Colin your bluff: reviewing duel of the fates
Updated: Apr 5
On August 15th, 2015, it was announced that Colin Trevorrow would direct and co-write the then untitled Star Wars: Episode IX. Alongside his frequent collaborator, Derek Connolly, they were originally set to close off the Skywalker Saga. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
On September 5th, 2017, it was announced that Trevorrow left the project. Rumors suggests that Lucasfilm was not happy with his and Connolly's scripts and Trevorrow was let go from the film. Other rumors suggest that Trevorrow left on his own accord due to creative differences with producer, Kathleen Kennedy. Despite the reasons, Trevorrow went back to Universal to direct the currently untitled, Jurassic World 3 and Connolly has multiple projects in the pipeline. Shortly afterward, J.J. Abrams, who directed and co-wrote The Force Awakens, was announced to direct Episode IX and co-write it with Chris Terrio.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, has received mixed reviews from critics and fans. While many are split on their thoughts on the picture, most agree that the weakest aspect of it was its screenplay. While I don't think the script was the worse thing ever, I did expect more. My hunch since 2017 has been that 2 years is not nearly enough time to come up with a proper story. While The Force Awakens' final screenplay was written at the 11th hour, at the very least it told its story with precision and heart The Rise of Skywalker's screenplay leaves a lot to be desired, and this is coming from someone who still likes the movie. I won't accuse Abrams and Terrio of being lazy, because surely they put their all into it, but the end result makes me wonder what the first few drafts were like.
For the past few weeks, concept art from Trevorrow's tenure on the film has been leaking. While skeptics were unsure, Trevorrow has confirmed on his Twitter account that the art is legit. On top of that, a few days ago, the entire first draft of Episode IX, titled Duel of the Fates, has been leaked in its entirety. I have way too many thoughts and feelings to ignore, so I thought I'd share them here. Remember that this is just a script and not a full movie, so this review might not be as organized. With out of the way, onward to adventure!
The first big difference between Duel of the Fates and The Rise of Skywalker is its main story. While The Rise of Skywalker's first 2 acts are primarily set around MacGuffins and planet hopping, Duel of the Fates' is more of a secret agent plot. The script opens with Rose Tico and BB-8 on a mission on the Kuat Moon. The dialogue and comradery between Finn, Poe, and Rose is pretty spectacular, and reminiscent of Lucas' dialogue between Luke, Han, and Leia in the Original Trilogy. The action doesn't take long to start, and judging by the concept art above, it would have been something really cool.
Just like Rey's black attire, the chemistry between the Resistance quartet is a sight to behold. Imagine Daisy, John, Oscar, and Kelly reciting these lines just adds to the experience. While we got some great scenes and banter between Rey, Finn, and Poe in The Rise of Skywalker, it's not the same considering Rose is barely in the movie. Trevorrow gives Finn the action and attention that he sadly hasn't gotten since The Force Awakens. Finn's journey from renegade to Resistance feels right and completely earned. Rose is also a major scene-stealer, commanding attention on every page. Her characterization is very reminiscent of Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark. She has more spunk, attitude, and sense of humor than she does in The Last Jedi. Her role in the script makes her unfairly small role in The Rise of Skywalker all the more frustrating.
Another major difference between this script and the final product is where the majority of the action takes place. The final confrontation in The Rise of Skywalker takes place on Exegol, a new planet described as "the hidden world of the Sith". However, Duel of the Fates takes place on a familiar planet, Coruscant. A frequent in the Prequel Trilogy era, Coruscant is the primary location for the major parts of the story for Finn and Chancellor Hux. Yes, instead of out-of-left field storyline of Hux being a Resistance spy, Hux is the film's second main antagonist and poses a genuine threat to the plot as a newly appointed Chancellor.
While the Sequel Trilogy focuses on the stories of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren, the Original Trilogy's protagonists act as mentors who "hand Excalibur to the next generation" as described by Mark Hamill. While The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were Han and Luke's time to the shine, Duel of the Fates has Leia at the forefront. Not only do we have Leia fully embrace her role as General, but she also acts as a loving mother figure to our main characters, especially Rey and Poe. While it would have been amazing to see this version of Leia materialized, it's understandable why this didn't happen considering Carrie Fisher's unfortunate passing. At least we knew that Trevorrow was planning on giving her the role she always wanted.
