The One Death Scene ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ Needed
Earlier this week was May the Fourth, the day when the world celebrates Star Wars and/or Margaret Thatcher's rise to power, apparently. To mark the occasion, our benevolent streaming overlords made The Rise of Skywalker available on Disney+, meaning that loads of fans have been re-visiting the Skywalker Saga's contentious finale this week. While pointing out problems with Episode IX at this late stage feels a little like critiquing the safety features of the Titanic during a screening of the movie Titanic, we can't help but point out one crucial element that would have improved the movie: death.
Yes, Leia died, but since Carrie Fisher passed in real life and her role in The Rise of Skywalker was that of a CGI bobblehead who could only speak in vague one-word sentences, it wasn't exactly a shock. Kylo Ren/Ben Solo died, but that too was predictable. Part of the reason why there was no sense of gravity in this epic conclusion is because the movie continually reinforced that the stakes of this adventure were not life and death. Characters seemingly died only to be brought back multiple times. First, it was Chewie who was exploded by Rey's lightning powers ...
... but not really because he was on a second transport ship no one noticed for some reason. Similarly, C-3PO's memory is wiped then promptly restored, Kylo gets stabbed in the tummy then Force-healed, and despite their entire planet getting destroyed, somehow Zorii Bliss and Babu Frik show up in the climactic final battle. Either they staged a miraculous escape, or the studio realized that no one wants to watch a movie where Felicity and an adorable puppet get murdered by space Nazis.
There are so many death-based fake-outs, we wouldn't have been surprised if Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen showed up at the end holding receipts from the rubber skeleton store. But we submit that there's one death that would have been emotionally resonant, provided the film with a much-needed sense of closure, and not traumatized every kid in the audience. They should have killed ... the Millennium Falcon.
It's almost shocking that this didn't happen. The Millennium Falcon has come to embody the Star Wars franchise itself. In The Force Awakens, it was found abandoned in a junkyard only to be brought back to life by a group of scrappy young heroes, just as the series had been revived by a new generation of filmmakers. They nervously piloted the daunting ship, reveled in its cultural iconography, and eventually adopted it as their own. As this trilogy of trilogies ended, by extension, the life of the Falcon should have ended too. This also would have paid off a moment in Return of the Jedi when Han fears that his ship might not make it.
Yes, that was a holdover from an earlier draft in which Lando sacrifices himself and the Falcon, but it could have inadvertently foreshadowed The Rise of Skywalker. And imagine if the Lando/Falcon moment had been given to Kylo/Ben. Instead of being thrown down a pit, somehow surviving, then abruptly dying after the world's briefest make-out session, what if Ben Solo had, like his father in A New Hope, redeemed himself in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon? Sacrificing both for the greater good?
The Rise of Skywalker's aversion to bold death scenes may be less dramatically rich, but more in keeping with the storytelling mentality of George Lucas. The only reason they originally planned to kill Lando was because he was considered the most expendable. Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan pushed for bumping off Luke, paving the way for Leia to "take over". Lucas' response? "You don't go around killing people. It's not nice." Kasdan argued back that, "The movie has more emotional weight if someone you love is lost along the way; the journey has more impact." Which is, unless we're mistaken, extremely true.
Saying goodbye to the Millennium Falcon still would have allowed for Disney to make more Star Wars movies -- hell, you could still give Babu Frik, D-O the droid, and Klaud the thorny slug puppet each their own Disney+ show. But blowing up the Falcon would also mean closing the book on an important part of our childhood ... which is something Disney absolutely doesn't want us to do. They just built a goddamn life-size Millennium Falcon in a theme park whose sole purpose is keeping Star Wars familiar and perpetual.
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