leader of a faction that somehow has more advanced resources than the Empire had despite revealing itself only after Luke Skywalker vanished, Snoke does need to have some history. That has some hurdles. It is not reasonable for Snoke to have been a Jedi prior to Revenge of the Sith since surviving Order 66 would undermine Palpatine’s competence, nor is it reasonable for Snoke to have trained with either Obi-Wan or Yoda afterwards since that would contradict their behavior in the original trilogy, nor is it reasonable for Snoke to have been a member of the Empire since Palpatine and Vader would not have ignored someone who is strong in the Force. This all points to Snoke being a self-taught Force-user, at least initially, which also positions him well to serve as a foil to Finn (and potentially Rey) in the theoretical sequel.
How much of Snoke’s history will be revealed in this movie or even its theoretical sequel is something that I would be willing to tune in development, but I think it is worthwhile to come up with that history upfront for the sake of consistency in both his present representation and allusions to his past.
In order to build parallels to Rey, Snoke started out on some insignificant backwater planet somewhat before the fall of the Republic, and thus his formative years were marked by daily hardships due to economic ruin instigated by the Republic’s ineffective rule. The rise of the Empire brought promises of a better life under a government that could get things done quickly, which upset the established powers on his planet. Snoke joined in a movement to eliminate those seeking to twist the Empire’s mandates in order to keep themselves in power. Despite displaying a natural talent for strategy and leadership, he suffered injuries to his head and neck during the fighting, which kept him from joining the Imperial army afterwards.
Embittered by the rejection, Snoke took to studying Palpatine and Vader’s history, with his foresight from his Force-sensitivity leading him to seek out details about developing that power even as the Empire tried to repress that information. Of course, given his lack of a Jedi mentor, he was drawn to the Dark side.
Snoke was happy to see the fall of the Empire, but he detested the new Republic even more because of his childhood. Although his use of the Dark side has rendered him even more physically decrepit than his handicaps necessitate (in keeping with the Brains Evil, Brawn Good trope common to pulp adventures in general and the original trilogy in particular), he is extremely skilled at manipulation through both mundane and Force-empowered means, and his conflicts with the former establishment of his home planet helped him learn how to take advantage of blind spots in a higher authority’s oversight (to somewhat explain how the First Order was able to amass so much power under the Republic’s nose in the first place). Snoke’s ultimate goal is to form a new Empire surrounded by mockeries of the previous one’s iconic elements (Kylo Ren instead of Darth Vader, Starkiller Base instead of the Death Star, child soldier storm troopers instead of adult conscripts, etc.), justifying why the First Order resembles a hollow copy of the Empire.
My goal would be to take advantage of the fan backlash about the damaged legacy elements by changing that from feeling like incompetent writing and bad nostalgia-baiting to feeling like something Snoke is doing intentionally. While that would not explain things like Han’s character being a debt-saddled smuggler again, at least it could suit some of that bungling to a real purpose.
Now, what does that mean for Snoke’s portrayal in my alternate The Last Jedi? For the most part, nothing; his appearances for the majority of the movie will still be holograms giving directions to Hux and, to a lesser extent, Kylo Ren. Towards the end, however, Snoke will appear in person and confront Rey. She will appear to overpower him at first, but then he will appeal to their shared background, her frustrations with Luke, and his willingness to show her acceptance to convince her to join him.
THE MATTER OF MAZ
As I said for The Rise of Skywalker, a character cannot say, “A good question, for another time,” in the first movie of a planned trilogy and then never find that other time unless angering the audience is the point. However, I think resolving that should be left for The Rise of Skywalker as something to help Finn reconcile being on opposite sides of the conflict from Rey, much as Luke had help from Yoda and Obi-Wan in reconciling standing against Anakin in Return of the Jedi. Thus, Maz can be left out of this movie.
THE MATTER OF CHEWBACCA
Having lost Han in The Force Awakens, Chewbacca should be motivated to stick with either Leia or Luke. Since he ended The Force Awakens by riding the Millennium Falcon with Rey to go meet Luke, that fits my interpretation. He will have a moment of grief with Luke over Han’s death (why he did not have such a moment with Leia in The Force Awakens is inexplicable but not my burden here), and then he will serve as a sparring partner for Rey’s physical training while Luke focuses on instructing her in other areas. When Rey reaches to the First Order’s recruitment world, she will separate from Chewbacca. He finds her again as she is betraying Finn and shoots her with his bowcaster, blowing off her right arm and thus giving Finn and Poe the opportunity to escape.