Rey's arc in the script is rather interesting, learning to accept the light and dark sides of herself. Her longing for identity and purpose is very heartfelt and relatable, as a good as any Star Wars story should be. The most interesting thing is the relationship between her and Poe Dameron. In the Sequel Trilogy, Rey and Poe don't spend any time together and it isn't until The Rise of Skywalker where their friendship finally came to light. Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac had really good chemistry, playing off of each other as brother and sister. It's a little odd at first reading romantic dialogue between the two, but I believe it would have been handled very well. The moments between the two characters are probably the best parts of the script, with said moments ranging from heartfelt to sad. The scene where Rey is forced to do a Jedi Mind Trick on Poe is a powerful moment that stands alongside the most emotionally powerful moments of the trilogy.
As with every Star Wars film, the movie has a core message that's carried throughout, in the case it's the theme of true purpose. The core 3 characters of the Sequel Trilogy, Rey, Finn, and Poe, all go through a transformation. Rey goes from dessert scavenger to Jedi warrior, while Finn and Poe grow into natural born leaders. In the final film, Finn teams up with a small group of renegade stormtroopers, led by Jannah. In Duel of the Fates, Finn convinces a stormtrooper to defect from the First Order and eventually names himself Rafe. Finn is also aided by a young boy, named Dade, and through these events gives a Aragorn-like speech to inspire a revolution. I have no doubt that Rafe and Dade would have been fan favorite characters if they managed to make it to the screen. While Rafe remains in the imagination of Colin Trevorrow, at least we got some sort of version of him in the form of Jannah.
While the script is filled with exciting action and good character work, there's one major I have with it, and that is the role and characterization of Kylo Ren. While J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Rian Johnson tried to make Kylo Ren a sympathetic figure, Trevorrow and Connolly go in a more typical route for him. For the entirety of the script, Kylo Ren is obsessed with becoming the most powerful Force user in the galaxy, to the point where a new villain, Tor Vallum, refers to him as a Sith. The idea of making Kylo Ren a standard mustache-twirling bad guy isn't a very appealing one and doesn't really fall in line with his characterization in the first two films of the trilogy. On top of that, the revelation that Kylo Ren was the one who killed Rey's parents is such a head-scratching decision that it makes Rey Palpatine seem like less out-of-left-field plot twist.
The biggest point of contention amongst fans in The Rise of Skywalker was the fate of Ben Solo. Ben's death to some seemed like a logical conclusion to his story, while others were furious over the quick and sudden death of a character that was said to have a journey different to Anakin Skywalker's. Duel of the Fates' version of his fate, in my opinion, is far worse, as it contains little to no emotional impact. As if Ren's characterization wasn't disappointing enough, his ending most likely would have angered fans more than the finished film did. After stealing Rey's Life Force from her, Ben hears Leia's voice and all the sudden is weakened and dies. Before his death, he reveals to Rey that her last name is Solana. With all this in mind, I don't believe any fan, Reylo or otherwise, would have found this ending to be emotionally impactful in any way. I'll take "Ow" any day.
Overall, Duel of the Fates is a solid script with enough great humor, action, and emotional moments to boot. Despite some iffy characterization and pretty bad ending for Kylo Ren, the script could have made for a fun time at the movies. A few more rewrites couldn't have hurt. It gave Finn, Rose, Hux, and Luke the major roles they deserved and provided an emotional send off to everyone involved. Rey and Poe were delights to read and Rafe would have been something special. The script's ending is also amazing, supplying the ending I dreamt of since 2015.
Nobody will ever get exactly what they want (unless it's me with Solo). Who knows for sure if Duel of the Fates would have amazing or not, I guess that's up to the reader. Regardless of whether or not it would have been good or if we will ever find other drafts for Episode IX, it's nice to know we have one complete draft to help us speculate. Guess traveling to the planet, Modesta, doesn't seem so impossible anymore.
Read the whole script here: