J.J. Abrams made the decision to kill off some pretty major characters in Star Wars 9. The director had the difficult task of bringing 40+ years-worth of storytelling to an end and the results are mixed, to put it lightly. In order to do so, Abrams and the movie's co-writer Chris Terrio Justice League, felt the need to kill some characters in an attempt to drive their point home. We've compiled a list of the major deaths, which you can see below. There are SPOILERS for The Rise of Skywalker below, so read ahead at your own risk.
Carrie Fisher passed away in late 2016, so we were really lucky to have her in The Rise of Skywalker at all. J.J. Abrams discovered that there was enough unused footage from The Force Awakens to carry on her story and finish it as intended, which unfortunately saw the Leia Organa officially die on the big screen. She appears to use all of her remaining strength in an effort to bring Ben Solo back from the Dark Side while he fights Rey on the Death Star wreckage. While it ultimately worked, one has to wonder if it was necessary in the end to include as much Leia as they did.
Boolio was a newcomer to the Star Wars franchise and he didn't last very long at all in The Rise of Skywalker. We first learned about the alien character on Force Friday and he proved to be a great help to The Resistance when he let them know there was a mole within the First Order. Boolio's severed head is later thrown on a table, which was kind of a heavy move for a Disney movie. Regardless, Boolio died a hero and basically started the new battle.
As for who that mole was that Boolio was speaking of, it was none other than General Hux of the First Order. He can be seen in The Rise of Skywalker has he helps Poe, Finn, and Chewbacca escape. However, he has no interest in really helping The Resistance, he just wants to make sure that Kylo Ren doesn't succeed. This proves to be his final act in the movie and the franchise as Allegiant General Pryde Richard E. Grant figures out what has been done and shoots the character in the chest.
Allegiant General Pryde
Allegiant Pryde was also a newcomer to the Star Wars franchise and was rather mysterious. Richard E. Grant delivered a worthy performance as the First and Final Order villain and it's a shame that The Rise of Skywalker was the end of the line for him. With that being said, Pryde was struck down by Finn and Jannah's hard work towards the end of the movie when they brought down the Star Destroyer over Exegol. We last see Pryde as he is blasted through a huge window in a ball of flames.
Resistance pilot Snap Wexley was brought into the franchise for 2015's The Force Awakens. Wexley actor Greg Grunberg is a good friend of J.J. Abrams, but even that couldn't stop the character from going down in a blaze of glory during the climactic final battle over Exegol. Wesley dies when the Final Order has the upper hand, early on in the battle when the odds are stacked against them. To make matters worse, it doesn't look like Wexley's X-Wing crash into a Star Destroyer did any damage to the enemy ship.
The Knights of Ren
Like Snap Wexley, the mysterious Knights of Ren were introduced in The Force Awakens. Star Wars fans were hoping we'd get to see some more backstory on the characters this time around, or at least some more information about them, but that was not to be. After looking like a force to be reckoned with, Ben Solo takes them all down with relative ease and kills them all before attempting to go help Rey take down Emperor Palpatine. For fans hoping for more information on the Knights of Ren, you're going to have to dive into Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #1.
Emperor Palpatine Again?
Star Wars fans were shocked to learn that Emperor Palpatine was going to be back in The Rise of Skywalker. We all assumed, as did George Lucas, that the villain died in 1983's Return of the Jedi. However, we were all wrong, according to J.J. Abrams, though he doesn't care to explain how Emperor Palpatine is back after all of this time. Regardless, Palpatine asks Rey, who is his granddaughter, to kill him, but she declines. She ultimately ends up killing him anyway with two Lightsabers instead of one. Is he really dead this time? Only time will tell: insert Ian McDiarmid laugh here with a hint of Abrams mystery box.
Rey Sort Of
Before Rey can kill Emperor Palpatine after he has achieved full power, he throws Ben Solo down a pit wink. Rey uses all of the strength that she has to go back at Palpatine, which ends up killing the villain and herself at the same time. The Rise of Skywalker doesn't make sense in so many ways, and it's unclear why Rey did not disappear like the other Jedi do when the pass on, but she sticks around. Thankfully, Ben Solo comes up to save the day, trading his life for hers with a kiss. Rey comes back to life, but at a huge cost.
Everybody assumed Ben Solo died when Emperor Palpatine threw him down the pit on Exegol. But that was not to be the case. After seemingly learning about the healing powers of The Force on the Death Star wreckage from Rey, he decides to do the same after her battle with Palpatine killed her off. Star Wars fans hoping for "Reylo" to come alive on the big screen were rewarded for a few seconds as Ben Solo embraces Rey and then dies in her arms. The rumors of redemption were true and Ben Solo dies as a hero.
There’s one particularly telling and effective moment in The Skywalker Legacy, the feature-lenght documentary that’s included on the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker home release that sums up much of the ambivalence and consternation that some had with J.J. Abrams’ return to the Star Wars universe. After showing the intricate construction of a giant, practical snake monster, the doc cuts back to footage of Jabba The Hutt, that old analogue beast that slithered its way into our hearts. The sentiment is clear – we’re making movies like we used to! A celebration of practical effects, the dripping of k-y jelly to give viscosity just like the old costume days, it’s all there. There’s excitement on set, everyone talking about how amazing it looks, how lifelike, how this is how you’re supposed to do movies like this.
Cut to Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett who shatters the myth, letting us know the creature was replaced by a CGI version in post.
Guyett’s resume is mighty. Having made his bones on groundbreaking films like Twister and Casper, he helped Spielberg bring the events of D-Day to screen in Saving Private Ryan, helped bring to life the best looking film in the Harry Potter series, Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban, and even made the theatrical version of Rent feel more than a stage production. Guyett has had many collaborations with Abrams – from the Star Trek Reboots through The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker he was even second unit director on the former, as well as working with George Lucas on Episode III to round off the prequels. He’s in a unique position to speak to these changing landscapes of epic filmmaking.
We spoke at length about the apparent contradictions and indulgences in making a Star Wars film, and he made the case for why nothing was wasted and all contributed to the final presentation. He was erudite and open to the discussion, making for a dream conversation with a man who quite literally has helped shape what amazes us on screen for decades.
The following has been edited for clarity and concision.
We see practical effects being championed as almost a marketing ploy with the “postquels” as a mix of nostalgia and an attempt to delineate from Lucas’ second trilogy. In some ways the love of the practically-realized snake undercuts the extraordinary CGI you and your team accomplished, and raises questions about why the need to fetishize the on-set inclusions when they’re replaced anyway. Could you talk about that ethos, that somehow doing stuff on a computer is a “cheat” while doing an effect practically is not?
I think at the end of the day we’re all trying to do the best that we can, trying to make the best, most dramatic or emotional movie we can visually. I’m coming from figuring out how do you get the most...