‘The Rise of Skywalker’ Editor Maryann Brandon Answers Lingering Questions About the Film
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker had the tricky task of ending a forty-two year saga, incorporating a lot of characters, but remaining devoted to the core four characters of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren. Oh yeah, and the reintroduction of the most evil entity in franchise history, Sheev Palpatine. The film’s editor Maryann Brandon addresses several lingering questions coming out of the film in an interview with Huffington Post, and why certain decisions were made in the final edit.
The decision to have Rey and Ben Solo kiss
“I always said, ‘The movie will tell us whether they should kiss or not. We will know by the time we get to the end of our process, if it should happen.’ And I felt it should, and [director J.J. Abrams] agreed with me, and other people who saw the film agreed. I know it’s not for everybody,” she said of the kiss. “I know there will be people who wish they hadn’t, but this is a film that was never going to please everyone, and I think that the reviews are kind of reflective of that. The things that certain people love, other people hated. And that’s the phenomenon of ‘Star Wars.’”
I appreciate Brandon’s answer. Since the movie’s release there is a portion of fans who supported a romance that rejected this moment because it was limited to only this. They wanted everything, with Ben and Rey alive and ending up together, happily ever after (and perhaps for some, even an epilogue showing children like Hera in Rebels). There is also portion of fans who were angered by the kiss for a different reason, because they saw Kylo Ren as an abuser and tormenter, one who captured Rey, manipulated her, threw her into a tree nearly killing her, and blamed Snoke’s murder on her to Hux, the General of the First Order. Then there are fans who were indifferent about it, and maybe felt it was a bit out of place, unexpected, or even forced.
At face value, I think the kiss may have actually caused more harm than good and Abrams should have made a hard-line choice, go all in, or nothing at all. I think the compromise caused more complaints, the opposite of its intention – not to me personally, but those impassioned on either side of the fence about these two having/not having a romantic connection.
Why did Kylo Ren/Ben Solo die?
“He got his redemption, I think, in a lovely way. And right after he disappears, [his mother] Leia disappears. I’d like to think that they’re together.”
This was the least shocking part of the film to me. I saw no version in which Kylo Ren/Ben Solo survives and didn’t face trial for being a part of a genocidal organization, unless he had to go hide in the woods in an exile of anonymity like Dexter. Ben’s final act of redemption was sacrificing his life to put life back into Rey, a sacrifice which felt much different than Anakin’s, which was good enough for me. I love the character of Rey, so seeing Ben Solo use whatever he had left in him to save her was the most heroic act the character could have done. By saving her, he also saved the Jedi and the future of the galaxy, which will always need guardians of peace and justice.
How much (or how little) they explained how Palpatine returned
“It was kind of a delicate balance and went back and forth a lot about how much we wanted to reveal,” she said. “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.”
There was originally “a little more information about it, what was keeping [Palpatine] alive,” but, Brandon said, “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,” she said.
I never go into Star Wars movies demanding explanations for everything. I don’t care where Yoda is from, what his species name is, and I don’t care how Palpatine returned. Palpatine’s entire motivation from the prequels was to achieve immortality and figure out the secret to cheat death. The fact that Palpatine figured out how to have his entity, his spirit, survive beyond his body which Darth Vader/Anakin destroyed, serves as no surprise to me, and frankly the more I think about The Rise of Skywalker, it makes sense for the most evil villain in the saga to return for the final fight. Also, not for nothing, but Snoke’s death left Abrams with four options: bring back Palpatine, introduce a new main villain, have Kylo Ren go full dark and be the ultimate villain, or try to sell us on First Order Generals being the main bad guys. I think Abrams took what options he had and ultimately made the best decision to serve the story. We also recently learned that bringing Palpatine back was also of very high interest to Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy.
“To cheat death is a power only one has achieved, but together we can discover the secret.”
Side note: pretty cool that lightsaber laying beside Anakin in that photo as he takes a vow to become Darth Vader is part of what will eventually be used by Rey to destroy Palpatine with his own powers. Speaking of which…
How did Palpatine lose?
“She can’t,” Brandon said to the suggestion that Palpatine could just be unplugged. “She can’t kill him in anger.”
The whole reason Palpatine lost is because Rey didn’t strike him down in hate. By ending Palpatine the way she did, reflecting his Force lighting back at him, Rey was able to avoid playing by Palp’s rules.
That’s exactly how I took it, so I am completely satisfied to hear this explanation.
The Decision to retroactively make Snoke a clone
“I just think that came up as a visual effect that we thought would be really fun for an audience, to create a visual that would tell that whole story,” she said. “I believe that’s successful. We didn’t have to change a lot of dialogue. You just see one shot […] and you kind of get it. I love stuff like that. We can just have a moment where you just see something in the background and you go, ‘OK, I totally get that.’”
