Were Major Changes Made to ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ in the Editing Room?
As rumors abound surrounding an alleged extended cut of The Rise of Skywalker, a group of fans have begun to notice some things about the ending of the theatrical version of the film that don’t quite seem to add up. While I’m very hesitant to jump on the conspiracy that there is a version of the movie cut by Abrams that better represents his vision, there is definitely some compelling evidence that some pretty significant changes were made to the film’s ending that deserve a closer look.
Before we cry out against Disney for stifling Abrams’ creative vision, I think we would be wise to remember that all movies go through an editing process. The ultimate version of a film (typically the one released in theaters) is only achieved at the end of this process, so I’m more inclined to believe that the version of the film we got is the one that Abrams intended. Sure, he may have had other ideas initially, but lets take off our tin foil hats for a second and consider that just because a different version of the movie may have indeed existed on paper, it doesn’t mean that the powers that be forced the director and his co-writer, Chris Terrio, to make changes to their creative vision.
I think the truth is probably a little less conspiratorial than fans disappointed with the movie may want to believe. Make no mistake, I count myself in the disappointed group, though I admit that the movie was enjoyable (even more so on second viewing). Besides the fact that the movie’s pace was physically exhausting and its plot terribly convenient, the biggest miss for me was the ending. So I definitely see where people are coming from, wishing things were different. I would also like to believe that there is another version of the movie where Rey is just a girl (not a Palpatine) who heroically sacrifices herself to destroy the Sith and Ben survives to atone for his sins and carry on the legacy of his family, but I just don’t think that’s the case.
For better or worse, love it or hate it, the version of the movie that everyone has already seen is the way the story wraps. But as I mentioned above, things may have indeed ended a little differently originally. There’s a lot to be said for editing. I admittedly don’t know much about filmmaking in general, especially the editing process, but I’ve always been fascinated by it, and it’s clear that editing is an often overlooked aspect of moviemaking that is more vital than the average movie goer realizes. Editors have the power to completely change the flow and message of the story by how they put the pieces together, which can make or break the way the movie is received. It’s no secret that the original Star Wars movie itself went through many changes in the edit, and some go as far to say that the movie’s editing saved an otherwise doomed film. Just Google “how Star Wars was saved in the edit” for more on that.
But what changed between the original script and the final edit of The Rise of Skywalker? More specifically, did the original ending for the movie tell a different story than the one we experienced in the theater? Let’s take a look at the evidence.
Ben Solo lives?
In the theatrical version of the movie, Ben Solo climbs out of the pit to find a dead Rey lying on the ground. He hobbles over to her, cradles her in his arms, and in an act of desperation, places his hand on her belly and transfers his own life force into her through the power of their bond in the Force. Rey awakes for a moment to look upon her savior, the two share a kiss, and Ben awkwardly begins to fall backward as his body fades like his uncle and grandfather before him. But was this always how it was meant to go down?
Some viewers have noticed some peculiar anomalies in Ben’s final moments with Rey, leading to the conspiracy that the movie was heavily altered in the edit. The first thing they point out is that Rey appears to be saying something to Ben that we never actually hear. The evidence for this one is not undeniable by any means, but the claim here is that Rey’s chin is moving as if she is speaking to Ben.
it’s embarrassing how PAINFULLY OBVIOUS it is that SHE’S TALKING to him in this scene and how clearly HE’S LISTENING to her……and she says a LOT MORE than just a sentence pic.twitter.com/awFYOjSY3i
— BlackDiamond TROS SPOILERS (@_BlackDiam0nd) December 23, 2019
The problem here is that the camera is behind actress Daisy Ridley. The placement of the camera does make it a little easier to cut her dialogue, but it’s hard to tell with all certainty that this is the case as we can’t see her face. I can definitely see some merit in this claim, but it will take a few more viewings for me to fully grasp everything going on in this scene visually. Ben certainly looks very attentive, however, as if he is listening to her speak, and her chin does seem to be moving slightly. But whether there is actually some mystery line or lines here left unspoken is conjecture at this point.
The second oddity surrounds the awkward way that Ben falls to the ground before disappearing into the Force. In the movie, he falls slowly with Rey holding onto him, letting him down easy. But as some have pointed out, the shot appears to have been reversed in the edit. One person on Twitter even took the time to reverse the shot to illustrate this point.
I admit that in reverse, it does look pretty natural. In this alternate reality, Rey is pulling Ben up from the ground rather than letting him down. But although it looks like this could easily be the case, it just doesn’t add up for me. For one, it doesn’t make sense in light of the rest of the scene. How would Ben ever end up on the ground in the first place? Also, one of the film’s editors, Maryann Brandon, recently confirmed with ComicBook.com that no reversed shots were used during this scene. So, unless she’s just lying to cover up something, it is what it is, no matter how much some may want the last of the Skywalker bloodline to rise up from the dirt.
The next two pieces of evidence can be found in the movie’s final scene, when Rey takes the Falcon to the Lars homestead on Tatooine to symbolically lay the Skywalkers to rest by burying the two lightsabers in the desert sand. Some claim that in the shot where the lightsabers are placed in the cloth, the hand on the right side of the screen appears to be another left hand, signifying that it actually belongs to Ben rather then being Rey’s other hand.
The main problem with this theory is that this is literally the only shot in the scene that could even support this assertion. Even then, it happens so fast with motion blur that it’s impossible to verify this claim with any certainty. In addition to this, every other time we see Rey, she is alone. So unless the whole scene (except for this shot) was scrapped in favor of reshoots, I highly doubt Ben ever survived in any cut of the movie.
The most compelling and final piece of evidence to support the notion that major changes were made to the movie’s ending, however, is pretty hard to deny. It appears that the final shot of Rey and BB-8 staring off into the setting suns was created in post-production. In the video below, you can see where a shot of Rey on Pasana as she waits for Kylo Ren’s TIE to arrive was repurposed for the final shot of the film.
this physically makes me want to die pic.twitter.com/wnj00mk8zO
— (@ouchsolo) December 30, 2019
Aside from the absence of the Skywalker saber and her sash blowing in the other direction, her stance lines up exactly with the movie’s earlier shot. You may also notice that Rey is wearing her backpack in all the other shots of this scene except for this one. The assertion here is that this shot was created in post-production with only minor tweaks to replace whatever shot was originally filmed.
Believe it or not, it’s hard to deny that this shot was probably not the original way that the movie ended. But that begs the question: What was the original ending to The Rise of Skywalker? Although I definitely buy in to this last piece of evidence, I find the others we looked at to be reaching quite a bit. I don’t deny edits were made, but I seriously doubt they significantly altered the final product that was delivered, especially concerning the direction of the story. Rey staring off into the setting suns is really a perfect final shot, so I think it’s more likely that Abrams had this idea late in the game after shooting, and the effects gurus at ILM were able to give him the shot he wanted. Now as to why BB-8 was suddenly with her or how she convinced Lando that the Falcon doesn’t just go back to the previous owner after Han’s death is perhaps a question for another time.
Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he’s not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.