There are several layers to my annoyance when Star Wars "fans" project their vitriol in unhealthy, frankly abrasive ways about a legendary movie franchise that's designed to inspire hope, positivity and unity. Instead of appreciating each chapter of the ongoing galactic saga for what they are, folks go out of their way to hate on things and hold the sequel trilogy in particular to different standards.
This leading as hell question from Rolling Stone was a minefield that even a trained Jedi could struggle to navigate. Daisy Ridley is a pro at this by now, and couldn't have put forth a better response.
I don't know who needs to hear this or how many different ways it needs to be said. The notion that JJ Abrams and his The Rise of Skywalker co-writer Chris Terrio went out of their way to retcon what Rian Johnson did in The Last Jedi is such a misguided, inaccurate conspiracy theory.
Once JJ set up what he set up in The Force Awakens, Lucasfilm and Kathleen Kennedy decided to hand the reins to another filmmaker and gave him carte blanche to do what he wanted. That's on them. They also opted to release a new film every two years, rather than every three in George Lucas' OG and prequel trilogies. I get that quicker turnarounds make it easier to work around in-demand actors' potential scheduling conflicts etc., but again, that's on them.
Daisy Ridley's response here is more a reflection of how reactive Lucasfilm was once The Last Jedi received backlash from The Fandom Menace. They panicked and mandated Palpatine to return for Episode IX. If you want to consider that a "retcon" of TLJ, I don't know why that is, but go nuts. Snoke got killed off without any explanation as to who he was. Although Palpatine's presence does slightly undercut Kylo Ren's authority as Supreme Leader, that's not JJ saying "FUCK YOU!" to Rian. JJ had marching orders from the studio. Why would he deliberately do something like that to a character he initially created?
Do you realize, too, that in the original draft for The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader wasn't Luke's father, and Leia wasn't his sister? George Lucas has retconned himself multiple times over the years. This is not new to Star Wars. The whole "from a certain point of view" speech Obi-Wan's Force ghost gives to Luke in Return of the Jedi is perhaps the most noteworthy retcon in cinema history.
WHERE IS/WAS THE OUTRAGE!? Wow, dusted Obi-Wan just sitting on a log and suddenly dropping the bomb that he lied to Luke about his father and that Leia is his sister even though they romantically kissed in the previous movie? WTF!?!?!?!?!?! What an asshole! They've ruined Obi's character forever!!
So let's jump back to The Rise of Skywalker. The revelation of Rey's heritage is pretty much the exact same damn thing. Kylo tells her in their lightsaber battle on Kajimi, "I never lied to you." Because he didn't. From a certain point of view.
Take whatever POV you want: It's all a matter of perception. In both those instances of "retcon" shenanigans, it boils down to whether you view the original sequel trilogy as a complete story, or if you take each individual movie at face value and then get butthurt by what's revealed as the narrative goes on. Daisy Ridley could've shat on TROS and been all bitter about how much of the fandom turned on her. Instead, she showed how many layers went into her thinking about that critical story decision. And oh by the way, her acting in the trilogy closer was absolutely phenomenal. Debate with a wall if you have any other take.
Speaking of mentor Force ghost scenes, haters LOVE to jump on this one, when Luke says, "A Jedi's weapon deserves more respect." Taken at face value, it's a middle finger to The Last Jedi. Then it's conveniently overlooked that Luke says, mere seconds later, "I WAS WRONG" about how he was behaving when he tossed his lightsaber aside in the first place
Am I saying the sequel trilogy is a perfect, synchronized, masterclass of storytelling where everything lines up and pays off? Not at all. Do I think the hate for these movies is ridiculous, overblown and lacks a larger intelligence from the audience who doesn't understand just how much of a breakneck pace The Rise of Skywalker's production was on and how commendable of a job they did to even squeeze out a semi-competent movie out of it all? Yup.
Anyone all pissed about "Rey Skywalker" and considering that a retcon…? I mean, she rejects her family heritage and honors Luke by taking up his name. Her gesture is similar to Luke tossing aside his lightsaber in Return of the Jedi, rejecting the evil path his father once took, and proclaiming, "Never. I'll never turn to the Dark Side."
My issues with The Rise of Skywalker were the lack of explanation for Palpatine's comeback, how frantically paced the beginning of the movie was, and the myriad MacGuffin shortcuts. But when you factor in all the behind-the-scenes chaos, it's hardly a surprise. Too many creative cooks in the kitchen at Lucasfilm watered this thing down.
Ian McDiarmid has revealed that his scenes with Adam Driver were longer than is shown in the movie, and it was stated verbatim that he was a clone. Why that, say, less than a minute of screentime was left on the cutting room floor, I'll never know. There was also a longer opening sequence on Mustafar where Kylo talks to some sort of swamp creature to better flesh out and set up his return to the Light Side. They built this huge, awesome practical creature and shot a whole-ass scene. Could've offset some of those pacing issues.
AND if you watch the behind the scenes Rise of Skywalker documentary, you can see plain as day that they're debating what to use as a MacGuffin for a key plot point (eventually deciding on the Sith dagger) WHILE THEY'RE ON SET GETTING READY TO SHOOT.
How about one more? Go listen to the start of the soundtrack for each sequel movie. The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi line up perfectly. When you do it for The Rise of Skywalker, it's a cacophonous shit show that tells you just how much the Episode IX creatives were making significant story and structure changes at the 11th freaking hour.
Adjacently related: I found it compelling that a prolific Star Wars voice actor, Stephen Stanton, posted this interview of Ridley discussing a potential Star Wars return. Is she gonna come back??
It'd be dope to see Daisy return. Let some time pass, really flesh out a story for her with a clear plan, and watch her serve for the haters. Never understood the "Mary Sue" criticism all the way back to The Force Awakens. In that movie alone, she's scavenging for imperial scraps to survive, gets jumped at a local market, is almost blown up/knocked temporarily unconscious by a TIE fighter blast, scrapes up the Millennium Falcon on multiple Star Destroyer fragments, gets put to sleep by Kylo and mind probed/tortured, is launched 50 feet into the air by Kylo, slams into a tree and gets knocked out cold…shall I go on? I'll stop.
ANYWAY GUYS. Trust me it's all gonna be OK because The Mandalorian and the related Disney+ series are already laying the groundwork for explaining Palpatine's return. Strange as it is to say, it'll all make far more sense as we continue on. Whether you view that as a "retcon" or just a further unfurling of the grander story. From a certain point of view.
If you only saw The Rise of Skywalker once and have no desire to revisit it, maybe give it a whirl with all this context in mind. It might not be quite the franchise-ruining debacle you think it is.