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Warning: SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker are in play. If you’re not officially read into “The Discourse” yet, you may want to leave and come back once you’ve caught up.
This past weekend has given fans and detractors of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a lot to talk about. Whether it’s the reaction to seeing Reylo realized on the big screen, the claims that Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico was unfairly sidelined, or whether Babu Frik’s adorability is a problem or not, there’s plenty of talk that surrounds this particular entry in the famed sci-fi franchise.
But there’s one pretty big problem in director J.J. Abrams’ film that I need to talk about, as it was the most distracting piece of the narrative that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was trying to tell. I hate to say it because of my reverence for this character in the modern trilogy, but if there’s one glaringly obvious problem with the film, it’s any time the late Carrie Fisher’s General Leia Organa is on screen.
This is your last chance to turn away and avoid spoilers, as we’re going to dig deep into what went wrong with the final bow of General Leia Organa.
The Choice To Rewrite Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Around Outtakes Was Wrong
Sadly, with Carrie Fisher’s untimely death, that plan was limited to two options pertaining to moving forward with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Either the film would have to excise her character altogether, or there would need to be some creative rewrites dependent on unused outtake footage that allowed for General Leia to remain in the film.
As painful as the decision must have been, the better option out of the two would have been to write the good General out of the film as painlessly as possible. With the right story device, like say some more of Ghost Han haunting Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) throughout Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the redemption of Ben Solo might have felt better built into the story.
But the story seemed to require General Leia’s physical presence, at least for the first two thirds of the film. So with that insistence came the eventual need to rewrite the movie’s script to match those exact moments of footage that were available for use. And that was the straw that broke this particular camel’s back.
The Rewrites Weren’t Creative Enough To Make Those Outtakes Work
That one decision lead to a cascade effect of horrible side effects shaping the story to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Any time General Leia Organa was on screen, it felt like the movie’s plot was grinding to a halt, and it wasn’t just a little distracting either.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s script almost felt like a game of Mad Libs whenever Leia was having a conversation with other characters, and it really showed in those first few crucial scenes between her and Rey. The previous relationship shown between Daisy Ridley and Carrie Fisher in these movies was gone, and in its place was Ridley delivering lines against what felt like a brick wall.
It also doesn’t help that the outtake footage from Carrie Fisher’s previous performance didn’t allude to her eventual training of Rey as a child of The Force. Ultimately, what you have left is the sensation of one actor interacting with stock footage of a scene partner, and packing their half of the scene with all of the important stuff so everything matches in the edit.
Rey And Kylo’s Stories Suffered As A Result Of A Weaker Leia
I don’t mean to disparage Carrie Fisher’s work, nor could I really blame J.J Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio for keeping General Leia in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. This was supposed to be Leia’s defining movie of the trilogy, much like how Han had The Force Awakens and Luke had The Last Jedi.
Without Leia operating as a strong central character, who was only alluded to training Rey and obviously meant to be a huge part of Kylo Ren’s redemption as Ben Solo, both of those characters found themselves part of a weaker central plot involving “The Force.”
Ultimately, with that sort of story historically being the strongest pillar of any Star Wars film’s story, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker found itself falling down a couple pegs in terms of quality. Which meant that this final film in the Skywalker Saga needed to make up the difference in other ways.
The Rise Of Skywalker’s Story Gap Wasn't Properly Bridged
As any Star Wars fan will tell you, the space battles aren’t the main course of any Star Wars movies. Again, whenever a film like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in play, the main plot is supposed to surround the mythology of “The Force” and the hypothetical balancing of that phenomenon.
With Kylo and Rey’s conflict/resolution being ultimately unsatisfying, thanks to the reduced and awkward presence of General Leia, it was left to the more militaristic/combat angle of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to save the day. Which it totally failed to do, and again, it comes back to General Leia’s role in the story.
By using her last ounces of strength to get through to Kylo Ren, General Leia’s eventual (and really awkward) death hobbled the military apparatus of Star Wars, considering this particular story lost not only its Force-knowledgeable mentor, it also lost The Resistance’s ranking commanding officer. Even if this film wanted to rely on the military subplot as its A-story, the way it removes Leia from the cast makes it almost impossible for such a prospect to work.
General Leia Deserved A Better Sendoff
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was supposed to end the Skywalker Saga with a big bang, complete with General Leia Organa taking a lead role in the series that always had her on the sidelines. The commitment to that promise, while being an admirable pledge, functionally broke the entire film, and it’s the greatest sin of the entire enterprise as Carrie Fisher’s legacy deserved better.
Maintaining Fisher’s presence in the final story that was told in this particular movie felt more like a token presence, and less like a loving tribute. With very little agency and an extremely limited effect on the overall plot, it would have been better to have General Leia going on an adventure removing her from the main plot.
Rather than resting most of the narrative on her character’s back, Leia could have been given a handful of scenes that showed her in action during the film, with a potential handful of moments at the end of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that saw her limited dialogue put to better use.
General Leia Organa wasn’t the inspiring presence she should have been in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Rather, she was felt like a living, breathing Macguffin who had very little impact on the plot. For a character who served a greater purpose in Star Wars franchise, and in the entry that was supposed to be the finish line to the Skywalker Saga, the treatment of Leia’s character felt more like a clumsy trip, rather than a graceful crossing.
With the threat of even further misadventures with deleted scenes using even more outtakes, maybe there’s a chance that a “special edition” of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker could fix this problem to a certain extent. We may never know, and at this point, I really have to ask if we’d even want to know how much better or worse things could get if the promise to never revisit these films in that specific way was ever broken.
Then again, I could be the minority in this matter, which leads us to the final order of business: the ceremonial polling of the audience. Did you think Carrie Fisher’s legendary character was the most distracting part of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, or do you think she blended in perfectly? Vote below, and don’t forget to leave your comments explaining why you feel the way you do.
And should you need a refresher before you cast your vote, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is currently in theaters, available for further examination.