DUEL OF THE FATES VS RISE OF SKYWALKER
I am done defending Rise of Skywalker. I loved it. Many didn’t. I liked its sense of action, purpose and because rather than despite its mix of fan service closure and unanswered questions. Plenty of rushed flaws and plot-holes and wasted character arcs: sure. But fun, pacy, purposeful. And hopeful, redemptive, romantic! Which frankly is what I want from the franchise. So there!
An alternative iteration of the script, titled DUEL OF THE FATES has been seen by some pundits online. They have carefully not leaked it or even shown too much of it but respectfully just summarised it. It dates from before JJ Abrams was hired to write /direct.
Is it good? Sure it is. Some great set pieces and plot logic lost. Hux is a better villain, for starters. Lando deployed far more charmingly. THAT opening heist is what has been missing from the franchise since the original trilogy.
But I would argue there is plenty of filler, fan service and too much screen-time for payoffs that do not truly pay off.
The main problems for me? It had a giant role for Princess Leia and had been completed as a script just before Carrie Fisher sadly died. Had Lucas-Film looked at a logical yet respectful recasting of the role (Meryl Streep? Sally Phillips? Julia Roberts? Fairly sure Carrie would not have objected?); it could have been explained and done in universe, in film. Or: Use the force? Leia dies, giving her ‘life force’ to resurrect Luke, thereby bringing Mark Hamill’s character back and giving him a better, more swashbuckling role and a suitable send off that served both characters and the legacy as well as plot and tone.
But no. Instead we got clumsily woven outtakes and CGI (it works, just about but not enough). No Leia and the Duel of Fates take simply fails. End of. And it might even explain why there was a script and personnel change, as that block could not be lifted.
The script also predates the backlash against Last Jedi. So Rose Tiko gets a large role, despite her already overstretched arc being finished already. And yet again, there is a sense of heavy thematic philosophy (fine) but without a soap operatic punch and purpose. In essence, it ‘gets’ the visual language and grammar of Star Wars better than any of the other sequel films. There is a VERY clever inversion of the hero’s journey, too : a villain’s path of initiation, mirroring and flipping yet still honouring the imagery of its goodie Jedi counterparts in the original films.
But lulls in tension / urgency in plot momentum..would probably have translated to a slump in pace, onscreen. And it does not radically improve the world building or sense of how these characters and planets and alliances all connect.
The First Order has simply become The Empire; lots of grandstanding scenes reminding me of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels: scenes drawn out through depicting, repetitively and lazily, the baddies’ grip on power for its own sake. You cannot build a universe in retrospect. Poe Dameron remains overplayed and pointless, in both scripts and Finn chronically UNDER developed. Critically: there is a lack of sweeping romance, redemption or good old fashioned pulpy melodramatic twists. So for all of its better visual ideas and cohesive plot logic? There is every possibility that Duel of the Fates could have come off far WORSE than Rise of Skywalker.
In any event, it still sounds like a solid script and a great read and something of a lost opportunity to harness this writing team. I shan’t spoil it here..have a watch yourself, below.