Chris Terrio on restoring balance & the opening crawl of Rise of Skywalker
STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER has been playing in theaters for several weeks, which means that the Skywalker Saga is officially concluded, but there’s still quite a lot to digest regarding the grand finale and THE RISE OF SKYWALKER co-writer Chris Terrio has been busy explaining just about everything you could want in a series of interviews.
The screenwriter recently spoke with IndieWire about all things THE RISE OF SKYWALKER and began by discussing one iconic aspect of the STAR WARS franchise – the opening crawl. “The dead speak! The galaxy has heard a mysterious broadcast, a threat of REVENGE in the sinister voice of the late EMPEROR PALPATINE,” reads the first block of the crawl. It’s fun, pulpy, and drops the audience right into the action, but it took quite some time to whittle the crawl down to the relevant information.
We debated and debated what the crawl would say, and we wanted to have the word ‘revenge’ in the crawl, a message of revenge in the voice of the late Galactic Emperor Palpatine. We also wanted that line, ‘The dead speak.’ … You might be able to say ‘kill the past,’ and that might be genuinely what Kylo Ren is trying to do in ‘Episode 8’ and even at the beginning of ‘Episode 9,’ but the past isn’t done with him yet. The character might be mentally ready to be done with it, [but] there’s the voice of the past, literally, the emperor saying, ‘Not so fast, my boy. History has its eye on you.’ History remembers what happened, and the Sith should not go quietly into the night.
However, Chris Terrio admitted that they were worried about giving the audience too much information, until they took a look at the opening crawl for the original 1977 film and realized that it gave audiences just as much new information. “There were versions of the crawl that revealed less, that revealed more, and there was another version for awhile,” Terrio said. “Then we went back to the crawl of ‘Episode IV’ and realized that it’s a fairly complex situation you’re being thrown into. It very much feels like a Saturday morning serial, because they’ve just stolen the plans to a battle station called the Death Star, and that’s all brand new information in 1977. We decided that we were going to just go for it and begin with an inciting event, which is that this broadcast has been heard.” Now that the Skywalker Saga is complete, will future STAR WARS movies still make use of the opening crawl? I hope so.
The balance of the Force has been important throughout the STAR WARS franchise, and Chris Terrio touched upon where THE RISE OF SKYWALKER leaves the ever-shifting scales of Light and Dark.
The balance of the Force always, as George [Lucas] has said, means that the Dark and the Light exist. There are corners everywhere in the galaxy where the Dark still exists, except that with the rise of Palpatine and the original trilogy, I think the way George would describe it is that the Dark had become too powerful to the point where the Light had almost disappeared. So in winning this victory against the First Order and the remnants of the Empire and the Sith loyalists, I think that the balance is restored, because the Dark had been growing much, much more powerful than the Light. By Rey striking this blow, it doesn’t mean that everything is happily ever after forever, but it means that at least for this moment in time, the Dark has been held off as the Light has pushed back.
However, Terrio added that this balance between Light and Dark will continue to be fought post-RISE OF SKYWALKER. “I think George would be the first to say that a fairy tale ending would be a naïve way to think about the galaxy forever. I mean, we do have these moments of victory which have to be savored, like the end of ‘Return of the Jedi.’ And, in this film, there is a victory, but history tells us that there are no final victories,” Terrio explained. “The other thing that J.J. and I would say often is whether the story has a happy ending depends on where you stop telling it, that if you stop telling the story at the end of the Ewok celebration [in ‘Return of the Jedi’], that’s a happy ending. But if you look a little further ahead, you might see that Palpatine has had a contingency plan, and he had tried through his Dark arts to find a way to cling to something resembling life and that he would nurse his wounds and build in the darkness and be ready to come back and try to get his revenge on the galaxy.“