Star Wars: Duel Of The Fates – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of Colin Trevorrow’s Unused Script

For the last week, I have been working my way through the script for Colin Trevorrow’s Star Wars: Episode 9. You all probably know a few details by now and at least the name, Duel of the Fates. It’s taken me so long because of how I like to read scripts. I like to take my time and read only a few scenes at a time, then I can go back over them in my head adding the visuals.

So here we are finally, with my review (if you like) of Duel of the Fates. Now, it is worth pointing out that we do not know which version of the script this was. Many fans are saying it was only the first draft. I certainly think this would have been worked more on if Lucasfilm had decided to film it. Trevorrow was replaced with enough time for Lucasfilm to hire J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio and have them start from scratch, after all.

I’ll take a guess at the question most fans want answered about this script (if you have not read it yourself). Is Duel of the Fates a better script than The Rise of Skywalker? The answer in my humble opinion is yes. Though, that’s not to say I think the script is wonderful. In fact, it may be more of an indictment of The Rise of Skywalker, as I have some serious issues with that movie’s plot.

So let’s get right into what works and what does not, from my point of view as a Star Wars fanatic.

The Good and the Bad of Star Wars: Duel of the Fates

There are some ideas and moments within this script which really do work well for me, and some that don’t. I won’t break down the full thing here, and you won’t have too much trouble finding the script for yourself online. Instead, here are the points that stood out to me when reading.

Finn, Rose, and Poe:

I much prefer the character arcs of both Poe and Finn in this version of the movie. For a start, a lot more time has passed since the events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This extra time gives the relationships some time to have matured. I read somewhere else that this is supposed to be set 10 years after TLJ? It feels from the script more like for or five, but I’m not sure.

Poe and Finn are split up in the story for the most part, with team Finn being Rose and himself.  Clearly, these two have advanced their relationship since The Last Jedi. Whereas Poe is firmly on team Rey in this story and has definite romantic feelings towards her. It does seem as though Rey is holding back from admitting she feels the same way.

Finn ends up leading the ground battle on the familiar planet of Coruscant. The inclusion of Coruscant as the primary focus of this story is actually one of the things I liked most about this script. There is a moment where Finn and Rose break into the old Jedi Temple, which I think would have been visually cool to see. We then have these two split up, Rose captured, while Finn recruits and leads an uprising of the people of Coruscant.

The aim: to rebel against the First Order. Rose isn’t out of the action though and she manages to escape. Later she prevents the First Order from escaping at the climax of the story.

I feel like Finn’s arc is clearer over the three movies. First, he rejects the First Order in TFA. Then he learns why they need to be fought in TLJ. Finally, he ends up as a Che Guevarra type of revolutionary leader in this. There are one or two details that did not work for me in Finn’s story and I’ll get to them in a second. However, overall I felt like Finn had a real place in this story. Rose was certainly not reduced to a few lines in the background. I would say Rose gets about the same amount of screen time as Poe does in this version of the movie.

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As for the bad, there is one moment where Finn defeats a Stormtrooper and his mask is removed. The trooper recognizes Finn. A brief bit of dialogue between the two seems to remove this trooper’s programing. By the next time we see ‘Rafe,’ he is leading a group of Stormtroopers who have decided to rebel against their masters. It’s all a little too quick, and in some ways, clichéd for me. I just can’t see that scene playing well in the movie. I’d definitely have made some changes there, were I script doctoring this one.

As for Poe, I’ve not been a massive fan of this character in TFA or TLJ. The Last Jedi tried to give him more depth but it came across as idiotic to me. That nonsense with mutinies and Holdo I just felt was characters being idiots. This Trevorrow story, I think, treats him as more of a secondary character to Finn and Rey. I guess I like that. Poe is still a prominent Rebel leader, and he does pilot the Falcon a lot here like in The Rise of Skywalker.

Here he’s more of the romantic interest for the hero, Rey, but I am totally ok with that. He gets to play a part, inspire a few decisions and kick some ass in the Falcon. There is one scene where Poe convinces Leia to fight when she is in doubt. It was a nice mirror of what came between the pair in The Last Jedi. Honestly, there were no bad moments from Poe in this script. I like his reduction to more of a secondary character while the focus remains on Finn, Rey and Kylo.

