Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker released just over two years ago, and... yeah. It came out. For a film that's been with the world for a significant amount of time now, the vast majority of the discourse surrounding the project has revolved around how it could have been better. These kinds of Star Wars subjects never get old, and the general consensus seems to be that Episode IX is the weakest entry in the franchise.
Given what happened in the story, it's not very hard to decipher why. More difficult to fathom is how many of the creative decisions were reached, or why they were deemed acceptable in the first place. Pretty much everything revolving around Emperor Palpatine's return in the movie has been excoriated, and the explanation for how it was possible has become point-and-laugh material.
For all the shortcomings The Rise of Skywalker has, one aspect that was a little less butchered was Kylo Ren. Adam Driver's villain was once again the standout member of the cast, despite the abrupt turn to the light and his ensuing Force-induced death. The presence of the dark side was strong in the film, giving Star Wars fans a look at what the Supreme Leader was capable of as a warrior.
However, there was nearly much more on that front. Episode IX opens with Kylo's quest to find a Sith Wayfinder and locate Palpatine, all of which happens over the span of roughly 30 seconds. It's long been known that there was once more to the opening sequence on Mustafar, including a meeting with a creature known as the Eye of Webbish Bog.
On top of this, newly revealed concept art has given insight into what nearly came to be.
New Rise of Skywalker Concept Art Released
Concept artist Jon McCoy recently shared a planet-load of designs he worked on for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Among the pieces that weren't incorporated into the film were interpretations of Kylo Ren's battle with Alazmec warriors on Mustafar:
Kylo takes on a trio of approaching enemies as he wields his red lightsaber:
The dark warrior approaches a bridge that once led to Darth Vader's castle:
Supreme Leader Ren leaves a pile of bodies in his wake on the flame-lit bridge:
One foe stares down a cloaked Ren as certain doom approaches:
An army of soldiers approaches the awaiting Kylo Ren:
The army of soldiers has no chance and winds up getting absolutely destroyed:
Kylo leads the Knights of Ren into battle on the edge of a cliff:
An unmasked Ren slices through an attacker:
Atop a mountain, Kylo looks towards his objective:
In the rain, Kylo collects his prize - Darth Vader's Wayfinder:
A confrontation between Ren and the Eye of Webbish Bog:
Pour One Out For Mustafar
Following the first appearance of Darth Vader's castle in Rogue One, Star Wars fans clamored for Kylo Ren to visit his grandfather's home in the sequel trilogy. That ultimately ended up happening... sort of.
After Episode IX's opening crawl, the camera pans down to a shot of what could only be Mustafar from space. However, assumptions were seemingly disproved when the action was taken to the surface, where Kylo Ren was wiping out a group of warriors in the middle of a forest. Such a setting had never been seen on the planet before, and it was devoid of the lava that once made the world cool and iconic.
It was revealed in The Rise of Skywalker's visual dictionary that the planet in question was indeed Mustafar, and that it had evidently begun a process of self-healing following the events of the Vader Immortal virtual reality game. Also shared was that Ren was fighting the Alazmec group on the remains of Vader's castle, though there were no shots featured to hint that the Sith Lord's residence was involved in any capacity.
Before the sequence was condensed to a moonwalk kill, chopped-off arm, and quick recovery of the Wayfinder, Ren was meant to meet with the Eye of Webbish Bog to retrieve the artifact. The spider-like creature, later featured in the Darth Vader (2020) comic series, had a conversation with Kylo about his feelings for Rey and pursuit of the dark side before handing over the Wayfinder. All indicators point to this scene having been filmed, but none of the deleted sequences have been released by Lucasfilm.
For his part, Jon McCoy did absolutely phenomenal work designing what could have been an incredibly engaging sequence. The Rise of Skywalker moves at a stroke-inducing pace, but an extended conflict to reach Vader's castle and get to the Wayfinder would have shown how skilled Kylo Ren is as a warrior at the height of his power, something lacking in the films.
Also exciting was the prospect of Kylo leading the Knights of Ren into battle, giving the group their due following years of build-up and speculation. The intergalactic biker gang and hide-and-seek champions were decimated by Ben Solo in their only action sequence in Episode IX, so taking part in the castle raid would have scratched the itch many had for seeing what the antagonists could do.
None of the events to transpire on Mustafar could soften the blow of The Rise of Skywalker’s full story and the role the Wayfinder plays in bringing Palpatine back to the game, but with proper execution the sequence depicted in McCoy's fabulous art would have made for a memorable battle. Unfortunately, it was just never meant to be for Episode IX, but perhaps fans can look forward to an epic Kylo Ren fight in a story down the road.