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A Star Wars Saga Version

Posted on February 1st, 2020, by Michael Rountree

Star Wars Sequel Trilogy Treatment
by Michael Rountree

There are major flaws in the Disney Star Wars trilogy, principally among them the lack of a compelling overall story arc that binds them together as part of a saga. The vision wasn’t there; instead what we got were mostly retellings of episodes 4, 5, and 6 plot points with the soul drained out of them. When you saw Luke in the throne room challenging both Vader and the Emperor, you were deeply invested and felt the full depths of the intended emotions. When you saw Rey in that very same throne room challenging Kylo Ren, you felt almost nothing. It is as if the aim of the Disney movies was simply to create a context in which Rey can go and do everything that Luke did, only “better”.

Does it make sense that we start the first sequel movie with an Empire-equivalent already in place, complete with their own mega-Death-Star ready to go? How would that situation make sense as a follow-on to its predecessor movies, which invested three episodes into building up a Galactic Empire then three more movies to take that Empire down? If all of that effort is so easily undone that we don’t even get to see it on screen, then it undermines the meaning of what came before. This is one reason why the sequels don’t feel like they are participating in the overall saga.

What follows are my ideas for an overall story concept that could have been made for episodes 7, 8, and 9. To some extent I might make use of some of the elements that we actually got in these movies; I’m not going to venture down radically different paths or create whole new characters, though these things could of course be done.

The overall war arc would be the rising of the First Order as a threat. The point is that the heroic Rebellion in the prior movies now has to recognize the resurgence of an evil they fought before, and not be complacent enough to allow history to repeat. This would complete the saga by displaying that redemption is not something that just happens once and then is done, but rather something that must be maintained.

EPISODE 7

So in the first movie, the First Order is introduced as a small political faction, one that isn’t taken as seriously as it should be by the New Republic. Like the board-room admiral’s discussion in “A New Hope”, there could be a scene wherein a few New Republic bigwigs talk about whether to meet the First Order threat militarily, but deciding that it is not in their nature to field large compliance-inducing navies. They are not the Empire and do not want to become it. Leia should be the key figure here, perhaps internalizing this debate and having a character arc in which she moves from one side of the issue to the other over the course of the movies.

Episode seven thus begins with a First Order raid on some remote planet, which is where a portion of the old Imperial fleet was mothballed, perhaps being hidden by having been sunk in an ocean. The visuals of “The Rise of Skywalker” wherein star destroyers are lifting out of hiding could be used here. Introduce Poe Dameron as one of the planet’s defenders, who gets captured because his status as a guardian of this old secret could lead the First Order to other locations of servicable imperials ships. This is the “map” that Poe must safeguard and bring before the politicians, so that they can do something to protect other outposts. During this first engagement, Poe flees in some vehicle that isn’t a spacecraft, going back to his village where his X-wing is, while Kylo Ren pursues him there, and thus Finn is introduced pretty much as we see him in “The Force Awakens” (TFA), as a defective storm trooper who doesn’t participate in the slaughter that Kylo orders.

The culmination of the first film of this trilogy then is not an assault on Starkiller Base but rather an interdiction to prevent the First Order from acquiring the mother lode, a really big collection of servicable ships. The Resistance forms up under Poe’s leadership and later Leia’s, but at the outset they don’t have much in their arsenal. The First Order doesn’t have much either, except that they use their first batch of star destroyers to deadly effect somewhere (maybe Hosnian Prime since that’s a place name we’ve been given). The destruction isn’t over-the-top multiple planets exploding, but rather a more intimate attack, like the city destruction shown in “Rogue One”, which had more emotional impact. Instead of having one giant super laser at their disposal, make it so that the First Order fleet has to work at it, bombarding for a while, showing that they are committed to this cause and impelled by Hux’s maniacal speeches.

The ending of the first movie then is a set-piece battle between roughly equal-strength but small fleets, and while the good guys win the engagement by managing to set off explosives that ruin the old ships, Kylo still manages to get away with a couple of capital ships, so that he and his Order can be a bigger threat in the second movie. Meanwhile, the Resistance can grow in similar proportion over the course of the movies.

