A Second Pass at the “Last Jedi” Screenplay
Personally, I really enjoyed The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson’s reimagined both what Star Wars is, and what it can be; a breath of fresh air that the franchise, and indeed the mythos itself, desperately needed. That being said, the film had several flaws, many of them wholly unnecessary and seemingly avoidable. Unforced errors, as it were. For a comprehensive list of fan grievances, go to practically any page on the internet.
As a huge Star Wars fan, I thought it would be a fun exercise to imagine how I’d personally rewrite Episode VIII, given that Rian Johnson would have final say, and that the rewrite would have to retain the themes and main story beats. This is a clean-up job, not a re-conception.
That being said, and without further ado, let’s dig in.
The first change to the film is a subtle, but important one: More time has passed before it begins. In the Original Treatment, the resistance base is attacked just as Rey meets Luke. By pushing back this attack, we give Rey more time to acquaint Luke, Kylo Ren and Finn more time to heal their wounds, and the whole timeline some room to breathe.
BLOCK 0: TITLE CRAWL
Constrained by the circumstances of VII, we keep the first two paragraphs of the title crawl unaltered. The third changes.
Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
“The FIRST ORDER reigns. Having decimated the peaceful Republic, Supreme Leader Snoke now deploys his merciless legions to seize military control of the galaxy.
Only General Leia Organa’s band of RESISTANCE fighters stand against the rising tyranny, certain that Jedi Master Luke Skywalker will return and restore a spark of hope to the fight.
As the resistance makes contact with Skywalker through REY, a scavenger strong in the FORCE, the fallen Jedi apprentice KYLO REN returns to his new master to complete his training…”
PAN DOWN to reveal a scorched planet, its surface SCARED by rivers of blazing magma. SULLUST, legendary factory of the old empire, and home to Lord Vader’s palace.
BLOCK 1 — KYLO REN & SNOKE
We’re on SULLUST. In a massive fortress we find KYLO REN, operated on by droids hovering around his mangled face. He himself also hovers, sustained by Supreme Leader Snoke, observing from an elevated throne. When the procedure finishes, he’s dropped to the floor. Hard.
“When I found you.. I saw raw! Untamed! Power! Turns out I was wrong. The mighty Kylo Ren. Bested! By a little girl!”
“I’ve given everything to you. To the Dark Side.”
“What do you command? I am ready.”
“It is time to finish your training. Lead your knights upon the Resistance base. Execute their General, and track down the girl.”
From the shadowed corners of the hall appear the KNIGHTS OF REN, all clad in BLACK, MASKED, and with various, intricate WEAPONS.
“So be it.”
The Knights of Ren appeared only in dialogue and Rey’s force-vision in VII. In VIII’s Original Treatment, they were completely absent. While they may have been intentionally held back until IX, I would prefer to include them sooner, setting them up as secondary antagonists.
BLOCK 2 — POE & LEIA
From here we CUT to the Resistance base. We see the troops maintaining X-Wings and BOMBERS above ground, and officers mingling below ground. We move to the infirmary, where Leia walks in on Poe as he observes Finn, still in a coma.
“The odds of recovery fall after three weeks..”
“Well, odds are for droids.”
“He’ll pull through.”
This establishes that it’s been (relatively) long since the end of VII.
Leia and Poe leave together. Poe, fearing retaliation from the First Order, insists they abandon the base. Leia says they have nowhere to go; that they’re reaching out to old allies. They enter the command centre, where Leia joins Admiral Akbar in conversation. Poe exits.
Admiral Holdo is cut. Existing characters will fill her role.
We follow Poe as he goes to the barracks. He fraternises with the troops, and shares a drink with his fellow pilots in the afternoon sun.
Just a few minutes here of light-hearted banter (discussing their recent victory against Starkiller Base), and then ominous forecasting..
“Be ready to fight at a moment’s notice.”
..can create a sense of camaraderie that will make later losses all the more impactful for Poe (and the audience). This is also important since our previous emotional vessel (Rose) will be introduced way later.
At this point, BB-8 finds Poe. It’s urgent. He rushes off and we CUT to the infirmary, where Finn is just waking up. Poe brushes aside the doctors, embracing him, asks him how he’s feeling. But Finn’s mind is singular:
“Poe.. Where’s Rey?”
