J.J. Abrams Wanted A Clone Emperor In Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Fans were justifiably annoyed that they had to wait until the novelization of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to find out how Emperor Palpatine survived being exploded in Return of the Jedi. Even then the answer we got felt like Lucasfilm was papering over the cracks, dropping in a couple of lines about secret cloning technologies and leaving it at that. I’m firmly of the belief that resurrecting dead characters is a sign you’re not telling a particularly interesting story, and that if you’re doing it you’d better have a damn good explanation as to how they’re coming back.

Anyway, it’s now been established that The Rise of Skywalker featured a cloned Palpatine body inhabited by his spirit. We also know that Abrams had been planning this for quite some time. Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett recently chatted with Cinefex, where he explained that Abrams originally pushed for him to be in The Force Awakens:

“Ian was such a major part of the original films. J.J. wanted to bring him back to reveal that Palpatine wasn’t completely destroyed in Episode VII. He created a clone of himself and, with the help of Sith loyalists, rebuilt himself to a fragmented and unstable state. When Kylo meets him, Palpatine is not fully formed, and he relies on tubes and mechanics, moving around this Sith laboratory on a mechanism that Kevin Jenkins designed.”

If Abrams had established Palpatine’s return in The Force Awakens, as well as showing how he survived being thrown into a reactor core, I imagine his return would have gone down a lot better. Presumably, Lucasfilm nixed this idea early on so Abrams decided to create the suspiciously Palpatine-like Supreme Leader Snoke to fill the same narrative function.

I’m going to sound like a broken record on this, but the vast majority of the problems with the Sequel Trilogy arose from Lucasfilm not planning out what they were going to do in advance. The fact that they just decided to wing it is mystifying, too, given the billions of dollars at stake. Here’s hoping they don’t make a mistake as high-profile as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker again.