Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker editor Maryann Brandon admits the Rian Johnson-directed The Last Jedi presented "a lot of challenges in terms of where Episode IX had to go to finish the saga." Skywalker had to send off Resistance leader Leia without star Carrie Fisher — who died one year before Last Jedi released in December 2017 — and the conclusion to the nine-episode Skywalker Saga had to wrap up without a flesh-and-blood Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who perished on the sacred island of Ahch-To after confronting twisted nephew Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) through an exhaustive Force link. Brandon "really enjoyed" Last Jedi, but the middle chapter of the sequel trilogy posed multiple problems:
"In other words, unfortunately Carrie died, but she didn't obviously die in Episode VIII. She's a character that had to be figured out, and that was a huge challenge," Brandon told Awards Daily. "But I think J.J. [Abrams, director] and [screenwriter] Chris Terrio did an amazing job. Luke died, which was a problem. So we had those two opposing problems, so I think what you're seeing trend is that the setup was difficult to deal with."
Johnson is "an amazing filmmaker," Brandon added. However, "I just think that when you're doing a trilogy, you can't just abandon a story. So whatever he chose to put in that film, those things that are dangling have to be dealt with. And you have to deal with them honestly, so you thought the whole thing through."
Abrams also joined Rise of Skywalker late, replacing Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow after he was dismissed by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.
"J.J. wasn't supposed to do Episode IX, so that was a whole other thing," Brandon said, "because he came on late and he and Chris had to write the script in a shorter amount of time."
For Abrams, who was unable to return for The Last Jedi because of the quick turnaround between episodes VII and VIII, the filmmaker says he's "grateful" to Johnson:
"When he came on to work on the next film, and we were just starting to shoot [The Force Awakens], I was really excited to see where he would go and what he would do," Abrams told Yahoo. "And it's funny because one of the things that I was [thinking] at first [was], 'Oh, I really want to see all the friends together.' And in his story, they really weren't. [Rey] doesn't really meet Poe until the end. Rey and Finn are not really together in the movie."
He continued, "So, in a way, the story that he told, in a lot of ways helped set up what we were doing in IX. But it also allowed Episode IX to have the group together and out on an adventure in a way that was weirdly, even though it's the third film, it's the first time they all get to be together."