A few people's favorite movie, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, landed in theaters just over two years ago and continues to be a hot topic discussion. The baffling conclusion to the Skywalker Saga was tasked with wrapping up both the sequel trilogy and the nine-film narrative as a whole, but by the time the credits rolled, there was somehow even less enthusiasm for future stories in that era than when the controversial The Last Jedi released.
The Rise of Skywalker's messy revival of Emperor Palpatine complicates much of the previously established storyline in the sequel era, to the point that the First Order becomes a non-entity in the film's final battle. One thing the movie did maintain focus on, however, was the evolution of the relationship between Supreme Leader Kylo Ren and the almighty Rey Palpatine.
Set up in The Force Awakens through the pair's initial meeting and further explored in The Last Jedi, it was eventually revealed that Rey and Kylo are a dyad in the Force - two that are one. That bond enabled them to converse and fight from different locations, tap into Force healing, and eventually give Ben Solo the power to revive Rey while suiciding himself - with a passionate smooch somewhere in there.
In the beginning of the film, the duo spoke to each other as bitter enemies, and many of the events that transpire see Kylo and Rey playing hide-and-seek across the galaxy. As Ren continues to appear during the heroes' fetch quests, Rey eventually loses control for the second time, and she engages in a duel with him on the remains of the second Death Star.
During the conceptual stages of the movie's production, the final saber duel was once set to take place in a more unique location.
Concept Art Reveals Rey & Kylo Duel in New Location
Concept artist Jon McCoy shared a sketchbook featuring work done for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Of the ideas that were omitted from the final product, one sequence McCoy was tasked with fleshing out for mood and atmosphere was a duel between Rey and Kylo Ren in a throne room of some kind:
Rey approaches a seated Kylo, lightsaber drawn as she walks up to him from behind:
A pained-looking Kylo Ren rests on his throne, Rey lurking from the other side of his throne:
The Dyad duels on a platform in an otherwise empty room:
An orbit levitates in the center of a room as Rey and Kylo converse:
Rey attacks a steady Kylo Ren in a rectangular setting:
Kylo sits on his throne as Rey approaches... with a red lightsaber:
Kylo Ren is on his knees at Rey's mercy as she holds the Supreme Leader's crossguard at his neck:
In a moment of rage, Rey throttles Ren with a Force choke - green lightsaber in hand:
Pour One Out For the Throne Room
The designs for the throne room are whacky and unlike anything seen in a Star Wars film before. A few of McCoy's designs harken back to work done by Ralph McQuarrie for the Emperor's throne room in Return of the Jedi, with his own spin on things. In addition to the unique locations conceived, the concept art isolates Rey and Kylo Ren for their duel in a way that other pivotal battles have done in the franchise.
It's evident that parts of The Rise of Skywalker were once intended to be much darker than the bait-and-switch death fake-outs provided in the final film. Some of the pieces shared depict Rey being absolutely brutal - the one in which she puts Kylo's head to his lightsaber in particular. One can't even begin to guess why she would Force choking him, but that idea seems to have prevailed to some degree in the released version of the movie, as she stabs him in a fit of rage on the Death Star.
Based on other art released over the last two years, there never seemed to be a concrete idea of where Rey and Ren would be fighting - just that there would be a fight. Concept art exists of the enemies turned lovers(?) taking a swing at each other in the ruins of the Lars homestead on Tatooine. Their first duel in the film was originally thought to take place in a "flash-fight," where locations from previous entires in the saga would serve as backgrounds due to the Force bond.
In the context of the final story, it's difficult to see how a duel in Kylo Ren's throne room would work. Perhaps these designs were done before the bad news was broken to McCoy that Palpatine would somehow return, leaving this fight as the climax of the film. Kylo seems to be alone, watching something from afar when Rey confronts him. It looks the duel goes poorly for him, as most have, but there's surely more to the conflict.
What's the movie loses out on the most is a unique setting that sees the fate of the galaxy determined. Kylo in The Rise of Skywalker doesn't come across as someone interested in having a throne... or really Supreme Leading, for that matter. With Darth Sidious not in the picture, however, Ren would have the opportunity to serve as the primary antagonist before becoming Ben Solo once more.
All of the First Order's settings are very familiar. The Star Destroyers are practically the same as their Imperial predecessors, as well as the interiors. Ren's group of advisors meet a room, not unlike the one seen in A New Hope on the Death Star. Giving Kylo a throne room in a location detached from everyone else would have afforded the character the chance to wallow in the darkness until he finds a path to the light while bringing something new to the table.