Written by needsmoresprinkles.
As you may have seen in our earlier post, we’ve just learned some very interesting news about the ending of The Force Awakens. Namely, that there was some sort of inconsistency between JJ’s original vision and the story that Rian wanted to tell in his subsequent film, and so Rian asked JJ to cut it out of the final scene of the movie. This seems to corroborate early rumors that the final scene of TFA originally featured a moment making explicit the true relationship between Rey and Luke. Many of these initial rumors claimed this was to be a hug, but we have another idea.
First, let’s lay out the information: we know this was something that Rian asked JJ to “cut.” So it wasn’t a moment added to the existing film, but rather one that was taken out. It would also be a bit presumptuous for Rian to call up JJ and ask him if he wouldn’t mind completely restructuring the final scene of his film, so whatever this was, it was something small, yet crucial, and something that could be removed relatively easily without disrupting the rest of the scene.
We know this isn’t referring to the droid swap that we already know Rian requested of JJ, either, as Artoo doesn’t appear on the cliff, where Mark says the change in question was made. Nor would it make sense for Mark not to talk about the change openly, as the fact that Artoo replaced BB-8 has been common knowledge for months now.
Furthermore, a hug doesn’t really make sense in the context of the rest of the scene. Although this may have been one option that was originally filmed, it was clearly not the option they’d gone with by the time the movie was in a more-or-less finished state. We close the movie with a helicopter shot showing Luke and Rey standing about 10 feet apart, Rey still holding out the lightsaber, Luke still frozen in place. So either the helicopter shot was originally intended to appear randomly in the middle of the scene, prior to the hug, or Luke was supposed to stand still for a few moments (which was left in the final film), then walk over to Rey and hug her during said helicopter shot (which would have been an extremely odd choice for such an emotional moment). And, once again, asking for a new shot for the ending of a movie—which is what the helicopter shots would presumably have to be—would not qualify as “cutting” something from the film.
Finally, let’s look at a behind-the-scenes photo from the production of TFA. That weird fuzzy thing is a boom mic, used to record sound on film sets. Why would they need a boom mic for a silent scene, you ask? Well, you may notice that, in the moments after Luke removes his hood, the music fades a bit and you can hear some noises—the rustle of fabric as Rey moves, the clinking of the saber in her bag, etc. Clearly, the music is fading so that we can better hear what’s going on in the scene itself. The mic wasn’t there to record this ambient noise, though, as this is normally done by foley artists after filming to avoid picking up unwanted incidental sound from the set. The only reason it would be there is to record dialogue. And why is it positioned so close to Mark and not Daisy? Simple: the moment they cut wasn’t a gesture, it was a word.
It was Luke saying “…Rey?”
The rest of the scene remains the same—Luke turns around, Luke lowers his hood, Luke’s eyes widen. Rey is dumbstruck, reaches in her bag, extends the saber to him. But then, instead of cutting to Luke’s inscrutable silent look, we cut to a shot of him, with tears in his eyes, saying the name of his long-lost daughter who he thought dead for 14 years. Then, we cut back to Rey, who, upon hearing her name, begins to tear up as well, her lip quivering for a moment before setting her jaw and facing her father with the courage and tenacity that his absence forced her to adopt.
In that single syllable, the entire mystery of the film is resolved. In JJ’s mind, the belief/knowledge that Rey was a Skywalker would not be a central issue of the plot of TLJ—the main tension between Luke and Rey would likely have been whether or not Rey could motivate her father to return to the fight. Instead, we’re likely to get a tumultuous, heartbreaking, exquisitely poignant story of a father who would rather continue to convince himself his daughter is dead than let himself feel the shame, rage, and grief of knowing he could have raised her all along; and a girl desperate to prove herself, both as a daughter and a warrior, to her solitary, taciturn father. Either story would have been fascinating to watch unfold, but the latter was the story Rian Johnson wanted to tell, and JJ seems to have been onboard with it from the get-go.
Don’t just take my word for it–play the scene yourself. Imagine that 2:27-2:32 is the (silent) shot that was used to replace Luke saying Rey’s name. Close your eyes, hear it in your head as you count to 5 Mississippi, then open them again to see Rey’s reaction in a new light.
It may not be proof, but damn if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
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