BLOCK 3 — REY & LUKE
Rey hands Luke the lightsaber. He doesn’t throw it but he’s still angry and walks away. We follow them through the montage of Luke’s routine, but with slight edits. The hermit doesn’t make a massive pole vault with a 30-meter-long stick, but a smaller one to balance over a thin stone bridge. Rey uses her staff. Luke doesn’t milk any sea-cows, but sits down next to them to fish.. Rey can still very much have a ‘don’t meet your heroes’ moment.
Back in camp, he doesn’t want to talk to Rey so Chewie breaks down the door to his hut. We get the..
..but we don’t cut away from them this time around. Instead we simply CUT a bit forward, tactfully avoiding unneeded exposition, and we see Luke sitting on the meditation rock. Quiet. Alone. Shedding a tear.
CUT to Rey, who’s eating with Chewie and the Porgs (yeah, the Porgs stay) when we HEAR the RUMBLE of the force. She gets up and follows it. Still on the rock, Luke catches sight of her as she trails off.
She finds the old tree, and enters it. Luke busts her, and they talk about who she is.. where’s she’s come from. The Jedi and the Force. We end on the seminal:
“It’s time for the Jedi to end.”
The theme of Luke’s arc remains perfectly intact. In fact, the inclusion of Luke’s pain and self-loathing over how his failed pupil (and thus, by extension, he) killed Han, would reinforce the movie’s themes.
BLOCK 4 — THE RESISTANCE BASE IS ATTACKED
GENERAL HUX stands on the bridge of the DREADNAUGHT, a massive warship, currently flying through hyperspace. Hux communicates with Snoke through hologram. Hux says his forces are almost there, Snoke replies that he should only provide backup and eliminate escapees until Kylo Ren has finished his assault. Hux swallows his pride.
IN the resistance base, alarms go off. Energy ships are inbound. Poe finds Finn and says he has to get everybody out of the system. He then joins the other pilots who are scrambling to get airborne. Just then, Kylo Ren’s TIE SILENCER, flanked by 7 other CUSTOM TIE-INTERCEPTERS, swoop down through the atmosphere and commence a bombing run.
CUT to the control room. Leia and the leadership initiate an evacuation. Kylo Ren identifies the control room on his sensors.. He is about to shoot his missiles but hesitates — but the other knights do not..
..in the last possible instant, Leia grabs Admiral Akbar who is closest by, and as the room goes infernal, the two of them are blown to the wall, guarded by a force field.
Leia is strong in the force, that’s fine, but her flying through space was just one of those decent ideas that couldn’t quite make it through execution. Her activating a force field would serve the same purpose, without invoking as many musicals.
The Knights of Ren eject from their fighters and slaughter the Resistance as they make their way through the base. A deadly game of cat and mouse in an underground maze.
In the hangar, the evacuation begins. We get the following scene:
EXT. RESISTANCE BASE
ANGLE ON the first few escape shuttles as they lift off and accelerate towards the upper atmosphere. Linger on them as they recede into tiny specs.. and then THUUUM — — The gargantuan DREADNAUGHT comes out of hyperspace, lighting up the escape ships in a FLURRY OF LASERS.
The dreadnaught begins descending through the atmosphere, SCORCHING as it does; setting fire to the air.
The chaos continues. Finn finds Leia and Akbar in the control room, and leads them to the shuttles. Poe calls in asking for permission to blow up the Dreadnaught. Leia declines. Poe dismisses her, and turns off his intercom.
WE THEN INTERCUT BETWEEN:
POE, who engages the Dreadnaught, trailed by his bombers (since we’re now in gravity, falling bombs make sense). However, due to being severely outgunned, all the bombers blow up and the ATTACK FAILS.
KYLO and his knights, as they ambush Resistance fighters within the underground maze, and as he clears out the navigation room looking for clues on Rey.
FINN, who is evacuating with Leia and Akbar. The blast doors open and in pours STORMTROOPERS, led by CAPTAIN PHASMA. A desperate fire-fight ensues. Finn sends off the leadership in a shuttle, and then faces off against Phasma, her combat skills and deflective armour on full display.