THE MATTER OF THE KNIGHTS OF REN
I am once again taking the obvious approach and making these the students who left Luke to follow Kylo Ren. Since there is another movie to follow this one, there is more freedom to give them some individual character development here than there was in my take on The Rise of Skywalker, though such details are beyond the scope of this post. Their main purpose here will be to prop up Kylo Ren, acting as his agents in a role exempt from Hux’s oversight. In doing so, they will buy into Kylo Ren’s cult of personality so that his character will not be deflated completely (from the audience’s perspective) after Leia’s outmaneuvering.
THE MATTER OF PHASMA
For all that Gwendoline Christie insisted in interviews that viewers were meant to relate with Phasma’s actions and character rather than her appearance and physical form, that was clearly a lie, though I will give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she was obligated to speak no ill about her role publicly. While the easy way out with Phasma is to go with her having died during the destruction of Starkiller Base, there is some leniency for her to have escaped since that happened offscreen, and unlike Maz, Phasma has a clear role that is not just replacing a legacy character. Also, since I want to continue exploring the humanization of the First Order’s storm troopers, having Phasma return as a tenacious survivor seeking vengeance against Finn sounds like a good idea.
That all said, I do not see space for her to be involved in events at the First Order’s recruitment world. Instead, Hux will unleash her to track down Finn after he escapes from Kylo Ren. Phasma will follow him to Canto Bight, though the slaves will cover up his presence well enough to prevent her from finding him before he leaves for the recruitment world. My intention is to show that Phasma survived The Force Awakens and to remind the audience of her threat, but she will mostly be saved for use in an antagonist triumvirate with Hux and Snoke at the climax of The Rise of Skywalker (opposing Finn, Rey, and Poe, with Kylo Ren performing a heroic sacrifice at a critical moment).
THE MATTER OF ADMIRAL ACKBAR
Why Admiral Ackbar ever became so popular is a mystery to me, but I do know that he was a dedicated member of the Rebels and so deserves a proper ending if he is to die in The Last Jedi. He will foil Holdo’s attempt to assassinate Leia, dying in the process.
THE MATTER OF VICE ADMIRAL HOLDO
Despite the atrocious writing and sloppy direction for Holdo in the actual movie, I like the idea of a commanding officer in the Resistance who swaps between being villainous and heroic before dying. The difference is that I will go the other way around; Holdo starts out as a trusted commander under Leia and Ackbar, only to be revealed as a traitor while causing the latter’s death. She will defect to the First Order after that, but Rey will kill her in a test of loyalty by Snoke.
THE MATTER OF BENICIO DEL TORO
Since D.J. is not used in my version of The Last Jedi, Benicio del Toro can play the Canto Bight slave who challenges Finn’s beliefs the most. I am not big on discussing casting since I feel recasting minor actors into different secondary roles is outside the scope of these posts (hence not mentioning Kelly Marie Tran here, nor Naomi Ackie or Kerri Russel in my take on The Rise of Skywalker), but Benicio del Toro is talented enough to deserve a plan.
THE MATTER OF REPUBLIC VS EMPIRE/FIRST ORDER
How The Force Awakens thought it could get away without providing any real details for what happened in between Return of the Jedi and its own beginning to explain why the Republic is impotent, why the Resistance exists as a separate but explicitly state-sponsored military faction, and how the First Order was able to amass the power to build a planet-popping planet is a complete mystery. Action without defined stakes is meaningless light on a screen. It can work in small doses; In Media Res openings can be great when they are done well, like in Iron Man or Deadpool, as can an Action Prologue like in The Terminator; but context has to be provided at some point for it to ever carry actual emotional weight.
The Republic was impotent in The Force Awakens because they grew lax in the prolonged peace following the fall of the Empire and so were slow to react to the rise of the First Order after Luke’s disappearance even before considering the natural delays of making decisions as a group instead of a single person.
The Resistance is something that was pulled together in response to the First Order’s rise, since Leia knew from her past in the Imperial Senate that the Republic would need time to mount a proper mobilization. It was always a rag-tag effort, with the Republic’s “support” amounting to what few favors Leia could call in to supplement her own resources, intended only to buy time for the Republic proper to act. Unfortunately, they underestimated how much the First Order had prepared before revealing themselves severely, thus getting caught with their pants down when Starkiller Base blew up the government headquarters of the Republic.
Presently, the Republic is trying to organize a response, but having lost the heads of their military, civilian, and legislative bodies in The Force Awakens is making that a messy ordeal. If the Resistance can hold on for long enough, the Republic should be able to gather enough force to defeat the First Order, especially if Luke can be found and convinced to help spur the remains of the Republic into swift action, or at least that will be the view presented in the exposition that Leia and Poe engage in.
