The Rise of Skywalker, while not awful – nor the epic crash-and-burn achieved by Game of Thrones – is
not a very good film. I'm sure there are tons of articles out there touching on the many problems, which I likely agree with, but I intend to come at this a little differently. As an author, I was struck by a very particular feeling while watching the movie: This is a first draft.
Most authors use their first draft to tell themselves the story. The result of that is a rushed mess, loaded with plot issues, often times with placeholders for key characters and events. Through revision, a process that varies depending on the writer, those problems get cut down and smoothed out. After some number of passes, a final work is produced and it generally bears only a striking resemblance to that original version.
As the first half of the film dragged me through exposition with reckless abandon, I realized I was seeing what I described above: A rushed mess, loaded with plot issues and placeholders for key characters and events. This doesn't mean that Abrams and Terrio wrote a script and ran with it, but it does mean they didn't revise it enough. It gets the job done, but the overwhelming opinion is that it doesn't do so in a very satisfying way.
Ideally, for me, the story would be quite different. Rather than offer up a full critique, though, I wanted to point out a few tweaks to the story that I think would have made the experience a little better.
Delay the Emperor reveal
The movie jumps right into it from the crawl, and Kylo Ren tears through a bunch of flimsy excuses for guards to get the wayfinder. It's stage directions. There are a couple of ways I think this could be adjusted but one I like: For Ren to be deposed as Supreme Leader after his failure at Crait, be searching desperately for something to put him back on top, and receive a mysterious transmission about a fleet full of planet-killing power – but that his "friend" Rey is the key to locating the source of the message.
Send General Organa on Lando's mission
The scenes with Carrie Fisher were heartwarming but bad. Poorly edited together, hokey, and requiring nonsense explanations – both in flashback form and in characters reading script notes aloud. A way I'd suggest to alter that is to open the movie with Poe Dameron in charge on Ajan Kloss, with Leia already out trying to convince people to help.
Have a little courage
I like Chewbacca and C3PO just fine but talk about a lack of spine! Chewie isn't mission-essential in this film and once Threepio serves his purpose there's no further need. These are tougher things to address but I'll try some quick suggestions: Chewie stays with the Resistance and is fatally wounded protecting Lando or Rose or anyone else. I love that little alien who works on Threepio, but since he willingly accepts his fate I think Artoo (also non-essential in this film) should be the one to try accessing the memory banks, succeeding at a cost of either deactivating Threepio or erasing with no backup.
Maybe utilize Dark Rey?
Even understanding how the second wayfinder room is a parallel to Luke in the cave, I'm still amazed by how useless Dark Rey was. Talk about a gimmick. So use her. Have Rey lose the fight, but at least have a real fight! This one feels very much like one of those placeholders, and they forgot to fill it in. [Dark Rey appears and they fight] turned into what we saw.
Stop it with the "you just have to dig deeper" stuff
Ultimately, fixing this affects the overall story in major ways – the kind of ways that the right number of revisions provide. Perhaps my standards are too high but if the power is there and they just need to dig deeper, that isn't satisfying. It's cheap. In this case, it's accompanied by people Rey doesn't know (and, I'm guessing, a majority she’s never heard of) urging her to rise. That isn't a theme. Anyway, my best stab at an easy-ish adjustment: Instead of draining them of their power but not really and wasting the Force dyad thing on saving Kylo from the Knights, have them team up and utilize this amazing power to overcome the Force lightning.
Stop it with the "if we do this one thing it defeats all the things" stuff
This is a much easier fix, if you ask me. Decouple the fates of Rey/Kylo/Palpatine from the Final Order/Resistance battle, first. Then, make the planet-killing weapons a red herring: Those are just a lot of First Order ships. Over the Resistance base, not Exegol. And then, have the Resistance win in fair combat! If no satisfactory footage of Carrie Fisher exists, then she can pass away during her mission – maybe being in the vacuum of space messed her up and she was on borrowed time. But have the people answering Leia's call show up and straight kick some ass. Outmaneuver/outgun/outfight. No asinine missions. Everyone contributes. And then the First Order surrenders once it's clear they've lost.
Rey is nobody
I know this is a sensitive topic, but hear me out. Rey can be a powerful Force-sensitive baby that Palpatine noticed without being his granddaughter. Her parents can still drop her off on Jakku to keep her safe and all the other stuff. (And I know it would probably throw the title off, but imagine how cool it would have been if her response to that old lady was, "Just Rey.") Maybe, just maybe, Palpatine can explain Rey is one of two babies he sensed the power of…
I hope this was a good read and worth your time! I also hope to see more refined storytelling in the Star Wars films to come.