Before he wrote the script for The Rise of Skywalker, J.J. Abrams and his team met with George Lucas to discuss the story.
He revealed that in an interview with IGN at Star Wars Celebration on Friday. When asked why it was important to bring Palpatine back for this one, Abrams responded:
“Well I can’t wait for you to see the movie; I can’t obviously answer the specifics of that question, but I can say that this movie had a very, very specific challenge, which was to take eight films and give an ending to three trilogies, and so we had to look at what is the bigger story? We had conversations amongst ourselves, we met with George Lucas before we started writing the script. These were things that were in real, not debate, but like looking at the vastness of the story and trying to figure out what is the way to conclude this? But it has to work on its own as a movie, it has to be its own thing, it has to be surprising and funny and you have to understand it. You can’t assume anyone has sat and watched eight movies before this one. And yet I want a kid to be able to watch Episodes 1-9 and see that one story. So it’s been really, as challenging as it has been, it’s been kind of incredible to see everyone – Chris Terrio, the writer I worked with, and Michelle Rejwan, and Kathy Kennedy, the producers, and the entire crew – everyone came into this working like triple-A+ game. Like, it was great to see everyone work so well, and I think it’s resulted in a movie we’re going to be proud of. And even a day like today and having Ian [McDiarmid] come out, the fact that people, so many, could have tweeted, posted, and told someone, and didn’t, is kind of amazing to me and I’m thankful.”
I think what stands out the most from that answer was that Abrams and his team consulted with George Lucas before writing this, because they realized that they need to bring a satisfying conclusion to the previous eight films as well. Abrams realizes that his task isn’t just to tell one coherent story but also to wrap up nine of them. And reading between the lines a bit, I think we can quickly come to see how Palpatine came to be in The Rise of Skywalker.
Firstly, we should be careful to realize that Abrams often takes answers to questions in different directions as he deflects away from answering them, as he doesn’t like giving out much information. But with that said, I think it’s interesting that within the context of why it was necessary to bring Palpatine back, he brought up that he met with George Lucas. Because within the context of the question, I think the rest of his answer is actually somewhat on topic (I’ll get there in just a moment)… so I assume that this part probably is too. It would be nothing new for George Lucas to want Palpatine to return, and in the old EU that was a major plot point. It wouldn’t be anywhere near surprising if the idea of Palpatine’s return actually came from Lucas. In fact, that seems very much like an idea he would have. So while I’m sure that Abrams talked with Lucas about a host of things, I’d be interested in hearing whether this is where the idea of Palpatine really took off – or at the very least was confirmed.
Secondly, Abrams’s answer I think gives us a deeper insight as to why he wanted to bring Palpatine back. Abrams mentioned that they need to tell one coherent story because they can’t expect people to have watched all eight films, but then he acknowledged that he wants kids to be able to watch the nine films and feel that they’re telling the same story. Reading between the lines of these comments and many more, Abrams feels a very real responsibility to honor the entire saga and wrap it all up, not just the sequel trilogy. And his comment about wanting kids to feel like it’s one connected story – especially since it’s in response to a question about Palpatine – suggests to me that the decision to bring back the infamous Sith Lord was motivated at least in part by wanting to connect the sequel trilogy even more strongly to the previous two trilogies. If Palpatine returns in the final film as the ultimate villain once again, it would mean that throughout the entire saga Palpatine is the main bad guy, whether it’s obvious or not.
So in all of this, I think it makes a lot of sense that Abrams would want to bring Palpatine back. And I love hearing that he talked with George Lucas before writing the script, as hopefully that means that the creator had some sort of input in how this whole story – that he started over four decades ago – comes to an end.