Rey Solana:

Yep, that ends up being Rey’s surname. Whilst there are a few aspects of Rey’s journey which I dislike in this script, the majority appeals more to me than ‘Rey Palpatine’ does. Trevorrow’s goal here is to depict Rey as being different from what came before, more of a balance between light and dark. Rey, at times, worries about the dogma of the Jedi Order. However, by the end, she cuts her own path, promising a different kind of Jedi Order in years to come.

There is no ‘Reylo’ here. The relationship between Rey and Ben Solo is far more traditional hero vs villain. Though, at the end, Ben still chooses to save Rey instead of striking her down. I do have some issues with the ending for this pair, but I will get to that. Ultimately, Rey seems to struggle with very similar things in this version of the script. Just without an actual familial connection to the Dark Side. She does also, at one point, unleash Force Lighting, just as she does in TROS.

There is one moment where Rey is blinded by Kylo Ben (No, I didn’t make a mistake, you know what I mean). I actually really liked the image in my head of a blindfolded Rey dueling with Kylo Ren. The way that Trevorrow and co-writer Derek Connally attempt to evolve the Jedi in this story is admirable. However, I also have a few issues with that side, so let’s look at those.

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The script is trying to focus on Rey being unique, that she is evolving the Jedi into something very different. Different from that old dogmatic view of the PT era Jedi Order. I have zero issue with this thematically. My issue is instead with how Luke is not given his place within this evolution.

The story is painted towards Luke being as dogmatic, and following the same rules, as the Jedi before him. For a start, I feel like that means Yoda, and Obi-Wan taught Luke nothing. Did Luke learn nothing by his success in redeeming his father? They talk of attachment and Leia tells Rey that it’s a rule made up by some dude a thousand years ago. However Luke, despite not having a lover that we know of, DID have attachments. The attachment Luke had between his friends, his sister, and his father were what allowed him to triumph over the Emperor. That’s the kind of thing that is sure to annoy fans of Luke — another sleight if you will.

So I like this Jedi evolution, but I do not like the fact it is Rey driving this change, instead of carrying on from Luke. This could, in my opinion, be easily fixed by a few alterations to the dialogue. But I would have definitely had an issue with that being left in the final movie. Leia herself also had attachments, not only Han, but the strongest attachment of all between a mother and her child. It’s a good angle, but they’ve come at it from the wrong direction and with a little tweak it could have worked. If they did manage to make this work, then it would have felt more like a conclusion to the story begun in The Phantom Menace. Certainly, I would have found it more effective than just bringing back Papa Palpatine.

Kylo Ren:

I like the dark path Kylo Ren goes on here. Like in the script for TROS, Ren is after something, though the MacGuffin is very different. In his quest for ultimate power Ren becomes more and more Vader like. There is even a great Dark Side version of the Dagobah cave scene from Empire.

Ren faces off against Darth Vader, like Luke did and loses. However, I have to say that the bad outweighs the good for me with this particular character. Ben’s ending is a little bit strange, and it felt unearned. The best part of what happens with Ren? Well, see below in Luke’s section.

The bad of Kylo Ren/Ben Solo? For me it’s the ending. It is the fact that when the character finally has Rey at his mercy, she simply reaches out a hand to him. He then hears his mother’s voice and changes his mind, taking Rey’s hand. This empowers her and also kills Ben Solo. It’s a sort of redemption angle I guess? But, in redeeming himself, Ben Solo has to rescue Rey from, Kylo Ren? This could have worked, but would take a bit more planning and sowing of seeds from the beginning of the movie. Instead I think it would feel like “where did that come from?”

There is also one aspect of Kylo Ren vs Rey which I despised as soon as I saw where it was going. This script reveals that Rey’s parents were killed by Kylo Ren, on the orders of Snoke. Snoke, for some reason, saw Rey as a threat and sent Kylo and the Knights to kill her. Rey’s parents hid her and were killed by Kylo Ren afterward.

It just feels so, unnecessary to me, and it adds nothing to the relationship between Rey and Ben other than to further confuse it. I’m not sure it even makes sense when I look back at the previous two movies? This could have worked with a different middle I guess? However, with the story of TLJ being what it was, I feel like it would have been a silly reveal for no reason.

