SPOILERS ahead for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. And Return of the Jedi, if for some reason you haven't seen that yet.
One of the biggest questions going into Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker was "How Is Emperor Palpatine Back?" and that question is still lingering out there in the galaxy. Answers on exactly how Palpatine survived after Star Wars: Return of the Jedi -- and what was keeping him alive -- are out there. We just didn't get them in The Rise of Skywalker, the final film in the Saga, so they are never going to be canon. They may show up in deleted scenes at some point, or just be recycled in stories from The Powers That Be.
Why didn't we get the details? The Rise of Skywalker team didn't want to "clutter the film up with things you didn't need to know." More on that below. But ... wow.
The second Emperor Palpatine's cackle was heard in that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer, the first question was "how?" That was probably followed by "why?" Episode IX's why was apparently to bring Palpatine full circle in the Skywalker Saga, revealing him to be the puppetmaster for Snoke and also -- surprise, or not -- Rey's grandpa.
But Rise of Skywalker didn't give a proper explanation for how Palpatine returned after that major redemption moment for Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi. Palp was torturing Luke Skywalker with Force lightning and Vader made his choice. Bringing Palpatine back in Rise of Skywalker, without making a big deal about how Palpatine survived, hit some fans like a cheat.
According to Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker editor Maryann Brandon to HuffPost, she and co-writer/director J.J. Abrams struggled with how much Palpatine backstory they wanted to explain in his opening scenes.
It was kind of a delicate balance and went back and forth a lot about how much we wanted to reveal. Some scenes changed quite a bit, the way that we wanted to present it to the audience. In the end, we ended up showing a lot less of it than we started with.
She added that, originally -- presumably in an early cut of the film -- there was "a little more information about it, what was keeping [Palpatine] alive" but it was cut because "it seemed to go off topic."
I am not a filmmaker. But considering Palpatine's return was one of the biggest teases for the movie, the filmmakers had to know many fans would want to know exactly how he returned -- not to just suggest he's such a powerful Sith of course he survived, of course he could've found any number of ways, of course he's basically Voldemort with his own dark magic powers against death, of course he pulled a Darth Plagueis, etc. So maybe instead of cutting out backstory because it went off topic, they should've re-written so it could stay on topic? Make it part of the topic, since Palpatine turned out to be a key part of the entire nine-film Saga? Anyway, here's more from editor Maryann Brandon:
There was so much information in the film and so many characters that we wanted to have an audience concentrate on. I think we felt we didn’t want to clutter the film up with things you didn’t need to know.
I find it really hard to believe so much plot and new characters and other details got crammed into Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Palpatine's survival story was something we didn't need to know. (I also would've liked to know more about his son, since it's so random to give him a child and then skip over him.) I'm not even a hater for this movie, I'm just increasingly confused by various explanations coming out from the filmmakers after the film.
This may be why some fans (and stars of the movie) are pushing for a director's cut, but it sounds like co-writer/director J.J. Abrams was part of this Palpatine decision. Maybe we'll get the backstory in deleted scenes on the Blu-ray, but key information on key characters shouldn't have to come in the extras when you had nine films in front of you to tell a canon story.
Are you glad that Rise of Skywalker didn't cram more Palpatine details into the movie? Maybe you agree that you didn't need to know their version of how, since there are any number of ways Palp could've been surviving, and going for a less-is-more approach -- like with the Snoke twist -- works just fine for some people. Personally, I had time for that information and was waiting for it.