Rian Johnson killed Snoke, which again left Abrams with a choice of really only two options, have Kylo Ren remain the main villain or bring back Palpatine. Nobody is buying Hux or a new General as the overarching big bad, and introducing a new villain this late in the game would have fallen flat and felt really strange. Abrams made the choice to sweep Snoke away as quickly as possible in the first minutes of the movie, and it was the smart move. You eliminate the looming shadow of Snoke to shift our focus on to Palpatine, and he did. Was it weird hearing Snoke was a clone? Very. Was it cool hearing Palpatine had manipulated Kylo Ren with the voices? Very much. Will Lucasfilm Story Group need to earn their keep in making Snoke make sense in books and comics. Big time.
Rose Tico’s screen time:
“There were a lot of characters in the film, and because J.J. wanted to make this film about a journey of the three main friends and then Rey’s conflict with Kylo Ren, it became very hard to service a lot more characters,” Brandon said. “She’s an important character in the Resistance, and we tried very hard to show that in the film, and I think we did, but the film just really couldn’t handle much more character stories.”
The editor said she went to Rose a few times at the end of the movie to make sure she was given her due.
“We all love Rose,” Brandon said. “And we want to make her character sing. And that’s why she’s in the end battle. And I cut to her a few times in the end battle because I know she’s a fan favorite, and I wanted to show her being involved.”
A hot button issue in fandom, perhaps more than the Ben/Rey romance, is Rose Tico’s screen time. Why wasn’t Rose in the movie more? I don’t say this to upset anyone, but Abrams made the right decision in my opinion – if you view the movie from the lens that his focus from when he started this story was on four main characters: Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren. If you look at the screen time for every character in the movie, that’s exactly what happened, and I thought the relationship between Rey, Finn, and Poe was the best part of the movie. Every character outside of these four, Chewie, and C-3PO had six minutes or less screen time in the film.
I think Rose had a wonderful role in The Last Jedi, serving as a great supporting character to help Finn’s character development. Her optimism, faith, and hope shined and pushed Finn to where he needed to end up. We flash forward a year later, Finn now fully realized, Rose doesn’t have the same story-serving role that she did in Episode VIII. And while that sounds harsh, it’s the reality of J.J. Abrams wanting to appropriately finish the stories of the characters he created. I do think the outrage over her screen time is a bit overstated, considering Rose has more screen time in this trilogy than Lando Calrissian had in the original trilogy, as one example. Even Palpatine, the film’s primary villain was only on screen for five minutes in The Rise of Skywalker (just trying to apply some rational historic and recent perspective).
Lando and Jannah
“I don’t think it ever occurred to any of us that he was hitting on her. I think it was always fatherly, you know, help you find your way home,” she said. “Yeah, it never went that way.”
Again, I saw this how they intended, hinting at the strong possibility that Lando was her father. It is very on-the-nose and makes the galaxy smaller, but we’re also talking about the same franchise that had the two heroes of the first movie turn out to be twins and the offspring of the villain. I thought this was an endearing moment, and I am curious what Lucasfilm Story Group ultimately decides to do with it.
Why No Finn/Poe Romance?
The idea has been around since “The Force Awakens,” but Brandon apparently hadn’t heard about it until now.
“Because I’m cutting it together, I’m kind of taking it at face value, and I’m not reading as much into it as an audience. And maybe that’s just my nature. I don’t know,” she said. “But I think, again, they’re best of friends. There is a kind of brotherhood there where they understand each other, and they’ve got each other’s back.”
As for any future love between the two, she says, “That’s really up to Lucasfilm if they want to make that sequel.”
So this is interesting to me, as in post-release interviews Oscar Isaac seems visibly and verbally annoyed that nothing came of this, though his words seem to be pointed at Disney, not Abrams. Isaac praised Abrams throughout the entire production process, and if you recall, early on he was really the only reperesentative from the set talking about how great it was making Episode IX.
I don’t know if we’ll ever know if a Finn/Poe relationship was ever discussed by J.J. and the actors, or what, but it’s something that I am interested to learn more about, simply because there seems to be a lot of cloudiness over the situation, as none of the dots are connecting, especially after hearing the film’s editor (who also edited The Force Awakens by the way) revealing she was unaware of this prospect until now. That could be her covering, but I am not that cynical.
So there you have it, some clarification/answers from Maryann Brandon, the editor of The Rise of Skywalker, on some of the biggest questions lingering coming out of the movie. Please keep in mind that my editorialized reaction to each answer and situation is solely how I view them, and I fully appreciate we all have different points of view on all of these questions and answers.
SOURCE: HuffingtonPost UK