THE SEQUENCE ENDS WITH:
Leia’s shuttle, guarded by the last Resistance fighters, escapes through hyperspace. Finn, awaiting execution by Phasma, is saved by Poe as he daringly flies into the hangar in his X-wing. Before being blasted, Phasma attaches a TRACKING DEVICE to Finn (who doesn’t notice). Finn and Poe escape. Kylo arrives in the hangar with his knights..
Captain, you failed.
Not quite, Sir. FN-2187 will lead us to them. All of them.
The second act opens with most of our heroes in a similar predicament to the Original Treatment. The Resistance is on the run; Leia has displayed her force-powers (but is not in a coma); Poe engaged the Dreadnaught against orders, and Rey is about to start training with Luke.
BLOCK 5 — LUKE AGREES TO TRAIN REY
As in the original treatment, Luke agrees to give Rey lessons after seeing R2D2 in the Falcon. We repeat the first lesson on the rock, where Rey reaches out to the force, and Luke explains how it belongs to all living things, not just the Jedi.
After the lesson, Rey and Kylo force-communicate for the first time.
Only here must Rey’s timeline with our other heroes and villains line up. Note that we skip the dark-hole in the ground, and the mirror down there. We also skip Rey practicing with the stick and the lightsaber.
We CUT to night time. Rey wakes up to Luke standing above her (the visual imagery could mimic how he brooded over Ben Solo, on the night he contemplated killing him).
“What’s going on?”
“Your next lesson.”
“Prepare the Falcon.”
BLOCK 6 — THE RESISTANCE REGROUPS
Leia’s shuttle, Poe’s X-wing, and other escapees come out of hyperspace and regroup aboard their flagship: THE ENDURANCE.
Poe is commended for saving Finn, but reprimanded (and demoted) for wasting the Resistance’s bombers on engaging the Dreadnaught. He is sent to his quarters. The fleet makes a second jump through hyperspace — towards the abandoned base on Crait.
BLOCK 7 — KYLO & THE KNIGHTS OF REN
Kylo sees Snoke in his throne room. He’s reprimanded for not being able to kill his mother. He is branded a failure. Kylo leaves.
..staying in the throne room, Hux appears in hologram. The general says he’s tracking the resistance fleet and that their trajectory points to the planet of Crait..
We find Kylo in the elevator. He breaks his helmet. Returning to his quarters, he communicates with Rey again. Rey’s on the Falcon, travelling through hyperspace. We do not know where’s she’s going. Neither does she.
He could be interrupted by the other Knights of Ren.. Their dialogue could shed some light on how they were found and trained by Snoke, who Snoke is, and whatever else.
BLOCK 9 — ENDURANCE IS TRAPPED AND FINN LEAVES
The resistance ship Endurance is flying through hyperspace.
INT. BRIDGE, ENDURANCE
The crew is preparing for deceleration.
“Arriving at Crait in 30 seconds.. Everybody standby.”
ANGLE ON Leia, who senses a disturbance in the force. Her eyes split open.
“Captain! Take us out of light speed! Right now!”
“Copy that. Coming out..”
The bluish swirl of light speed is replaced by the sprinkled blackness of space — and we see Leia’s source of dread — —
EXT. SPACE — CONTINUOUS
In front of the white-reddish planet of CRAIT is a BLOCKADE OF FIRST ORDER SHIPS, helmed by Snoke’s capital ship, THE SUPREMACY; a true monstrosity of malign engineering, several times larger than the Dreadnaught.
We go to Poe’s quarters, where our pilot is intrigued by commotion outside his door. In the corridor, word is spreading among the crew that they’ve been intercepted. Finn urges Poe to talk to the leadership.
Poe rushes back onto the bridge. Alone on the helm, in muted, solemn conversation, are Leia and Akbar. Leia’s hand is on his arm.
Poe walks up to them, breaking the moment, demanding to know what the plan is. Leia says the plan is the same — making their way to Crait. Poe insists that flying towards the blockade is suicide, and that they must at least slow down to assess their options, when —
An ALARM goes off.
“General. Incoming ships.”
EXT. ENDURANCE, SPACE
The Dreadnaught appears out of hyperspace behind the Endurance.
