Rise of Skywalker Screenwriter Chris Terrio Sure Has a Lot of Things to Say
But are any of them good???
The discourse gods continue to gift us, and now it’s screenwriter Chris Terrio who’s popped up to talk too much and make Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker all that much worse, even for those of us that generally enjoyed the experience. Terrio kept busy as the year ended, with interviews all over the place, including The Wrap, The Hollywood Reporter and IndieWire.
The man who made an entire superhero movie finale turn on the fact two heroes’ moms had the same name has a lot to say.
First off, he was very careful, over and over again, to assure fans that he and director/cowriter J.J. Abrams weren’t in any sort of “argument” with Rian Johnson or course-correcting from his The Last Jedi. For instance, Luke stopping Rey from throwing away her lightsaber after he did the same thing wasn’t a swipe at Johnson, according to Terrio.
“Those people who see it as a meta-argument between J.J. and Rian are missing the point, I think,” Terrio told The Hollywood Reporter. “I think it would be a bad misreading to think that that was somehow me and J.J. having an argument with Rian. It was more like we were in dialogue with Rian by using what Luke did at the beginning of The Last Jedi to now say that history will not repeat itself and all these characters have grown.” I’m fine with that, honestly.
The point that Terrio doesn’t seem to get is that people were expecting further subversion after The Last Jedi and didn’t get it. Terrio talked a lot about how there was much in The Last Jedi that was a gift to him and Abrams, like the force connection between Rey and Kylo, which they expanded on greatly, and I, personally, think was the strongest aspect of a shaky film.
But while he picked up plot points, he missed the themes.
But I think that was the entire point, alas. The Force Awakens brought in the idea that evil is cyclical and balance in the force doesn’t just stay after the bad guy has been defeated … evil comes back. And for Terrio and Abrams, they felt it had to literally come back as the same person. “We were moved by the idea that the person who should have to fight to regain the balance that Anakin Skywalker gained was the descendant of his greatest enemy who corrupted Anakin Skywalker in the first place,” Terrio told IndieWire.
That’s very Star Wars, I guess, but doesn’t get to why evil comes back.
As his comments to The Wrap indicate, Terrio and Abrams were really into the idea of dynasties and royalty and lineage and … sigh. “That there’s this idea the royalty of the Dark Side was put in a basket and floated down the river,” he told The Wrap, “to then grow up in the most improbable of circumstances and then finally to be offered the throne, felt extremely strong to us.” Why not just let her own that, then?
Terrio also tries to save face, as Abrams has, on the idea of Rey as a Palpatine seems to un-democratize the force, as he told THR: “Rey descending from a Palpatine doesn’t negate the idea that kids with brooms, Finn, and any other number of people in the galaxy can be strong with the Force.”
Again, we just wish Finn’s story had been more about that and not so muddled. At least no one said “midichlorians.”
Terrio does answer some questions about why Rey was back on Tatooine: “This might be in the novelization, but we talked a lot about how Leia lost her home. Alderaan is gone. So, she could never take Luke to see where she grew up as a princess, but Luke could’ve taken Leia to see where he grew up as a farmer. But, the twins never got to Tatooine together (to visit Luke’s childhood farm).” I’m not sure if the reporter or Terrio added that “to Visit Luke’s childhood farm,” bit but I hope Terrio didn’t forget the twins were together on Tatooine for a lot of Return of the Jedi.
Terrio also explained that the reason only Luke and Leia were there at the end, as Force ghosts, was about Rey “finishing the Jedi journey of Leia.” This was supposed to be the central story of the film, and the trilogy, but was again, muddled and didn’t come through. “Rey was in the unique position of having been trained by two Skywalkers, which is what’s going on in the moment where she destroys the Emperor. It’s her, Luke and Leia standing together because she’s got the two Skywalker sabers in her hands.” Cool, but Leia’s kid died so Rey could live and finish that journey, so … Ben deserved to be there.
Another clarification we’re okay with, and that I frankly didn’t think needed clarifying: Rey doesn’t make Tatooine her new home. “I can say with confidence that neither the screenplay nor the film suggests that Rey is going to live alone on Tatooine,” Terrio told THR. “Rey’s arc over three films has to do with her finding the belonging she seeks with the new family she’s found inside the Resistance. The very last thing Rey would do after all that is to go and live alone in a desert.”
Good. Fine. But again, that’s muddled. There’s so much story in this movie—too much—and so many of the themes that Terrio talks about across all these interviews get really lost. He told IndieWire, “We probably could have written a whole movie that was just a lead up to Kylo Ren going to get the wayfinders.” And … yeah. That was a whole story. There’s three movies worth of stuff just in the opening crawl, and while I get Terrio’s expressed intent to imitate the immersive and dense opening crawl of A New Hope, it doesn’t work here.
What I get from all of these interviews, and from the success of The Force Awakens versus the failures of The Rise of Skywalker, is that there was no time to pare down these ideas, especially considering that, as Terrio told IndieWire, they didn’t use any of planned director Colin Trevorrow’s script when they came on to the project. They threw everything at the wall and had no time to fine-tune it.
At least we got Babu Frik, and Kylo didn’t die whispering “Martha.”
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