What about Rey? Let’s say that Jakku is one of those secret stash planets, and Finn and Poe head there after their daring escape (Kylo or his Knights of Ren track them there, or maybe Phasma is instrumental in this regard, see more below). Rey knows where some of the ships are, she scavenges from them, and the Millenium Falcon is one of the mothballed ships. Maybe she doesn’t scavenge from it because she knows stories of the role it played and has some reverence for it; you could have a scene wherein she knows how poorly she gets paid for other parts yet refuses to tear down the Falcon even though she knows it could make her rather rich (i.e. similar to what is done with BB-8).

Finn and Poe run into Rey (maybe Poe spots something that tells him that she knows where the hidden ships are, like maybe he sees her making a sale of parts) and after some discussion she gets on their side. They need a hyperdrive capable ship, she leads them to the Falcon… under duress because the First Order has caught up to them, just like in TFA. When she calls the Falcon “garbage” she doesn’t really mean it, but rather it is because she wants to protect it, but then of course the options become limited and they take it anyways. When the Falcon flies, Poe is at the helm, Rey takes a gunner position and proves her abilities by taking the miracle shot, though Finn is at the other cannon and gets a more conventional hit too.

Han and Chewie come in much as they do in TFA, having followed the beacon that the Falcon emits, but instead of Han being a smuggler again, maybe he is Jakku secret police just like Poe was on the other planet, and the two of them bond over some expositional dialogue that also serves as a passing of the baton from Han to Poe. Maybe Han has a cover story of being a smuggler since that was a life he knew, and Rey knew about him but not that he was The Han Solo. She is surprised when he reveals his real identity, and her reverence for the Falcon is paid off. Han is the one to grasp the predicament, as they just left the First Order in possession of yet more starships, and he says that he can get them an audience with Leia.

But Han doesn’t know that Kylo Ren is his son yet. He doesn’t learn this until the final battle, at which the turning point of the battle involves Han being forced to stand againt Kylo, who then takes his mask off. Kylo says “I know now what I have to do” meaning that he has to attack through Han in order to prevail, but also knowing that this is part of killing the past and furthering his dark side training. Han and Leia can discuss the fact that Ben has joined the First Order prior to this scene, but they don’t realize the role he is playing. The notion of Han wanting to turn Ben back can just come up as soon as Kylo reveals himself… Han is stopped in his tracks and Kylo plays on this weakness.

After the battle in the climax of TFA, Leia comes to realize that the First Order is headed by a powerful force user who is in fact her son, and she decides that Luke is the one who should stand up to Kylo. The Resistance needs more than military might. Leia started on the “pro-gun” side of the debate but is starting to perceive that violence begets further violence, maybe beginning to understand Luke’s decision to remove himself to that island. She alone knows the secret of his location, and sends Rey and Chewie out to get him as agents that she can trust (i.e. there isn’t a board room full of people who see a holographic map, rather there is a reason why Rey goes).

EPISODE 8

Ultimately, not a lot of TFA gets changed then, but rather the scenes are placed into a new context. What would this mean for the second movie? The overall theme needs to be that the First Order is continuing to gain in military power, while the Resistance is struggling to gain traction or popular support. Leia and Luke end up going for a non-violence approach, while Poe is all about taking combat to them, hence the conflict in Poe’s character makes more sense having been set up in the preceding movie. “The Last Jedi’s” (TLJ) opening battle with bombers against a dreadnought can show that Poe is willing to use whatever crappy equipment he can get his hands on to do the job, while Leia is more concerned with preserving what little they have. Maybe they even comment on the fact that the bombers were just re-purposed freight ships with little or no shielding, and only Poe believes that they are really capable of turning this battle.

The hyperspace tracking plot point doesn’t need to be there; instead, the First Order can have acquired an Interdictor-class cruiser, a known ship type in Star Wars lore that projects a gravity well to prevent ships from escaping to hyperspace. I have written elsewhere about how changing just this one plot point could open up TLJ to a lot of sensible changes, so I will just summarize here. Phasma can play a bigger role in that she is good at tracking down the Resistance (she is the hyperspace tracker in other words), and maybe in the final battle where Finn faces her in combat, she reveals to him that her method of tracking is a device that has been implanted in all trained stormtroopers… in other words, Finn has been her unwitting mole all along.