INT. BRIDGE, DREADNAUGHT
Admiral Hux observes the measly remnants of the Resistance. Heavy metal steps O.S. precede Captain Phasma.
“Well done, Captain. Caught between death and destruction.”
INT. BRIDGE, ENDURANCE
“Full speed ahead! Rear shields full power.”
“And escort the Captain back to his quarters.”
The Dreadnaught begins its long-range barrage, and the Endurance speeds towards the blockade at Crait. Poe and Finn rendezvous again. As in the Original Treatment, both agree that something must be done, albeit from slightly different points of view (Finn fears for Rey, who is tracking the resistance unbeknownst to their danger. Poe laments his dead friends and cannot comprehend the suicidal decision of the leadership).
Poe tells Finn that he knows a hacker, an ex-resistance member, who could potentially disable the enemy fleet, and give the Resistance time to hide on Crait — long enough for him to convince the leadership to flee. It’s a lousy plan, but the only one they have. Finn agrees to go, boards a ship (auto-piloted?), and leaves.
Aboard the Dreadnaught, Captain Phasma notices Finn’s tracker moving again.
BLOCK 10 — REY & LUKE ON ILUM (PART I)
This is arguably the largest change to the entire film. Yes, the Luke of VIII is supposed to be resigned to death on the island, but I believe there are ways to make this excursion believable, and it would serve what would be a great sequence for Star Wars lore. Furthermore, Luke leaving the island once would make the twist of the force hologram harder to anticipate..
The cloaked figures of Rey and Luke brace against ICY WINDS as they make their way from the Millennium falcon towards mountains obscured by storm. We’re on the snow-blasted planet of ILUM.
Luke shows Rey what remain of the legendary crystal caves, where Jedi over millennia extracted Kyber crystals to forge their own lightsabers — a crucial rite of passage for any Jedi apprentice.
INT. CRYSTAL CAVES, ILUM
A massive, hallow cavern. Its ground, walls and roof are sprinkled with clusters of radiant crystals of blue and green, and even yellow.
Luke sits Rey down. Makes her meditate. He opens a satchel and displays a series of spare lightsaber parts — remnants of his Jedi academy destroyed by Kylo Ren. After some time, we hear the RUMBLE of the force.. The right crystal attracts her.. She finds it and tears it off. Examines it and shows it to Luke. He nods, solemnly. But then: A SECOND RUMBLE. After some confusion, she tracks down and detaches a second crystal from the cave wall. In her hands are two blue ones.
BLOCK 9 — FINN ON BAITO CANT
Finn arrives on Baito Cant, a city constructed in and around a small natural satellite, orbiting above a planet being excavated for resources by massive, war-profiteering conglomerates.
Finn’s subplot does not take place in the casino city on Canto Bait, a locale that despite some interesting costume design and political ideas, felt almost too safe and familiar to Earth for Star Wars. On this replacement, the political themes can remain — the literal backdrop outside the windows is a planet strip-mined to its core for resources. We can even have some caged Farthiers in the city, caught on the surface before facing extinction from ecosystem collapse. They’re being prepped for sale to rich bastards that will use them in races elsewhere..
Who will contextualise the above for Finn? Rose will. Rose is our hacker, whom Finn meets on Baito Cant. She used to work with the Resistance, and Finn has to break to her the loss of her sister (the bomber-pilot). Rose is reluctant to rejoin the cause, especially what sounds like a suicide mission, and this friction is what drives their initial interaction.
The character DJ is cut.
BLOCK 11 — REY & LUKE ON ILUM (PART II)
Rey is alone, again in deep meditation. In front of her hovers the two cyber crystals, and around her swirls the lightsaber spare parts. Without opening her eyes, she assembles her sabre with the force. It’s double-handed, like the one that belonged to Darth Maul. For a while she tinkers with it, but then her eyes spring open. Further back, in shadow, sits Luke, also meditating.
“There aren’t enough parts.”
Deliberately, Luke takes out his own lightsaber, deconstructs it with his mind, and sends several pieces flying over to Rey. The pieces meshes into her own handle, ending with a satisfying CLICK. She gets up, activating both blades.. Her new weapon.
