Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker had far too much Carrie Fisher

General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) in STAR WARS: EPISDOE IX
General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) in STAR WARS: EPISDOE IX /

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker essentially resurrected Carrie Fisher to play the role of Leia, but she shouldn’t have been so central to the story.

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ahead. 

On December 27, 2016, this world lost a beloved legend when Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60 due to a heart attack. It was truly devastating news, as Fisher was adored not only for her portrayal of Princess Leia in Star Wars, but also for a lengthy career as an actress, writer, comedian, and activist.

We mourned her loss, but the timing of Fisher’s death also established a cloud of questions over the rest of the Star Wars franchise and how her absence might affect the final two movies. Fisher had already completed filming her role in The Last Jedi, meaning that film’s story would not be affected by Fisher’s death.

That was not the case with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which development for didn’t take off until well after Fisher’s passing. However, her influence and the presence of General Leia Organa became integral to The Rise of Skywalker.

Of course, we were told otherwise on more than one occasion. In an odd move, Lucasfilm released an official statement on January 13, 2017 about whether they would digitally recreate Carrie Fisher as Leia:

"We don’t normally respond to fan or press speculation, but there is a rumor circulating that we would like to address. We want to assure our fans that Lucasfilm has no plans to digitally recreate Carrie Fisher’s performance as Princess or General Leia Organa.Carrie Fisher was, is, and always will be a part of the Lucasfilm family. She was our princess, our general, and more importantly, our friend. We are still hurting from her loss. We cherish her memory and legacy as Princess Leia, and will always strive to honor everything she gave to Star Wars."

Just a few months later, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy told ABC News exclusively that Carrie Fisher would not be in Episode 9 as Leia Organa.

Of course, neither of these things stayed true. There surely was a time when both statements were meant to be truthful, final, and unflinchingly accurate. Unfortunately, J.J. Abrams had other plans.

In the original Star Wars trilogy, our key trio was that of Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo. As things progressed, the sequel trilogy seemed to center on one of the three during each film.

The Force Awakens was essentially Han’s movie, The Last Jedi was Luke’s movie, and The Rise of Skywalker looked set to be Leia’s movie. It’s not perfectly clear, but that could have been Abrams’ plan from the beginning.

It even seemed to be Fisher’s plan, according to an interview with Kathleen Kennedy for Vanity Fair. Kennedy was talking about when filming wrapped for The Last Jedi.

"“[Carrie Fisher] was having a blast,” said Kennedy. “The minute she finished, she grabbed me and said, ‘I’d better be at the forefront of IX!’ Because Harrison was front and center on VII, and Mark is front and center on VIII. She thought IX would be her movie. And it would have been.”"

It wasn’t a bad plan, but life intervened. Without Fisher, The Rise of Skywalker writer and director J.J. Abrams was left with a conundrum. He had to find a way to make the story work without Leia.

Except, that’s not what he did at all. Rather than making the story work without Leia, they instead decided Leia was too crucial to the story and refused to change anything. Rather than CGI reanimating her, Abrams found a loophole with deleted footage from the filming of The Force Awakens.

In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Abrams insisted they “couldn’t tell a story without Leia. We couldn’t find a way where The Skywalker Saga comes to an end and Leia is not present.”

With the eight minutes of footage left from The Force Awakens, they essentially had to piece things together and write around the dialogue Leia used in that remaining footage.

"“It was weird because we shot scenes, we lit everything, composed scenes [and] shots to match what we’d done with Carrie, and there were some times on this film where some actors weren’t available for certain scenes, when we were doing some reshoots, when we were doing some original shoots. So we shoot their side just for their scenes, and that’s kind of the approach we took with Carrie. We shot the other side of the scene.“And it’s really a testament not only to Carrie and who she was and how great she is, but to these actors who were in these scenes with Carrie, with Leia, and it’s kind of remarkable to see it because I’m not sure anyone would have a sense of it if they didn’t know.”"

I appreciate the optimism and hope that Abrams seems to have had about his decisions and the way they’d be received, but the reality is not so rosy. Despite her skill, The Force Awakens was far from Carrie Fisher’s most excellent performance.

Some of her delivery felt flat, and she seemed to still be figuring out where Leia fit into the new era of Star Wars. By the time they filmed The Last Jedi, that hesitation and struggle had evaporated.

Fisher’s performance in The Last Jedi felt powerful, and not just because we thought it was the last we’d see of her. Unfortunately, that step up by Fisher between The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi now equates to a step back down in The Rise of Skywalker.

While Fisher’s involvement in the movie does technically stick to promises that she wouldn’t be digitally reanimated to reprise her role, that’s not what it felt like while watching the film. Every scene with Fisher felt a little bit off, and the dialogue felt stunted.

Fisher’s hair, clothing, and surroundings were digitally altered to insert her into the needed scenes. On top of that, we did actually get a brief glimpse of a younger Leia that was digitally created. That appearance was during a flashback that showed a much younger Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa training in the forest.

They were wearing helmets at first, but briefly lifted their visors to reveal themselves. That moment arguably would have had to be created digitally even if Fisher was still here, which is likely why it technically fits their pledge not to digitally recreate Fisher.

Abrams had a plethora of options when it came to writing The Rise of Skywalker and the way they could close out this saga. While his version of the story did tie Leia integrally into much of the plot, there absolutely would have been ways to tell the story without as much of her.

More from Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

The two things most specific to Leia about this installment were her training of Rey and communication with Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo. Neither of those things needed this much Leia.

It would have been easy to explain Leia’s role in Rey’s training without as prominent a presence by Leia, and her Force-enabled communication with her son could’ve come at any time, even in Leia’s afterlife, and only required her voice, not her image.

On top of that, the character could’ve even had a jarring death early in the film that would’ve put viewers on edge right from the start. It surely would’ve also angered some, but Abrams’ lukewarm attempt to appease everyone has instead given us this disappointing footnote on Fisher’s career.

The Last Jedi had the potential to be the true farewell Carrie Fisher deserved, but J.J. Abrams refused to let the past die in his convoluted attempt at closing out the saga.

Next. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is imperfect, enjoyable and fun. dark

What did you think of the way Carrie Fisher was used?