ESSEN, GERMANY – JULY 27: Actress and novelist Carrie Fisher, best known for her performance as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy, attends the Star Wars Celebration at Messe Essen on July 27, 2013 in Essen, Germany. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)
The second Leia problem
In ‘TFA,’ Leia showed no signs of being a Jedi. Honestly, I thought we would see her progress in some way, as thirty years had passed between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens: wielding a lightsaber, maybe some force pushes. If I were Jedi, I would be moving stuff all over the room and playing Jedi mind tricks on most of my family – because it only works on the weak-minded.
Instead Abrams talked about focusing on Leia as a General (not a Jedi):
"“One of the answers was that it was simply a choice that she made. That her decision to run the Rebellion and, ultimately, this Resistance and consider herself a General as opposed to a Jedi, it was simply a choice that she took. Not that there’s any regret that she could have (become a Jedi) and didn’t.”"
Now, of course, this doesn’t erase her being a Skywalker. And The Force Awakens has her son (Ben Solo) being the Skywalker that has gone bad (Kylo Ren). So, she absolutely is Luke’s twin. But, in my opinion, Lawrence Kasdan (who had co-written the screenplays for ‘Empire’ and ‘Jedi’) and Abrams were taking Leia to her true position of power.
Leia is a leader, and someone that chose to be leader even with the risks to her own safety. As the Empire has now become the First Order, Leia has now formed the Resistance to replace her former Rebellion. And in both cases, she appears outgunned. But she chooses to lead despite that. It is the root of the character going back to Star Wars. Leia is a leader, even without powers to lean on for her own safety.
The importance of the characters at their roots also applies to Luke. I think Kasdan and Abrams problem with Luke is that they only envisioned him as the unrelenting hero. They couldn’t have him in the first film because he would outshine this new cast of characters. The idea is for Luke to be the Obi-Wan Kenobi and mentor the next generation. But the truth is (at any age), Luke is the great and fearless Jedi that never hesitates when it comes doing the right thing. Any problem in the universe, Luke can handle it.
That particular take on Luke does not only exist in the mind of the writers and the audience, but also in the mind of the actor himself. Mark Hamill had this to say about the path of Luke in The Last Jedi:
"“I said to Rian, I said, ‘Jedi don’t give up. I mean even if he had a problem, he would maybe take a year to try and regroup, but if he made a mistake he would try and right that wrong.’ So right there we had a fundamental difference, but it’s not my story anymore. It’s somebody else’s story, and Rian needed me to be a certain way to make the ending effective.”"
Hamill has since backed off on these comments, but the fact remains he saw The Last Jedi going away from the core of the character from the original trilogy. Not to say they can’t grow, or struggle, or question their path. But, this is Star Wars. It is beloved, and this is what people see when it comes to these characters.
For Johnson, it is bold to challenge the notions of the audience, and again he should be given credit. He is trying to create something new, while also trying to elevate a new generation of characters. But, with Leia, Johnson went a step too far.