It’s established early in Episode VII that Rey is proficient with a staff, so in my mind, this lightsaber design fits her well. Furthermore, there is thematic weight to the idea that Luke would decommission his own lightsaber to create Rey’s.
A BIT LATER, Rey can be practicing with her dual-sabre when she again force-communicates with Kylo. He confronts her about her tutelage under Luke, explains how he will betray her, like he did Kylo. This can lead to a confrontation with Luke on Ilum, and finally Luke’s admission of the truth — the moment’s consideration to kill his own nephew.
Rey decides to confront Kylo Ren to convert him to the light.
BLOCK 12 — THE ASSAULT ON BAITO CANT
Finn and Rose come to some sort of agreement about helping the rebellion. But on their way to the hangar we NOTICE..
..First Order transport ships, manoeuvring the planet’s debris-rings.
To halt their progress, Rose hacks into the city’s security systems and initiates a lock-down procedure.
From inside the transports, Captain Phasma (who is still tracking Finn) notices how the hangars close and how reinforced steel plates slide over the city’s windows. The transports “dock”, firing anchor-cables into the city walls. Then, Phasma leads a squadron of jetpack-stormtroopers into space, propelling across the gap against the backdrop of the strip-mined planet.
Connecting to the metal with magnetic shoes, the troopers weld through..
INSIDE the station, holes ERUPT in the reinforced walls and windows. Rooms and corridors violently decompress, sucking objects and people out into space. Once a vacuum, the jet-troopers make their way inside.
Finn and Rose are caught in the hangar. Finn takes out the first few stormtroopers that track them down, but are then quickly overwhelmed when Phasma arrives with reinforcements.
“You were the best student I ever had, FN-2187. But even you should have known that resistance is futile.”
She pulls out the tracker from his jacket.
“I’d rather die than kill for you!”
“And you think your precious Resistance is any better? Defenders of a Republic that culminated in this..”
The blast doors open — exposing the strip-mined planet beyond transparent shields.
“..unchecked destruction in the pursuit of profits?”
“You are murderers.”
“Order requires sacrifice. Stability.. requires sacrifice.”
“Bag them. Override the shields.”
They’re subdued and put in opaque bags. All brace.. the shields deactivate and the hangar DECOMPRESSES, EJECTING them into —
EXT. SPACE — CONTINUOUS
They jetpack back to the transport ships.
A bit heavy-handed, but nothing some revision can’t straighten out. Instead of a random scene with DJ showing Finn that war profiteers sell ships to both sides, his world view could be shaken by none other than his nemesis. Phasma explains how the Republic culminated in unfettered capitalism, with the same planet-destroying consequences of totalitarianism. This serves as a nice thematic mirror to Luke’s insight, who teaches Rey how the force dosn’t exist in a duality of light and dark .. it’s grey-scaled.
BLOCK 13 — LUKE RETURNS TO THE ISLAND
Rey and Chewie drop off Luke on the island. He has a final plea, saying..
“This will not go the way you think.”
..but Rey, in her arrogance, is determined. She leaves for The Supremacy. Luke goes to burn the tree, and talks to Yoda.
The third act very much falls back in line with the one in the original treatment. What changes occur are mostly “follow-on” consequences.
BLOCK 14 — POE ATTEMPTS A COUP D’ÉTAT
Poe realises in horror that Finn and Rose have been taken. Their plan has failed. The Endurance will imminently be within range of the Crait blockade. He must act. He must take the ship to light speed!
Along with a few loyalists, Poe takes control of the bridge. He orders Leia, Akbar and the rest to be taken to the brig.
But Leia doesn’t budge. Using the force, she disables their guns. She reveals that the ship is out of fuel — there will be no successful escape from this. Instead, they will board transport ships and make for the surface. Admiral Akbar will stay behind, steering the Endurance as a distraction. Leia touches Poe’s forehead, and he passes out.
BLOCK 15 — REY (AND FINN) ABOARD THE SUPREMACY
This segment remains virtually identical to the film for Rey. She arrives in a pod from the Falcon. Escorted by Kylo Ren, she’s taken to see Supreme Leader Snoke. Snoke terrorises her, notices her double-edged lightsaber (and that the two parts are detachable — yes, they are), preaches, and commands Kylo to kill her, but Kylo turns on his Master and destroys him..
