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By the time Star Wars: The Last Jedi is released, it will be almost a full year since Carrie Fisher tragically passed away. The actress was intended to reprise General Leia Organa in 2019's Episode IX, but instead The Last Jedi will mark her final appearance in a galaxy far, far away. The impact of this isn't lost on director Rian Johnson, who is now saying that The Last Jedi will serve as a great sendoff for the actress because of how emotional the Leia scenes are in hindsight. Johnson explained:
Having these scenes in the film recontextualize tragically with her not being here anymore, it's incredibly emotional. For the next few months, seeing the fans ... process the loss and celebrate her as Leia one last time, it's going to be intense. I think it's going to be really sad but really joyful, I hope. She really kicks (butt) as General Leia, and I'm happy for that.
In the weeks following Carrie Fisher's death, it was reported that Leia Organa was intended to have a major role in Episode IX, as was requested by Fisher. Supposedly her scenes would have included a reunion with her brother, Luke Skywalker, as well as a confrontation with her son, Ben, who is better known now as Kylo Ren. However, with Fisher gone and Lucasfilm not planning on recreating her character using CGI, The Last Jedi will be the last time we see her, both in the Star Wars franchise and in any media. Fortunately, Fisher finished all her scenes by the time The Last Jedi's principal photography wrapped in late July 2016, and as Rian Johnson told USA Today, he doesn't believe fans will be disappointed by the actress' final appearance, as Leia is given plenty to do in Episode VIII. It sounds like we can expect a bittersweet goodbye.
More than three decades after her appearance in Return of the Jedi, Carrie Fisher returned to the Star Wars universe with Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and other select actors from the Original Trilogy for The Force Awakens. By this time, Leia Organa is one of The Resistance's generals, and because of Ben's turn to the dark side, her and Han had been separated for many years. When we see her again in The Last Jedi, Leia will continue to be leading the charge in the asaault against The First Order, though in addition to her standard military duties, she will also be preparing ace X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron to take on an expanded leadership role within The Resistance. The Last Jedi trailer from earlier this month also set up the possibility that Kylo Ren will destroy the ship that Leia is on board during a space battle, though it remains to be seen if he'll actually pull the trigger.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in theaters on December 15. Don't forget to also look through our 2017 premiere guide to see when the year's remaining cinematic releases will be screened.