Luke Skywalker:

This is the biggest one for me. Luke is present in Duel of the Fates a hell of a lot more than he appears in The Rise of Skywalker. As alluded to above, the thing I like most about this script is how Ben Solo is haunted by a Force Ghost Luke Skywalker. Ben rejects what Luke tells him, but he is unable to shut it out.

Luke just keeps appearing to him and trying to make him see the error of his ways. He also appears to both Rey and Leia at various points as well, meaning he is in there a lot. There is also a nice moment in the finale where Luke delays Ben Solo and Ben tries to use a lightsaber on Luke. Luke simply catches it, unaffected since he is not really there in body.

Luke having one scene in The Rise of Skywalker was simply not enough for me. This script also makes more of Luke’s sacrifice, and how that has inspired hope in the galaxy. This was something completely absent from the script we got filmed. The only aspects of Luke I did not like, were the parts of Rey’s story I mentioned above. Give Luke some credit for once, Lucasfilm! That’s what I would have been saying, and it works better for me when you do make the changes I suggested. I guess I would say that, though.

The Knights of Ren:

The Knights of Ren are absolute garbage for me in The Rise of Skywalker. Are they any better in Trevorrow’s script? Honestly, yes is the answer. How could they be any worse than TROS without actually all turning out to be bumbling Gungans? We do see more of the Knights chasing Rey and Poe across the Galaxy on their quest.

There are some weird aspects of the group I do like, and they use Darksabers. However, they simply disappear at one point of the script and just fail to reappear again. I had to read back to try and work out if they were killed and it remains unclear. Clumsy, fixable, yet not there to be utterly useless like they were in Abrams’ script.

It would have still been far more interesting for these characters to have been former students of Luke who joined Ben in going towards the Dark Side. I know some of our readers have expressed regret at this not playing out. I agree, it was the more interesting path to take with these characters. Oh, and they were also there when Rey’s parents were killed. This is explained to be that scene with Kylo Ren and his Knights in the rain we saw in TFA, (see image above).

Snoke and Tor Valum:

Snoke is barely even mentioned in Duel of the Fates and that would have continued to annoy me greatly. Was the idea to make him some puppet clone controlled by Palpatine better? For me, no. However, at least Abrams tried? This script just seems to ignore him completely and hope the audience does not ask too many questions. That’s about all I have to say about Snoke.

As for Tor Valum, if you have never heard of him, don’t worry, he was created for this script alone. So he’s a Star Wars original here. I really did not like the entire concept of Tor Valum. Essentially, Ren goes searching in Vader’s castle, he find a recording from Palpatine telling Vader to take Luke to his old teacher should he not survive. Now, if Palpatine had a master, that breaks the rule of two…again. This also begs the question of, what is Tor Valum actually doing in this universe?

It turns out Tor Valum doesn’t appear to be very ambitious or powerful at all, so, not very Sith-like. Tor Valum essentially serves one purpose: to teach Kylo Ren a new skill. The skill is how to suck the life force out of another being and keep oneself alive as a result. Kylo Ren simply sucks the life out of him at the end of his training as a thank you. That’s the end of Tor Valum!

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It is far too complicated and poses too many retcon plot holes in the PT. The idea of Ren seeking power is sound, but this part definitely needed some work. What would I have done, I hear no one ask? I’d have brought back Snoke.

Snoke could have summoned Ren to him. He explains that as Darth Plagueis, he has learned to draw life force to keep himself alive. However, since Palpatine killed him he has to leech off of a host body and cannot, therefore, use this greatest power. He teaches Ren hoping that he will once again follow Snoke as an apprentice. Ren then realizes that Snoke is in a weakened state and instead sucks all the life force from Darth Plagueis making himself into the new Sith Lord.

A very small change, but one that suddenly makes far more sense to me as a fan.  The spirit of the Sith inside Kylo Ren could have then been used for the finale when the good side of Ben rejects this spirit and aids Rey instead of ending her. This would leave the Sith ‘energy’ with no housing and it would have been absorbed back into Mortis instead.

Lando and Leia:

Lando is in this script also. His part is actually the most similar thing between the scripts of both versions of this movie. Again, here, Lando is approached by Leia to gather as many smugglers and pirates as he can for one final battle. Lando is reluctant and yet appears at the end when most needed with an army of ships. If it sounds familiar it’s because it is essentially exactly the same thing as happened in The Rise of Skywalker.

