Early Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker concept art imagines how Emperor Palpatine would look in the movie. Directed and co-written (with Chris Terrio) by J.J. Abrams, the ninth film from the main Star Wars series also served as the final installment of the Skywalker saga. To wrap it all up, the filmmakers decided to bring back Darth Sidious, revealing that the master manipulator also had a hand in the events of the sequel trilogy.
The confirmation that Palpatine would be back was done in conjunction with the release of The Rise of Skywalker‘s first trailer at last year’s Star Wars Celebration in Chicago. However, much of the specifics of his return were cloaked in mystery leading up to the movie’s release. While marketing utilized him via voice-overs, not to mention the character’s unmistakable cackle, promotional materials didn’t reveal him in his full physical state. Instead, they saved the surprise for the blockbuster itself as it could’ve given fans ideas as to how he’s able to survive in Return of the Jedi.
Almost six months after The Rise of Skywalker hit theaters, Production Designer Kevin Jenkins shares his early sketch for Emperor Palpatine’s return in the movie. According to the artist, he worked on his own for four to five months “on all things Palpatine and the last act including very early design ideas of what was to become his sanctuary at Exegol.” Check out his creation below:
Admittedly, not everyone was thrilled to see the Sith Master again. Still, Abrams explained that since he was a significant figure in previous films, it only makes sense that he also factored in The Rise of Skywalker as its last chapter. Unfortunately, his return only further muddled the story. Instead of the final Skywalker Saga to tie narrative loose ends, his involvement in the sequel trilogy created more questions regarding certain specifics of his return, as well as his involvement as technically Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) grandfather. While Lucasfilm is attempting to provide more context in other media forms like the movie’s novelization, it would’ve been great if fans had their answers from the film itself. After all, The Rise of Skywalker is meant to be the culminating project for the franchise. McDiarmid said that an early version of the script better explains his character’s return, but it was cut – although he didn’t reveal the reason why.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker didn’t veer much from Jenkins’ original design. There were some tweaks in the contraption that held Emperor Palpatine in the movie, but the idea he’s being held up by some sort of machinery made it to the final cut. The same goes for the character’s appearance, as he also wore his robe in the theatrical cut. One notable difference is his hands, which looks like mechanical in the sketch, almost reminiscent of Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) robotic hand. In the movie, Abrams went for the Palpatine’s own flesh-covered hands, although they’re so thin and almost decaying – a visual representation of his overall state.
More: Star Wars: Disney’s Sequel Trilogy Never Even Used Anakin Skywalker’s Name
Source: Kevin Jenkins