Then, Kylo and Rey fight and defeat the Praetorian guard. Afterwards, they speak of Rey’s parentage, and about joining forces.
MEANWHILE, Finn and Rose are kept in detainment aboard the same ship.
BLOCK 16 — THE FLIGHT TO CRAIT
A flurry of transport ships abandon the Endurance and take the long way to Crait, avoiding the band of First Order ships. The Endurance makes a manoeuvre perpendicular to both the Dreadnaught (behind) and the blockade (in front), and for a while it works.. firepower and attention is directed towards the flailing capital ship, but then..
..the escape shuttles are noticed, and they come under fire.
Aboard the Endurance, Admiral Akbar turns the ship around, lines it up with the Supremacy, and prepares for one final, desperate move.
INT. BRIDGE, SUPREMACY
An old, seasoned ADMIRAL stands to post. Outside the observational deck the Endurance is lining up towards him..
“What the hell are they doing?”
INT. BRIDGE, ENDURANCE — CONTINUOUS
Admiral Akbar punches the final instructions. We HEAR the engines CHARGE UP..
INT. BRIDGE, DREADNAUGHT — CONTINUOUS
General Hux bars open his eyes in horrid realisation. He rushes to an intercom.
“Supremacy! Evasive manoeuvre! It’s a tr — — ”
EXT. SPACE — CONTINUOUS
WHITEOUT. Lines of energy like fractal lightning cut through the ships comprising the planetary blockade. Silence. Then a THUNDEROUS EXPLOSION as the ships OBLITERATE.
In the ensuing chaos, the resistance pods make their way to Crait.
BLOCK 17 — FINN (AND REY) ESCAPE THE SUPREMACY
For Finn and Rose, this segment remains virtually the same. The Supremacy is falling apart after being hit by the Endurance. They flee to the hangar where they must fight Phasma, like in the Original Treatment.
The difference is that now Finn and Phasma have real animosity between them, and a more complex history. Furthermore, when Finn beats open her helmet and they exchange the..
.. we feel that Finn has deserved this victory to some extent.
Finn and Rose escape aboard a transport ship.
We CUT to Rey waking up in the throne room. Her and Kylo were knocked unconscious in the explosion (not from lightsaber-splitting). She contemplates killing him, much like Luke did.. but then leaving instead.
BLOCK 18 — THE BATTLE OF CRAIT
The Battle of Crait ensues, much like in the original treatment, but with a few nuanced differences: high above the battlefield is the Dreadnaught, which was not taken out by the Endurance; Rose does not stop Finn’s heroic sacrifice, but instead Rey feels what he’s about to do and deactivates his ship through the force (or Poe can even take Rose’s role.. anyone but her. Their romance simply felt too forced).
Luke arrives in hologram form, talks to Leia, hands her the dice, and goes out to face the First Order. Kylo Ren orders them to shoot him, and he reappears unharmed (he doesn’t literally brush it off though). Then, Kylo goes to face off Luke..
..and here we have the final change in the film.
“So this is it, old man? You’re going to try to stop me?”
“There is no try.”
In an epic display of his powers, Luke pulls the Dreadnaught to the ground, obliterating both it and the ground forces lining up to take the base. Hux and Phasma escape before impact. Kylo Ren is also unharmed.
Luke fades and dies, and Rey feels peace and purpose through the force.
The remnants of the resistance escapes.
BLOCK 19 — THE FINAL PLOT TWIST
We CUT away from the Millennium Falcon, fleeing into temporary safety, back aboard the Supremacy, disintegrating in orbit above Crait.
INT. THRONE ROOM, SUPREMACY
The red drapes burn up, revealing a fiery hellscape outside. ANGLE ON Snoke’s body, split at the torso. Inexplicably, and without ceremony, it fades — garb and all.
INT. FORTRESS, SULLUST
The Supreme Leader, alive and well, levitates on his throne. His eyes open, and a warped smile spreads across the disfigured face.
“And so ends, the line of Skywalker.”
There we go. If you made it this far: wow — and thank you for indulging me. Do let me know what changes you agreed and disagreed with — I’d be happy to debate any creative suggestions you might have, as well as the merit of any of mine.