However, I feel like Lando’s arrival was the extra push needed in this version. In Abrams’ version, if Lando had not arrived with those ships, there would not have even been a battle to speak of. It feels a little more subtle the way it works in Duel of the Fates. In The Rise of Skywalker it feels like an inevitable and boring conclusion to me. In both versions though, I feel like some more work was needed on this character.

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As for Leia, this is a tricky one. Leia does have a bigger and better part to play in Duel of the Fates, but what was Abrams supposed to do? Trevorrow’s draft was written before TLJ was released, and as such, Carrie Fisher was alive and well. I don’t think it’s fair to criticize Abrams script for having less focus on Leia as a result. If this was a parallel universe where Fisher somehow survived then I would still have had some issues with Duel of the Fates.

My main gripe is the same as I had in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the ending of The Last Jedi. Leia is, whether fully trained or not, still as powerful theoretically as Luke, Ben or Rey. Duel of the Fates does not make enough of this. But then perhaps that follows from the way Abrams began things in TFA.

We had the Leia Kal-El scene in TLJ, but I was annoyed that Leia doesn’t help Rey move the rocks at the end. Such an easy to fix error that was left standing for me.  The only Force ability Leia shows here, is communicating with Ben telepathically prior to his turn, similar to her end in The Rise of Skywalker. Such a waste of this character in the sequel trilogy for me as a whole.

The Ugly:

Overall then, Duel of the Fates has some serious issues, but not I feel, as many as the final version we got in The Rise of Skywalker and that tells me a lot. The ‘Ugly’ if you hadn’t guessed, is the business side of all this.

So, why was Trevorrow removed from writing and directing this movie? The script isn’t awful, especially when you consider how convoluted Abrams’ script then becomes. Duel of the Fates is cleaner and easier to spruce up a bit in my opinion. So I genuinely don’t feel like Lucasfilm reviewed this script and immediately went for the fire button on their Dr Evil like underground lair. Considering this may well be a first or second draft, it isn’t ready for the cameras yet, but it’s closer than The Rise of Skywalker.

Is this instead because Duel of the Fates follows more closely the events of The Last Jedi? Was the backlash against that movie enough to force Lucasfilm to try and bring Abrams back to ‘correct’ things? Or instead, was it the overwhelming negativity to Trevorrow’s The Book of Henry? That movie was both a critical and financial flop. I do find it hard to logically reason out a third option here. Unless, it is simply a case of Disney looking to recapture the magic (in their eyes, not mine) of The Force Awakens. That movie did really well at the box office.

It’s an impossibility to attempt to second guess this one. Likely we will never hear the truth of this story. At least, I don’t expect to for some time. Not until everyone’s gotten old and no longer cares if they get work or not. Though right now, with 20/20 hindsight, I have to say even with this draft, I think I would have enjoyed Duel of the Fates a lot more than I did The Rise of Skywalker.

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This is all pretty futile, to be honest. We have the movie we have, and nothing is ever going to change that. However, how often do we get the chance to look at two scripts for the same movie so very different? Especially, for something the size of Star Wars. I could go on and on, and get really into the weeds here, however I won’t. I don’t think that would be a very enjoyable experience for our readers, and this is already a huge article.

Have you read the script for Star Wars: Duel of the Fates? If so what did you think of it? Is it a better Star Wars film than TROS? Do you agree or disagree with some of my own opinions on it? Dive down into the comments section and discuss some of the points I have brought up here.

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GenreVerse Have you checked out LRM Online’s official podcast feed yet The Genreverse Podcast Network? This includes our premiere podcast The Daily CoGBreaking Geek Radio: The Podcast, GeekScholars Movie News, Nerd Flix & Chill, Marvel Multiverse Mondays, Anime-Versal Review Podcast, and our Star Wars dedicated podcast The Cantina. Check it out by listening below. It's also available on all your favorite podcast apps! Subscribe on: Apple PodcastsSpotify |  SoundCloud | Stitcher | Google Play

Campbell Clark

Cam is Senior Editor at LRM Online, and has a passion for all things geeky, including sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book movies.

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