The Last Jedi Is The Star Wars Movie Carrie Fisher Deserved

I went into my first viewing of The Last Jedi knowing it was going to be an emotional ride no matter what.

After Carrie Fisher's sudden passing in 2016, the Star Wars sequel would be the last film she'd ever appear in. We didn't know how that would be handled in the film. We worried she would be unceremoniously killed off, or written out.

Thankfully, the movie we got was one that finally lived up to Carrie's legacy as a princess, general and icon to a generation of female science fiction fans.

Before I get into how The Last Jedi did so right by Carrie Fisher, I want to touch on how The Force Awakens did so wrong by her.

I came out of The Force Awakens' midnight premiere buzzing with crowd-fueled, sleep deprived excitement, but something about the film felt off. My second viewing of the film solidified it: I went in with a notebook to scribble some notes for further articles but came out with just one phrase written and underlined: "Where's Leia?"

In The Force Awakens Princess Leia becomes General Leia, the leader of the new Resistance, yet little is ever done to show her leading. Most of her lines are about her estranged husband Han Solo, or her estranged son Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. While it's fairly clear she's been living her life just fine without them, she barely seems to exist in this film unless it's in the context of being a mother or a wife.

In the crucial strategy meeting where a plan must be hatched to take out Starkiller base, the discussion is dominated by male voices. As the leader of the entire Resistance, Leia somehow only contributes two lines: "Han's right", and "Han, how?" In this moment when she should have been shown as the military leader whose title she bears, Leia instead speaks only to her ex-husband.

The Last Jedi proves itself the antithesis to this poor treatment almost straight away.

In the opening moments Leia is seen overseeing the movements of her troops as they evacuate their compromised base. When Poe ignores her direct orders to the detriment of their bombing fleet, she doesn't just smile and shrug it off as a cute thing the impulsive pilot did on instinct, she takes action to see that her authority is respected.

The Last Jedi's Leia feels like a leader, and for all the women who first found their place in the world of geekdom through Leia's cinnamon bun hair and gun-toting badassery, that's huge.

Not only is TLJ Leia living up to the promises made for her character in The Force Awakens, she's also living out the promises of the original trilogy.

"There is another," Yoda says of Leia in Empire Strikes Back. She carries the same Skywalker blood, the same potential for Force-wielding greatness as Luke. If things had gone differently she could have been the chosen one and received the Jedi training instead of Luke - in fact, in the old EU Leia ends up training as a Jedi after the events of Return Of The Jedi.

The new canon probably suits her character better - while Luke runs off to do his Jedi thing and Han just runs off, Leia stays to do the hard work of holding the galaxy together. With these limitations, The Last Jedi still managed to give us a taste of what Jedi Leia would have been like.

The nuances of that scene are just one of the reasons why this movie benefits so much from a rewatch. Leia is connected to the Force, aware of what is happening outside the undefended bridge. She senses the attack and takes a deep breath just before the windows blow out, and the Force guides her back to safety in a moment of extreme life-preserving strength.

The other moments in the movie are subtler, but no less appreciated - Leia shares unique moments of warmth and solidarity with her female compatriots, Holdo and Rey. She takes command of a fraught situation minutes after waking from a coma. She holds her strength together to the bitter end for the sake of the few who remain of the decimated Resistance.

Somehow, even though she spends a good part of the movie in a coma, Leia still feels stronger, more assured and more respected than in any other Star Wars film.

Out of all these fantastic moments, there was one little thing that made me glad Carrie Fisher got to be a part of this film before she passed away - the costumes. Carrie famously was not a fan of her costumes in the original trilogy, from the cinnamon bun hairstyle to the plain robes and, even more, the uncomfortable and revealing metal bikini.

"I spent the first film in a white turtlenecked dress meant to emphasize my purity - pure only by the color of the costume. All I have to say is that throughout the prequels, Natalie Portman walks through a doorway and has a wardrobe change." She said in an interview after the release of the prequels. "I got one, sorry, two dresses, and the first one looks the same all the way around."

In The Last Jedi, Leia has finally been given the regal wardrobe she deserves - with dramatic capes, plenty of accessorising and some of the most eye-catching outfits in the entire film.

Even after seeing this film for the fourth time, I still get emotional thinking about the ground-breaking space princess who meant so much to me when I was a young girl - and the straight-talking, hilarious, take-no-shit actress who I later came to admire just as much as the character she portrayed.

While it's heartbreaking Leia won't get her promised moment in the sun in Episode IX, I'm glad Carrie's last film was one that treated her and her character so well, that this is the film that will be dedicated to her memory now and forever more.

Vale, space mum. We miss you.


Comments

    Great article, and I agree that Carrie finally got to shine in this one. I have seen the movie three times now, and I agree, you pick up so many subtle details in watching the movie again, that attention to detail made the film, which is a space fantasy, feel very real for me, much in the same way that Star Wars felt so real to me in '77.

    People have been bagging out the director and the writing, but I really feel like every aspect of this film was really carefully considered, there are no 'cheats', when you re-watch the film you see the little details that make every scene make sense.

    I understand some people didn't enjoy the film, but I really loved it, and I am an OT nutter.

      I think that yes each aspect of the film was pretty well considered. in saying that much of the execution felt off and in general there were parts I just didn't like, characterisations and the like. with regards to Leia, only the the Super Leia scene really felt poorly executed. explanation of why she was able to do it aside (a throw away line about having trained in the force a little would've helped), the scene visually didn't look quite right. it was unsettling to watch. other than that (where it would've been a reasonable place to kill her off and not leave things ambiguous. can't have her appearing next film) most of her time on screen was quite good and enjoyable to watch.

