In August of 2015, months before The Force Awakens hit theaters,
Cut to two years later, as The Rise of Skywalker ties The Phantom Menace for the lowest rating of any movie in the history of the franchise, and it’s hard not to wonder what could have been. Of course,
It’s not clear how Burnett was able to get his hands on the draft, but AV Club has since independently confirmed that the script he saw was legitimate. In the video below, you can see Burnett discuss Duel of the Fates:
If you’d rather not watch a two-hour video about the December 2016 script, someone on Reddit did an admirable job of summing up the important plot points. While there are some similarities between the Trevorrow-Connolly script and The Rise of Skywalker, it would have been a very different movie, and although Palpatine did appear in the form of a holocron recorded for Darth Vader, he was not resurrected, nor did he serve as the main villain.
Some of the key differences include the core cast of characters stealing a Star Destroyer, Rose having a much larger role to play, Luke’s Force Ghost haunting Kylo Ren, the climactic battle taking place on Coruscant, confirmation that Rey’s parents were indeed nobodies (who were killed by Kylo), and the death of Kylo Ren before Obi-Wan, Yoda, or Luke (all appearing as Force Ghosts) are able to save him or give him a chance to redeem himself.
There’s no telling how the movie would have turned out by the time it actually made its way to theaters, but it certainly sounds like a much more cohesive and coherent story that actually follows up on the plot threads introduced in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, rather than ignoring or retconning everything Rian Johnson had set up.
Sadly, we’ll never see Duel of the Fates on the silver screen, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever see the full script either, but at least those of us who were underwhelmed by The Rise of Skywalker have an alternate story now.