#ReleaseTheJJCut hashtag trends amid rumors about a different version of new 'Star Wars' movie

"The Rise of Skywalker" dominated the holiday box office but divided the "Star Wars" fan base.
Image: Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker
Daisy Ridley as Rey in "Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker."Jonathan Olley / Lucasfilm Ltd.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Daniel Arkin

"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," the box-office juggernaut of the holiday season, is meant to be the final word on the sprawling intergalactic saga that began more than 40 years ago. But some obsessive fans are circulating unverified rumors that there is more to the story.

Twitter lit up Thursday with a pair of hashtags, #ReleaseTheJJCut and #ReleaseTheAbramsCut, based on unsubstantiated theories that Disney forced "The Rise of Skywalker" director J.J. Abrams to make major changes to the movie and possesses a different, longer version.

Be warned: The article below contains spoilers for "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker."

Reddit, meanwhile, filled up with rumors about unused or deleted scenes, including cameos from actors Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor (reprising their roles from the prequel trilogy), as well as a more substantive character arc for Resistance member Rose Tico, played by actress Kelly Marie Tran.

Disney, the owner of the "Star Wars" production company Lucasfilm, and Abrams, through his representative, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the internet rumors.

"The Rise of Skywalker," the ninth and final installment in what is widely known as the Skywalker saga, has earned nearly $800 million worldwide. But it has fractured the "Star Wars" fan base, drawing criticism for what some see as an overstuffed storyline, hectic pace and flimsy character development.

The rumors suggesting Disney has an alternative cut of "Skywalker" echoes the uproar that trailed "Justice League," a 2017 superhero epic that polarized fans, some of whom claimed director Zack Snyder, who left production before the film was completed, shot unused footage that would have improved the final product.

The boisterous fan-led campaign, known as "Release the Snyder Cut," gained steam over the last few years, climaxing in March when Snyder seemed to hint that a different cut of "Justice League" indeed exists, and that it was up to the film's distributor, Warner Bros., to release it.

The furor also resembles some of the fan rhetoric around the science-fiction landmark "Blade Runner" (1982), a film with at least seven versions that some enthusiasts believe was long seen only in incomplete and necessarily imperfect forms.

"At any point in its history, the shortcomings of an actual print of 'Blade Runner' could be excused by citing a supposedly Platonic print of 'Blade Runner,'" Slate critic-at-large Stephen Metcalf wrote in a 2007 column.

It appeared, amid the flood of tweets and Reddit posts Wednesday, there may be less credence to the rumors about "The Rise of Skywalker."

Ryan Broderick, a reporter at BuzzFeed News, tracked the proliferation of the theories in a Twitter thread, referring to the posts in question as disinformation.

"The Star Wars community is so polarized and so old that they've evolved past the idea of 'post-truth' or whatever into something even weirder," Broderick tweeted. "It's like one meta level up from even QAnon," he added, referring to the conspiracy theory.

The wave of theories also highlights the emotional intensity surrounding the "Star Wars" franchise, one of the most popular and lucrative entertainment brands in pop culture history. The die-hards who have followed the tales of light versus dark for decades tend to feel personal ownership over it.

The fan culture can sometimes turn toxic. "The Last Jedi," the previous film in the saga, was dogged by racist and misogynistic attacks from viewers. Tran, the Vietnamese American actress who plays Rose, deleted her social media accounts after months of harassment.

Disney also contended with a reported Russian troll campaign that flooded social media platforms with posts about "The Last Jedi" that were meant to stir up American cultural divisions.

Abrams, for his part, has suggested he understands why some longtime aficionados might object to his film's storytelling decisions. In an interview with Vanity Fair after a screening of the movie, Abrams was asked what he would say to viewers who are unhappy.

"I would say that they're right," Abrams replied. 'The people who love it more than anything are also right."