I would prefer to not have the Canto Bight diversion, but rather there should be more time for Luke to train Rey as well as flashbacks of when he was training Ben and what went wrong there. Rey didn’t actually come there to be trained, she was on a mission to get Luke into the fight. There needs to be more time for the character motivations to shift, though in general I would stick with the disgruntled Luke that was presented. Rey is aware that every day she spends on that island, the First Order gains in power, meanwhile Luke is forced to re-examine his commitment to nonviolence. It was this commitment that forced him to let Ben turn into Kylo; Luke recounts having seen force visions of this transformation, awakening with anger that could have turned into action (i.e. threatening Ben), but Luke decides not to give in to his anger. Perhaps in his vision he even hears an echo of Palpatine saying “give in to your anger”. But Ben doesn’t turn to the dark side because of Luke’s actions, rather Ben is seduced and Luke chooses not to stop it with violence. By taking the time to delve into this a bit more, the invested audience might be a bit more sympathetic to this portrayal of Luke, and the enigmatic light saber “duel” at the ending of TLJ could be even more impactful because at first it appears that Luke has chosen to rethink his commitment to nonviolence.

Finn and Rose split off not because they are shopping for fuel or want to free animals, but rather because Finn now knows that he is a liability to the Resistance and decides that he can buy them some space by getting away. Maybe Finn’s implant works by infecting any of his communications with a viral code, so Rose goes with him in order to be his means of communication with the rest of the good guys. Finn’s return to the fight at the salt planet then is a major character decision for him. Rose’s “saving what we love” line could be an echo of Leia’s commitment to defensive nonviolence, to be delivered after Finn has tried and failed to disable the enemy units, which occurs right as they arrive to the panet. She gets the two of them to safety after they get shot down by Kylo’s walker, possibly even as Kylo gets distracted by Luke’s arrival on scene.

Backing up a bit, Rey comes to believe that Luke won’t act to turn Kylo back, so she demands training from Luke instead so that she can stand up to Kylo with a light saber if necessary. Ultimately she decides that she has to go face Kylo herself because of Luke’s inaction. Luke doesn’t want her to go, because he recognizes the force dyad that they compose, and when Rey later steals the Jedi texts, she comes across this notion as well. Luke’s final decision to intervene is not just because he wants to buy his sister some time, but rather because he knows that Rey will be tempted by Kylo every bit as much as he might be by her, and a unified force dyad could be rather problematic. He needs to face Kylo, which can be revealed or implied during his force ghost dialogue with Yoda. Unfortunately, Rey has a head start in locating Kylo since Snoke has been linking their minds.

What of Snoke? Let him remain the mysterious puppetmaster who has seduced Kylo and be set up as the final villain for the third movie. Kylo can still make an attempt on his life, using the light saber to cut him in half, but instead of falling over dead, Snoke just breaks into evil laughter and fades away, leaving behind his sliced robes. Thus we learn that it will take a bit more to bring him down, and Kylo recognizes that he and Rey together form a force dyad. He beckons her to join him, his words mostly in agreement with what she has just read in the Jedi texts, and the scene is cut such that we really do think that she could be choosing either way. In this way, her arrival at the salt planet battle is a surprise, we don’t really know what side she is on at first. Kylo has let her go, thinking he has won her over; she lets him think this so that she can get into a position to do a lot of damage (she doesn’t just happen to blast three tie fighters in a single shot, but rather we see that she sets this up, for instance). The second movie ends with Kylo and Rey both realizing that they must come together in order to bring down Snoke, yet they remain entrenched on opposite sides of this war. Perhaps it is Luke’s force ghost that lets each of them know this, right at the close; when Rey asks whether she and Ben are a dyad, Luke admits that this was the third lesson that he was to teach her.

The Resistance has been defending Crait not because it is Holdo’s plan for escape but rather because it is one more of these mothball weapons caches, which they are ultimately forced to abandon. The Resistance doesn’t have enough manpower or demolitions charges to deal with it all the way they did in the prior movie. The First Order gains all the ships and fighters that were hidden in its catacombs, and finally get to where they are now the “ultimate power in the universe”, a line from A New Hope that could be repeated meaningfully. In fact, it could even be Leia who says it: “If they get through that door, then the First Order will become the ultimate power in the universe,” maybe said to Luke when he shows up because she is struggling with her commitment to nonviolence. Luke, by doing what he does, is solving a problem for her in a way.