As I said earlier, Snoke used his experience in opposing loyalists of the previous Republic to devise methods of keeping the First Order hidden from the current Republic until they could grow powerful enough to stand on their own. Finn’s “like all of them” line regarding the storm troopers being child soldiers in The Force Awakens was colored by him having been born on a recruitment world; it was such obvious information from his perspective that he could not imagine someone not being aware of that (not unlike how older generations today have trouble imagining that current adolescents and young adults might not know Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father). Snoke could also use his experience to find forgotten repositories of the Empire’s supplies, hence how the First Order was able to field star destroyers and other Imperial vehicles in the short time they have been public. The loss of Starkiller Base was a critical blow, but the First Order’s propaganda machine is working to hide that fact and present a powerful front with their remaining fleet while they shift the majority of their resources into a guerrilla campaign to finish the Resistance. There will be no exposition for that part of Snoke’s background in this movie, but it should be shared in its theoretical sequel, and the propaganda side of things should be witnessed by Poe and perhaps Finn during their respective plots.
THE MATTER OF HUMANIZING STORM TROOPERS
This was one of the few things I liked about The Force Awakens, which makes it a shame that the actual movie basically forgets about it as soon as Finn helps Poe break out of captivity. I intend to bring it back and be consistent about it. I have no specific plans for what to do with them, but showing storm troopers out of their uniforms for their guerrilla attacks and showing how the First Order is perceived by the Canto Bight slaves and by the people on their recruitment world should all help.
THE MATTER OF SCANNING FOR THE MILLENNIUM FALCON
The Force Awakens essentially made it stupid to ever use the Millennium Falcon as something that can operate covertly, which is a very curious thing to do for a smuggler’s ship. Fortunately, R2-D2 is the droid who always bails out the protagonists from technical problems. Since it is on the ship, it can change the signature while Rey is in transit.
THE MATTER OF REY’S PARENTS
The Force Awakens was partly about Rey trying to meet her parents/parental substitutes; while the movie did tease Han and Obi-Wan for that role, it cast that potential out a few scenes later when Maz said outright that Luke would fill it, and then the movie ended with her meeting Luke. Unfortunately for our reality, someone else decided that that was actually Jake Skywalker and that the audience should be mocked for having the audacity to care about Rey’s parents, and then someone else decided that her parents were indeed meaningless but it was actually her grandparents who mattered all along. Fortunately, I get to wipe all of that aside and can follow a simple progression: The Force Awakens had Rey trying to meet her “parents”, and so The Last Jedi will have Rey striving to find acceptance with her parents (Luke and then Snoke). As for the theoretical The Rise of Skywalker, the obvious direction would be to have her actual parents find her and set her on the path towards redemption, but as someone who places very little value on family bloodlines personally because I view them as a meaningless accident of history, I would rather Rey have an epiphany (with help from Finn and Luke) that her parents never mattered because her own actions determine who she is and thus turn away from the Dark side. I think that would still be a satisfying conclusion, especially for those who think about family like I do, and it might also lend some thematic support to people coping with not knowing their biological parents.
THE MATTER OF KYLO REN’S FORCE POWERS
In The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren was able to paralyze people and torture them to extract information using the Force. These should remain a basis for his tactical choices. As with the debacle of Finn’s character, I fault both Rian Johnson and J.J. Abrams for screwing this up and would intend to do better myself, but that is too deep into the details for the scope of this post.
THE MATTER OF THE VISIONS FROM ANAKIN’S LIGHTSABER
From the prequel trilogy, there is clear precedent that premonitions from the Force do not show things that the person experiencing them will see; they are expected only to show things that the audience will see. Thus, I see no need to shoehorn Rey into the real versions of the first three visions she had when she touched Anakin’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens (the twisting corridor, Luke kneeling by R2-D2 in firelight, and Kylo Ren and the Knights of Ren surrounded by corpses in a rainy wasteland). In fact, I could understand the temptation to handle all of those in flashbacks in order to fit all five into a chronological pattern: the corridor being something of significance in the aftermath of the Republic’s rise, Luke having some revelation, Kylo Ren performing his first act of great evil, Rey’s parents leaving Jakku, and finally Rey’s confrontation with Kylo Ren on Starkiller Base. However, I doubt that would be satisfying for the audience, so I would instead assume the visions were in some garbled order, with Luke’s scene happening in The Last Jedi while the corridor and the rainy wasteland will be in The Rise of Skywalker.
THE MATTER OF THE DICE
Given the obvious lack of communication between the actual writers who worked on The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and Solo when it comes to the meaning of the ornamental dice in the Millennium Falcon, I see no reason why I cannot drop them entirely from my The Last Jedi outline.
