Most critics agree that “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is a disappointing finale to the nine-film Skywalker saga, and many have been wondering since the film’s December 20 release whether or not it would have been stronger had the production been given more time to breathe. While appearing on “The Rough Cut” podcast via The Playlist, “Rise of Skywalker” editor Maryann Brandon admitted the film’s production was rushed, which made for a challenging editing process. Brandon is “Rise of Skywalker” director J.J. Abrams’ longtime editor, having worked with him on TV’s “Alias,” plus “Mission: Impossible III,” “Star Trek,” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” among other projects.
“We were definitely still trying to figure out a lot of stuff,” Brandon said about the sped-up editing process. “It's a struggle. It affected everything. About a third of the way through, [Lucasfilm president] Kathy [Kennedy] was like, 'JJ has got to spend more time in the cutting room.' And I knew that wasn't going to happen. Not with the schedule that we were on. Not with what he was dealing with on a daily basis...he was just exhausted at the end of the day.”
According to Brandon’s estimates, the “Rise of Skywalker” crew had three months less to work on the latest “Star Wars” movie than was the case for “Force Awakens.” Disney set a December 20, 2019 release date for the movie that could not be moved, forcing Brandon to edit on set so that the production schedule was maintained.
“I suggested I cut on the set...we had two tented rooms...so I just went wherever JJ was, usually 10 feet away from the camera, wherever the camera was,” Brandon said. “And I just mobile-y cut. And in between takes, [J.J.] could sit down with me and we could go over things.”
As for the negative critical reception of “The Rise of Skywalker,” Brandon said, “In a time when the whole world is polarized, it should not be a film that is polarizing. Basically, the message of the film is, 'Hey you know what? You can be bad and good can come into your life. And maybe if you're open-minded to it, extraordinary things can change your mind. And you have to believe there's always hope.'”
One of the biggest complaints thrown at “Rise of Skywalker” is that the movie is pure fan service, which is not a claim Brandon will try to fight. “Look, sure, it's fan service,” the editor said, “[but] if you didn't service the fans, it would be, 'Oh, he didn't go along with the history of ‘Star Wars’ and what it all means.'”