EPISODE 9

The theme all along has been that the First Order is a growing threat, which is a mirror to Kylo’s character, and only now at the start of Episode 9 are they each the fully-capable villains that they should be. The undercurrent of whether or not the Resistance will get any help from the rest of the galaxy has been going for two movies, and should become a central feature of this final movie. Finn again knows that he must branch off from the Resistance’s military leadership, since his implant cannot be removed without killing him, so Poe, Rose, Rey, Chewie, and droids all go off with him on a quest to drum up support. Leia doesn’t want to go because she feels like she would be a bad spokesman, as she is no longer pro-military, but she agrees to stay in command as a figurehead while they rally. She will act defensively and retreat, or will face Kylo alone, but she will not send any more warriors off to die. “This fight is against a greater evil,” she says to Rey, as we know from the last movie that Snoke, whoever or whatever he is, lurks out there.

Kylo spends most of his time tracking down Rey, while Rey is studying the Jedi texts to learn what being a dyad means. Kylo gets messages through to her in conventional means, but Rey learns how Snoke was doing the force connection trick. She is torn with the decision of whether to try it or not, after Kylo gets a holovid message through to her that offers an olive branch. He has discovered a Wayfinder, which might lead to Snoke, and only the two of them together can face him.

Leia and the forces under her are taking a beating, but Kylo orders a cease-fire when Rey finally relents and contacts him. The threat to Leia is what causes Rey to yield; the Resistance is about to crumble. She goes to Kylo, spending the rest of the movie with him, and their tense relationship develops over this time. Ultimately, she is able to get him to see that once Snoke is eliminated there is no point to the First Order, but Hux is commanding their armies and is a true believer who will not be persuaded. Thus, Kylo will have to betray Hux as well as confronting Snoke, rather than Hux betraying Kylo as happens in “The Rise of Skywalker” (TROS). Before the Rey-Ben force dyad goes in to face Snoke, perhaps he proves himself to her by doing something to undermine Hux, such as ordering the Knights of Ren to carry out an assasination.

Meanwhile, Finn, Poe, and company come across Lando, and he assists them in rallying support. They have to keep on the move because there are First Order operatives shadowing Finn wherever they go, so there are plenty of close escapes along the way. They might also run into Zorii Bliss earlier in the film so that her interaction with Poe can be deeper and more meaningful. Lando proves his worth by delivering touching dialogue that recounts his experiences during earlier films, why he chose to change from his neutral stance in “The Empire Strikes Back” to become a rebel general, as he is pleading with some planetary government. We don’t see them come to a decision (“But this is not the Empire you are asking us to fight,” they might say), but at the final battle we do see him arrive with a large contingent of starfighters, the payoff to this setup.

Snoke proves to have been a manifestation of the dark side, as was Darth Plagueis, who ends up being the final villain. Kylo guesses it, as Snoke had tempted Ben to the dark side by filling his mind with the fantasy or legend of Plagueis. Kylo views all of his actions in light of the Plagueis legacy; in Episode 7 he was wanting to follow through and learn the dark side ways so that he could defeat Plagueis. With several quick flashbacks, we see Kylo querying Snoke as to whether he really knows where Plagueis can be found, or confirming that he yet lives, that sort of thing. Snoke’s answers are meant to exert control over Kylo and bait him, and only now in the final movie does Kylo learn that essentially, Snoke was Plagueis all along.

Rey is not of Palpatine’s lineage, nor is she of any other significant parentage. She may have been told by Snoke (during Episode 8) that she had no part in this story, rather than being told this by Kylo, because Snoke was wanting to prevent the force dyad from coalescing.

The assasination of Hux by Kylo’s Knights of Ren has not gone unnoticed, and Kylo doesn’t hide from the repercussions. The First Order brands him a traitor, and he sends out a holovid message to let the whole Order know where he is, on Exegol. Thus, he baits the First Order fleet into showing up there, and meanwhile Rey contacts Leia and the Resistance. This sets up the final grand battle, everything the First Order has up against whatever the Resistance has managed to cobble together. Maybe Finn, Poe, and Rose have already found their way there, so that Kylo can further tempt the Order by letting them see that there is a weak Resistance fleet waiting for them. Kylo intends to undo the First Order by smashing them into the Resistance while the Order is leaderless. Rey has no choice but to hope that enough good guys show up.

