JJ Abrams defends Emperor Palpatine’s return in Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker

Fan backlash prompts the director to explain the ‘dead’ character’s return

Ian McDiarmid as Supreme Chancellor Palpatine

In the Star Wars Universe (or should that be far-away galaxy?), there are scores of heroes, villains, dark heroes, anti-heroes and tragic villains. But there’s only one true baddie – Emperor Palpatine, who met his end in Return of the Jedi, closing out the three-part saga. Back when it was one, that is.

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At the risk of spoiling a 36-year-old film, there was a fairly conclusive end for the robed despot, as Darth Vader flung his wrinkly mass down a conveniently located and exceptionally deep shaft, sacrificing both the Emperor and himself for the sake of his son.

But it seems that Emperor Palpatine has the same mojo that motivated Voldemort, Jason Voorhees and any number of supernatural sadists over the years – in some form or other, the darkest corner of the Dark Side will return in Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker. And that’s proved to be a bit of a divisive decision, according to director JJ Abrams.

“Some people feel like we shouldn’t revisit the idea of Palpatine, and I completely understand that,” he told Empire. “But if you’re looking at these nine films as one story, I don’t know many books where the last few chapters have nothing to do with those that have come before. If you look at the first eight films, all the set-ups of what we’re doing in IX [The Rise of Skywalker] are there in plain view.”

Stars from Rise of the Skywalker have also helped explain why the nine-part space opera can’t fob off its most antagonising antagonist for the final instalment.

“The Emperor and his doctrine has trickled down to so many of the characters in the Star Wars universe,” said John Boyega, who plays Finn in the JJ Abrams sequels. “The Dark Side is what it is because of his actions and plans. He’s the greatest foe, the greatest enemy.”

Daisy Ridley, who plays the main protagonist, Rey, said: “He’s the biggest baddie in Star Wars history. He’s instrumental to the plot of the film. It’s not like he just appears again; it’s all explained.”

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in cinemas on Thursday, 19th December