With all that out of the way, I can get to the opening text crawl. For reference, here is what the actual movie had to say:
The FIRST ORDER reigns. Having decimated the peaceful Republic, Supreme Leader Snoke now deploys his merciless legions to seize military control of the galaxy.
Only General Leia Organa’s band of RESISTANCE fighters stand against the rising tyranny, certain that Jedi Master Luke Skywalker will return and restore a spark of hope to the fight.
But the Resistance has been exposed. As the First Order speeds toward the rebel base, the brave heroes mount a desperate escape….
I wish I could say that it was a surprise that the actual movie mixes up whether to call the protagonist faction “Resistance” or “rebels” from the opening text crawl or that it presents the First Order’s martial occupation of the galaxy as a sensible follow-up to having lost Starkiller Base, but those were merely foreshadowing just how much care Rian Johnson had for any aspects of canon. In any case, I am free to ignore all that as I put together my opening crawl.
With word of the Hosnian system’s destruction spreading through the Republic, the planetary governors begin marshalling their forces for the coming civil war. Everyone questions where their neighbors’ loyalties lie, making trust a rare commodity.
However, the loss of Starkiller Base decimated the FIRST ORDER’s fleet, prompting a change of strategy by Supreme Leader Snoke. While misinformation is dispersed to downplay the damage, the Knights of Ren are loosed for a swift assault on the RESISTANCE base at D’Qar, aiming to exterminate the leadership before they can evacuate….
It is a sad state of affairs that having two sentences to provide sensible connections to the events of the preceding movie is more than any of the actual sequel trilogy movies did. Additionally, it foreshadows that betrayals are going to be a threat for this movie, and it sets the stakes for the action sequence that will open the movie. All in all, I am fairly happy with this.
As I did with The Rise of Skywalker, I will just make an outline from here. The level of detail will be less this time around since I went overboard with how much I included before, and I will also avoid inserting cinematography, acting, and editing directions.
Kylo Ren leads the Knights of Ren in an attack on the Resistance base at D’Qar.
They use their Force powers to draw alarmingly close to Leia before being noticed.
Finn’s recuperative armature is damaged, but he manages to delay Kylo Ren enough for Leia to escape.
Poe is able to retrieve Finn before anyone finishes him off.
Snoke meets with Hux as a hologram.
Snoke wants the Resistance crushed before the First Order unveils the fruits of further raids on former Imperial shipyards.
Hux mentions that he has mobilized strike forces already, anticipating the vanguard attack would force the Resistance into fleeing.
The transport carrying the major Resistance characters comes under attack.
Finn separates to act as a distraction, with Poe insisting that Finn take BB-8 with him.
Finn’s vehicle is captured, but he knows the First Order’s protocols well enough to evade detection.
Finn and BB-8 stow away on the nearest departing ship, which is going to Canto Bight.
Rey confirms with R2-D2 that the Millennium Falcon’s scan signature has been altered before coming out of hyperspace and landing on Ahch-To.
Rey meets Luke and hands him Anakin’s lightsaber.
Luke gives it back, saying he has bigger concerns at the moment than personally getting into a fight.
Chewbacca and R2-D2 try appealing to him, causing Luke to ask where Han is.
They share a moment of grief over Han’s death.
Snoke meets with Hux as a hologram, again.
Hux assures that suitable footage has been shared with the First Order’s media division for their propaganda campaign.
After leaving the meeting, Hux finds Phasma and sends her to hunt Finn down personally.
Rey spars with Chewbacca to try demonstrating her capabilities to Luke.
Luke still resists training Rey to test her patience, maturity, and humility, not mentioning that he is doing so to see if she could resist Snoke’s manipulation.
Rey is frustrated because of her successes in The Force Awakens and mentions that she faced Kylo Ren.
Luke realizes Snoke would be aware of her already and so agrees to train her.
Finn arrives on Canto Bight and seeks shelter among the slaves.
Benicio del Toro’s character tries to question why they should help him, but Finn predicts the arguments and responds to them preemptively.
Leia, Poe, Ackbar, Holdo, and C-3PO have a leadership meeting.
Exposition about the state of the Republic, the First Order’s rise, and the Resistance’s course of action.
Kylo Ren catches up with Leia’s ship, but she mocks his idolization of Darth Vader, distracting him enough for her to slip away again.
Kylo Ren’s impotent raging is cut short when the other Knights of Ren ask what their orders are.
Kylo Ren sends them on a False Flag Operation against weak leaders loyal to the First Order.