Ben Solo gets even more tricksy, though. In confronting Plagueis, he is able to convince the dark lord that he is bringing his First Order fleet to attack and decimate Exegol. The “worshippers” on that planet are what feeds his power in some way, and they are vulnerable. Plagueis commands his hordes to attack, and so Rey and Ben must battle their way through waves of Sith Cultist zombies, in effect. The dyad of Ben and Rey is not there on Exegol because of some evil master plan. Instead, their presence causes a bit of panic from Plagueis, and when the First Order fleet arrives, he reacts by doing the force lightning thing to disable a good number of the ships, just as Palpatine does in TROS. This evens the odds somewhat but the Resistance still is at a disadvantage.

The force power to heal is something that can only be shared by the dyad; perhaps Ben and Rey learn this power while battling together against the Sith Cultists, or even much earlier in Episode 8 when they fight against the red guards. Plagueis fights them both and proves his strength when he kills Kylo, possibly by sucking life out of him if we want to keep that as canon. Rey heals him by sharing out her own living force, showing Plagueis that he has a formidable enemy. Then, Plagueis reiterates that Rey is noone of significance. “You think you are a challenge to me? Nobody can defeat me! I am ALL the Sith.” he says. It is at this point that the results of Lando’s efforts show up, as first a few then a flood of willing Resistance fighters. Rey sees this then replies, “And I am Nobody,” owning her lack of heritage.

The fleet battle then plays out, with the First Order losing ship after ship, even as Resistance sacrifices are made. Somehow Rey gets contacted while she and Ben are still battling Plagueis, and she lets them know that they will have to eradicate all of the worshippers on this planet. It comes down to a decision, whether the victorious Resistance will now play the role of planet-killer, in order to finally be rid of the evil that is Plagueis. And this decision comes down to Leia, even while Ben and Rey are still holding their ground against the hordes. Maybe it is the case that Leia has come down in a gunship to try to rescue them, but they are intent on fighting, and Leia makes the decision to call down a bombardment without leaving herself.

Leia’s only real use of force powers comes here, where she uses the force push to tremendous effect. She won’t take up a light saber, perhaps tossing it back to Rey, but she is effective in sweeping cultists out of the way so that the dyad can confront Plagueis. Maybe Ben halts a blaster bolt in mid-air that is aimed at her, then she pulls a bad guy into its path before Ben lets go. Maybe she takes some force lightning from Plagueis but then stuns him a bit by slamming other cultists into him, or pushing the ground out from under him.

Leia sees them first, but then Rey and Ben see them too: the force ghosts of Obi-Wan, Luke, Anakin, Yoda, and others, all standing arrayed behind the malevolent face of a raging Plagueis. They beckon the dyad to join them, and Luke also lets Leia know that it is her time. “Mom,” Ben says, “we cannot leave this fight.” The final battle against Plagueis is won with the willing sacrifice of these three, as the beat-up Resistance fleet obeys Leia’s final order and turns their guns on the surface. The wars of Star Wars are over.

Depending on how much political messaging the filmakers want to embed in the movies, Poe could give the final lines as they are reflecting on the aftermath of the victory they just won and what they had to do to achieve it. When asked what to do now, Poe could say either that they “put away the guns” or that they “destroy the guns”. Putting them away would mean that he sees the value in nonviolence but still acknowledges that weapons might be needed to deal with future threats, but narratively this doesn’t flow as well for his character arc or for the overall trilogy themes. Destroying them would be a recognition that the prior attempt to keep them around but hidden was a mistake, as well as a completion of his arc that follows from Leia’s example. I don’t personally subscribe to the “gun ban” mindset but it seems to make sense as a final note here. In an odd way, it could also serve as the premise for other later films in the franchise, as it means your villains wouldn’t have to start out with over-the-top super weapons; the elimination of stellar navies would mean that smaller fry like smugglers and bounty hunters could step up into primary bad guy roles.

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