        I feel a throwaway line about her training in the force would have spoiled everything.
        I like that so much is left to the audience to fill in, and that the movie wasn't more heavy with exposition. It's been decades since we left the characters at the end of Return of the Jedi, I'm happy to not have their backstories since then detailed, it leaves room for discussion and argument and debate amongst fans, which is part of the joy of the original franchise.

          But the way they did it absolutely spoiled the moment. The only time Leia in the movies has ever displayed any sort of Force wielding ability is when she senses people or hears people through the force. She's never had any real physical abilities, and none of it was present in TFA either. Unlike pretty much every other force character who either was presented as a "Master" or was in the process of training, and thus got build up for their abilities.

          The problem with giving a character super human abilites without explanation means you break the viewer's immersion in the film, because it's unbelievable. There has been no evidence that anyone, not even Jedi have ever been able to survive in space, so there's no precedent for it from that perspective. So it has to come from the character, but she's never shown any evidence that she's actually a Jedi or has any real control over her force powers, and the leap from "sensing someone somewhere" to "surviving in space while unconscious" is immense.

          Not to mention that she somehow survived a direct hit onto the bridge, where literally everyone else died (more problems with that scene btw), but somehow because of plot armour I guess, she miraculously doesnt get instantly fried in the explosion, or even have her body completely broken by the shock of a torpedo hitting the room your sitting in. She also doesn't die from being frozen in space, and apparently doesn't need to breathe at all.

          Combine the terrible plot hole of why she's able to do something never before seen done by a force user, with the terrible plot hole that she somehow survived the explosion in the first place, it's easily one of the stupidest scenes I've ever seen in film. If I hadn't spent so much money to go see the film I would have walked out then, and I probably should have considering the rest of the movie.

        " a throw away line about having trained in the force a little would've helped"
        I've heard a number of people say this but I don't really think it's necessary.
        Luke only really had an afternoon of training with Obi Wan in A New Hope and by the time Hoth rolls around he finds himself stuck he just focuses, reaches his arm out, and pulls his lightsaber to him.
        Leia has spent the decades since episode 6 knowing she's just as naturally strong with the force as Luke, and has been shown numerous times to be pretty in tune with it, and when she finds herself stuck, she just focuses, reaches her arm out, and pulls herself towards the ship.

        There's no reason to believe that's any harder for her than Luke had on Hoth (she didn't even need to contend with gravity or air resistance), and it mirrors nicely with the twins both first showing their natural physical ability with the force near the start of the second movie of a trilogy.

          Luke had more training by the time in Hoth. Remember, Luke did some training between New Hope and Empire Strikes back. Leia on TLJ she did not look like she was training in the force at all, otherwise why was not she a Jedi? Could even be a Grand Master too, along side with her brother. But no, TLJ just tarnished Luke and Leia.

          Leia had no training in the force at all, yet she magically survives being in outer space. Ha ha ha such weak writing.

            Remember, Luke did some training between New Hope and Empire Strikes back.

            [citation needed]

            And before you try some expanded universe stuff, remember that going into Empire, audiences had seen A New Hope and *maybe* the Holiday Special.

        Why wouldn't one assume that in the 30-odd years since ROTJ that she hadn't had time to deal with and train with force capabilities. It's silly not to, to be honest.

          So I guess her training regime included doing laps in space around the medical frigate?

          I mean, she could have discovered random stuff I suppose, like that kid on the casino planet who can move his broom with the force. I also suppose the force could have acted as a kind of 'space airbag' when Leia was defenestrated by the vacuum, allowing her to survive until she could re-orient herself and use the force to drag herself towards the ship.

      She also shined in the Original Movies, New Hope, Empire Strike's back and Return of the Jedi. Carrie Fisher already got her movies she deserved. But the way Disney made Leia in Last Jedi, is kinda being a Useless General. I honestly hoped she'd be also a Jedi Master too. Last Jedi and TFA is NOT the movie FIsher deserves.

      She should've died in space, she had no training in the force. Even as a Skywalker. Poe and Fin was more useful than any other FEMALE characters. Maybe Rey too, but that's just Mary Sue. This Trilogy, truly is a MESS. This should be Legends, and the Legends should be Cannon, with Kyle Katarn, Mara Jade, Leia as a JEDI. TFA and TLJ only good as a SIDE STORY, as NON CANON. Otherwise this is a Trash of a trilogy already.

    Really? She slept most of the movie though.

    I felt like she was pushed to the background. She didn't really do anything and had her plans hampered by the heroes.

    Last edited 25/01/18 12:24 pm

      Her most effective moment of the film was cleaning up the mess that was the Poe mutiny that shouldnt have happened in the first place...

    I still wanted to see Kriea style Jedi Leia, but it's cool.
    It's like Yoda's line never amounted to anything for her other than an outerspace force pull to safety.

    She's in a coma for about 2 hours of the film. Not exactly the best thing for the character.

    What the hell are they gonna do for IX?
    CGI is probably still off the table (probably for the best).
    So the options are writing off a significant character off screen, opening on an inexplicable funeral or recasting. Who would step into those shoes?

      Time skip a few years and say she died in the interim? Or perhaps she's alive but off doing something else unrelated to whatever is going on in IX.

    Carrie Fisher and Princess/General Leia: Strong in '77. Even stronger in '17.

    I feel like i watched a different movie than the one youre talking about.

    Cmon Kotaku, that’s not a very nice thing to say. Sure she had her issues, but she’s not that bad.

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