Finn works among the slaves of Canto Bight.
He displays hints of Force powers in working unusually long hours despite his injuries.
Finn and Benicio del Toro’s character have a meaningful conversation about Finn’s beliefs.
Rey training montage.
Luke explains he is at the island to destroy the Sith temple and deny its knowledge to Snoke, along with mentioning that Snoke’s influence turned Ben Solo into Kylo Ren.
Rey displays raw strength in the Force but lacks interest in philosophical lessons and takes criticism poorly.
The Resistance leadership is on a ship approaching a planet that they do not realize is a First Order recruitment world.
Exposition about the Resistance’s course of action and the looming civil war, including considerations about time and Leia’s personal justifications for the moral concerns related to rushing into armed conflict against a humanized faction.
Holdo tries to kill Leia, but Ackbar intervenes to save her.
Holdo flees after Poe is unable to apprehend her.
Poe lands them on the planet.
Ackbar dies before he can receive medical care.
Snoke calls on Kylo Ren to see him in person for a report on his False Flag Operation.
Luke tries something with Rey’s help destroy the Sith temple, but he cuts their effort short when he feels some malevolence within the temple reach out for her.
Luke senses that Leia is in danger and offers Rey a choice between continuing her training or leaving to help the Resistance.
Rey chooses to leave, masking her frustration with Luke as concern for the Resistance.
Chewbacca tries to stay with Luke, but Luke insists that he go as a co-pilot for the Millennium Falcon.
Luke keeps R2-D2 to assist him in figuring out the temple’s secrets.
Luke and Rey exchange “may the Force be with you”s, with Luke giving her a reminder to come back and finish her training before he dies.
Phasma arrives on Canto Bight and starts abusing the slaves in her search for Finn.
Finn finds out about a shipping vessel making a delivery for the Resistance.
He convinces a normally-strict taskmaster to be lax for a moment, letting him sneak on board.
After Finn’s vessel departs, Benicio del Toro’s character is killed by Phasma.
Rey arrives on the recruitment world and is drawn to Snoke’s presence, separating her from Chewbacca.
Rey sees Snoke in person.
After a token show of the Force, Snoke allows Rey to overpower him physically to bait her into lowering her guard.
Snoke manipulates Rey into joining the Dark side by mentioning their shared history of being nobodies from nowhere to build sympathy and offering to accept her in a way that Luke didn’t.
As a test, Snoke sends Rey to kill Holdo for her attempt to assassinate Leia.
Rey intercepts Holdo outside of the spaceport and kills her.
Luke feels a disturbance in the Force due to Rey’s actions.
Reenact the scene of Luke kneeling by R2-D2 from Rey’s visions in The Force Awakens.
Luke laments the loss of hope.
Yoda’s Force ghost appears and tells him that there is another.
Finn arrives on the planet and recognizes it as a First Order recruitment world.
Finn jumps a storm trooper patrol and arms himself with a riot control baton.
Finn sees Kylo Ren arrive and goes to confront him.
Finn shrugs off Kylo Ren’s attempt at paralyzing him and gains the upper hand.
Before Finn can kill Kylo Ren, Rey interferes and overpowers him.
Chewbacca shoots at Rey. She messes up stopping the shot and loses her hand/arm.
Poe is able to save Finn before Rey can recover, getting on board the Millennium Falcon with Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO.
Poe uses the Millennium Falcon’s flight records to set a course for bringing Finn to Luke.
Cue John Williams end credits music.
The following plot threads are left for resolution in a theoretical The Rise of Skywalker:
Leia’s funeral due to Carrie Fisher’s death
Maz explaining how she had Anakin’s lightsaber
Maz and Luke helping Finn come to terms with Rey’s turn to the Dark side
Showing enough to Snoke’s background to make his character and the First Order as a whole believable while retaining some mystery
Luke dealing with the Sith temple
Kylo Ren’s disillusionment with Snoke and the First Order, leading him to sacrifice himself in a critical moment during the climax to help the Resistance
Rey’s return to the Light side after finding her “family” with Finn and Luke
A final showdown (or multiple simultaneous showdowns) between Finn, Rey, Poe, and Luke against Phasma, Hux, and Snoke
As with the opening text crawl, I am fairly happy with how that outline looks. There are still parts where I chafed against the constraints set by The Force Awakens, but it has a reasonable flow and provides spots of success for the protagonists despite the movie as a whole being their low point for the trilogy. I can see clear influence from The Empire Strikes Back, but I think it is different enough to just be influence rather than plagiarism.
Next time, I get to scrap everything that the sequels did and set up my own theoretical trilogy with a clean slate for The Force Awakens!